Nick Stuart on How New Doc Film "The Rape of Recy Taylor" Opens Our Eyes Towards Injustice

nick stuart

ODYSSEY IMPACT is launching a national faith-based social impact campaign for the award-winning documentary THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR. This initiative aligns with Black History Month (February), Women's History Month (March), and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April).

Committed to sharing compelling true stories that expose social justice issues in our society, Odyssey Impact is steadfast in creating materials and facilitating film screenings that will empower the faith community to open dialogue and build a culture of positive change that will impact generations to follow.THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR received critical acclaim during a run at film festivals around the world, including a nomination for Best Documentary at the 2018 NAACP Image Awards and the Special Prize for Human Rights at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. The story of Recy Taylor also earned unexpected media interest after being included in Oprah Winfrey's historic speech at the 2018 Golden Globes Awards.  

We are honored to catch up with Nick Stuart, President and CEO of Odyssey Impact and Transform Films, for this exclusive interview. 

Q: Nick, thanks for doing this interview with us. Why don't you start off my telling us very briefly what "The Rape of Recy Taylor" about?

A. "The Rape of Recy Taylor" lifts up the message of the right of women to walk through the world unmolested, by telling the story of a young African American mother who was brave enough to speak her truth, decades before the "#MeToo Movement" and demand justice after being gang raped by 6 white teenagers after leaving church one evening in Abbeville, Alabama in 1944. It's a story that inspired the civil rights movement but few people know about it, or the fact that a young Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon who inspired a generation when she refused to give her seat to a white man on a segregated bus in Montgomery Alabama in 1955, went to support Ms. Recy Taylor 11 years earlier and take her case for justice, national. The film features Mrs. Taylor's brother and sister who give the most amazingly powerful and moving testimony of the events of that night back in 1944 and the years of struggle for justice. It took 67 years before Ms. Taylor received a State apology and she suffered great loss, but as she herself says in the film , "God was with me that night.. I cannot but tell the truth."

Q: What is your role in relation to this movie? What is Odyssey Impact all about?

A. I was an Executive Producer of the film who got involved when the director, Nancy Buirski from Augusta Films, brought me the story early on and I was so moved by Ms. Taylor's story and the power of her faith in the fight for justice, that I had to involve Odyssey Impact and its sister company Transform Films. Transform became a co producer of the film and Odyssey Impact took on the task of building an impact campaign around the film to help inspire people of faith and goodwill to hear Ms. Taylor's story and work for justice for women in today's world. Odyssey Impact is a faith-based 501 (C) 3 that works with people of faith and goodwill to use powerful storytelling to inspire people to support those who suffer injustice and to work to change those laws and practices that feed hate and division and deny people justice and respect.

Q: Is there a scene in the movie that really moves you?

A. Where to begin! There are so many! I defy anyone not to be moved by the bravery of this woman and by the cruelty she suffered as a mother, as an African American and as a woman. I have watched the film in theaters many times and each time gasps ripple around the audiences throughout the movie. Each time I find something different that moves me that I hadn't quite noticed before, but two moments always stand out and I can feel the hairs on the back on my neck standing up just as I think about them. A historian from Yale is giving us the background to the Jim Crow South but is so overcome by the inhumanity of 6 teenagers and what they did to this young African American mother, that she breaks down, pleading with us, saying couldn't they just see this frightened young woman in front of them, couldn't they just treat her as a woman? And then there's the face of Ms. Recy Taylor, in her 90's. We know she suffered so badly that awful night in 1944. We know it all but destroyed her life, and yet, she looks back down the years and her faith shines through as she says "God was with me that night". She survived and her life became a testimony to the power of her faith and the power of the call to justice.

 Q: Why should we watch this movie? How does this movie speak to us today?

Every week, even today, 74 years on, there is, tragically, a "Recy" every week, somewhere in America. A woman whose body is not seen as her own but as something to be taken, abused. We have to change that. We have to....- and the moment is now. The film went into production before the MeToo Movement hit the headlines and before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke but could there have been a film more right for the time. Ms. Taylor, powerless, yet oh so powerful in the way she spoke her truth. Victim but ultimately victor. No wonder Oprah Winfrey lifted up her name when receiving Cecil B Demille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. Ms. Recy Taylor's story reaches across the decades and inspires us in such a time as this.

Q: What's the role of faith and social justice? Why should Christians be advocates of social justice?

As Christians we are called to be salt and light. We are called to build The Kingdom and that is a Kingdom of justice, peace and compassion. The Sermon on the Mount is as clear as it gets. No messing. No excuses. We are there for the poor, the downtrodden, the abused. In the film there is a clip from Martin Luther King talking about how Rosa Parks was brave enough to keep her seat on the bus in the face of oppression for as a woman of faith "she could do no other". As Christians , when faced with oppression and injustice to our sister, our brother , we are called to heal and support and mend. As followers of Christ, we can do no other.

Q: Practically, how can we be advocates of equality? How can Odyssey open up conversations about social justice?

Check out our website where we have support materials for scholars and experts including biblical scholars, that offer guides to key issues that the film raises. Why don't you watch the film in a church group or with friends and use these guides to inspire you to reach out to support women who have been victims of assault. Pastoral outreach is so important. There may well be women in your congregation who have suffered but just haven't been able to speak about it, haven't been able to heal but have carried the pain their entire lives. Arrange screenings wherever you can to bring the truth of respect for women to as many people as possible.

Q: How has this movie affected your life and your faith?

It has opened my eyes so I look at the world around me very differently. As a father of three girls and a grandfather to two granddaughters I always wanted to look out for them. As a white man, White Privilege made that a lot easier. In the film we hear how black fathers and husbands often don't have the power to protect their women in the way I might have to. I never thought of that. I guess I just didn't think about White Privilege. And perhaps I didn't even know how widespread this abuse of women is. Sure I read about it , but I looked around my church, my office, my friends and didn't see it. And then a woman stood up at a brains-trust or focus group, of 12 African American women discussing the film and said "everyone round this table has a "Recy" in their family - we just don't know how to talk about it." As a Christian I have to help these families I whatever way I can - creating moments where people can speak their truth and heal. As a Christian I can do no other.

If you want to join us in telling Ms. Recy Taylor's story and helping "women walk through the world unmolested"

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