DALLAS (KDAF) — This Texan was named one of the best film educators in the world by Variety magazine. Keith Smith is the director of the documentary Juneteenth Faith and Freedom.
On top of being a widely recognized filmmaker, Smith is also an associate professor at UT Austin.
Smith joined Inside DFW to talk more about his film and career. Here is their interview:
Can you explain the premise of the film and what we can expect?
The film God, Faith and Freedom is centered around Juneteenth. It charts the history of slavery in Texas. It charts what Juneteenth meant in Texas and why it came so late. We also talk about the present-day, reverberation of the fact that it was two and a half years later, that the enslaved in Texas were actually freed. And so it sort of goes through again, the history of slavery, all the way to freedom, and then also into the present day.
Well, obviously, you’ve been immersed in this topic. Given that you’ve done this massive project on it. I would love for you just to speak to the importance of Juneteenth present day as we sit here right now.
Yeah, I think it’s so important that I think oftentimes, we think Juneteenth is a throwaway holiday like it only applies to Black folks in Texas. But to be honest with you, slavery is not a black issue, right? It’s a US issue and really it’s a global issue. So the idea that we would celebrate a holiday, where the enslaved in Texas were freed, in many ways, that’s the day where we all were freed. Because nobody can really be free if there are others who are enslaved. It’s just as important as Fourth of July. Even more important, because on Fourth of July my ancestors were still enslaved. They were still on cotton fields. They were still working for free. They were still in bondage. It wasn’t until again Juneteenth, 1865, that my ancestors were freed. It’s so important that not only do we celebrate it, but that we understand the historical significance of it, and also how that history reverberates into the present day. Because ultimately, we still see a lot of these issues happening right now. We still see issues of racism, we still see issues of anti-blackness, we still see issues of all types of inequities that are happening. If we can celebrate the holiday and understand it, then we can begin to repair a lot of the damage that has been done.
I know that Opal Lee, often known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth who also had a lot of fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, was featured. Talk about that aspect.
She’s an amazing woman. She just celebrated her 96th birthday. She was just nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. It’s on her back that this holiday becomes nationally recognized, right? There are so many other people that have something to do with but it’s Opal Lee who decided to do this walk. It was Opal Lee, who decided that she was going to make sure that as long as she was here on the earth and before she passed that she was going to see Juneteenth become nationally recognized because she understood the importance of it.