Mike and John Burns, siblings and co-founders of The Burns Brothers Firm — a District-based business that identifies and works to advance the cause of those who inspire others through their goodwill and determination — recently premiered a timely documentary which illustrates the similarities between the early years of the Civil Rights Movement to today and highlights issues that remain unresolved in the ongoing battle for racial and social justice.
The film, “I Am a Dreamer,” released virtually on Aug. 27, the eve of the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, includes interviews with iconic figures from yesteryear and today, including the late Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Cathy Hughes. They, along with a diverse group of other African-American icons, share their perspectives on the current state of affairs and challenge humanity to become more active in efforts that may ensure a better tomorrow.
“We intentionally used the history of the Civil Rights Movement beginning with the 1950s through today and relied on both those who have been major contributors along that timeline as well as vivid images in order to create a seamless bridge for our viewers,” the brothers said.
“It was especially important to provide points of connection for millennials who are obviously too young to have witnessed many of the seminal moments from the formative years of the movement and may need something to which they can better relate,” Mike Burns noted.
The brothers served as executive producers along with the two other co-founders of IconTalks, John Hartsfield and John Gibson, for the documentary produced in partnership with the Motion Picture Association.
John Burns said the decision to employ the services of Torrance Hampton as the director came easily.
“Torrance shared our vision and our beliefs about using the past to raise awareness and to encourage our communities to mobilize so that Blacks can become their own advocates and amplify the power of the people,” John Burns said. “The way Torrance thinks and tells stories meshed with our own thoughts and methods. Throughout the film, we included quotations that he shared with us one evening over dinner — powerful gems — and we immediately recognized how they could serve as pillars of reflection as the documentary moved along.”
The Burns brothers said the primary purpose of the documentary remains leading people to commit to actions that confront and neutralize recent efforts of voter suppression that have become more overt since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and throughout his tenure as president.
“We wanted people to see that every vote matters,” they said. “We wanted to shed greater light on the plight of our leaders and the sacrifices they made to secure the vote for Blacks. The commentaries from the influencers who we interviewed shared one common thread: the assertion that we have both the right and obligation to vote because of the debt we owe to those whose blood was shared. People have to be uncomfortable to a certain degree before they’re willing to fight for or accept change.”
Given Trump’s penchant for spreading his rhetoric and inaccurate information through social media, we asked the brothers to share their thoughts on the reasons behind the chosen messages and images that dominate the documentary.
“There’s tremendous power in the use of psychological warfare and unfortunately, Trump has proven that he’s good at using it,” the brothers said. “When you have a people like Blacks who were first told that we only measured as two-thirds of a human being, who’ve never had the same rights as whites and who were among the last Americans to be guaranteed the right to vote, understanding the power of voting can be a foreign concept — especially given the historical evidence that leads Blacks to question the entire political system.”
“Then we have a president who says the upcoming election will be rigged. It all causes people to be afraid to go out and cast their vote. This documentary was produced to provide people with accurate information. As for our organization, IconTalks, it shares similar goals with the team that developed the documentary. Blacks represent a diverse group of people who are all trying to secure certain needs, to assimilate into society and to figure out how to survive in a world where whites are the majority and the most powerful. While we may count among the nation’s minority voices, we still matter — our votes matter — every voter matters,” they said.
For more information about the Burns brothers and their documentary, go to www.theburnsbrothers.com or www.motionpictures.org.