Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Stoney Cooks

I had a very interesting talk with Mr. Cooks on October 9th in Washington, D.C. We talked about what led him to join the movement and travel down south while he was enrolled in college in Indiana. He told me that while driving in the south they decided to stop for food: "We should have known better but it all worked out."

A lot of the interview revolved around the strategic side of the protests, marches, and sit-ins. Mr. Cooks really wanted to get across that events were strategized and planned. "We didn't just get arrested to get arrested. Everyone couldn't get arrested at the same time. Someone had to keep track of who got arrested and where they were. We also needed to be able to continue the protests."

One note that I have to leave you with comes from the pre-interview conversation Mr. Cooks and I had about Rosa Parks. While talking about researching the movement, Mr. Cooks stated that the internet is great but people often stop at the little snippets they read on wikipedia and usually don't dig further. For example, he commented: "The biggest miscarriage of justice to sister Rosa Parks was the belief that she was just tired and didn't want to move out of her seat." Rosa Parks was not simply tired. She was a community activist who had earlier spent time with Dr. King and others at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, a meeting place where activists frequently gathered to share strategies for nonviolent protest ( Ms. Parks made a conscious decision not to give up her seat because of racial injustice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Dr. Dorothy Height

I'm typing this entry with a big smile because on Thursday October 8th, I interviewed Dr. Dorothy Height for the film. Dr. Height! If you guys don't know who she is, you need to read up on her quickly. Dr. Height is a 97 year young wealth of knowledge on women's rights and civil rights. Dr. Height is respected world wide and has many honorary doctorates from universities here in the states. She took over the leadership of the National Counsel for Negro Women after Mary McLeod Bethune. That is history people and it was a honor to get her perspective on the movement!!

What I decided to focus on in our conversation was a little known effort in the movement started by Dr. Height and Polly Cowan in the Spring of 1964. It was called "Wednesdays in Mississippi." The idea was to send interracial and interfaith teams of northern women to Mississippi on Tuesday and return on Thursday, having spent all day Wednesday talking with and reaching out to the women of the south. Dr. Height said that black women from the north would meet with black women of the south, while the white women from the north would meet with white women of the south. The northern women would all meet up later and discuss ways in which thy could help their fellow sisters.

We did discuss many other movement related subjects, but I'm going to let you hear about them in the movie.

It was a great interview, and Dr. Height was, as I expected, strong, smart, and delightful.

For more on Dr. Dorothy Height go to: and please web search her name and learn more.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Fox Artists

Today I met with and signed a very talented and young husband and wife team of sketch artists to work on the documentary. Justin and Lauren Fox of Lexington, Kentucky, have impressed me with their diffrent styles of rendering images. I will be incorporating several of their pieces in the film. I believe their sketches will add a different element to the film's look.

Both Justin and Lauren will be designing the promotional poster for the film. I gave them a concept but I'm going to let them do their magic. I can't wait to see the result. Their ability is a reminder that it's not the size of the company but the talent in it.

For more information on Justin and Lauren go to:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Derrill E. Holly

Mr. Holly was my last interview of the day on September 18th. I met with him at his home in Maryland. Mr. Holly and I became friends years ago when I worked as the Chief Photographer for Hearst-Argyle Television's Washington Bureau and he was a national radio reporter for the Associated Press.

After we caught up a little, Mr. Holly told me that in the 60s he lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and was in high school when he heard Dr. King speak outside of a department store to raise money for the movement. "Many of the leaders would come . . . together and speak at different churches and raise money to go back south for the movement."

We also talked about life as a Black northerner in the 60s. He said you didn't have a problem getting a seat on a bus, but if you went to certain neighborhoods, you wouldn't "be surprised if you got stopped and asked what you were doing in that neighborhood."

We also talked about the day Dr. King was assassinated and the riots that ensued afterwards. He said that his neighborhood was crazy; "you could hear the glass breaking in the corner stores." Then we talked about how those same riots influenced how reporters would be selected to cover those events. Many news outlets were not able to get an accurate story because they did not have reporters of color to get the inside story. It either wasn't safe for non ethnic reporters or no one would talk to them. The news world started to realize it too needed to integrate.

It was a good interview and great to see an old friend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Ruby Gary

I interviewed Mrs. Gary at her home in Washington, D.C., on September 18th. Mrs. Gary's contributions to the movement were in the form of sign-making and marching outside of the White House in protest. She described her routine as going to work, returning home, working on signs, protesting for awhile, going home to bed, and starting it all over the next day.

