Brooksville artist Robert Shetterly is the subject of a film about his Americans Who Tell the Truth” portrait series. RICHARD KANE PHOTO

An American who tells the truth



BLUE HILL — Singer/social activist Reggie Harris, who is a storyteller who performs folk and gospel music, will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, at the Blue Hill Town Hall Theater to raise funds for a new film being made by Sedgwick filmmaker Richard Kane about Brooksville artist Robert Shetterly and his “Americans Who Tell the Truth” portrait series, now numbering over 100.

Harris is among many living and deceased Americans who range widely from boxer Muhammad Ali to suffragist Susan B. Anthony whom Shetterly has profiled in portraits that have been shown all over the nation over many years.

“Pivotal to the power and importance of Rob Shetterly’s project is how he inspires people to take action to make this world a better place,” Kane was quoted as saying in a press release. “He does this in part by selecting models of courageous citizenship. Scratched into Reggie’s portraits are his words: “… though our history remains, it’s our actions we must change … if we hope to heal our planet we must stand … in the shelter of each other.”

Social activist and musician Reggie Harris. KEN WOISARD IMAGE

Harris will perform two sets and in between will participate in a conversation with Shetterly about the power of art to engage and advance social justice. Kane will film their exchange as part of his work-in-progress.

Harris is a man filled with love and hope. As a youngster in Philadelphia’s inner city, he was raised by his mother and grandmother who instilled in him the value of treating people with respect. Although neither his church nor his household was active in the civil rights movement, he became intensely aware that blacks were at a disadvantage in the larger world. He also learned that economics and class often transcended racism; some black kids considered him undesirable for dating or socializing because he lived in the projects.

“I felt very much alone and at odds in my efforts to negotiate the school terrain,” Harris wrote. “When the school had a race riot in my junior year, I realized that I had friends of all races. That was the first time that I began to realize that I was a bridge builder.”

Harris has been building bridges ever since. In 1974, he met Kim Richards at a summer camp outside Philadelphia. As their relationship deepened at Temple University, they began to sing together at local Philadelphia clubs and coffee houses.

“It was a relationship that supported two kindred and in some ways battered souls in a healing, inspiring way,” he recalled. “It was as if our hopeful brokenness opened audiences to a greater sense of connection to and discovery of their heritage.”

Harris recently discovered a line of his own ancestry with roots in Hickory Hill, a Virginia plantation owned by Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham. Gen. Wickham fathered several children with Harris’s great-great grandmother. Soon after this discovery, Reggie was performing in North Carolina and retold this story. After the concert a woman approached him and said she had a childhood friend in Richmond, Va., whose name was Wickham and asked if he would want to meet her.

“Of course,” Harris said. So began the close connection to the white side of his family.

At the June 29 event, admission is by donation. The minimum suggested is $15. To support or learn more about Kane’s film, go to kanelewis.com. The film is sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists Inc., a nonprofit educational organization. Donations are tax-deductible.

For more information, contact Kane at 359-2320 and [email protected]

 

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