MODERN-DAY LYNCHING?

February 22, 2020 at 4:30 am

The suspicious death of a popular high school football player raises painful questions about modern-day lynching in America.

Click Here for more information on Independent Lens’ Always in Season.

Aired on February 21, 2020. 

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> GOOD EVENING OF THE WELCOME
TO "METROFOCUS."
WAS IT A MODERN DAY LYNCHING?
THAT'S AT THE HEART OF THE
PAINFUL AND COMPELLING
QUESTIONS.
17-YEAR-OLD LENNON LACY WAS A
THAT TOER LA BLACK NORTH
CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
PLAYER WHO WAS FOUND HANGING
FROM A SWING SET BACK IN 2014.
POLICE QUICKLY RULED HIS DEATH A
SUICIDE BUT HIS FAMILY SAYS IT
WAS SOMETHING FAR MORE SINISTER.
NOW YEARS LATER, THEY ARE STILL
FIGHTING FOR ANSWERS AMID
INSKINGSS IN THE CASE, AND
ACCUSATIONS THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT
DID NOT THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATE.
THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH IS NOW AT
THE HEART OF THE AWARD WINNING
INDEPENDENT LENS DOCUMENTARY
TITLED ALWAYS IN SEASON.
HERE'S A PREVIEW.
>> IF YOU KNEW IN YOUR HEART
THAT SOMEONE TOOK YOUR CHILD'S
HEART, HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO
GET TO THE TRUTH?
>> LAW ENFORCEMENT DID NOT DO
THEIR JOB.
>> SHE TOLD STATE INVESTIGATORS
THAT BELTS USED TO FASHION THE
NOOSE DID NOT BELONG TO LENNON.
>> THEY TOLD MY MOM IT WAS
SUICIDE.
>> IT LOOKED LIKE A BACK IN THE
DAY LYNCHING.
>> WHY ARE WE SO AFRAID OF THE
TRUTH?
>> I DESERVE TO KNOW AND I HAVE
THE RIGHT TO KNOW.
>> ALWAYS IN SCENIC.
PART OF INDEPENDENT LENS ON PBS.
>> JOINING US NOW, THE FILM'S
DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER,
JACQUELINE OLIVE.
NICE TO HAVE YOU WITH US.
THANKS FOR JOINING US.
HOW DID YOU FIND THIS STORY AND
WHY DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO
TELL IT?
>> SURE.
THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
I STARTED RESEARCHING AND
DEVELOPING THE PROJECT TEN YEARS
AGO.
ALWAYS IN SEASON IS A DECADE IN
THE MAKING AND IT IS FILMED IN
COMMUNITIES WHERE PEOPLE WERE ON
THE GROUND IN A GRASSROOTS
LEVEL, LOOKING AT EFFORTS FOR
JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION
AROUND HISTORIC LYNCHINGS.
SO I HAD BEEN FILMING FOR FOUR
YEARS AND THOUGHT I WAS READY
FOR PRODUCTION WHEN I LEARNED
ABOUT THIS DEATH IN 2014.
I REACHED OUT TO CLAUDIA.
I WANTED TO UNDERSTAND MORE
ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE FACING AND
ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.
THE MORE I TALK WITH HER AND THE
FOLKS THERE, THE MORE I STARTED
TO SEE THE PARALLELS BETWEEN
WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND HISTORIC
RACIAL TERRORISM AND WHAT PEOPLE
WERE DEALING WITH THERE.
>> WHY WERE THEY SUSPICIOUS
ABOUT THE CONCLUSION THAT
LENNON'S DEATH HAD BEEN A
SUICIDE?
>> WELL, CLAUDIA SAID FROM THE
VERY BEGINNING THAT HE WAS NOT
DEPRESSED.
THAT SHE COULDN'T IMAGINE HIM
COMMITTING SUICIDE.
THERE WERE OTHER THINGS AROUND
THE EVIDENCES THAT HE WAS FOUND
WITH SOMEONE ELSE'S SHOES ON.
CLAUDIA SAYS THAT HE WORE A SIZE
12.
