“PAUL LAWRENCE DUNBAR: AN AMERICAN POET”
Remembering Our Virtues
I am always amazed when a short ten-minute film can say so much in such a short period of time. From only having heard the name of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, I was eager to learn about him. He has achieved a certain national fame and as an avid poetry reader, I wondered why I had never read his poems.
Filmmaker Kane Stratton takes on the story ofan 18th-century runaway slave who became a member of the Shawnee tribe in Ohio. We are at a dinner in 1904 at the home of Dunbar’s mother Matilda and where Dayton’s mayor C.A. Snyder is a guest. The reason for the dinner is to talk about Dunbar’s participation in the Fourth of July extravaganza and there ensues a disagreement. The mayor is eager to have Dunbar but is apprehensive about any controversy that might arise.
Dunbar (A. Slate) is eloquent and quite dignified exudes dignified eloquence. The mayor (Timothy J. Cox) is a politician who is calculating and determined that all go according to his plans. Matilda (MyJoy Filer) bridges the gap between the two men. As Dunbar and the mayor debate a small matter, we see the larger divisions that have caused a rift in America for years. We also see the stubbornness that is only relieved by Matilda’s common sense and Dunbar’s beautiful language. Reading his poem “Sympathy,” we see the power of his words.
We are reminded that in order to heal, art may be the best way to do so and it is clear that this should never be forgotten.