From detrimental cuts to public education to infringements on abortion rights, from racially and sociologically motivated voter restrictions to reduced spending for social programs, a laundry list of unethical decisions have catalyzed a statewide movement deemed Moral Mondays in 2013. Reveling in historical cues of civil disobedience, such as that of North Carolina’s own Rosa Parks, the grassroots political outcry strives to peacefully remind Republicans such as Gov. Pat McCrory the principles on which this nation was built.
Spurred by the Moral Mondays movement, Working Films, the NC-NCAAP and various organizations throughout the state have programmed a film series called “Moral Movies.” They screen in Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, and Wilmington. Next Thursday, May 29th, “American Winter” will screen locally at the Hannah Block Community Arts Center. The film debuted on HBO in March of 2013.
The showings will be presented by the NC AFL-CIO, an organization that raises awareness about unions and workers’ rights. “American Winter” delves into the detrimental aftermath of the economic decline, showing the immense struggles that come with a diminishing middle class. With North Carolina ranked 46th in the country in teacher pay and household security and stability, the film’s message proves vital. Its inclusion aims to inform attendees on the importance of the highly debated proposal about raising minimum wage.
“We hope the screenings of ‘American Winter’ will bring a deeper understanding to the new face of poverty, which has been increasingly villainized, and inspire audiences to become involved in solutions,” Working Films campaign coordinator Andy Myers says.
Working Films and the NC-NAACP culled partnerships with various like-minded organizations that were already heavily involved in the Moral Mondays protests, such as the TarHeel Alliance of Classroom Teachers (tACT), the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), The Durham People’s Alliance, The Mountain People’s Assembly, Beloved Community Center, Action NC, Pitt County NAACP, New Hanover County NAACP, and the Black Arts Alliance, in October last year. They held a meeting and explained how to use non-fiction films to pique interest for their causes. As well, they forged partnerships between the various organizations to highlight their similar goals.
“We think that the series will give people across the state a way to actively participate and have their voices heard as citizens when the legislature reconvenes, even if they can’t make it to Raleigh every Monday,” Myers explains.
Screenings began in April with “American Teacher,” a documentary that shows the struggles of the public school system through the lives of four teachers. Cameron Art Museum hosted the event. Coming almost simultaneously with North Carolina’s own extreme cuts to public education, the film generated dialogue and filled roughly 75 to 100 seats at each screening across the state.
Film became the medium to take the movement on the road because of its unique ability to immerse attendees in stories. For roughly 90 minutes the lights can dim over viewers as they take a stroll in another person’s shoes. “When someone loses themselves in a story, their attitudes change as they begin to empathize with the stories’ characters, Myers elaborates. “With these films, the stories are true, and the people are real.”
The films often inspire audiences to take action. Many viewers are persuaded to take that first trip to Raleigh for a Moral Monday protest. Signing petitions and writing letters to the state legislature encourage audience members to share their voices. Those in attendance for “American Teacher” were lead to join tACT’s action network.
Moving forward, the film series already has screenings set up for June and July. Presented by Democracy NC, June will showcase “Freedom Summer.” The film chronicles the summer of 1964, in which 700 student activists journeyed to Mississippi to register voters and create freedom schools in 1964. It will be shown on Tuesday, June 24th at New Beginning Christian Church ( 3120 Alex Trask Dr, Castle Hayne, NC).
July’s screening will consist of “Inequality for All,” curated by the NC Justice Center. The film emphasizes the importance of the middle class as the American backbone. The film will play at Cameron Art Museum (3201 S 17th St). on Thursday, July 31st.
“As Moral Mondays expands across the country, we will, too,” Myers comments. The movement has already moved to Georgia and South Carolina. “We’re already receiving requests from several other states to replicate it. We also hope to continue Moral Movies beyond July in North Carolina.”
For now the activists set their sights on the upcoming screening of “American Winter.” The NC AFL-CIO will be onsite fielding questions and offering opportunities for involvement at each screening statewide. Folks so inclined are also encouraged to make donations, all of which are 100 percent tax deductible. Proceeds will go toward programming events past July.
Hannah Block Community Arts Center
120 S. 2nd Street
Thursday, May 29th, 7 p.m.
Free • www.workingfilms.org