HE WAS FOUND WITH A PAIR OF
10 1/2 SEEKERS ON IN A, SNEAKERS
AND A TOTALLY DIFFERENT PAIR.
AND THERE WERE OTHER THINGS THAT
MADE HER, THAT GAVE HER PAUSE
AND SHE WANTED TO UNDERSTAND
MORE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.
NEVER SPENT WITH THREE OR FOUR
DAYS BEFORE THEY CAME TO THE
FAMILY AND SAID HE HAD COMMITTED
SUICIDE WITHOUT REALLY TALKING
WITH HIM VERY MUCH ABOUT WHAT
MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED.
>> YOU TALK ABOUT THE FAMILY'S
CONCERNS.
I WANT TO US TAKE A LOOK.
THIS IS WITHIN THE FILM.
SOME OF THE COMMENTS OF LENNON
LACY'S BROTHER.
>> I WAS WORKING AT STAFFORD,
VIRGINIA.
AND THEN MY SUPERVISOR SAID HEY,
YOU GOT A PHONE CALL.
ON AND MY GODBROTHER WAS, HE WAS
TELLING ME THEY FOUND LENNON.
I SAID THEY?
WHO ARE THEY?
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
HE WOULDN'T DO NOTHING LIKE
THAT.
I JUST SAW HIM A COUPLE WEEKS
AGO.
THAT WASN'T ON HIS MIND.
I STARTED CRYING.
I WANTED TO STOP CRYING BUT I
COULDN'T.
I CRIED ON MY JOB ALL THE WAY TO
MY MOM'S HOUSE.
WHEN I WOKE UP IN THE HOUSE, I
SAW MY MOM, HOW?
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
AND SHE COULDN'T, SHE COULDN'T
REALLY LOOK AT ME.
SHE WAS SO HURT.
AND I DIDN'T TAKE NOTHING
PERSONALLY.
IT JUST HURT ME TO KNOW THAT SHE
WAS THAT HURT.
AND I COULDN'T IMAGINE WHAT WAS
GOING ON THROUGH HER MIND WHEN
SHE HAD TO GO OUT THERE AND SEE
HIM LIKE THAT.
AND THEN THEY TELL HER, SHE
DON'T KNOW WHAT SHE TALKING
ABOUT.
HE DID THIS TO HIS SELF.
AND YOU GOING TO FORCE FEED A
LIE TO MY WHOLE ENTIRE FAMILY
AND MAKE US THINK WE'RE CRAZY.
IT LOOKED LIKE, HONESTLY, IT
LOOKED LIKE A DISPLAY.
LIKE IT WAS A MESSAGE.
LIKE IT WAS A BACK IN THE DAY
LYNCHING.
LIKE THAT'S HOW IT MADE ME FEEL.
THAT'S HOW IT MADE ME FEEL.
>> WE TALK ABOUT POWERFUL AND
COMPELLING.
WHEN YOU HEAR A FAMILY MEMBER
TALK ABOUT THIS, WAS THAT ONE OF
THE THINGS THAT SURPRISED YOU?
THE DEPTH OF THE PASSION, THE
UNCERTAINTY THAT THE FAMILY WAS
DEALING WITH?
>> IT DIDN'T SURPRISE ME AT ALL.
MY SON WAS LENNON'S AGE.
17 WHEN HE WAS FOUND.
I COULD NOT IMAGINE ALL THE
DEPTH OF EMOTIONS THAT CLAUDIA
WAS EXPERIENCING AND THE DEPTH
OF LOSS.
WHAT DID SURPRISE ME RWAS AROUN
HISTORIC LYNCHINGS.
WHEN FAMILY MEMBERS DIED AND
WERE LYNCHED DECADES EARLIER AND
PEOPLE WERE STILL VERY
EMOTIONAL.
THEY WERE STILL EXPERIENCING
PAIN, ANGER, FEAR, LOSS AROUND
THE COUNTRY.
SO THIS IS MIRRORED TODAY IN
CASES LIKE LENNON'S IS, IT IS
JUST EVIDENCE THAT IS HISTORY
AND UNDERSTANDING, IT IS
CRITICAL TO UNDERSTANDING WHAT'S
GOING ON NOW IN THE PRESENT.
