Midlands students excel in civil rights film competition

brantin@thestate.com (803) 771-8306April 18, 2014 

This photo of a 1961 civil rights march in downtown Orangeburg was taken by photographer Cecil Williams, the subject of one of the winning documentary. (Sixth from left is the late NAACP state president I.DeQuincey Newman of Columbia.)


Six Midlands area students have claimed top honors in this year’s “Our Story Matters” film competition.

The competition is sponsored by Friends of African American Art & Culture – an affiliate of Columbia Museum of Art – and celebrates student film work and creativity while promoting and commemorating a pivotal time in Columbia’s 1963 civil rights history.

The event was open to Columbia area high schools. Winners were recognized during a red carpet awards ceremony last month at the museum.

“I am excited that we were able to extend the commemoration activities of the 1963 civil rights efforts in Columbia to local high school students through the film competition, ‘Our Story Matters,’” said FAAAC President Brandolyn Thomas Pinkston. “It is gratifying to see the students engaged in learning about African-American and modern civil rights history while being taught how to produce a short documentary on their research.”

Spring Valley High School senior Mike Hoffman claimed first place in the competition for his film, “An Epic Struggle in Photographs – Cecil Williams.” The film focuses on Williams’ experiences and photographs of the civil rights movement, specifically the 1949 Briggs vs. Elliot case that originated in Clarendon County and the Orangeburg selective buying campaign.

Lower Richland High School junior Gabrielle Young placed second for her film “Civilis Bellum: The Story of Modjeska M. Simkins (1899-1992).” The short documentary explores the civilis bellum, or civil war, waged by the Columbia activist for civil and human rights and celebrates her legacy.

A.C. Flora High School juniors Taylor Lee and Zavius Seibles placed third for their film, “Stories of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina.” In the film, they interview Claudia Smith Brinson, a college professor and journalist whose research is featured prominently in the archive of civil rights stories about the history of the movement in Columbia and the efforts of James Felder, a voting rights and education activist.

A.C. Flora High School seniors Jalon Percy and Wanja Brown placed fourth for their film, “Leevy Johnson’s Story.” The students documented the life of the South Carolina attorney through a series of interviews.

Each winner received $500, a video camera, and a year membership to the museum and FAAAC.

The film competition was held in partnership with Columbia Chapter of The Links Inc., ColumbiaSC63, Richland 1, Richland 2, Benedict College, the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, the USC Media and Civil Rights Symposium and Richland Library.

“We appreciate the opportunity to help young people connect with and appreciate the hard work and bravery of those who came before them, both through this project and for 25 years through the AT&T South Carolina African-American History Calendar,” said Ted Creech, external affairs director for AT&T in South Carolina.

“Engaging students in this unique way brought to life this region’s civil rights history, taught them about the medium of film, and engaged them more deeply in their own education,” Creech said.

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