Today the global coronavirus pandemic has suddenly and sweepingly changed the way we live and work. We struggle with staying healthy, protecting our families, and making a living -- all the while witnessing the turmoil and suffering that swirls around us. In order to emerge from this crisis as a more just and sustainable society, we need to undertake radical social change -- and throughout history, pandemics have brought just that opportunity.
As the producers of MOVE WHEN THE SPIRIT SAYS MOVE, we found ourselves asking, “What would Dorothy do during this time of crisis?” And the inescapable answer was that she would get moving. Get moving to build on the power of collective action to create the changes we seek. We are at a moment in our country where the inequities of our society are laid bare and many of the traditional social supports have disappeared. The future of our communities will be shaped by the movements that rise up to fight for them.
Therefore, for the last six months we shifted our fundraising and production plans for MOVE WHEN THE SPIRIT SAYS MOVE from completing the feature-length documentary to producing an interim short that will bring Dorothy’s spirit and legacy specifically to bear on the opportunities immediately ahead for grassroots action and citizenship activation. We had the footage needed to make this short this year, without travel or new interviews. The resulting video will be woven into the final film after we are able to get back to active production.
Direct relationship building was one of Dorothy’s many strengths. She connected with people and she connected the opportunities and responsibilities of citizenship to daily life. We believe that the story of Dorothy’s work to educate people to be full citizens can inspire new citizen empowerment today. Empowerment not just to vote, but also to be fully engaged in a community and a nation that embodies equity and justice.
This new short is streaming online and offered to groups such as the Poor People’s Campaign, Black Voters Matter, and others working for citizenship education, voter registration and increased participation in our democracy. Even though the pandemic prevents large in-person events, the ability to network online has increased the potential number of people who see impactful and important media.
A Message from the
Dorothy Cotton Institute
"We at the Dorothy Cotton Institute are excited to partner with Photosynthesis Productions (PSP), an Ithaca-based film company, to produce a documentary that will be a tribute to the life and ongoing legacy of Dr. Dorothy Foreman Cotton, a civil rights icon of the Southern Freedom Movement.
Dorothy Cotton served for eight years as Education Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and was the only woman on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Executive Staff. The centerpiece of her leadership was the Citizenship Education Program (CEP), a popular-education intensive that moved thousands of people from a mindset of “victim” to that of fully-engaged “citizen.”
The CEP equipped grassroots activists throughout the southern United States with a grounding in their constitutional rights and how to use the principles of non-violent direct action. In a brutal context where racial segregation, hatred and the threat of terrorism were daily realities, CEP participants went on to risk their lives to register voters, organize communities, demonstrations, strikes and boycotts, run for office and ultimately overturn Jim Crow laws. The CEP is a model for popular education and movement building that has empowered freedom struggles across the globe.
This film will focus not only on Dorothy Cotton’s role with the CEP, but will also highlight several other unsung s/heroes of the movement whose names and contributions the public should know. Dorothy Cotton’s work on non-violence, the power of freedom songs and taking action did not end in the ’60s. The film will include interviews with her colleagues and friends, archival footage of her talks and workshops, and the impact of her remarkable life."
"When Dorothy Cotton came to Emory for the opening of the SCLC papers, her talk & presence were fierce. That comes through in this film. You see the strategy, the determination, the willingness to outmaneuver & break down the walls of oppression. Vote & know your power and your worth."
Charles Howard Candler Professor of AfAm Studies @ Emory
Author WHITE RAGE & ONE PERSON, NO VOTE.