Professor Davis Houck, Student, and Alum Bring Media Production Program to MS Delta

Doctoral student in Communication, Pablo Correa, coaches a Gentry High School student in using film equipment during this summer’s Young Filmmakers Workshop.

Davis W. Houck is Florida State University’s Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies. In partnership with Tougaloo College, his research and expertise on the Black Freedom Movement are used in the making of the film “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America” and a corresponding civil rights K-12 curriculum, “Find Your Voice.” The project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Mississippi Humanities Council.  As part of the project, Houck worked with Maegan Parker Brooks, an assistant professor at Willamette University, to conduct a two day curriculum workshop for high school teachers in the area. Additionally, FSU School of Communication doctoral student Pablo Correa and alumnus Joseph Davenport–now a professional filmmaker–have given students at Gentry High School a college-level course in media production. The school is located in Indianola, Mississippi, which is the same area Fannie Lou Hamer was born and raised. Empowering youth and engaging this community in the Mississippi Delta with the region’s history during the civil rights movement and Fannie Lou Hamer’s time is central to the mission of this project.

Correa and Davenport are professional filmmakers, and are teaching the “Find Your Voice” Young Filmmakers Workshop (see a trailer about the workshop above). Working with 16 ambitious high schoolers four times a week for five weeks, Correa and Davenport have helped students learn the inner workings of filmmaking. Teaching students how to operate cameras, use audio and lighting equipment, and how to work with producers, students are gaining hands-on experience as they produce their own work.

Joseph Davenport, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s of art in Communication from FSU, works with students of Gentry High School during the five-week program.

Carledia Jones, a participant in the Young Filmmakers Workshop, is a rising senior at Gentry High School. With plans to study communication at Mississippi University for Women after graduating, Jones said the workshop has provided her with extensive insight into what goes into producing a documentary. “I never knew how much work goes into editing,” shared Jones. “I would like to produce YouTube videos one day, but this workshop has made me realize that I would probably need to partner with an editor when I do. Besides that, we are learning so much about everything that goes into filmmaking, and are being able to apply our own creativity and ideas to film projects.”

Jones and the other students in the workshop are producing documentaries throughout the length of the program where they explore local history, tell their story, and find their voice. There will be a public screening of their work on Saturday, July 14, at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola.

Davis Houck with Young Filmmakers Workshop students Carledia Jones and Trayveon.

The students of Gentry High School are not the only ones engaging with Fannie Lou Hamer history through the project. Houck and Brooks hosted a two-day workshop with seven teachers from Washington and Sunflower counties. The teachers collaborated with Houck and Brooks to develop a specific K-12 curriculum, “Find Your Voice,” with the hope to get students excited to learn about Fannie Lou Hamer and her roots in the area. The new school year begins August 1, and Houck and Brooks will return to the Delta in October to debut some of these lesson plans before students in celebration of Mrs. Hamer’s 101st birthday.

“There’s a reason the Mississippi Delta is called the most southern place on earth–and it has nothing to do with accents,” Houck shared. “More than 130 years after its swamps were drained and its forests cleared, the Delta is home to great wealth–and grinding poverty.

The Delta has given me and my students so much, so the Filmmakers’ Workshop and the ‘Find Your Voice’ curriculum are, in part, our way of giving back to this unique part of the world.  Fannie Lou Hamer was born and raised and lived in the Delta.  Telling her story through film and in schools provides a powerful voice of resistance in these hard and perilous times.”

“Find Your Voice” was featured by Mississippi Today. Read the article here and visit the official website for “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America” to learn more about the film.

Sunflower and Washington County, Mississippi, teachers who participated in the “Find Your Voice” curriculum workshop.