Civil rights filmmaker uses Fannie Lou Hamer project to teach youth

Tori McCown
Oxford Stories

Filmmaker and IT expert Pablo Correa is using his own upcoming multimodal project on Mississippi civil rights’ activist Fannie Lou Hamer to educate others about how they can create their own meaningful projects.

Correra, who recently spoke at the University of Mississippi during the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association conference, has worked on the Fannie Lou Hamer’s America project that is set to premiere this fall. It is about Hamer, who Correa described “as a great civil rights activist and a legendary pioneer… Even Martin Luther King Jr. was intimidated to speak alongside her.”

Correa wanted to educate the public about Hamer because many people have no idea who she was. Because of her impact on history, Correa, alongside seven other academics, has been working tirelessly for six years on the project.

Hamer, a Montgomery County native, was an American voting and women’s rights activist and civil rights leader. She was the co-founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, and she organized Mississippi’s Freedom Summer along with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Freedom Summer was a volunteer campaign launched in 1964 to register African-American voters in Mississippi.

“We have the younger generations who don’t know who she is,” he said. “We want to bring her to the (Mississippi) Delta and make her accessible through the K-12 curriculum.”

The team is using technology to educate all ages about Hamer’s life and her importance to the civil rights movement.

“It is a four-part modal project,” he said. “It consists of a documentary film, a curriculum plan, a Find Your Voice workshop, and a website with materials on Fannie Lou Hamer.”

Correa has been part of the curriculum plan, from being the second camera man in the documentary on Hamer’s life and her inspiring speeches, to being an instructor for the Find Your Voice workshop, a workshop with “Hamer-inspired” curriculum.

Correa said he has greater plans to teach others how to use film and technology for art and academic uses. He wants students, especially those who would not normally have access to specialized classes and materials, to learn all the ways they can use technology.

“[The digital divide] used to be about who had a computer,” he said, “but now it’s about how the technology is being used.”

Because of this divide, Correa worries that young adults who could be making a living in an IT or production career will never know or think they are capable of taking advantage of that opportunity.

“Every child is an artist,” he said. “The problem is just how to remain an artist when we get older.”

He believes film production is one way to continue. Correa created a workshop he refers to as Sunflower Film Academy with three specific goals for film students to accomplish in five weeks. His first goal was to introduce the skills young men and women need to document stories.

Correa said the most important part of this goal was to provide excellent equipment that students may not have had access to.

“They had everything they possibly needed in order to set up lighting, interviews… everything so they could organize and be confident in their skills,” he said.

His second goal was to demonstrate how a student could use these skills in a career field. As students began to see the importance of film, they began to create pieces about their school. Coincidentally, a movie was being shot nearby and students worked on the film that will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival later this year. He said this was huge for his students, as their names are now attached to something they could potentially add to their resumes.

Correa said his biggest goal was to have students create and be confident with their own content. “At the end of the fifth week of the workshop, they edited and created their own film,” he said.

Correa’s Sunflower Film Academy students met all the goals and more, showing how access to technology can change the life of any student willing to learn. In his field of work, this means exposing injustices and creating educational pieces on historical figures, but for students, excelling in these skills opens up a world of possibilities.

The student film about racial injustices in Mississippi will premiere at 3 p.m. April 13 at the Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson.

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