The honorees were welcomed with a flower on their lapel or a corsage on their wrist. A red carpet was rolled out for them as they entered the Weinberg Center in downtown Frederick. When their name was announced, they were met with cheers and applause from the crowd.
This was just one of the ways Frederick County’s oldest African-Americans were honored and celebrated at the documentary film premiere of “The Tale of the Lion” on Saturday.
The film was produced by the AARCH Society — African-American Resources, Cultural and Heritage. The Tale of the Lion featured first-hand accounts of those in the county ranging from ages 89 to 105 as they told their story and shared the wisdom and insights they have learned over the years.
Twenty five African-Americans were featured in the film, most were in attendance, while some had passed prior to the film’s debut.
“It’s history, all I can say is I can understand everything, but I don’t hold anything against anybody,” said Erma Lee, 93, who was featured in the film. “I still love people.”
The film had a reoccurring message that comes from an African Proverb that says “Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
In their film interviews, the honorees talked about early life in Frederick County — whether it be walking miles to school or church or working on a farm to make money. Some spoke about continuing their education to make a better life for themselves.
Most ended their interview with a piece of advice they would pass along to younger generations. The majority said to always continue your education and treat others will respect.
“I’m amazed that so many people are giving honors to our elders and this is exactly what myself and what my sister were raised to do,” said film attendee Roxanne Weedon-Lee. “Honor your parents in their elder years and you’ll be blessed.”
Weedon-Lee said her mother, Anne Weedon, was honored as a living legend through the AARCH Society. Her mother passed last year, but Weedon-Lee said she was excited to be at the event as she had other family members who were honored during the debut.
“It’s awesome,” she said of the event. “Giving a voice to the voiceless, nobody ever heard them. Hopefully, their children will continue their legacy and never forget them.”
The program started with AARCH President David Key, County Executive Jan Gardner, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor and Barbara Thompson, a member of AARCH Society’s Board of Directors speaking in front of the audience.
Key reminded film goers that the theater they were sitting in was once segregated, adding that this was the first time some honorees ever stepped foot inside.
“We’re here now to say that that was wrong,” he said. “That was in the past and sometimes it’s great to use what happened in the past to judge where we are today, although we have a way to go.”
Thompson said her hope is that the film will be shown again and again in hopes to spark a positive change in society.
“I would like people to leave here knowing that once a story is out there...then we can all sit back and say, ‘how can I make a difference?’” she told the News-Post.
A lesson she hoped the film taught others was “how far we’ve come, how far we need to go,” but that they can also learn a lesson that there is strength in adversity, through adversity.
“Those persons that we interviewed have no animosity, no anger,” she said. “Though they lived through it, they know that they’re better people because of the adversity they faced.”
She said it was important to honor those in the film with a grand entrance to remind them that they’re important.
“It was probably the first time in their lives they felt validated and celebrated,” she said.