An associate professor of communication at SUNY Brockport, Carvin Eison held a screening of his new work in progress, ‘Shadow of the Lynching Tree,” in Morey 321 last Thursday. The documentary aims to shed light on the symbolism behind lynching in America.

The primary focus of the screening was to show the consistent use of lynching as a means to evoke punishment and terror. Eison’s documentary covers lynching from the past to its more modern use in society.

One of the earliest accounts that he focused on was the lynching of a mentally challenged 17-year-old African American, Jesse Washington, in front of a crowd of thousands of roaring spectators in Waco, Texas in 1916. He then moved on to discuss modern lynching in the events of the ‘Jena Six.”

In December 2006 in Jena, La., numerous nooses were hung from trees in response to the principal granting permission to three African Americans to sit under ‘the White Tree.” Six African-American students were arrested for assaulting a white student in response to growing racial tensions.

Immediately following the film, Eison allowed the crowd to give him feedback. Many members from the audience came ready with a series of informative and well-thought-out suggestions for the film. Some members advised him to include material from ‘A Picture of Dorian” and its casual racist undertones, while others suggested that he cover lynching in the northern and midwestern states, such as Minnesota, which are often overlooked by the predominant image of lynching as a southern phenomenon. One audience member suggested an entire segment dedicated to the O.J. Simpson trial.

However, Eison insisted that he didn’t desire for his film to go in that direction.

‘I appreciate the feedback, and I realize that there is so much to cover in the history of lynching in our nation,” Eison said. ‘But the funny thing is that I am often criticized for covering too much in a short amount of time with my films. In regards to the O.J. trial and its implications, I think that’s a whole film of its own.”

Eison went on to explain that the documentary is timely for the upcoming elections.

‘Historically, for the Black man, if you step beyond a certain line, there will be retribution,” Eison said. ‘The question is: will there be pushback? Will there be retribution in regards to Obama? To a degree, it is almost inevitable and I have concerns for him. No one seriously talks about this in our culture, but I’ll throw it out there: half of his lineage is White, from Kansas. Yet, no journalist has seriously tackled this story in great detail. Why is that? Instead, it’s assumed that he should take the weight as a Black man.”

Eison concluded by thanking the audience for their interest and responses.

Eison will continue to work on his documentary by holding similar open response forums with other groups. He has already screened the documentary in like fashion at SUNY Brockport and Cornell University.

Eison is also the general manager of Rochester Community Television and creative director of ImageWordSound LLC, Media Production Company. He has received an array of awards and recognition including the New York State Emmy Nomination for Best Historic/Cultural Programming. In 2007, Eison received the Sundance Documentary Fund which provided him with the necessary funding for the ‘Shadow of the Lynching Tree” project.

Senior Joel Kajubi thought that the film could serve as a useful tool in tackling ignorance in today’s society toward lynching.

‘In Jena, the White community may think, “Oh, what’s the big deal? This is good old fashion redneck humor,'” Kajubi said.

‘But the Black community rightfully said, “This is serious, we know what this means,'” he added. ‘Films like this can educate people about the two different attitudes.”

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.



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