Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Harmony Initiative releases MLK film

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Harmony Initiative Task Force has released the first in a series of short documentaries about life in Huntington County. The film features a multiracial couple, André and Kristie Laird, and their life together in the predominantly white community.

The four-minute film will be showcased at the community’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day program at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, January 21 at the Merillat Centre for the Arts. It can also be viewed on the organization’s web site, www.harmonyinitiative.org.

Harmony Initiative Task Force members say the purpose of the film series is to show what unites us rather than what divides us.

“While exploring diversity, these films will tell the story of the Huntington community - what we all hold in common, regardless of our differences,” said Kyle Hamilton, president and general manager of the Offertory Solutions Division of Our Sunday Visitor Inc.

“The films ask residents of Huntington County to share with us their answers to the big-picture questions of life: What do you hold dear? What does community mean to you? What are your dreams for the future?” said Trace Hinesley, director of special programs for the Huntington County Community School Corporation.

André Laird, who appears in the first film with his wife, Kristie, said that he was interested in participating in the documentary project in order to help dispel myths about Huntington County. His own experience here shows the interconnectedness of the community and erodes stereotypes.

Born in Jamaica, Laird met his wife when they were students at Huntington University. He now works as a reporter and photographer for the Huntington County TAB. Laird jokes that he knows his family stands out. According to census data, 97.5 percent of Huntington County residents are white.

“Community, in my definition, means partnership. It means relationship. It means togetherness. It means working together, not just for personal benefit but for the benefit of the entire group,” Laird said in the film. “If we have an open mind to learn from other people, I think that starts the process of being a more welcoming community and shaking that stigma that a lot of people have about Huntington and its past.”

The documentary was filmed and directed by Anthony Frederick, a senior at Huntington University pursuing a major in digital media arts (film production).  In addition to Hamilton and Hinesley, Harmony Initiative Task Force members Sue Wilhelm of Victory Noll Center and Michael Howell of the Huntington County Community Foundation provided guidance for the film’s development.

Howell had high praise for the young filmmaker.

“Anthony Frederick created a masterpiece! It certainly fits the message of the Harmony Initiative Task Force and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration,” Howell said. “We hope it will be viewed through screenings at our local churches, business, schools and service clubs.”

“Eventually, we would like to tell more stories through additional documentaries,” said Wilhelm. “For example, we would like to tell the stories of an elderly, life-long resident of Huntington County. We would like to tell the story of a representative of the Miami Nation. We would like to tell the story of a Victory Noll sister. All of these voices, together, help tell the story of Huntington County.”

The Harmony Initiative Task Force is a volunteer organization established in 2008 by local civic leaders representing Huntington’s businesses, schools, churches, government, law enforcement and service organizations. Its purpose is to advance the Huntington City Council’s mission statement, which states in part: “We recognize our citizens as our most valuable resource. We acknowledge the people who live and work in our city as our greatest assets. Their ethnic, economic and religious diversity provides the strength that holds our community together. … The City of Huntington, Indiana, is a community of civility and inclusion, where diversity is honored and differences are respected.”

The Harmony Initiative Task Force is authorized by resolution of the City Council and County Commissioners to plan and organize annual events including the Harmony Day Feast and the community-wide Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance. This year’s King Day service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 21 in at the Merillat Centre for the Arts on the campus of Huntington University. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Keith Reynolds, senior pastor of Fairhaven Mennonite Church in Fort Wayne.  For further information, see www.harmonyinitiative.org.