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When one digs beneath the surface of many of the major initiatives of the Civil Rights Movement, one finds a woman known as “Miss Ella Baker.” This self effacing but much-revered woman has been called “one of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement.”
On Wednesday, May 28, 8-10 PM, Joy of Resistance proudly presents as its WBAI fund drive premium: Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker, a film by Joanne Grant. With an introduction by Harry Belafonte and a theme song especially written for this film by Bernice Johnson Reagon (founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock), the famous and beloved “Ella’s Song,” Fundi has won more than five film awards including the 2005 National Women’s Studies Association Film Festival Film of the Year, the London Film Festival Best of Category, the1981 San Francisco Film Festival First Prize Winner, the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the CINE Golden Eagle. (Fundi is a Swahili word, meaning one who passes on skills from one generation to the next.)
Over an hour long and in beautiful color, this is the only film about the extraordinary woman who founded both the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)–among many other achievements–and who was a major strategist of the Civil Rights Movement over decades. It covers Baker’s childhood, her early organizing for the NAACP in the 1940’s, her work for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in the 1950’s and her great influence on the younger generation of the 1960’s, primarily through her guidance of SNCC, which she was instrumental in organizing to break away from the older, minister-led SCLC, and which she helped to become its own dynamic youth-led organization. We also see her work for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and learn about her philosophy of participatory democracy, which influenced a generation–not only through SNCC, but whose ripple effects spread to other movements and organizations of the 1960’s and beyond, including Students for a Democratic Society and the Women’s Liberation Movement.
Among its highlights, the film contains exclusive interviews with Baker in her later years, and a reunion of SNCC workers who discuss the influence she had on them. These include Bob Moses, Marion Barry and Eleanor Holmes Norton–who comments that Baker has never gotten her due because she was a woman in the male-led Civil Rights Movement, because she was a woman. The film ends with Baker making the speech in which she declares: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s won” (which provided the words for the powerful refrain of “Ella’s Song”). But perhaps the greatest highlight of the film is getting to see the rarely photographed Miss Baker at length and in action–and seeing her face lit up with the deep inspiration of her political vision.
Harry Belafonte has said of this film: “FUNDI fills a gap for those who know little of the history of the black struggle [and] is a compelling portrait of an extraordinary woman who has devoted her life to struggle and to the people who take part in it.”
Pat Aufderheide, of In These Times has said: “FUNDI restores Ella Baker, the ‘godmother of the SNCC,’ to her place in the history of the civil rights movement. Precisely and elegantly executed… there’s no pomposity, no false reverence — at least none that Baker herself can’t cut right through.”
Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker can only be obtained through this limited WBAI offer –although institutions can purchase it from the Icarus Films website for $348.00! per DVD, it is not at this time available for individual purchase. However, it will be available through WBAI for a pledge to support the station of $75.00. Please don’t miss this rare opportunity obtain a unique piece of Civil Rights history and get to know one of its most inspiring and not-well-enough known leaders. This is an important film to share with people you know of different generations; your community; your students–and have permanently in your film library. AND IN THE PROCESS, YOU WILL BE HELPING TO SUPPORT LISTENER SPONSORED NON-COMMERCIAL WBAI–ANOTHER BELOVED PIECE OF OUR COMMUNITY (AND ONE THAT VERY MUCH NEEDS YOUR HELP AND SUPPORT AT THIS TIME!)
*The availability to WBAI listeners of Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker has been made possible through the generosity of Icarus Films