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Birmingham’s Jordyn Hudson Premieres Documentary on Youth and Civil Rights History

Jordyn Hudson, director and producer of Shape The Culture: Then & Now. (YouTube Screengrab)

By Haley Wilson

The Birmingham Times

In her documentary “Shape The Culture: Then & Now” which premiered virtually on Wednesday, Birmingham’s Jordyn Hudson connects today’s youth movement with young people of the Civil Rights marches during the 1960s.

The documentary tells the Birmingham Civil Rights story from a comparative lens and pays homage to those who fought for human rights, with an emphasis on how youth play a major role.

“We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for,” said Hudson. “We are the change that we seek. Youth across the country — even though we are young — we have the power to make a difference. We have the power to activate change, just like the youth who marched in the Children’s Crusade during the 1960s. We have the power to cancel out racism and equities and injustice, and we are the change that we seek in the world.”

As part of the premiere, Hudson hosted a panel discussion at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute that featured a Q&A with cast members.

A Birmingham native, the director/producer said it was important to look at young people who marched the streets of the city in the 1960s. “They were courageous, and they changed our country at a pivotal time,” she said.

Hudson, a recent graduate of Indian Springs School near Birmingham, was recently awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. The prestigious award goes to high school students who work to advance racial equity in their communities. Twenty-nine students received the award this year, and Hudson was the only recipient from Alabama.

Richard Arrington, Former Mayor, City of Birmingham (YouTube Screengrab)

Her documentary featured a number of young marchers from decades ago and current leaders who shared their experiences of Birmingham’s civil rights history including:

  • Civil Rights Activist and Children’s Crusade Participant, Gwendolyn Webb
  • Former US District Judge of the Northern District of Alabama, U.W. Clemon
  • Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge, Carole Smitherman
  • Former presiding judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama, Houston Brown
  • Former Mayor City of Birmingham, Richard Arrington.

“Youth have always shaped the culture,” said Brown. “There’s not a time when you haven’t come up with something new, and that newness is criticized, it’s analyzed, it’s dissected…but it lives.”

Hudson combined commentary from Civil Rights veterans with cameos and interviews with some of Birmingham’s young social justice advocates such as Chad Freeman, youth activist and founder of ‘Woke Vote’.

“A lot of the things that we do are so similar to our elders and our ancestors,” said Freeman in the documentary. “If you look at the youth movements [of today] all of these things…those are our [efforts] for a more equitable and better society.”

Last summer, Hudson launched Shape the Culture, a digital platform that highlights the positive work that young people across the country are doing in their communities, hoping to encourage others to do the same.

During a panel discussion before the airing of the documentary, Hudson, who will attend Spelman college this fall, said the inspiration for the film comes from her “passion for the work and the engagement from youth during the Civil Rights movement.”

“Of course, this entity and others, elevated my passion, and resulted in social activism that targets racial injustice,” she added. “One component of my social activism is storytelling, and I believe that we need to tell people and people need to see.”

You can find a livestream of the “Shape The Culture: Then and Now” documentary on YouTube and Facebook @BirminghamCivilRightsInstitute.