Burlington’s Paramount Theater held a screening of “Racist Roots: The Film,” a film about North Carolina’s racist history with the death penalty Feb. 16.
The film portrayed a series of stories from people who were advocates of ending the death penalty, who have been exonerated and who are currently on North Carolina’s death row. The 25 minute film was made by the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a non-profit law firm that represents people on death row in North Carolina.
Paramount Theater is promoting the movie as part of its special programming for Black History Month. The film strives to encourage people to join the movement of transforming the legal system.
Dave Wright, theater director of Paramount Theater, said the objective of the theater is to have an “open door policy,” and showing this film supports that policy.
“This is the kind of thing that the Paramount was built for,” Wright said, “to host events like this and be able to give a voice to a wide range of political thoughts.”
There are over 130 men and women on North Carolina’s death row, according to the Racist Roots website. While people of color make up less than 30% of North Carolina’s population, it makes up 60% of its death row.
Wade Harrison, a divorce lawyer and advocate for civil rights in North Carolina, said this project was initiated by the Racial Justice Task Force of First Presbyterian Church in Burlington in order to inspire people “to see and think in a new and different way.”
“This film is a key tool, as in a very brief period of time, it may have the power to make a big difference,” Harrison said.
Elon University senior Samantha Schwamberger said the film explained how to deal with serious crimes without being more harmful.
“This movie helped reinforce this idea that the solution to solving issues of violence should not be with more violence,” Schwamberger said.
Tyler Swanson, the campaign strategist for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, explained the mission of the film before it started.
“To quote our founder, Henderson Hill, ‘The death penalty is another racist monument that we must abolish,’” Swanson said. “Our goal is to put the death penalty on trial across the nation as it is deeply rooted systemic racism.”
To learn more about the film, visit RacistRoots.org.