>> YOU GET INTO THE DETAILS
WITHIN THE FILM WRFLT THERE ANY,
IN THE MINDS OF CLAUDIA, HIS
MOTHER, FAMILY, FRIENDS, WERE
THERE ANY PEOPLE THEY LOOKED AT
AS SUSPECTS?
ANYTHING THEY COULD POINT TO TO
SAY, THIS IS WHY WE THINK THIS
IS PERHAPS SOMETHING MORE
SINISTER?
>> SURE.
ONE OF THE PARALLELS IS THAT
PEOPLE ARE OFTEN LEFT WITH
STORIES AND SPECULATION AND
RUMORS WHEN THE OFFICIALS DON'T
SHOW UP AND REALLY DO AN
APPROPRIATE INVESTIGATION.
SO THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN
THE COMMUNITY.
PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE I TALKED ON
SAID WHAT A GOOD KID HE WAS.
BUT ALSO, THEY DIDN'T THINK HE
WOULD HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE.
SO THERE ARE, THE FILM BRINGS
OUT PEOPLE WHO MAY HAVE BEEN,
SUSPICIONS ABOUT FOLKS WHO MAY
HAVE BEEN INVOLVED.
>> I WANT TO COME BACK TO THE
WORK YOU WERE DOING,
HISTO
HISTORICALLY, THE LYNCHINGS AND
WHAT IT SAID ABOUT US AT THE
TIME.
AND ASK TO YOU ASSUME THE ROLE
OF A TEACHER FOR US AS THE FILM
DOES.
AND THE FILM DOES IT
WONDERFULLY.
TALK A LITTLE ABOUT OUR HISTORY
WITH REGARD TO LYNCHING.
>> YEAH.
OH THE CASE BEFORE A CENTURY,
NEARLY 5,000 DOCUMENTED CASES OF
LYNCHINGS.
THERE ARE INDIVIDUAL LYNCHINGS
IN 1917 IN TEXAS WHERE JESSE
WASHINGTON WAS LYNCHED.
15,000 MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN
SHOWED UP TO WATCH AND CHEER ON
THE VIOLENCE.
AND IT HAPPENED IN EVERY STATE
ACROSS THE COUNTRY EXCEPT FOR
FOUR.
SO THEY WEREN'T JUST IN THE
SOUTH.
THEY INVOLVED MANY PEOPLE.
OFTEN ENTIRE COMMUNITIES.
OR IN DULUTH, MINNESOTA, HALF
THE COMMUNITY CAME OUT FOR THAT
LYNCHING.
IT IMPACTS EVERYONE.
IT IS CERTAINLY TERRORISM FOR
BLACK FOLKS WHEN THERE IS THIS
THREAT, I WAS GOING TO SAY
INHERENT THREAT BUT IT IS
ACTUALLY VERY OVERT.
BODIES WERE LEFT IN THE BLACK
COMMUNITY AS A THREAT FOR PEOPLE
NOT TO STEP OUT OF LINE AND IT
WAS TERRORISM FOR WHITE FOLKS
WHO DIDN'T AGREE WITH IT.
THERE WAS IMMEDIATE COVER-UP AND
SILENCE AROUND THESE EVENTS.
SO REALLY, THE FILM IS VERY MUCH
ABOUT WHAT ARE WE LEFT WITH
TODAY?
IT IS A LOOK AT THE FALLOUT.
THE MULTIGENERATIONAL VIOLENCE.
>> I TEACH AN UNDERGROUND
SEMINAR AT YALE ABOUT VIOLENCE.
AND AT LEAST TWO OF THEM HAVE
LYNCHING AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF
THEM.
AND THE STUDENTS WILL TELL ME
HOW LITTLE THEY KNEW ABOUT THE
HISTORY OF LYNCHING.
WHEN I THROW OUT THAT NUMBER YOU
JUST MENTIONED, NEARLY 5,000
DOCUMENTED LYNCHINGS, THAT
DOESN'T INCLUDE THE ONES THAT
HAVE BEEN, THAT HAVEN'T BEEN
DOCUMENTED.
