Lucy Massie Phenix, filmmaker and director of You Got to Move, the 1985 movie about movements that have gained strength from social justice leadership workshops at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee, calls the four shorts extracted from her eighty-six-minute original film “chapters.”
Phenix and co-producer Catherine Murphy are plucking the jewels from the crown of the original feature-length documentary to offer smaller, more digestible nuggets to organizers for use in political education projects and to teachers through Teaching for Change and the Zinn Education Project.
“Literacy is a core justice issue. It determines whether we’re going to have a functioning democracy or not. And [illiteracy] itself is the result of injustice.”
“We want educators to be able to share the shorts as part of their lessons and still have time for classroom discussion with their students,” Phenix tells The Progressive. She hopes viewers will come to the same conclusion as many who attended the Highlander sessions: We live in a class system that oppresses working people. To confront it powerfully, we must cross the racial divide and unite.
“Rosa Parks was working as NAACP youth director in Montgomery [Alabama] when she came to Highlander and learned there were white people that cared as much about civil rights and human rights as black people did. When she found that out she realized she could really step out,” Phenix says. “That Rosa didn’t know, but came to know, to me, that’s really important.”
Though she lives in the Bay area, Phenix grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and currently has her eye trained on crucial political races in the South. Racial unity, she believes, will be key in undoing the stranglehold of figures like the senior Senator from Louisville, who took office in 1985—the year You Got to Move was released—and whom Phenix refers to as “arch anti-human Mitch McConnell.”