On February 13, WKAR welcomed guests to a Community Cinema screening and discussion based around the Independent Lens film Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights. The film provides an inside look on the voices behind the scenes of the civil rights movement.
Powerbroker will air on WKAR-TV on Monday, February 18, at 10 p.m. as part of the Independent Lens series.
The discussion featured panelists Willard K. Walker and Tremaine Phillips with moderator Renee Canady. They engaged the audience in a post-screening dialog about the life and times of Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the impact he had on the civil rights movement through personal relationships with government leaders. Viewers responded to the panelists by sharing what they found intriguing about Whitney Young as an activist and strategist as well as their thoughts on equality and integration.
"An Intriguing Approach"
“What I found most intriguing was Whitney’s approach to facilitate equity and inclusion… to engage in relationships that were most important and to do so in a manner that was not violent or loud like the Black Panther movement," observed Danielle Moore. "He wasn’t screaming, 'Black Power'. Whitney Young said that, ‘the Irish didn’t stand up and say Irish Power; they quietly took over the New York Police Department.' That quote was very intriguing to me because it said ‘I’m a doer.’ I don’t have to blow all the whistles and sound the alarm. I’m too busy doing work.”
"We Should Be Going Further"
Carrie L. Owens was attending her first Community Cinema event at WKAR.
"I watch WKAR all the time," she said. "I’m always happy to attend the Black History Month programs here on campus... I’m an old lady and I’m still learning about our history because it was not put in the history books. I was born in the ‘30s. I’ve been through all the discrimination, embarrassment, hatred and racist prejudice and I feel so sad that this is going on. We’ve come a long ways, but we should be going further.”
"An Entirely Different Perspective"
Chris Andrews works with speaker Willard Walker. “I grew up in an all-white community, so I went through the civil rights era from an entirely different perspective and I find it very emotional really to think about how different lives are and how different they are still," he said. "The statistics about the gap in wealth are stunning even though I know they’re there and in some ways I think we’ve made a lot of progress in this country. In other ways it’s just very, very dissatisfying and unacceptable where we are.”
"It Was About Someone Who Slipped Through the Cracks"
Suzanne Elms-Barclay described the event as "remarkable." "It was about someone who had slipped through the cracks as far as I was concerned. I’ve done lots of reading. This is part of my heart… to do reading on racial inequality and the history of our country, because it’s our history too. "
Elms-Barclay explained that she has a collection of history books that were used in the city of Lansing up until 1964 with no people of color in them. "To learn this about Whitney Young was amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of it."
She commented on the relationship between Whitney Young and President Johnson (LBJ) in the film. "As a young person I protested against the war in Vietnam. There was a severe hatred towards LBJ and I think history’s going to treat him better on a level of literally twisting arms and pushing through the civil rights legislation that he did because it really opened my eyes."
Watch The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights on Monday, February 18, at 10 p.m. on WKAR-TV.