IT IS A SHOCKING AND STUNNING
FIGURE.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT GENERALLY
SPEAKING, THIS WHOLE IDEA OF
LYNCHINGS AND HOW EXPANSIVE IT
WAS.
WASN'T JUST IN THE DEEP SOUTH.
WHY DO YOU THINK WE DON'T TRULY
UNDERSTAND THAT STORY?
I THINK IT IS BECAUSE WE'RE NOT
TAUGHT IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM.
EVEN MORE THAN THAT, WE'RE TOLD
AS A COUNTRY TO STAY IN POLITE
CONVERSATION.
TO NOT TALK ABOUT ISSUES OF
RACIAL JUSTICE OR VIOLENCE OR
RACE, OFTEN.
SO IN THE PROCESS, THE
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN
DEHUMANIZATION AND HOW IT CAN
LEAD TO VIOLENCE AND VERY
SPECIFICALLY AND NOT GENERALLY.
WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THE
SPECIFICS, YOU UNDERSTAND THE
DEPTHS OF THE VIOLENCE THAT CAN
HAPPEN.
WITH THE FEAR MONGERING.
THE GOVERNOR, THE GUBERNATORIAL
CANDIDATE EUGENE TAMMADGE WHO
HAD BEEN ELECTED TO THREE
OFFICES ON A WHITE SUPREMACIST
CAMPAIGN AND DOCTRINE WAS
CAMPAIGNING FOR THE, FOR FOLKS
TO LOOK AT LYNCHING THE VICTIMS
AND HARMING THE VICTIMS.
THAT WAS A POWER MOVE FOR THEM
TO GET INTO OFFICE.
WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THAT'S BEEN
EFFECTIVE HISTORICALLY, YOU CAN
KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON NOW IN
POLITICS WHEN PEOPLE DEHUMANIZE
THEM.
WHAT IS AT STAKE WHEN WE MISS
THE LESSONS.
>> AS PART OF YOUR RESEARCH,
WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE IDEA
OF HOW OPEN AND VISIBLE AND EVEN
A FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT LYNCHING
WAS?
THAT WASN'T ALL DONE IN THE DARK
OF NIGHT, IN SECRET?
>> THERE IS A LOT I WAS
SURPRISED ABOUT.
I'M FROM MISSISSIPPI WHICH IS
THE STATE WITH THE LARGEST
NUMBER OF RECORDED LYNCHINGS,
NEARLY 600.
MISSISSIPPI IS OFTEN SYNONYMOUS
WITH RACIAL TERRORISM.
AND I UNDERSTOOD THERE WAS THIS
HISTORY OF RACIAL TERRORISM BUT
I DIDN'T KNOW THE DETAILS.
SO THERE WAS A LOT THAT
SURPRISED ME.
THERE IS THIS MYTH THAT IT
HAPPENS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE
NIGHT BY BACKWARD PEOPLE.
BUT LYNCHINGS WERE OFTEN HIGHLY
ORGANIZED.
IN THE FILM, DANNY GLOVER READS
THE INVITATION TO THE LYNCHING
AND IT WAS CIRCULATE BY
NEWSPAPER, BY TELEVISION IN
SEVERAL STATES BEFORE THE
LYNCHING HAPPENED TO GET PEOPLE
TO GO.
I SPENT TWO YEARS RESEARCHING IT
AND WORKING WITH THE TOP 20
SCHOLARS ON LINKING.
I REALLY WANTED TO FULLY
UNDERSTAND IT.
IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO WRAP MY
HEAD AROUND IT.
THAT'S WHY I WANTED PEOPLE TO
UNDERSTAND.
>> SO MANY INTERESTING
COMPONENTS.
ONE THAT I WAS STRUCK BY, YOU
JUST MENTIONED IT A MOMENT AGO.
THIS MOMENT OF LYNCHING
RE-ENACTMENTS.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THAT.
AND THE ARGUMENTS THAT YOU'RE
SEEING THAT SUPPORT THE REASON
WHY THIS IS BEING DONE.
AND THE OTHER ARGUMENT THAT'S
SAY, WHOA, THIS IS NOT SOMETHING
WE SHOULD BE DOING.
>> SURE.
