USJ Civil Rights film series tells stories of Antonia Pantoja, Fannie Lou Hamer, Emmet Till

Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

The Civil Rights struggle of the 20th century will be explored through three historical figures — voting rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, Puerto Rican activist Antonia Pantoja and teen murder victim Emmet Till — in a virtual documentary series at the University of St. Joseph. Films screen online on three consecutive Thursdays: April 8, 15 and 22 at 7 p.m.

Each screening is followed by a panel discussion. The series is curated by USJ faculty members Pablo Correa (director of Digital Media and Communication degree program) and Anthony De Jesús (assistant professor of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice) along with Steven Raider-Ginsburg, director of the Autorino performing arts center.

Correa is a filmmaker himself. He worked on two of the films in the series, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America” and “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.”

“Fannie Lou Hamer’s America” screens April 8 It tells the story of the activist who founded the Freedom Democratic Party and rallied support for the Voting Rights Act in the mid-1960s. (The Voting Rights Act is in the news again due to attempts to change voting laws in many states.) The film was produced by Hamer’s niece, investigative reporter Monica Land. Panelists in the discussion include the film’s director Joy Davenport, Correa, Voices of Women of Color founder Janice Flemming-Butler, State Sen. Marilyn Moore, Hamden Legislative Council member Justin Farmer and moderator Christiana Best of USJ’s Department of Social Work.

The April 15 feature is “Antonia Pantoja: ¡Presente!,” about the first Puerto Rican woman to receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. Pantoja founded several non-profit organizations, including ASPIRA and Producir. The screening will include shorts by Puerto Rican filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi. The post-screening panel will include Jacobs-Fantauzzi and “Antonia Pantoja: ¡Presente!” director Lilian Jimenez plus Hartford City Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez.

The April 22 screening is “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” which explores the tragedy of the 14-year-old Black murder victim. The film led to the reopening of the investigation into Till’s murder 50 years after his death. “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” won the 2005 Freedom of Expression Award from National Board of Review. The panel discussion includes director Keith Beauchamp, Correa, State Sen. Gary Winfield and moderator Patricia Virella of Sarah Lawrence College.

Admission to the Civil Rights film festival is free but tickets are required. autorino.usj.edu.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at carnott@courant.com.