Things can change for the better and movies can help make positive change happen, we just wish the world moved faster. On Thursday the 9th of last month, the state of Florida officially expressed regret to civil rights marchers who were beaten and jailed for protesting segregated beaches and lunch counters in St. Augustine in the 1960s, as detailed in this report in the Tampa Bay Tribune and documented in Dare Not Walk Alone.
As the article notes, the highly emotional events of last December 9th "were set in motion by state Sen. Tony Hill, a Jacksonville Democrat who unsuccessfully sought to pass a bill in the 2010 legislative session to clear the marchers' records." What the article does not mention is that Sen. Tony Hill himself was set in motion by Dare Not Walk Alone. Here's what he wrote about the film back in 2006:
"The documentary was so moving that, as chairman of the Black Caucus of the State of Florida, I have filed a bill for the 2007 legislative session in the House and the Senate to have all records cleared for anyone who was arrested because of segregated laws. That is how compelling the film was to me."We applauded Sen. Hill for his actions then, and we applaud the Florida legislature and departing Governor Crist for this recent step in the right direction. However, I am sure that Sen. Hill is just as frustrated as we are that it has taken more than 45 years for this expression of regret to emerge. And it should not have taken 3 years for Sen. Hill's bill to result in action, and even then an action which falls short of a blanket pardon and clearing of criminal records that have encumbered these heroic marchers for decades (apparently it will be up to individual law enforcement agencies to clear the records, if they decide to do so).
But this was at least a step in the right direction, and it makes us feel better about all the time and money and effort we put into making the film. I guess it was unrealistic to expect one film to change the world overnight, but perhaps incrementally, over time, it will chip away at the lingering issues of racial injustice that still must be addressed.