Students, faculty members and members of the Columbus community were all in attendance on Feb. 19 to hear filmmaker Dawn Porter speak at the Gordy Honors College Forum Series.
Porter was invited by Dr. Thomas Velek, director of the Gordy Honors College, for the February edition of the 2015 series.
“I made a commitment when I became director of the Honors College that in February, for Black History month, we’re going to have a major African American speaker here,” said Velek.
He kept that promise, inviting the likes of well-known black figures such as Carlton “Chuck D” Ridenhour and Dick Gregory, among several others. Now Porter is among the ranks of those speakers.
She made history at the event, becoming the first African American woman to speak at the forum series in its 25-year run. Porter is the creator of the documentary “Spies of Mississippi.” The film brings attention to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Committee and the black informants who infiltrated several civil rights organizations in Mississippi, beginning in the late 1950s and evolving into a fully realized spy commission by the 1960s.
Porter spent a great deal of time in Mississippi working on the film. She interviewed several important activists such as Ed King and Lawrence Guyot, who played an instrumental role in the Civil Rights movement.
“Once you come to Mississippi, you kind of get it in your blood. So, I just kept coming back, and we keep doing these interviews and eventually all those interviews became a film,” said Porter.
She was excited to finally be able to speak in front of a Mississippi crowd about the film.
“This is very special to me, because this is really the first fully Mississippi audience that I have had this conversation with,” said Porter.
Her presence generated interest from elder African Americans members in the Columbus area, many of whom were active in the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
Ezra Baker was one of the members of the local community who was present at the event. He was active in the civil rights efforts while attending Jackson State during the 1960s. He also attended the viewing of “Spies of Mississippi” that was held on the campus of MUW two weeks prior to the Honors Forum.
Baker enjoyed the film and was very outspoken during the discussion part of the honors event. Although he enjoyed the event, he wished that the audience had gotten a chance to watch the movie before the hearing Porter speak.
“These kids need to see ‘Spies of Mississippi’ in its entirety, then the questions would have been more relevant to the discussion that took place,” said Baker.
Porter’s presence was well received by the young members in the audience. The discussion allowed students to ask questions concerning the film, which were met with words of motivation by the filmmaker.
“There is a very warm and friendly student body here, and it’s very encouraging to see. I’m so excited for you all. Whatever little voice in your head is saying, ‘this is the thing I want to do,’ but everyone else thinks I’m crazy, probably is what you should pursue,” said Porter.