Race relations in America are going through yet another turbulent time. Not since the civil rights movement of the 1960s have we seen so much police brutality and intolerance. While it doesn’t attract the same headlines, underlying institutional racism is just as pernicious. Indeed, it can often go unnoticed, attributed to something else entirely. Lingering just below the surface and ensuring that barriers remain for non-white communities across the nation.
Cities tend to be split into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ areas. In America, more often than not, this follows racial boundaries. Despite all the odds against it, the National Teacher’s Academy is a top-ranking African-America elementary school in South Side, Chicago. When a decision is made to replace it with a school favouring the community’s wealthier residents, campaigners, parents and staff come together to fight for its survival. Their struggle is captured in Let the Little Light Shine.
Let the Little Light Shine is a portrait of institutional racism and the activists who refused to let the Chicago Board of Education win. Kevin Shaw’s documentary is a reminder of what can happen if people don’t stand up for their rights and the inherent discrimination which ekes into every corner of our societies. While the path it follows is well-trodden, that doesn’t make Let the Little Light Shine any less important or timely.
Let the Little Light Shine screens at the Siskel Film Center, Chicago on 12 August before opening in NYC (IFC Center) on 26 August and LA (Laemmle Monica) on 9 September.