MacArthur Fellow and Emmy Award Winning Filmmaker
Stanley Nelson Collaborates With
Washington Interdependence Council to Produce Benjamin Banneker Documentary
Washington, DC, May 24, 2004 – Newsweek Magazine and other news outlets were abuzz this past week with reports about new investigations into the 1955 tragic slaughter of a 14 year old Chicago teenager, Emmett Till, which served to re-energize the civil rights movement in America. As a result of his mother’s insistence, there was an open casket funeral showcasing his mutilated body as it lay on display in Chicago after being retrieved from a Mississippi river. The brutality of the criminal atrocities against this young boy, accused only of allegedly whistling at a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi, moved people so that it served to almost single handedly rekindle the civil rights movement in America in the 50’s.
MacArthur Fellow and 2003 Emmy award winning producer Stanley Nelson’s provocative film prompted the Justice Department to reopen the case after the 2003 release of the documentary entitled The Murder of Emmett Till as a result of an insurgent letter writing campaign spurred by the power of the documentary’s coverage of the incident. Nearly fifty years later, the power of the media again moved people from a place of apathy to become proactive in their indignation over racism and injustice, thanks to the talent and commitment of Mr. Nelson.
“It is exactly that type of insightful synergism that gives pause to make one think, and even become indignant about societal ills and injustice that we anticipate will result in the offering of a well researched and powerful documentary on the life of American colonial hero, Benjamin Banneker. Once Firelight Media completes its artistry in revealing the life of America’s most unsung hero, the public will begin to ask themselves why it has taken so long to properly commemorate this giant of a man commonly referred to as America’s First Black Man of Science,” explains Washington Interdependence Council(WIC) Founder/CEO, Peggy Seats.
For the past seven and a half years WIC, a non-profit civic agency, has endeavored to establish a memorial to Banneker along the L’Enfant Plaza/Banneker Overlook Park promenade, located between the Smithsonian Castle on the Mall, and the southwest marina Washington, DC. The civic agency was authorized by Congress [P.L. 105355] to establish a memorial to Banneker in 1998, and received site approval from the National Capitol Memorial Commission in 1999. According to Ms. Seats, however, since it has been over two centuries since Benjamin Banneker completed his most notable contribution to America, serving as a member of the first presidentially appointed team helping to survey and design the nation’s capitol, the agency has, out of necessity, spent an inordinate amount of time outreaching to educate the public about the many contributions of Banneker as a trailblazer on many fronts in the history of colonial America. She often refers to him as A Man of Many Firsts.
“Although most people have heard of Benjamin Banneker , very few know of the breadth and depth of his genius, and the litany of trailblazing social, civic, political and scientific contributions made by this Renaissance Genius,” touts Ms. Seats. Known for producing the very first American made striking clock constructed entirely of indigenous parts that struck every hour for over fifty years, it was this achievement that brought Banneker [1731-1806] into national prominence, in 1753, at age 22. He went on the gain greater notoriety as the author almanacs, replete with his own ephemeris projections; a trailblazer in the implementation of water irrigation and crop rotation resulting in legendary crop results; being the first to document the 17 year locust cycle [this year being the year of the cicada]; writing the first publicly documented protest letter [written to then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson]; being the first widely known civil rights leader working with the international Abolitionist community of his time; being the first Black astronomer; and first Black scientist and mathematician of note, among his many trailblazing feats. As a member of the team commissioned to establish the nation’s capitol, Mr. Banneker played a key role, as technical lead in maintaining the ephemeris clock and charting the movement of the stars, in identifying the placement of the White House, Capitol and Treasury Building. He also charted 16th St., NW as the meridian of the nation’s capitol, and its spiritual center; and in determining the astronomically influential Federal Triangle. In addition to all of this, he correctly predicted his second solar eclipse while on assignment working to help survey and design the nation’s capitol.
Fundraising to produce the video on Mr. Banneker is now in progress. Persons wishing to donate funds and/or get more information should contact the Washington Interdependence Council at 202.387.3380 and/or go to WIC’s website at www.bannekermemorial.org.
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Copyright, Washington Interdependence Council, 2016