Sunday, February 13, 2011

'In the Morning When I Rise' - Incredibly Inspirational!

Every year, I hear people ask 'Why do we still have Black History Month'?

The documentary 'In the Morning When I Rise', is a profound and inspirational answer to that question. It is a reminder that we as a people and as a country have so many stories, stories that are unknown or long ignored that remind us of not only the ugliness in our past, but our capacity to triumph over what appear to be insurmountable odds.

'In the Morning When I Rise', is the story of opera singer Barbara Conrad, a native of Center Point, Texas who, in 1956 was denied the opportunity to appear in a university production of an opera, because she would have played a romantic lead with a white male fellow student.

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.

"Opposition to the casting decision fueled a racial controversy that traveled from the university campus to the Texas Legislature. Mere days before the opera opened in May 1957, university officials succumbed to pressure from a small group of radical segregationists. The Dean of Fine Arts asked Barbara to step down, and a white student assumed the role of Dido."
"A flood of media coverage ensued, beginning with the Houston Post and quickly escalating to the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and most notably, a controversial article in Time magazine. Harry Belafonte, an entertainment superstar of the era, read about Barbara, called her at her dorm in Austin, Texas, and the rest — as Barbara says — is history."
"Although she was raised during the height of the Jim Crow period, Barbara had been nurtured in what historians refer to as a “safe haven” community. Center Point, Texas, was a tiny beacon of culture where education, church, community, and music were the norm, and limitations imposed by the “white world” were held at bay by the community’s nurturing arms. Barbara’s parents were college-educated leaders in the Center Point school system, at the core of which was an all-black boarding school that drew students from across the United States. Her parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all imprinted on Barbara the importance of education and culture. And, within the embrace of her family and tightly knit church community, Barbara had been given a sense of self that would prove to be her life preserver during “the incident” at the University of Texas."
"This small-town girl, whose voice and spirit stem from her roots in east Texas, emerged as an internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano and headlined on stages around the world."
Conrad's life and career includes tremendous twists and turns, which eventually lead her back to UT in gloriously ironic circumstances. 
I think if you watch this film, you'll be hard pressed to ask, 'Why do we still have Black History Month'. Instead, you'll ask a much more relevant question: why don't we tell these stories all year long?!


You can see the entire documentary here...


By the way, thanks to Dean Smith, CitySquare colleague with Urban Connection Austin, for bringing this to my attention!

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