Here are comments from those who attended the Wit, Will and Walls screenings from 2/17 and 2/18. These link to the posting about the screenings below. I will add to these as more come in - so please feel free to send me your comments:
Jill Finsen, Artist and Non Profit Policy Staff - It was remarkable that Wit, Will and Walls brought together relatives of a former slave and slave owner—a significant meeting as told by both of these women. Wit, Will and Walls allows us to better appreciate what was a remarkably courageous and threatening experience for those who led the way. Thanks to those who participated 50 years ago and to those who continue to keep the story alive to improve relations for today and the future.
David Sheon, President PR Firm - After hearing those stories, I appreciate more how deep the emotional scars, the systematic disenfranchisement, and the cultural deprivation caused by white society's raping of black society must still hurt.
Consider that Kilby's great grandmother - if I've guessed the generations correctly - could well have been a slave attacked/raped by the slave owner. Somehow I doubt it was love behind that! So the wheels were put in motion from that point on to create a person who would not be "at home" anywhere.
Then the well documented systematic and "legal" closure of the high school, the brutal attack, and the social alienation of Kilby by her peers, educators, and courts brings the ignorance/hate/intolerance to another generation. The story of being constantly attacked by spitballs, and then being sent to detention because she had the nerve to complain about it - is such good imagery, and so painful for us all to hear.
Reconciliation is a much higher hurdle than I ever realized, but we're fortunate to be living at a time when courageous people are beginning to poke their heads out from dark closets. The heroes of our day come in all colors, ages, shapes and sizes.
Kris Larsen, TV Director, Producer -When Betty Kilby Fisher told her story of reconciliation and introduced her "cousin" Ms. Phoebe Kilby, she pointed out that "we are living Dr. Matin Luther King's dream" -- I doubt there was a dry eye in the place! Also, involving young filmmakers to tell Tanesia's story is a brilliant move - the stories, and the whole evening, unfolded beautifully. Epic!
Dr. Ann Denkler, SU Historian - The best part of the events was the venue of the church. The film, the church, and the community just fit together perfectly. I also think that your film brings out the need to know history, to reconcile racially, and, most importantly, to celebrate these two things. It's as if one shouldn't simply try to understand racism and the horrors of segregation without looking at how the African American community wants to see it dealt with. And, clearly, it should be looked at as a celebration of healing.
Bob Burke, SU Director of Corporate Relations - For me the story is not historical but a part of who I am. I remember segregation in Southern Missouri and how stupid I though it was and how disturbing it was for me that white adults in my church could support the idea including my parents. One of the reasons I gave up going to church. The only time my father and I had a physical altercation was over segregation. It was a pretty good fight, I was 16.
M. Tyson Gilpin, Attorney - I attended the screenings of “Wit Will and Walls” at two different places. First, at the home of Tracy Fitzsimmons in Reliance, VA and second, at Mt. Carmel Church in Winchester, VA. Despite the fact that the audiences were from completely different backgrounds the reactions were the same. The audiences were powerfully moved by the coming together and triumph of Betty Kilby Fisher and her granddaughter to tell the story. In addition, both the white Kilbys and the African American Kilbys were in both audiences. The spontaneous bonding within the greater Kilby “family” at both events was inspiring.
Dr. Warren Hofstra, SU Historian -What hit me the hardest about Betty’s story and your work together is how much it lives today. Betty’s story begins 50 years ago, but what you and Betty have to say about race and reconciliation for the present is very powerful. That power was very evident in Sunday’s premiere.
Patsy Moore, Secretary, My Mom - I was very impressed with the words from Dr. Deborah Lee, the public historian, as she stressed that movements survive and much is accomplished when they are faith and spirit motivated. We linked arms and concluded with "WE SHALL OVERCOME". I know this film will evolve into a full hour-long documentary. Motives are correct and God will bless.
Sheila Smith, Director of Photography -The thing that struck me most was the courageous reunion between the grandaughter of the slave owner and Betty. Only when meetings like this happen can reconciliation and healing begin. And I was touched my the anguish of Betty's father, having to sacrifice his daughter's safety and innocence to send her into the school to "earn" the education which he was deprived.
Also, I was encouraged my the documentary made by the younger generation. It seems they really understood the hardship Betty's generation had to endure so that their descendant's could have a better life and with that realization comes the responsibility of both races of today's generation to continue the work needed for our society to move towards racial equality.
Dr. James Bryant II, SU Historian - Betty Kilby Fisher's story is a testament of how faith and perserverance can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She gives us lessons for life.
Claiborne Lashley, Lighting Director - I have been in the film industry since 1983; worked on 30+ feature films. John Sayles, Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, Ivan Rittman… Whoop Goldberg, Julia Roberts, James Earl Jones, Tom Cruise…many others.
That’s Hollywood; I prefer Betty and Paulette.
Through their vision and interpretation we come face to face with an issue that is haunting yet we see that a nightmare can become a dream. To be identified with a project like Wit, Will and Walls means to give something to our culture that is poignant and educational.
Betty’s story needs to be shouted from the mountaintop.