Film, discussion in Yarmouth to examine racial tensions

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YARMOUTH — A civil rights documentary being shown in Yarmouth on Sunday has ties to Maine.

The film, “Passage at St. Augustine,” will be shown at 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Merrill Memorial Library. The hour-long documentary focuses on the civil rights movement in St. Augustine, Florida, in the spring of 1964.

Filmmaker Clennon King, whose father was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s lawyer, said the film details “the bloodiest campaign of the civil rights movement.” King is no relation to the civil rights leader.

The film, which is free and open to everyone, is being co-sponsored by the First Universalist Church of Yarmouth and the Maine Coast Waldorf School in Freeport.

“Passage at St. Augustine” won the Henry Hampton Award of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking at the Roxbury International Film Festival last year, and comes at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is gaining traction around the country.

Like Black Lives Matter, the civil rights movement was about “challenging and standing up against police brutality,” King said.

King, a resident of Roxbury, Massachusetts, was asked to show the film in Maine by Yarmouth resident Mariana Tupper, who attended high school with him. King said he was interested, but wanted to make sure Maine residents would feel a local connection to the film, and to St. Augustine.

“They want to know their own flesh and blood is involved,” he said.

Coincidentally, the Rev. William England, now an Oxford resident, was 33 when he was arrested and taken into custody with Dr. King during the conflict in St. Augustine. England’s story is highlighted in the film and should be of interest to Mainers, King said.

Former civil rights activist Peter Bancroft, of Harborside, will be leading a discussion with King after the film. Bancroft was in St. Augustine in 1964 and was jailed for participating in several protests.

“I was standing up for what I believed in and was arrested for participating in a lunch counter sit-in, for attending with blacks Sunday services at an all-white church, and for trying to desegregate an all-white beach,” Bancroft said.

King said he hopes the film will teach people about a historical event that is often forgotten and overlooked. 

“It’s about making relevant what’s irrelevant, and that’s skin color,” he said.

King said he hopes people in predominantly white Yarmouth can walk away from the film with a deeper understanding of racial tensions in the country. He said he wants residents to also realize how they can play a role in making things right.

“I think the takeaway is to take note of Peter Bancroft and William England,” King said. “Even in their whiteness they found a way to be ruled by their moral compass to stand up and do what’s right.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Clennon King’s film “Passage at St. Augustine” will be shown Sept. 25 at Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.