Mrs. Gary had an interesting story about the day of the March on Washington. She and other foot soldiers had been preparing for the march when she began to feel ill. As the time to march grew closer, she began feeling more sick. She eventually became so ill that she had to go to the hospital. There she was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to have her appendix removed, causing her to miss the march. "I was one mad sister" after the drugs wore off, she said.

Before the Memories Fade: Julia H. James

I started September 18th with an interview in Alexandria, Virginia, of Mrs. Julia James. She was a student at North Carolina A&T in the early 60's.

Like many foot soldiers in the movement, Mrs. James never really told people of her involvement. "I don't think it's much compared to most," Mrs. James said, but as I listened, her story became more intriguing.

Mrs. James participated in sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, right after the initial sit-ins at the Woolworths. She even went to school with and knew one of the original 4 who participated in the first sit-in in Greensboro! We also talked about her arrest while particpating in a sit-in.

My interview of Mrs. James ended with her relaying memories from the March on Washington, one of the best days of her life, she said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: LaVerne B. Rogers

My second interview on September 17th was with Mrs. LaVerne B. Rodgers, a Washington, D.C. resident. Mrs. Rodgers talked about her attendance at the March on Washington.

Mrs. Rodgers recalls as a 10-year-old walking with a group of friends to "listen to the man that was on TV who was being beaten." When describing her day at the Lincoln Memorial she smiled, then talked about being surrounded by all of the people. "It was just amazing to talk with all kinds of people from all over with different kinds of drawls, telling what they had gone through."

Mrs. Rodgers was not able to get close to the Memorial but, like many other people, she listened to the speakers on a transistor radio. The experiences of that day are still very fond memories for her.

Before the Memories Fade: Rep. John Lewis

Today, September the 17th, I met with one of the most storied 60's Civil Rights icons, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Representative Lewis was kind enough to meet with me during his extremely busy Capitol Hill schedule. Given that this Fall session has been jam- packed, the time was well appreciated. I will take it on faith that by now you have read up on the movement and know that Rep. Lewis was in the front of the battle lines on the fight to end segregation.

The interview was held in his office where I saw several photographs and reminders of his ties to the movement. The Congressman and I had a wonderful interview and I truly enjoyed hearing the stories from him. Rep Lewis talked about the importance of the Freedom Rides and what it was like to be on them. He also told what it was like the day of the March on Washington. I learned that the ten speakers met with congressmen on Capitol Hill and then marched with the crowd to the Lincoln Memorial. Rep. Lewis spoke 6th in front of the massive crowd of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on that historic day. After the march, the speakers met with President John F. Kennedy.

Rep. Lewis also talked about his belief in non-violence as a lifestyle and why he joined the movement. We also talked about the physical abuse he took, including his beating during "Bloody Sunday."

I could have questioned, talked, and listened to the Congressman for hours, but the buzzers were sounding as several votes were being called on the House floor so the Congressman had to leave.

It's so great to here stories of these events that helped to change the course of American history!

For more information on Rep. John Lewis, go to or search his name on the Internet.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

I caught up with Congresswoman Norton in her Capitol Hill office on August 13th. Even though Congress is out of session, Rep. Norton's office was bustling and her staffers were hard at work. I'd like to again thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule for my interview. This was a fun interview for me because growing up in the Washington, D.C., area I have watched her fight to become D.C's House Representative. She was also one of my last television news interviews before I started doing production full time.

I must say I was very happy with the shot that I set up for Rep. Norton's interview. It's a very pretty shot with beautiful colors and she looks good in it. The interview itself was very interesting and even became emotional at one point when she talked about her time in Jackson, Mississippi. She was shown around by Medgar Evars, hours before he was assassinated. "It is impossible to recount what I felt."

On what she thought about the youthful participation in the movement, she said: "Sometimes you have to be a little foolish to do some of the things we did by facing guns with non-violence, but change in our society is far more often propelled by young people with a new vision for our country."

Here's a fun fact for you: In the 60s, Rep. Norton sported an extremely large afro, which, looking back at photos, was very stylish and cool.

To find out more about Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Bob Adelman

While taking a short vacation in Florida, I set up an interview with Bob Adelman, photographer and social activist known for his historic coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. The interview was held in Bob's Miami home on August 6th.

Upon entering his house I saw some of his fantastic work displayed on the walls. All I can say is "Wow!" On a personal level, Bob was very easy going and had a lot of good stories to tell.

During the interview, Bob told me how he got interested in the movement and why he began to travel and shoot photographs, many times while in harms way. He also explained why he believes he became trusted by many people in the movement to deliver the truth through photography.

