While following U.S. Representative John Lewis through Texas as he stumped for various candidates during the 2018 midterm elections, Dawn Porter, director of the documentary Good Trouble was faced with a challenge: keeping up with him.
“He went to five churches on one Sunday morning. He would go in, speak, rile the crowd up, kiss them and go on to the next. He had a police escort running through Texas,” said Ms. Porter. “John Lewis’s car speeds off down the highway and our [local driver] goes ‘Hold on, I’m a rally car assistant’ and he floored it. The point is we could not keep up with the Congressman, he was so energetic.”
On March 5th the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Race, Culture and Equity group presented a Q&A with Ms. Porter after sharing a link to Good Trouble for families to watch when they wanted.
The screening and follow-up discussion with Ms. Porter via Zoom on Friday evening was open to students and other MVRHS community members, and was part of the group’s ongoing work of racial education at MVRHS.
Performing arts teacher Brooke Hardman-Ditchfield suggested screening the film because her husband, Brian Ditchfield, has worked closely with Ms. Porter for many years through his work as programming director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.
Dhakir Warren, Director of Student Affairs, also worked on organizing the screening and was excited to finally watch the film.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to have an experience where families could sit down together, watch the film, have a conversation and then open up a live Q&A with the director,” he said.
The film explores congressman Lewis’ entire life, from early childhood where he would preach to his family’s chickens, to his time as a civil rights activist and leader during the Freedom Rides and the crossing of the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, as well as his work in Congress.
During the Q&A, Ms. Porter spoke about what it was like to work with congressman Lewis. She said, “John Lewis was really an open book. I would say ‘Mr. Lewis can we come see you at work?’ he’d say, ‘Yes you can.’ ‘Can I come see you at home?’ ‘Yes you can.’”
School adjustment counselor Amy Lilavois and Ms. Hardman-Ditchfield reached out to sophomore Madeleine Bengtsson and junior Ella Clarke to moderate the Q&A. The student moderators met beforehand with Ms. Porter to discuss the film and brainstorm questions.
“She was really sweet and friendly,” said Ella Clarke. “We expected to be intimidated because her work and her resume are so insane.”
In addition to the moderators’ questions, members of the MVRHS community were able to ask about the movie via the Zoom chat.
Ella was impressed by how the documentary presented congressman Lewis’s life.
“I thought it was really powerful. I mean, honestly, I cried twice during it. I think you can feel the emotion through the screen,” she said. “I was expecting to see his legacy, but we really got to know him as a person.”
The Race, Culture and Equity group plans to continue organizing programming and hopes to expand their audience.
“Sometimes it’s easy to start an initiative and be going with some great momentum in the beginning and then it can kind of trickle off as time goes on. I don’t want that to happen,” said Ms. Hardman-Ditchfield, a member of the group.
The group is planning to launch an Art for Social Justice Festival next fall. The festival will present films, plays, poetry and art to explore the struggle for social justice in the United States.