Ep. 20: Dr. Shirley Whitaker and Taylor Rees – Ashes to Ashes

Cory Richards + Chris Jerard

Warning: There are graphic descriptions of lynchings and hate crime violence in this episode.

Apology: We had some audio issues with Dr Whitaker’s connection and throughout the interview there are slight disruptions that are distracting. In the era of social distancing we accept these production flaws as the price of creating content; however, we apologize for the lower quality.

In this episode of the ROAM Podcast CJ and Cory have a conversation with Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker and filmmaker Taylor Rees about their film Ashes to Ashes. Directed by Taylor and inspired and created by the artist and medical doctor Whitaker, this film is a must see. The episode’s conversation is important, emotional and poignant. It’s about American History. It’s about deep trauma and the reality and brutality of lynching. We talk about the importance of acknowledgement when it comes to this long chapter of American History.

Ashes to Ashes (watch the film here) is the film created and inspired by Dr Shirley Jackson Whitaker and directed by Taylor Rees. We spend much of the conversation talking about the film’s subject matter. This film is a must see. It is an expertly crafted emotional body blow. It is eye opening. It is powerful. It is important. Ashes to Ashes showcases the undeniable history of violence against Black Americans in a beautifully crafted documentation of the tragic reality and history of lynchings in America. The main character, the 74 year old artist Winfred Rembert, was himself a victim of a lynching 1960s. The events leading to this brutal act of violence and the lifetime of trauma that resulted is brought to life by the filmmakers in an expert way.

Dr Whitaker, inspired by the African proverb, “Speak my name and I live forever, decided speaking aloud the names of the victims of lynching, most of whom did not receive proper services or funerals because of violent racial prejudice, held a service in 2016 to honor those who died at the hands of these vicious hate crimes. The film documents this heart wrenching service with delicate and powerful elegance. It is impossible to make it through the film without being moved emotionally.

Email for letters to Mr. Winfred Rembert: ashes2ashesfilm@gmail.com

References:
The Film: Ashes to Ashes
Taylor Rees
Dr Shirley Jackson Whitaker
Winfred Rembert
Ashes2Ashes Website

Mentions:
Ahmaud Arbery
Lynching Postcards
Cherry Bomb Firework
Mary Turner Lynching – confronted the Ku Klux Klan about the killing of her husband. She was brutally killed as a result.
Vivien Thomas