In an age where most Americans believe that issues of race and equality are a thing of the past, documentary film maker Jeremy Dean’s “Dare Not Walk Alone” reminds us that the “War of Responsibility” for poverty, education and justice, is still ours to win. Bridging the gap between the Civil Rights generation and the Hip-Hop generation, “Dare Not Walk Alone” documents the untold struggle for the de-segregation of St. Augustine, Florida’s beaches, streets and businesses and holds a mirror to the face of equality in America.
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Review of DARE NOT WALK ALONE in Ponte Vedra Beaches Leader
St. Augustine City Commissioner Errol Jones uses “contaminated soil...that you cannot build upon” as a metaphor for St. Augustine, due to its history of inflammatory race relations. Jones makes this statement in “Dare Not Walk Alone,” Jeremy Dean’s searing documentary about St. Augustine’s part in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The movie is a remarkably clear-eyed look at that contaminated soil, here and now, and it shows that there is plenty of blame to go around. The movie also shows that many of the answers to this problem aren’t any easier now than they were forty years ago.
The primary white person who figures the most in this story is James Brock, who then was the manager of the Monson Motor Lodge and Restaurant. As much as I profess to be open-minded about race relations, the movie shows that there is a little bit of Brock in me and in all white people – and that’s not a slur against Brock.
In most such stories, whites are depicted as either angelically helping downfallen blacks or conclusively wearing a starched white hood. Brock was and is at neither of those extremes. Based on past and present interview footage with Brock, he seems a neutral man, inclined neither to go out of his way to help blacks nor to persecute them. Unfortunately, as a symbol of segregated society, Brock’s establishment ended up in the eye of the hurricane.
The nadir – on both sides of the race issue, one might say – came one day when some of the hitherto non confrontational blacks jumped Brock’s fence and unapologetically got into the lodge’s pool to swim. At the end of his patience, Brock opened two gallons of muriatic acid into the pool to scare the black trespassers out of it.
Lest one think that the movie is another attempt to assuage white liberal guilt, filmmaker Dean also show us modern-day St. Augustine, where much of the lower-class black community continues to be held down low – low in income, and as low out of sight as St. Augustine public relations will allow.
The movie ends on a slight note of hope, showing two black women who were not allowed entrance into an all-white church in ‘64 being welcomed with open arms now. Nevertheless, as Commissioner Jones eloquently understates the case, if Martin Luther King were alive today, he probably would not look at St. Augustine and say, “Mission accomplished.”
I would rank Jeremy Dean’s“Dare Not Walk Alone” on a par with Spike Lee’s powerful “4 Little Girls.”