Searching for Booker: A Mississippi Story

In 1965, Booker Wright went before the camera of documentary filmmaker Frank DeFelitta and explained towhateventually would become a national audience on NBC just what it was like for an African-American man to work as a waiter in a whites only restaurant in Greenwood, MS.

Wright explained how he was “crying on the inside’’ as he was regularly forced to take the racial slurs of customers. Still, he says in that interview, “the meaner the man be, the more you smile.’’

Shortly after “Mississippi: A Self Portrait’’ aired in 1966, Booker Wright quit that job as a waiter because of the abuse from white customers over the interview. He was pistol whipped by a Greenwood policeman. His own restaurant, “Booker’s Place,’’ was firebombed. Seven years later, he was murdered by a black man, an act that has remained the subject of conspiracy theories tied to that interview.

“I just don’t want my children to go through what I go through,” he said in that NBC interview. “But remember, you have to keep that smile.”

Now, nearly 50 years later, Booker Wright’s granddaughter, Yvette Johnson, has co-produced a documentary on the life of the grandfather she never knew, “Searching for Booker: A Mississippi Story,’’ which was co-produced by Raymond DeFelitta, the son of the original documentary maker.

Blackhawk Technical College is proud to show this important film on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 4 p.m. in the Blackhawk Room as part of its Black History Month activities. Following the film, Ms. Johnson will lead a discussion on the film and the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi.

The powerful documentary debuted in 2012 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.  Much more material about Ms. Johnson and the documentary are available at www.Yvette-Johnson.com and www.bookerwright.com.

The film and discussion are part of a day celebrating Black History Month that will begin with BTC’s Soul Food Scholarship luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the North Commons of BTC’s Central Campus. Event sponsors include BTC’s Diversity Advancement Committee, student service organizations and the Diversity Action Team of Janesville.

The luncheon menu includes baked and fried chicken, fried catfish and barbeque ribs with a variety of side dishes and desserts.

The luncheon is open to the public. Tickets are $12. Please contact Wanda Sloan at wsloan@blackhawk.edu, (608) 757-7745 or Cristina Parente at cparente@blackhawk.edu, 608-757-77 for more information on the film and luncheon.