Pensacola’s second Foo Foo Festival embraced a variety of events that gave it a broad appeal for the many cultural and music tastes in this central Gulf Coast community. One of the most impactful events of the festival was “The POWER of History….Turning Tragedy into Triumph” in Gulf Power’s Ed Addison Auditorium at One Energy Place on Pensacola Bay’s waterfront. The cinema event involved the viewing of an historical documentary of “Who Killed Emmett Till?” which was produced by Ray Metoyer of Townhall Productions based in Atlanta, Georgia followed by a panel discussion led by Emmett Till Legacy Foundation co-founder, Deborah Watts.
Gulf Power’s Community Relations Director, Verdell Hawkins, served as the official host for the energy company, working the crowd with smiles and handshakes. Hawkins commented, “Gulf Power believes in the power of diversity”. He continued, “That not only is it important to teach about the past, but it’s also important to learn what inspires us about the future”.
Hawkins introduced Deborah Watts as the host for the evening and she provided the importance on the need for the movie to be viewed and the discussion to be held to delve deep into the significance of the remembrance. Once she had introduced her daughters, Tina and Tina in the audience along with the panelists, she invited Ray Metoyer, an award winning broadcast journalist and director of the “Who Killed Emmett Till?” documentary to the podium. As if he was preparing the audience for the upcoming scenes of Emmet Till’s terribly mauled face and body, he praised the courage of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, to open the casket of her son at the funeral in Chicago so the world could see what the white racist murderers had done to her son. She was by all accounts, an extraordinary woman.
The event lived up to its place on the Foo Foo Festival menu of unique cultural activities as the work of a skilled researcher and film director was on display for the audience to see and feel. Additionally, the presence of Keith Beauchamp in the audience, a New York City based film maker and TV Producer, made the evening a historic event as his appearance in the film documented his cinematic documentary venture to tell the story years earlier and its impact on how the murderers actually did “get away with murder”!
In summary, the film documented fourteen-year-old Emmett Till visiting his relatives in Money, Mississippi, on August 24, 1955, when he reportedly whistled at a white women cashier at a grocery store who was the wife of the owner. Four days later, two white men kidnapped Till, beat him and shot him in the head. The men were tried for murder, but an all-white, male jury acquitted them. Till’s murder and open casket funeral galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement and gave it the momentum that continues today with the Black Lives Matter Movement.
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