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ASU Project Humanities Screens "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story"

The story of "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story," began while Yvette Johnson was doing research for a project in her ASU Family History Writing class almost five years ago.

Johnson was looking for more information about her grandfather, Booker Wright, who was killed a year before she was born. In the mid-1960's, Wright spoke up on Frank DeFellita's NBC documentary, 'Mississippi: A Self-Portrait,' about the mistreatment of Blacks in the south.

After unsuccessful attempts during her search for answers and film footage of Booker Wright, Johnson began a blog documenting her efforts and posting about race relations, her family, and other issues.

Four years later, Academy Award nominated writer/director Raymond De Felitta found Johnson's blog while posting old documentaries made by his father, Frank DeFellitta, including the documentary made for NBC that featured Booker Wright.

De Felitta contacted Johnson, and the two (along with Fellita's producing partner, David Zellerford) teamed up and made their way to the Mississippi Delta to learn more about the life and death of Booker Wright.

Johnson says they traveled to Mississippi and talked with locals who had known her grandfather, who was a waiter in Greenwood. Through these conversations, she says she learned more about her grandfather and about race relations, both during his time and today.

"Our national dialogue on race has all but stalled," Johnson said. "It's very difficult for people to talk about race or about hot button societal issues that may be informed by race ... What my grandfather did so eloquently and so simply, was he peeled back the layer of rhetoric and exposed his humanity. He related to viewers as one human being to another. He described, with heartache, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of racism."

"Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" will make its Arizona debut during the ASU Project Humanities "Are We Losing our Humanity?" premiere event this Thursday, September 13 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

A panel discussion with both Johnson and De Felitta will take place following the screening and the event is free to the public. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the screening begins at 6 p.m. "Working with Raymond was a dream," says Johnson. "He took our family's story and handled it with grace, integrity, and kindness. I couldn't have asked for a better experience."

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