On October 7, producer Janet Murphy Robertson was interviewed by Mindy Todd of NPR/WCAI about the film: INTERVIEW
Organized into fifteen short chapters, the film moves from early segments like “The Promise of America,” “Pilgrims and People of the First Light,” and “Darkness Falls” through “The Road to Freedom” and “Journeys to the North” and on to “Fighting for Civil Rights” and “Moving Cape Cod Communities Forward.” While addressing frankly such difficult topics as slavery here on Cape Cod during the Colonial Period, the documentary highlights the courageous individuals who led the fight for freedom, drove for education and economic progress, transformed oppression into brilliant forms of creative expression, served the country in every war, and came to excel in sports, entrepreneurship, teaching, the arts, community service, and various other professions here on the Cape and around the country.
Several distinct groups are represented within Cape Cod’s minority population, including African Americans, Wampanoags, and people from Brazil and the Caribbean, as well as a unique immigrant group present in this region
since the early 1800s, Cape Verdeans. The filmmakers use the diverse ancestry of Cape Cod’s people of Color as a window into little-known aspects of American history. They draw upon the Zion Union Heritage Museum’s own collection, and its family of artists, to tell the fascinating story—a feat made easier because the museum has the world’s largest collection of art, artifacts, photographs, and historical documents concerning People of Color in this region.
Also spotlighted in Journeys in the Light are local heroes, including Eugenia Fortes, an immigrant from the richly diverse Cape Verde Islands. Fortes stood her ground on a beach in Hyannis Port in 1945, a full decade before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, AL. Another of the Civil Rights-era highlights is the story of the “Reverse Freedom Riders”—African Americans who were tricked into taking a bus from Arkansas to Hyannis where, they were told, housing and jobs awaited them. The hoax was devised by enemies of integration who sought to embarrass President John F. Kennedy, whose “Summer White House” was in nearby Hyannis Port. Harold Tobey, founding member of the Zion Union Heritage Museum and former President of the Barnstable Town Council, appears in the documentary and discusses his family’s deep roots on Cape Cod, which date to 1865.Several of these stories, and others, were first set down by writer and local historian Dolores DaLuz in her “Notes toward a History of Black People in Barnstable,” published in 1989 for the town’s 350th anniversary.
The legislative victories of the Civil Rights Movement opened up new opportunities for People of Color just as Cape Cod was poised to move forward to become a world-class resort destination and the year-round home of more than 200 thousand people. Many local People of Color made substantial contributions to their communities, including Joseph DaLuz, Barnstable’s Building Commissioner who was universally respected for his skill and fairness during over two decades with the department.
The soundtrack for Journeys in the Light includes recordings from several top regional musicians, including saxophonist Walter Beasley, professor of music at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Portions of early American history are narrated against a backdrop of Renaissance music performed by Ensemble Passacaglia of Falmouth. The group's rendition of early Portuguese music also helps to set the mood for the film’s segments concerning immigrants from Cape Verde, who have a mixture of African and European ancestry, primarily Portuguese. Legendary blues harpist Jerry Portnoy of East Dennis sets the mood with “Stormy Weather” at various junctures in the history, including the Jim Crow South and the Great Migration. Other musicians featured include vocalist/pianist Steffani Bennett of New York and five-time Grammy Nominee Tierney Sutton.
Journeys in the Light: Untold Stories of Cape Cod has been in the making for two-and-a-half years and is produced by ArtistsAndMusicians.org in collaboration with John L. Reed, Executive Director of the Zion Union Heritage Museum. Script and videography is by Janet Murphy Robertson.
Marilyn Rowland of East Falmouth, MA, and others provided editorial assistance. In an earlier project, Rowland, a long-time member of FCTV in Falmouth, collaborated with artist Robin Joyce Miller and Janet Murphy Robertson on a program titled “Restoring My African Soul,” for which Rowland won a national-level Hometown Media Award in August 2015 as independent producer in the category of “Cultural Perspectives.”