I think the interview went well and Bob provided some great insight into the movement. I had a great time and hope to get back down to Miami and talk with Bob again.

At the end of the interview Bob autographed one of his many books for me. Thanks again, Bob!

If you'd like more information on Bob Adelman and to see some of his work, visit:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Sidney J. Boney

Sidney J. Boney and I talked at his home in Atlanta on May 30, 2009. Mr. Boney quietly joined the movement while he attended college. He calls himself a weekend agitator because his participation in the movement mostly occurred on the weekends. He would drive to wherever he was needed, do what was asked of him, and drive back to college for Monday classes. Mr. Boney initially kept his participation from his parents because he wasn't sure if they would understand. Eventually, his parents understood and Mr. Boney continued to work for the movement.

Mr. Sidney J. Boney is one of many weekend foot soldiers who strived to end segregation.

Before the Memories Fade: Ernest Holsendolph

Ernest Holsendolph is a retired print reporter who spoke with me at his Atlanta home on May 30. Ernest and I talked about his experiences while being a black reporter in the 60s and his coverage of the riots in Washington, D.C., after Dr. King's assassination.

Ernest's interview was as you could expect . . . very informative. After the camera was off, we both shared personal stories about our journalistic endeavors. It was my last interview of the day, so I quickly packed up and headed the 5 hours back to Lexington, K.Y.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Marion Barry

After an 8 hour drive back home to Washington, D.C., I interviewed Marion Barry on May 23, 2009. The former Mayor, now City Councilman, told some great stories about his life during the movement. Mr. Barry, if you didn't know, was a mover and shaker during the 60s. He traveled the south as SNCC's (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, pronounced snik) first chairman.

During the interview he vividly conveyed to me what he had to go through during the movement. There were also lots of smiles as he reminisced about the people he knew and what they accomplished.

For more information on Marion Barry, check out

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Mukasa Dada (aka) Willie Ricks

The first interview I taped for this documentary was on May 29, 2009, with Mukasa Dada, who was known as "Willie Ricks" during the movement. I started the day in Lexington, Kentucky, and drove the 5 hours to Atlanta. Once there I set up in a hotel room in Buckhead.

When I called Mukasa to let him know I was ready, I got the usual enthusiastic greeting, "What's up brother Africa?" I don't know why but it does make me smile when I hear it. Enough on that matter. Mukasa arrived wearing a dashiki which showed he was in the spirit of the film. Actually, he is always ready to speak on the movement and the state of Blacks in America and the state of African people. Mukasa is a force. I mean the passion that he has to fight injustice comes through clearly. Did you know he is known as the person who came up with the phrase "Black Power?"

It was a great interview and a fine way to start this documentary. For more information on Mukasa Dada (aka Willie Ricks) do a Internet search on Willie Ricks and you'll find plenty.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Dr. Benjamin Hooks

On June 16th, I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Benjamin Hooks at his home in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Hooks told me interesting stories about working with Dr. King during the movement. He also shared with me stories about his personal peril when shot at and chased in a car by angry white southerners.

The interview went well, and I'm looking forward to talking to him again on another possible project. We also talked about his father who was a still photographer. His face lit up as we talked about the early days of film and how his dad use to light flash powder to make the flash.
The interview and discussion was fun and I'm thankful for it.

For more information on Dr. Benjamin Hooks, try , search his name on the internet, and look at his bio on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy

Interviewing Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy on May 24th was very special for me. The reason why this interview was different from the others is because a conversation I had with him over 10 years ago planted in my head the idea for a documentary about the Civil Rights Movement. Back then, while breaking down my equipment after interviewing him about another topic, Rev. Fauntroy and I had a conversation about the use of non-violence as a tactic to produce change and the discipline it took to maintain a non-violent stance during the 60s movement. Rev. Fauntroy called the tactic the Science of Non-Violence. This conversation stayed on my mind for years, and I told myself that if I got the chance I would do a documentary on the movement.

For those of you who don't know about Rev. Fauntroy's part in the movement, here is one little tidbit: Rev. Fauntroy worked as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s liaison to Washington D.C.
Above, you can see him showing me a photo of the signing of the Voting Rights Bill by President Lyndon Johnson as Fauntroy and Dr. King looked on.

For more information on the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, search his name on the internet and look at his bio on Wikipedia.
On a side note, the interview occurred on one of the hottest days of the year and when the building air conditioning was turned off. Hot, hot, hot!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Judge D'Army Bailey

On June 16 I had the pleasure of interviewing Judge D'Army Bailey at his home in Memphis, Tennessee. We discussed why he joined the movement in Memphis and why he traveled throughout the south lending his support.

