A New Documentary Ties Recent Crimes to Historic Horrors.
DIRECTED BY JACQUELINE OLIVE / 2019
A small mob of angry white people surround a car. One of them bangs on the hood and demands the car’s black occupants get out. When they fail to do so, the mob drags them out, screaming obscenities all the while. This is a re-enactment of a real-life lynching that occurred near Monroe, Georgia in 1946. It is staged annually by a diverse group of actors to commemorate the crime, and to keep a spotlight on this one act of terrorism, which was mirrored by thousands of other across the United States, and which still continues to this day. This is the message Always In Season wants to deliver: race-based violence against African Americans isn’t a historical aberration, it is still a horror that many communities must grapple with today.
The movie’s primary story concerns the discovery of the body of young Lennon Lacy. Lacy, an African-American teen from Bladenboro, North Carolina who was found hanging by the neck from a swing set in 2014. Authorities quickly and decisively ruled Lacy’s death a suicide, but his mother, Claudia, is certain Lacy was lynched. Always In Season interviews Lacy’s friends and family and paints a portrait of a teen who was unlikely to suddenly kill themselves.
In between Lacy’s story, the film spotlights two other past murders: the aforementioned lynching in Georgia in the mid-40’s, and one told through newspaper clippings and correspondence (read aloud by Danny Glover), from the 1920’s. Gruesome images of burned and hanged people, surrounded by smiling white faces abound. What hits hardest in these photographs isn’t the brutality, but the festive, celebratory atmosphere surrounding it.
The filmmaker, Jacqueline Olive, was working on a documentary detailing the history of lynching in America. She was in the process of assembling her film in 2014, after working on it all across the country for the previous five years when she heard the news about Lacy’s murder. She immediately halted work and went to North Carolina, reshaping her film to center it on the crime in Bladenboro and place it within the historical context.
The re-enactment of what has become known as the Moore’s Ford Lynching has occurred annually since 2005. It is used as a way of commemorating the dead and reminding the living of the bloody history of (and still ongoing) violence in race relations. For both those witnessing the event, and the actors who perform it, it is a powerful emotional experience. Others in the area do not see the value in it. One woman states that “the sooner the better to get [events like] this behind us.”
Yes, it would be nice if we could do that, wouldn’t it. Unfortunately, for too large a segment of America’s populace, race-based violence isn’t something that only happens in historical re-enactments, it’s an ongoing problem. It’s not something that Lennon Lacy, or his family or friends can just let get behind them. It’s not something that people who have had family victimized by mob violence can just let get behind them, not when so many of the streets in the towns they live in were named after men who gleefully participated in such murders.