People may, or may not, know just how important of a role the Civil Rights Movement played in molding and shaping how life in the United States is, today. Regardless of how uninformed people may be to the significance of the monumental movement, they do have an obscure idea of the struggle African-Americans went through to ensure that they (and their children and their children’s children and so on and so forth) get the same treatment and the same rights as their Caucasian counterparts. No matter what we’re taught in classes, read in books or are told by the old folks who survived those trying times, nothing compares to seeing it as it went down.
But, truth be told, the Civil Rights Movement isn’t something that can be summed up in a two-hour Hollywood movie that’s driven by a love story with an action-packed backdrop. It’s something that needs to be chronicled in accounts as detailed as Serena William’s abs. Enter "Eyes on The Prize". Premiering in 1987, on the very same PBS network that Republicans find as expendable as Stallone (coincidence?), "Eyes on The Prize" is a 14-part documentary that was, and still is, as powerful and inspiring a documentary series as has ever been created.
Beginning in 1954 – and continuing through the heart of the '60s and several years after – the series uses footage and photographs from those years to show viewers specific moments African-Americans faced in the battle for equality. The documentary captures most of the hate, pain and struggle activists and citizens were subjected to during this time. Covering everything from the murder of Emmett Till, to the influence that, both, the late great Dr. King and Malcolm X had on this era, the documentary really does a good job characterizing the movement and all those involved in it.
The real impact of this documentary, however, lies in the first-hand accounts of the everyday people who actually went through and lived it. We’re not watching celebrities talking about how this movement paved the way for them to become millionaires or how much they owe to the activists. We’re listening to someone’s grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc. recount the days of the movement and what led to their involvement. This is the line being drawn in the sand, with a unanimous “it stops here!” message. The mental and physical abuse they withstood, knowing that it was all for that greater good, is what makes it such a powerful account. Some of the interviewees show more pain, when speaking about it, than others, but the pride shining through on their faces is unmistakable. They made history the right way, and they know it. One by one, you’re introduced to a new hero who has earned their stripes.
Most people see "Eyes on The Prize" as a tool to be utilized by teachers to educate and demonstrate just how important this movement was (Props to my 7th grade teacher, Mr. “Righteous” Wilson for putting my class on to this), but the truth is this is more than an educational tool. It’s a lesson in appreciation. Always talking about what we don’t have instead of valuing what’s in our hands, we still tend to b*tch and moan about being treated unfairly (and it’s justified in a lot of cases). But the truth is, our struggle is a walk in the park compared to the jungle warfare that the past generation went through to safeguard the future of countless millions. In the end, if you can watch this and still not appreciate the prize you’ve been given, but turn around and get excited to see that you have the same wardrobe as a Kardashian or a Kanye, then you really need to reevaluate your worth to this world. I’m not even joking.