Convention Kicks Off with Film Screening, Discussion on Change in a Rural Community

By Jeff Huett, APR

Kim Snyder, director and producer of "Welcome to Shelbyville," participated in the panel discussion after the movie (photo by Andy Rawls).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 3, 2014) — The Religion Communicators Council annual convention kicked off Wednesday with a screening and discussion of a film documenting a small town in the Bible Belt grappling with changing demographics.

The film, called "Welcome to Shelbyville," was produced and directed by Kim A. Snyder. Snyder was on hand to discuss her project, which originally aired on Independent Lens/ PBS.

The program focused on Shelbyville, Tenn., and used local citizens to provide commentary as they navigated the challenges of change, specifically around immigration. Two of the film's subjects on hand Wednesday were Luci and Miguel. They work with an initiative called "Welcoming Tennessee," providing cultural and language support to newcomers to the area.

"Welcome to Shelbyville" panel discussion facilitated by Bud Heckman from Religions for Peace (photo by Andy Rawls).

Shirley and Don Struchen (left) talk with Guadalupe and Miguel Gonzales, "Welcome to Shelbyville" panel members (photo by Andy Rawls).

Beverly Hewitt and Marilyn Massengale, also at Wednesday's screening, provided voices of local African Americans on the eve of the 2008 election of the first African American President. The Gonzalez family – Miguel and his wife Guadalupe – participated in their first presidential election and stood proudly staring at their television, hand over their hearts as the national anthem played during the Presidential inauguration.

With interviews of local ministers, journalists, politicians and newcomers to the Shelbyville area, including refugees fleeing violence in Somalia, the documentary shed light on the fears of change in rural America and the effect that misunderstanding has on the whole community.

Participants attending Wednesday's screening were pleased at their three-year journey in helping to make the documentary and were pleased with the final product.


Jeff Huett, APR, is a member of the RCC Board of Governors and Associate Coordinator of Communications and Advancement, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, GA.

Andrew B. (Andy) Rawls, photographer, is a member of RCC and the producer of the annual Wilbur Awards.

 
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