Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Barber of Birmingham

Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

I don’t have a bucket list but some people do. Possibly on some bucket lists may be, “Attend a movie premiere.” I had that privilege last Thursday, March 2nd at the Alabama Theatre. Advertised as a black tie (optional) affair, the documentary was free and open to the public. There was no way I wanted to miss this event since I grew up during this era living in the same community as Mr. James Armstrong and being playmates and school chums with his sons Dwight and Floyd.

We attended Malachi Wilkerson Elementary School until the Armstrong boys later made the groundbreaking step of being the first Black students to integrate the segregated Graymont School. Their father had filed a class-action suit against the schools of Birmingham to desegregate them. It would make common sense for the Armstrong’s to attend Graymont School. It was just one block from their house. Wilkerson School was several blocks further.

Attendees mingle and prepare to "walk the red carpet" to see the premiere of The Barber of Birmingham.
Hezekiah Jackson and Shirley Gavin Floyd were influential in the launching of this grand event.

This couple sang, "The Lord's Prayer."
The Carlton Reese Memorial Choir sang two songs associated with the freedom movement. Carlton Reese, now deceased was a talented musician who had a strong foothold in the music of the Civil Rights Movement. The voices of these singers was rich and strong. Their only accompaniment was hand clapping and toe tapping. Each song began with a song leader with the remainder joining in. Very similar to a field holler. Call and response.
The Armstrong family and other vital members of James Armstrong's legacy
Dwight Armstrong and his wife Bonnie.
I find Mr. Armstrong’s bravery to sacrifice his son’s very similar to the way Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Issac for something he believed in. And just as Issac was saved so were Dwight and Floyd Armstrong. Of course it was no walk in the park but to be 9 and 10 years old and endure the harsh cruelty they were subjected to is hard to fathom.
Mr. Armstrong was the flag bearer in 1965 during the first march from Selma to Montgomery in a fight for voting rights. Grandson, Darren Armstrong (above right) is now keeper of the flag. This young man stood in the place of his grandfather at the 46th annual reenactment of the march. To have a vote is to have power. Up until this time very few Black people could vote. They were subjected to having to pay poll taxes and pass ridiculous tests. If Black people were allowed to vote this would mean they would have a voice in the running of the government.Racists groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen’s Council didn’t want Blacks to have that power. Resorting to intimidation and violence these racist groups and those in league with them were the ones who turned a peaceful march for human rights into Bloody Sunday.

Director Robyn Fryday

Here are some extra photos I took.
This was formerly Graymont Elementary School located at 8th Ave. W.
The Armstrong home 9th Ct. No. B'ham, AL
Armstrong Barber Shop located at 8th Ave. No. B'ham, AL

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