Black History Month, A Memory
Black History month has come around again. It always moves me to research and even recall events in history in Canada and the United States of the Afro American and African Canadian communities. I recently noticed that there was a showing in Toronto of the Film, The Last White Knight by Paul Saltzman. It is his story of returning to Mississippi to confront a member of the KKK who had assaulted him in 1965 to see how much the times have changed and whether there was basis for reconciliation. (Excerpts of this film can be seen on You Tube.) Paul has been moved by the murder of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi the previous year. (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner). He went to Mississippi to work with voter registration with the SNCC organization of Stokley Carmichael. It was here he was assaulted by Delay de la Beckwith, the subject of his film..
It got me thinking about Paul Saltzman and all that he has accomplished in his life. I knew him for a couple of years at University. We had a mutual friend and I knew his brother Earl. Paul was an interesting and energetic student. He did a four year degree in three and always seemed to want to get university over with so he could go on with more interesting things.. He did just that. He went to India on a spiritual quest and end up spending time with the Beatles at the Ashram of Maharish Mahesh Yogi.. He became a film maker and photographer and married Deepa Mehta, the famous Indo-Canadian film maker, best remembered for her Elements Trilogy of films, Earth, Fire, Water. Paul's career has included may films for the screen and TV, more of shorts and documentaries than feature films.
He has continued his interest in civil rights and people finding basis of getting along. He made a film with Morgan Freeman called "Prom Night in Mississippi" Paul Saltzman had heard that Morgan Freeman's home town still has separate proms for the graduating high school class and that Freeman had offered once to pay for a united prom . Paul asked Freeman if the offer still stood. The result was the film.
Better than me writing about his life, you can hear him speak about it in this TED Talk in Waterloo Ontario.
Paul Saltsman came from a very interesting family. His father is Percy Saltzman, who people of my generation will remember as Canada's first Weatherman on TV. He presented the weather every night drawing the weather pattern on a chalk board. He always ended his presentation by tossing the chalk in the air and catching it again. Paul also worked for the CBC for a while and now his nephew Aaron Saltzman in a journalist on the CBC. Paul's daughter with Deepa Mehta, Devyani Saltzman is a writer.
I cant resist it. Here is Percy Saltzman doing the weather before it all got so high tech on TV. It was always interesting because of his energetic presentation.
During Black History month, I find it appropriate to remember the civil rights struggles of the 60's: those who risked themselves to help to fundamentally change the culture of the South: those who died trying, the final trials, only in the last decade, of those who murdered civil rights workers. and to understand how things have changed while other things still resist change. The struggle for social and political rights is always an ongoing process; for people, times and circumstance can see them easily denied once again.