June 27, 2013
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m writing in support of China Galland’s request for funds to complete Resurrecting Love, an independent documentary that shows how us one small East Texas community’s elders have breathed new life into humanity’s dream of freedom and fairness for all. Their ongoing struggle for access to their communal burial ground, Love Cemetery, gives us a microcosm in which we see can the unspoken, unconscious racism that corrodes our society today.
What’s so exciting about this documentary is that it centers on an obvious and easily understood human dilemma: how we honor the dead. The padlocked gate on the mile and a half long, dirt road to Love Cemetery makes the conflict over access simple and real. We see two women, one black, and one white, take up the struggle of the small aging community to reclaim their history from the large corporate owners that landlocked the cemetery and kept people out of Love for over 40 years.
China Galland first told the story of this struggle in her book, Love Cemetery, Unburying the Secret History of Slaves (HarperOne, 2008), and set off the investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. State-wide hearings held in Austin in 2008 surfaced this ongoing struggle for access to burial grounds across Texas. The book and the public hearings across Texas shone a light on how families, especially, but not only African American families, continue to fight for access to their ancestors.
In this struggle for access, the film shows us the way this community continues to transform this ongoing conflict with the resources and participation of a larger, more diverse community. Out-lawyered and out-spent, this resourceful, multi-racial group begins to draw on nearby historically black Wiley College there in Marshall, Texas, for help.
Wiley was the setting for Denzel Washington’s movie, The Great Debaters, the true story of Wiley’s 1935 championship debate team that defeated the reigning white U.S. College champions of the day. Denzel Washington has endowed Wiley with a million dollars to restart their debate team and the current Wiley Debate team as well as the Nate Parker scholars and Wiley students and faculty have taken up Love’s cause.
The film shows us how the community chose to use celebration, media, and the arts, gospel singing, and traditional faith leaders from multiple denominations and volunteers from all walks of life to help create a larger, inter-generational community that continues to turn this provocative situation into a cause of celebration rather than conflict.
Joy and celebration are contagious and because Wiley students got involved and inspired by their encounter with this historic 175-year old burial ground, the students of predominantly white East Texas Baptist University asked to participate have gotten involved over this past year’s cemetery cleanups. In 2012-2013 alone, over a hundred students from these colleges, faculty, family, and friends, came out to help work and celebrate, most recently, with a poetry slam at the Love Cemetery after the cleanup in March 2013.
Love Cemetery is teeming with life and the past is comes alive for the students and faculty who’ve gotten involved. Noted educators praise this experiential, educational way of transforming conflict and reclaiming this lost history of the Americas and the building of the United States. Students encounter not only the buried history of the African American community, but that of the African and Native American peoples, like Black Caddos, and the First People Nations who lived in this area, when they help at Love Cemetery.
“A tree without roots can bear no fruit,” the African Proverb says. Nate Parker, the Executive Director of Resurrecting Love, and co-star of Denzel Washington’s Great Debaters movie, expounds upon this African theme in the film, and explains to the crowd at the celebration of Love Cemetery’s re-opening, “This is what we’re doing at Love Cemetery, we’re giving young people access to the root system of this country and to their own ancestry, whatever that may be.”
In addition to getting Texas Law changed in 2009, the story of Love has sparked new and efficacious partnerships and collaborations cross-institutionally in the Marshall community with this emerging synergy between students and faculty at Wiley and ETBU.The San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) is the non-profit, fiscal sponsor for this film. I know China’s film team is eager to complete this film they’ve worked on for more than 5 years. China started working on it ten years ago, and was able to raise over $300,000 to get this documentary close to being finished.
Now they have only three months of work left to do to complete this film so they can start submitting it for competitions and distribution. HBO already expressed an interest, but the film team needs $122,486 to complete the process. China has a detailed budget available, an experienced team working with her and they’re poised to finish this documentary now. The need for this material is great, its potential huge, for Resurrecting Love isn’t only a documentary it is the seed of a national pilot project on multi-cultural education, a living laboratory and series of emerging collaborations poised to complete this work.
Lillie P. Allen, MPH
Creatrix of Play (formerly known as Executive Director)
1264 Ginger Wood Drive
Stone Mountain, GA 30083