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Chisholm Documentary Inspires Lively Discussion at ELA

Early in the documentary Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, there is footage of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for president, announcing her candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 1972 presidential race.

“I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the woman's movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that,” Chisholm said. “I am the candidate of the people.”

At a special screening of the documentary hosted by the EBONI Alumni Association on October 27 at Emerson College Los Angeles (ELA), students, alumni, and friends of the College drew parallels of Chisholm’s 1972 run to today’s presidential race.

“Shirley ran more than 40 years ago, but we’re still dealing with the same issues,” said Marlene McCurtis ’79, who helped organize the event with William Okuwah Garrett ’80.

Dr. Angela Cooke-Jackson and Jan Perry. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Issues like the money in politics, sexism, racism, and the back workings of running a campaign are just a few of the topics that came up during a lively discussion following the screening. Dr. Angela Cooke-Jackson, a visiting Emerson faculty member, was joined for the discussion by the Honorable Jan Perry, general manager of the Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department.

“I loved how Shirley talked about the common part of us all being humans,” said Cooke-Jackson. “Against so many odds, she still spoke the truth. She couldn’t be pushed back into the shadows.”

Perry told the audience she could relate to many of the issues that Chisholm faced as a former LA councilwoman and having run for mayor of LA in 2013. Hearing about Chisholm’s struggles—with funding, with other African American political leaders—brought tears to her eyes, Perry told the audience.

Leslie Moraes-Davis '80 and her mother, Vivian Moraes P'80. Photo/Daryl Paranada

For Vivian Moraes, P’80, watching the documentary brought back many memories.

“I’m almost 80 years old. A lot has happened over that time,” said Moraes. “It’s kind of nice to sit back and relive the past.”

Learning from the past was one of the themes that emerged during the discussion.

“It’s so important because this is the year things will change for us and our children,” said Stephen Farrier ’75, president of EBONI. “This is an important film because of what happened then and it’s important now.”

With Election Day rapidly approaching, Perry encouraged everyone to vote.

“It’s the one thing you have. It’s yours. No one can take that way from you,” said Perry. “It’s your right.”

Nathaniel Charles ’17. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Among the attendees of the event was Nathaniel Charles ’17, who said it was inspiring to hear about the life of a woman who you don’t necessarily hear about in school.

“It’s cool to see and hear such a large group of people discuss her impact,” said Charles. “It’s such a powerful part of history.”

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