‘Blood Done Sign My Name’ Shows at Sunrise as Part of Palustris Events
As part of the Palustris Festival, the Sunrise Theater will feature the recently released film “Blood Done Sign My Name,” from Thursday, March 25, through Sunday, March 28. A special program is planned for Friday night, March 26, before the 7:30 p.m. showing of the film.
At 7 p.m., local business and community leader Felton Capel will rise from the seat dedicated to him in the Sunrise and offer remarks about his role in desegregating the theater along with his friend, the late Voit Gilmore, in 1962.
Following Capel’s remarks, the Rev. Vernon Tyson will personally introduce the film, a true story based on his life, from a book written by his son, Tim. He will be available to answer questions after the screening.
Tim Tyson’s prize-winning book, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” was published in 2004 and was succinctly described at his 2008 Pauley lecture at Sandhills Community College as “a memoir and history of the murder of an African-American, Henry Marrow, by the white father of his childhood friend, Gerald Teel, in Oxford, N.C., in 1970.”
Vernon Tyson was pastor of the Oxford Methodist Church featured in both the book and the film. Ten years old at the time of the murder, Tim Tyson was troubled by what had happened and returned to Oxford decades later to plumb the depths of the events of 1970 and beyond.
Out of this event in Oxford, and similar probing about Wilmington’s shameful racial past, emerged this moving book The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewed with quite a bold statement: “If you want to read only one book to understand the uniquely American struggle for racial equality and the swirls of emotion around it, this is it.”
Vernon Tyson, who served as interim pastor of the Southern Pines United Methodist Church here in 2005-06, appears in the film as a citizen of Oxford, but his role as the controversial pastor is played by the popular film and television actor Ricky Schroder.
At the end of the film, chastised by his all-white congregation for his modest attempts at integration, Tyson is shown taking 11-year-old Tim and the rest of his family to Wesley Memorial Church in Wilmington.
A major focus of the film is the reaction of the black community in Oxford to the sham trial of the murderers of “Dickie” Marrow. Nate Parker plays protest leader Ben Chavis, who organized and led thousands of peaceful protestors on a 50-mile march to the Capitol building in Raleigh.
“Come and meet this man who grew up near us here in the Sandhills,” says a Sunrise spokesman. “Vernon went to high school in Biscoe, and spent 20 years living in the general area of Sanford. He took his first pastorate in 1952 and continues today as a pastor serving a small United Methodist Church in Johnson City. He and his wife, Martha, live in Raleigh.”
Tyson says that both he and Tim are satisfied that the film is true to the book and the reality it depicts about this time of trouble and change some 40 years ago.
“While many of you who lived through these times will recognize the depicted situations from firsthand experience, those of us who came here from afar will be learning more about our adopted past,” says the spokesman.
Reserved seating for Friday night is $7 and is available at sunrisetheater.org or (910) 692-8501. Tickets for all other shows are $7 for adults and $5 for children for this PG-13 film.
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