In the above photo Judge Bailey is holding up a photo of the winning auction ticket allowing him to purchase the Lorraine Motel which is the sight of Dr. King's death and now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. In 1983, Judge Bailey organized the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation, Inc., in hopes of raising enough money to preserve the Lorraine Motel. The museum was officially dedicated in July 1991. Now that's an accomplishment worth recognizing! The National Civil Rights Museum is a must see while in Memphis. Check it out online at

Judge Bailey is a very talented person who has written several books on the movement, and his latest has just gone to print. You can read more about it here:

There's way more information on the judge than I can include here so be sure to search his name on the web.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Guy and Candie Carawan

On June 3, 2009, I interviewed Guy and Candie Carawan in their home in Tennessee. Meeting and talking with Candie and Guy was informative and delightful.

In the above photo I am taping Guy as he plays several songs, including "We Shall Over Come" which he contributed to the movement. When Guy plays, you know why he was asked to teach and lead songs during the movement. His voice and playing style brought the movement to life for me. Candie was also part of the movement. She began by participating in sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee, and later traveled throughout the south participating in other sit-ins.
For more information on Guy and Candie, check out

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Restoring Honor, The Case of Chaplain Plummer

I have been getting a lot of interest in my Chaplain Plummer documentary lately so I am providing purchasing information and the synopsis on this blog. It was a 2006 Telly Award (Silver) Winner, 2006 Aurora Award (Platinum) Winner, and an Official Selection of the 2006 Pan African Film Festival. This movie was produced under my production company's former name.

To purchase a copy, use Paypal or send a check for $24 dollars to Plumgood Productions, 3402 Pepperhill Rd., Lexington, Kentucky 40502. This purchase price includes shipping and handling.


The film tells the story of Henry Vinton Plummer a Maryland slave who was appointed the first African American Chaplain in the regular Army. Chaplain Plummer’s appointment was equivalent to the rank of Captain and, as to be expected at that time in American history, created internal conflict within the Army’s white officer ranks. This strife, in combination with a disgruntled African American enlisted man’s questionable accusations, led Chaplain Plummer to face the charge of “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman.” After a suspect court martial, Chaplain Plummer was dishonorably discharged in 1894.

Over one hundred years later, the film recounts the dedicated efforts of The Committee to Clear Chaplain Plummer, which is led by Committee President the Reverend L. Jerome Fowler, who is also Chaplain Plummer’s great nephew. Composed of family, clergy, historians, scholars, and retired military personnel, The Committee waged a four-year legal and PR campaign to convince the Army to reinstate Chaplain Plummer and clear his name. The Committee worked tirelessly to research the case and garner support from public leaders and noted officials including Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich and the Maryland House and Senate.

All filming occurred in Maryland. The DVD version of the film was completed in May 2005 and runs 43 minutes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Sparky Rucker

Today I headed down to Maryville, Tennessee, to interview famous folk singer James “Sparky” Rucker about his participation in the movement. As soon as Sparky opened the door I knew why his fans adore him. His smile and warm welcome clued me in that this was going to be a great interview.

Sparky can definitely tell a great story. He shared stories not just of his role in the civil rights movement but also those of his father, who was an African American police officer in Knoxville during the 1960s. Sparky also explained that many songs from the civil rights movement have their origins in slave songs and the words were rewritten to fortify those in the movement.

When the interview was over, Sparky graced me by playing a song or two. Listening to Sparky as he played the guitar and sang put me in the spirit of the movement. If you get a chance, you should see Sparky and his wife, Rhonda, perform. For more information, go to

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Dr. Abby Marlatt

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Abby Marlatt, who was instrumental in forming the Lexington, Kentucky, chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). 93 years young, she remembers quite vividly the marches and sit-ins in which she participated to demonstrate her belief in the non-violent movement of the 1960s.

Dr. Marlatt helped to organize protests and marches in downtown Lexington. Despite pressure from officials at the University of Kentucky, where she was director of the School of Home Economics, she persevered. She also helped start the Lexington Committee on Religion and Human Rights, which was a force in calling attention to injustice in Lexington.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Before the Memories Fade: Kentucky Interviews

Part of what makes this film so fun and exciting is talking with the little known people whose grass roots efforts were a huge part of the movement. These people put their lives on the line without any national coverage and fought to end segregation. The “Foot Soldiers” as they are called made and fuelled the movement and their stories are powerful. Early in July I interviewed some Foot Soldiers in Lexington, Kentucky. Pictured below are Robert Jefferson, Ronald Berry, and P.G. Peeples Sr.