Film screening to highlight legacies of civil rights leaders John Lewis, C.T. Vivian

Emory Report | March 3, 2021

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In “The Baptism,” writer and actor Carl Hancock Rux pays homage to the impact of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, two towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement. (Screen capture from the film)

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“Art Meets Activism: John Lewis, C.T. Vivian and ‘The Baptism,’” a special film screening and discussion, is set for March 7 at 3 p.m. to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement’s "Bloody Sunday.” 

The event features a screening of “The Baptism,” a visual poem written and performed by Carl Hancock Rux and directed by artist Carrie Mae Weems, with a panel conversation of scholars, activists and artists, followed by a Q&A.

It is presented by Emory’s Center for Creativity & Arts and James Weldon Johnson Institute, with Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and the Morehouse College King Collection, in partnership with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Panelists include: 

  • Carl Rux, writer, actor, creator of “The Baptism”
  • Francine Allen-Adams, Emory University James Weldon Johnson Fellow and associate professor of English, Morehouse College
  • Vicki Crawford (moderator), director of the Morehouse College King Papers
  • Doris Derby, Civil Rights documentary photographer, author and co-founder of Free Southern Theater
  • Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science and director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute, Emory University

This virtual event is open to the public at no charge, but registration is required.

“The Baptism” pays homage to the impact of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, two towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement who stood at the front lines of the battle for racial justice in the 1960s. Both Lewis and Vivian died July 17, 2020.

On March 7, 1965, Lewis sustained a skull fracture when he was beaten by police as he helped lead a march for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on what would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” The Bloody Sunday march came just weeks after Vivian led marchers to the Selma courthouse on Feb. 16, 1965, to register to vote, where he was punched in the head by the sheriff.

In addition to the full film, audiences can view an intimate interview with Rux conducted by Weems, available at TheBaptismPoem.org. In the conversation, Rux shares the profound and pivotal moments of his life that shaped him as a person, activist and artist who grew to find inspiration in leaders like Lewis, who “found a tongue, a language, a means of articulation, a way of speaking to the universe and through time.” 

The poem and interview were commissioned by and are presented courtesy of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.