I BEGAN WITH THE RE-ENACTORS IN
2010.
I RESEARCHED THE FILM FOR TWO
YEARS AND I REALIZED MY IN TO
THE STORY WAS WHAT PEOPLE WERE
DOING ON THE GROUND FOR JUSTICE
AND RECONCILIATION.
AND THE RE-ENACTORS ARE A
DIVERSE GROUP OF PEOPLE GET
TOGETHER EVERY YEAR TO DRAMATIZE
THE DETAILS OF A 1946 QUADRUPLE
LYNCHING IN WHICH TWO COUPLES
WERE LYNCHED.
THE MALCOLMS AND THE DORSEYS ON
THE BRIDGE.
IN MONROE, GEORGIA, JUST OUTSIDE
LAENLTS.
SO WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THE
RE-ENACTMENTS, I COULDN'T WRAP
MY HEAD AROUND WHAT THAT MEANS.
UNTIL I STARTED TO THINK ABOUT
THE CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENTS AS
AN EFFORT TO WRITE THE HISTORY
IN A PARTICULAR WAY, TO RECORD
WHAT PEOPLE FEEL IS IMPORTANT
ABOUT THE HISTORY, AND TO
MEMORIALIZE THE FOLKS WHO DIED.
SO THAT'S THE CASE FOR THE
RE-ENACTORS.
PEOPLE COME FOR A NUMBER OF
PERSONAL REASONS.
THERE IS A WOMAN WHO COMES,
WHOSE LEADER WAS A PLANNER.
THEY WANTED TO MAKE SURE THE
NATION NEVER FORGETS WHAT
HAPPENED TO THE MALCOLMS AND THE
DORSEYS.
AND SOME OF THEM BELIEVE THE
PERPETRATORS MAY BE LIVING NEAR.
THEY HAVE GUN SINCE 2005 AND
THEY DO IT EVERY YEAR.
WHEN I BEGAN FILMING IN 2010, IT
WAS BEFORE TRAYVON MARTIN.
IT WAS RIGHT THE TAIL END OF THE
NARRATIVE.
VERY FEW PEOPLE WERE TALKING
ABOUT RACIAL VIOLENCE, PAST OR
PRESENT.
TO SEE THE RE-ENACTORS DOING
WHAT THEY WERE DOING.
THERE IS CONTROVERSY AROUND THE
DETAILS OF THE ENACTMENT.
WHETHER OR NOT THEY'RE
PRESENTING THINGS THAT ARE
VALID.
SO WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO
UNDERSTAND, HISTORICALLY, VERY
FEW DETAILS OF THE VIOLENCE, IN
PARTICULAR, PARTICULARLY HEINOUS
VIOLENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN
DOCUMENTED.
A JOURNALIST WOULD WRITE IN THE
N
NEWSPAPERS AT TIMES TO NOT TALK
ABOUT THE LINKINGS.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT
EFFORTS LIKE THE THAT ARE VERY
ORGANIC AND GRASS ROOTS ABOUT
THE NEED TO EXPRESS THE STORY
AND THE DETAILS OF THE VIOLENCE
AND HOW IT HAS IMPACTED THEIR
COMMUNITY WAS VERY ESSENTIAL TO
WHAT WE WERE LOOKING AT.
>> I MENTIONED THE INTRODUCTION.
IT IS A FILM THAT PROVIDES VERY
COMPELLING, VERY PAINFUL
QUESTIONS.
MAKES US ALL THINK, WHICH IS
WHAT GOOD FILM MAKING SHOULD DO.
AND IT TEACHES US, FOR MANY OF
US, THINGS THEY NEVER KNEW
EXISTED IN THIS COUNTRY.
SO A WONDERFUL JOB OF FILM
MAKING.
WE'RE SO DELIGHTED THAT YOU
SPENT SOME TIME WITH US.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.
>> THANK YOU, JACK.
>> A REMINDER, IF WOULD YOU LIKE
THE WATCH ALWAYS IN SEASON ON
INDEPENDENT LENS, MAKE SURE YOU
VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT
METROFOCUS.ORG FOR VIEWING
OPPORTUNITIES.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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