Threads of History: Conversations with a Community made its début at the Visulite theater in downtown Staunton earlier in December. Now, the documentary will have a second screening on the Mary Baldwin campus January 18.
A project that began three and a half years ago, the documentary visually records the recollections of Booker T. Washington High School alumni, their teachers, and past and present residents of the adjacent Johnson Street neighborhood.
What started as a May Term art class project in 2013, quickly turned into a much larger endeavor. Initially students and faculty members gathered stories and created drawings and three murals to bring the project together. Shortly after its publication to the community Booker T. Washington alumni from all over the country asked to be a part of the project. The undertaking gained traction and students collected more stories, which are now the basis of the documentary.
“It’s an oral history,” said Associate Professor Emerita of Art History Marlena Hobson, one of the faculty members instrumental in the Threads of History project. “They talked about how [their community] was before integration and how it fell apart after integration.”
The film represents the shared efforts of many diverse coalitions including Mary Baldwin University students and faculty, Spencer Center artist and activist Claudia Bernardi, Booker T. Washington Alumni, and residents of the surrounding community.
Adjunct Faculty Member and Director of Communication Studios Allan Moyé developed and produced the film, with help from his students. The film focuses on intersections, relationships, and the school as a prevailing thread that links all aspects of life during segregation. In the documentary, participants tell of a supportive educational atmosphere and a neighborhood that nurtured its own.
The MBU team was able to earn the trust of skeptical residents, who eventually opened up and told their stories, thanks in large part to support from community members such as the late city councilwoman Rita Wilson ’82 and Booker T. Washington High School alumni Larry Vickers and Lalaura Wayland.
The film was made possible by grants from the Carroll and Grace “Patsy” Guynn Memorial Fund (a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge), the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and Mary Baldwin University.
The Mary Baldwin screening — free and open to the public — will take place on 7 p.m. January 18 in Francis Auditorium.