This is a two-hour community conversation with students and teachers from the segregation era. For the first time ever, students and teachers from the four segregated Black schools in Topeka talked about their community and educational experiences prior to segregation and after integration. To provide insight into the social, economic and political environment that Black students and teachers experienced at the time and to give them an opportunity to reflect and exchange memories on things that impacted their lives. The documentary provides a visual and aural documentation from a generation of ordinary people that changed history in extra-ordinary ways and serves as a living testimony for future generations of historians and activists.
Shot in a modern-day Cinema Verite-style on Saturday, March 23, 2019; all 16 people were placed together in a studio setting enabling them to interact with each other and the moderator– creating an orchestra of voices. The discourse is divided into 5 acts: Growing up in the Black Community in Topeka; Family, Friends, Neighbors; School and You (Segregation); School and You (Integration); After-effects (inputs, outputs, outcomes, impact). Participants were placed in 4 groups in keeping with the 4 segregated elementary schools that they attended.
“I just want to testify…” was shown at the Brown v Board National Historic site on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 with the KTWU broadcast premiere on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Additionally, the program will be made available to local schools, the Brown v Board National Historic Site, the local NAACP, Kansas Historical Society, Humanities Kansas, all the sponsoring agencies and for other community groups that are interested in public discourse around this topic.
A new generation of children, teachers and administrators walk through school doors each day unaware of the great significance of the Brown V Board decision. The court case effectively laid the groundwork for shaping national and international policies regarding human rights. As viewers see in this program, these events have a local and immediate connection to their communities today. Viewers are able to see how the lives of the participants – average people- helped shape the United States for all of us today.