As civil rights from institutional biases to individual prejudices make headlines, the Elkin Public Library leads local conversations about the past as well as the future.
In anticipation of the Nov. 13 Listen and Connect Topic “How to Overcome Our Biases,” the library invited Craig Dudnick to show and discuss his film, “Alice’s Ordinary People.”
Focusing on the civil rights work of Alice Tregay in Chicago, this short film examines the impact of an ordinary citizen who did extraordinary things, which eventually led to the election of the first African-American president of the United States.
“Alice chose that title because she felt that ordinary people are the ones that really accomplish everything,” said Dudnick
“I was your age,” said Tregay as she writes a letter to her own children at the beginning of the film, “the world was a very different place. Our people faced many [challenges] in their struggle for freedom and justice. I am writing to tell you what ordinary people and I did to bring about change so that your generation might learn what we experienced.”
The film continues to relate Tregay’s activities in not only her local political arena, but throughout the world.
“The Civil Rights Movement was really the beginning of human rights,” said Dudnick, whose admiration and respect for Tregay was obvious.
“She may have been laughing, but there was this look in her eye,” said Dudnick when relating an unfilmed version of a story Tregay told in “Alice’s Ordinary People.” “They knew she wasn’t going to back down.”
“You can stick me with a knife and I’ll just bleed all over your floor,” said a jovial Tregay in the film when relating an episode where her life was being threatened by political leaders. In spite of Tregay’s laughter when telling the story and recommending humor to de-escalate a bad situation, there was no doubt that the woman would continue her fight.
Tregay’s foray into politics began with the unheated, unair-conditioned Willis Wagons used for overflow in the Chicago schools where her children attended.
“This brought hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets to protest these Willis wagons in Chicago including Alice,” said Dudnick. “Eventually they were able to bring Dr. King to Chicago to help with the fight.”
This start eventually led to classes for African-Americans on how to get elected to political office. One of the attendees was a young Barack Obama. Another was the Rev. Jesse Jackson who was just one individual whose campaign she worked.
Dudnick met Tregay after completing another film, “Evanston’s Living History,” which was about the people and history of the primarily African-American section of Chicago where he had been living and caring for elderly friends.
“Alice told me she liked what I did with that and asked me if I would help her with this project,” said Dudnick, who eagerly shared his enthusiasm for Elkin as well as the Civil Rights Movement.
“I wanted to think Kasey (Guinther, adult program director for the Elkin Public Library) for having me to this beautiful library in this beautiful setting,” said Dudnick. “It’s always humbling when people come out to see this film.”
Guinther explained the reason she chose to bring Dudnick and his film to Elkin was to encourage conversation about the kinds of behaviors and attitudes related to racism.
“[We want to] empower people to make a difference in the world. The next Listen and Connect will be about dealing with biases/discrimination,” said Guinther, “and how you treat people and ways that we can be better about it. We’re hoping to have a good conversation so invite somebody different than you to come and talk.”
Listen and Connect will be held at the Elkin Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on Nov.15 where participants will start by listening to the Ted Talk “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them” by Verna Myers.
To RSVP for this session or to reserve the library’s copy of Craig Dudnick’s “Alice’s Ordinary People,” call 336-835-5586 or stop in at the library located at 111 N. Front St.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.