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“Amazing Grace” is an Amazing Movie

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Film review – Amazing Grace

By Laura L. Klure

Special to the Black Voice

"Amazing Grace" is not only a well-known and much beloved song -- it is now the title of an inspiring movie.  The new film tells the story of William Wilberforce, who led the fight to abolish slavery in the British Empire. 

Many Americans are not familiar with this facet of history, and the 200th Anniversary of the ending of the British slave trade is a good time to correct the oversight.  The movie, starring Ioan Gruffudd and a skilled group of other British actors, is a very palatable history lesson.  It took 20 years of persistent campaigning by Wilberforce and others, but England ended slavery about half a century before the United States did. 

The lyrics to the "Amazing Grace" hymn were written by pastor John Newton (played by virtuoso actor Albert Finney), who was a mentor of Wilberforce.  Newton had captained a slave ship before becoming a minister, and the horrors of that experience haunted him until his death.

Wilberforce was born in 1759.  As a member of the House of Commons, Wilberforce strived to make members of Parliament and the English people face the reality of the evils of slavery.  He accomplished this without much first-hand experience, since although slavery was common in the colonies, there were not many Black slaves in the British Isles.  Wilberforce spent some time in a coffin-like wood box, to try to understand how slaves felt in the extremely cramped conditions on slave ships.

There are few Black characters in the film, and few depictions of the actual conditions of slavery, but this is appropriate to the story.  The former African slave Olaudah Equiano, also called Gustavus Vassa, wrote his own very popular autobiography, which had a pivotal role in convincing the English that slavery was wrong.  Equiano is powerfully played by Youssou N'Dour, who gives the film some of its most poignant moments.

The underlying message of this excellent movie is that we must do what is morally right, regardless of whether it is profitable or in vogue.  In addition to combating slavery, Wilberforce also worked to make the world better in other ways.  He is credited with starting the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and he championed improved conditions for hospitals and prisons.

A college named after Wilberforce is in the U.S., rather than in his home country.  This year is the 150th Anniversary of Wilberforce University in Ohio, the alma mater of Regina Brown Wilson and Hardy Brown II.   Hardy II works at Wilberforce U., and the choir there was involved in some of the soundtrack music.

The film's official website, www.amazinggracemovie.com, is well worth visiting.  There are links to film clips, study guides, and other educational materials.  There is an ongoing campaign to eliminate the types of slavery that do still exist in our world.

Some may come away from the film not only educated about history, but also inspired to do whatever they can to help solve the problems of today.

This film is rated PG, for themes involving slavery and some mild language.  There are also scenes of drug use and one depicting cruelty to animals, which all adds up to creating a movie where parental explanations are beneficial.


Honoring Local Heroes for Nonprofit and Community Support

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Riverside

The 2006 Annual Celebrating Nonprofits Day Awards Luncheon and Mini-Conference, sponsored and organized by The Resource Center and The Agency Executives Association (AEA) will be held June 15th, 2006 with the Mini-Conference beginning at 8:00 a.m.-12:00pm, Luncheon: 12:30p.m.-2:00 p.m.  The reception will be held at the Marriot Riverside, 3400 Market St., Riverside CA, 92501.  The nonprofits day awards is a celebration of local nonprofit organizations, leadership and the Spirit of Philanthropy in the Inland Empire. 

40th Anniversary African American Alumni Recognition

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A ceremony to recognize Cal State San Bernardino African-American Alumni will be held Saturday, June 10, at the Lower Commons Panorama Room. The 5-6 p.m. ceremony follows an open reception from 4:30-5 p.m.

40th Anniversary African American Alumni Recognition

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A ceremony to recognize Cal State San Bernardino African-American Alumni will be held Saturday, June 10, at the Lower Commons Panorama Room. The 5-6 p.m. ceremony follows an open reception from 4:30-5 p.m.


Riverside Hosts Juneteenth Event

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The 5th Annual Juneteenth Celebration, A FREE FAMILY CELEBRATION, will be held in Riverside, CA, at the Stratton Community Center, Bordwell Park, 2008 Martin Luther King Boulevard, on Saturday, June 3, 2006, from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. This free family oriented event, designed to celebrate the emancipation of African Americans, will feature historical presentations and mini-museum, entertainment provided by local community talent, health and community information booths, as well as wonderful food and great merchandize vendors.


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