The four-part documentary film series, 400 Years Later…’free-ish, explores the 400-year commemoration of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia in late August 1619. The films capture this epic milestone through the journey of fifteen HBCU students as they explore past and present race relations in the birthplace of American slavery. The documentaries follow the students in their efforts to promote racial healing and reconciliation as they grapple with Virginia’s contentious history and the racial issues these monuments present.
Part I. The Sankofa Journey
Viewers are introduced to the students as they travel to Montgomery, Alabama for a tour of the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, and The Rosa Parks Museum. Viewers will explore these powerful memorials and museums through the eyes of the students as they learn from educators and local community leaders about the importance of confronting our country’s history of racial terror through truth telling. Students interview Equal Justice Initiative founder, attorney/activist Bryan Stevenson, Esq. who provides them with valuable knowledge and insight about the transformative power of memorials as tools for racial healing in preparation for their film projects in Virginia.
Part II. The Arrival
In Part II students follow organizations and individuals involved in the 400 Year Commemoration of the first Africans to arrive in Point Comfort, VA and Jamestown, the birthplace of American slavery. Viewers will learn from Senator Tim Kaine about the “400 Years of African American History Act” that was passed to promote this milestone while visiting both the 1619 Project in Point Comfort, VA and the Jamestown Rediscovery in Jamestown, VA to learn from scholars and archeologists about the experiences of the first Africans that arrived. Viewers will also get to observe student interviews with various Virginians of all backgrounds as they answer questions surrounding race relations in our country, 400 years later.
Part III. Confederate Monuments: Heritage or Hatred?
Part III highlights the controversies surrounding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue that gained national attention after the Unite the Right Rally in 2017 that led to the tragic death of Heather Heyer. Students will follow stakeholders involved in this debate, including high school student leader Zyhanna Bryant and Dr. Wes Bellamy, the Vice Mayor of Charlottesville who led the charge to remove the statue. This film also highlights various community interviews with diverse Virginians that explore the issues surrounding the question of heritage or hatred.
Part IV. Monuments that Heal
Part IV introduces viewers to current issues surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation Freedom Monument, which will be erected in Virginia in 2021. Four leaders from the MLK Commission that spearheaded this historic project, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Sen Mami Locke, Delegate Delores McQuinn and Professor Lauranette Lee will be highlighted as they view a replica of the Emancipation Proclamation Freedom Monument in the Valentine Museum and explain the process of moving this initiative forward and its significance to racial healing. This film also explores the issues surrounding the monuments most controversial figure being honored, Nat Turner, through interviews with various community stakeholders including grassroots community leader, Khalifa Khalifa who provides insight into Turner’s legacy.