The film “Till”: an act of resistance, truth and justice
by Nadira Jamerson
It took more than 100 years and 200 failed legislative attempts, but in March, with President Biden signing the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, lynching finally became a federal hate crime. This historic moment was a step towards accountability and justice for the innocent 14-year-old boy killed on August 28, 1955 in Money, Mississippi – and whose death many believe sparked the civil rights movement.
Emmett Till was visiting his family when he was kidnapped and brutally beaten by a group of white supremacists. Rather than let her son’s death go unpunished, Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, dedicated her life to fighting for justice for her only child and other victims of racial injustice and violence. “Till,” the film, in theaters Oct. 28, is an ode to Mamie and the civil rights advancements her work has brought to black communities across the country.
“It’s more than a film for us, it’s a movement. This is a move towards accountability, truth and justice for Emmett Till because we are still fighting for justice after 67 years,” said Deborah Watts, cousin of Emmett and co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, during of the National Town Hall of Till, organized by Values Partnerships to teach attendees about the importance of the film “Till”.
Watts explained that films like this – which speak to the reality of the black experience throughout US history – are needed today because our communities in Emmett need to be impacted by racism. and inequalities, just as they were at the time of Emmett’s death.
Data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism shows a nearly 30% increase in hate crimes in 2021, with black Americans among the most targeted. Indeed, with the lynchings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, it is clear that we have work to do.
“This movie is a moment Grandma has always wanted since Emmett’s murder and her progression to becoming the activist she is,” Watts said. “She wanted the world to know what had happened to her son. She didn’t want this to happen to another young person. »
Danielle Deadwyler, the actress playing Grandma in “Till,” also spoke at the town hall about why it’s important for people from all walks of life to watch, share and uplift this film. With book bans sweeping America and disproportionately affecting marginalized voices, and the teaching of America’s true history banned in many K-12 schools across the United States, Deadwyler said that watching “Till” and honoring the stories of Emmett and Grandma are acts of resistance.
“We’re in a place where we know there are political figures who ‘don’t want us to have this information, who lie about the truth of our experiences,'” Deadwyler said. we will rebel, we will counter this lack of knowledge and this ignorance, and we are able to share abundantly with our community and with other communities so that we are totally resistant to any form of neglect of our history, our black American history, our American history. This is an opportunity to resist. »
“Till” is also significant for its support of black artists and creators. The film boasts a strong mostly black cast and stellar work from Nigerian-American director Chinonye Chukwu. And, the cast said “Till” sticks to the facts when portraying Emmett and Grandma’s legacy.
Deadwyler shared that to make sure she portrayed Grandma correctly, she went to the source — Grandma’s memoir.
“What really started digging for me was reading Granny’s memoir,” Deadwyler said. “It’s the Bible. That’s where you should go if you’re doing this kind of truth-centered work of experience. She lays it all out in “Death of Innocence” which she co-wrote with Chris Benson. It just gave me the knowledge and information I needed. She exposed the true intimacy of what it meant to raise him, to love him, to birth him.
Even for people who may be familiar with the events of Emmett’s death, Deadwyler said “Till” illuminates an intimacy at this critical moment that you can’t learn anywhere else – and this film is for anyone who want to carry on Emmett’s name and Grandma’s legacy. service to the black community.
“That’s the legacy she wanted to leave,” Deadwyler said. “She didn’t want people to forget about Emmett. She didn’t want to be the only one with Emmett’s name. If you see the love between them, if you see the singing, the joy, the dancing, and the simple need to uplift it, all that beauty is what we’re fighting for, the ability to just be.