Durham Academy scored a coup in arranging a screening of Maynard, a documentary about Maynard Jackson Jr., the first African-American mayor of Atlanta, on Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and securing the film’s executive producers, Maynard Jackson III and his wife Wendy Eley Jackson, for a panel discussion following the film. They will be joined on the panel by Dr. Kristen V. Bell, daughter of former Durham Mayor Bill Bell.
“The film’s most important message centers around character, leadership and commitment,” Wendy Eley Jackson said via email. “The story between the King and Dobbs families [Maynard Jackson Jr.’s grandfather was civil rights leader John Wesley Dobbs] goes back to the early 20th century, as Martin’s parents and Maynard’s grandparents had been friends and fellow influencers for social change for a very long time. MLK Jr.’s vision of galvanizing voter registration did not start in the 1950s.”
Kemi Nonez, DA’s Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, worked for months to make the screening and panel discussion a reality.
“The film reiterates Dr. King’s message,” Nonez said. “To get them [Maynard Jackson, Wendy Eley Jackson and Kristen V. Bell] here on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a big feat, as well as securing the film. I started months ago.”
Jackson served as mayor of Atlanta from 1974 to 1982 and 1990 to 1994. Bell, Durham’s longest-tenured mayor and the city’s second African-American mayor, served as mayor from 2001 to 2017.
“The connection is the lives of two mayors’ kids and what they both did for their cities,” Nonez said.
Jackson graduated from Morehouse College at age 18 and earned his law degree from N.C. Central University before being elected the first black mayor of any major southern city at age 35. During his three terms as Atlanta’s second-longest serving mayor, Jackson’s economic development initiatives dramatically increased opportunities for the city’s black business owners by mandating the percentage of government contracts awarded to minority firms. He also played a key role in bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta.
Jackson’s time as mayor coincided with the expansion of Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport — now the world’s busiest airport — and after his death in 2003, the airport was renamed Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. According to an article about the documentary in Atlanta magazine, Jackson once said that weeds would grow on the airport’s runways before he would go back on his pledge to include more minority businesses in its construction.
The production of Maynard took more than two years and involved 7,280 hours of research. The documentary was a joint project for Maynard Jackson III, who felt compelled to make a documentary about his father, and his wife, Wendy Eley Jackson, who had worked in the film and television industry.
Reflecting on the documentary about his father, Atlanta magazine quoted Maynard Jackson III as saying, “He was the kind of guy I wish everybody got a chance to meet. He was able to touch you in a way that gives you hope.”
The MLK Jr. Day event is co-sponsored by the Durham chapter of Jack and Jill. The panel discussion will be introduced by Donovan Herndon, a senior at Durham Academy who is teen president of the Durham Jack and Jill chapter. Teen members of Jack and Jill will help out as volunteers at Monday’s screening.
While their parents and older siblings are at the screening and panel discussion, younger students can participate in a special event in the Upper School dance studio. Choreographer Anjanée Bell, also a daughter of former Mayor Bell, will host a dance experience for Preschool and Lower School children. It will feature contemporary-based technique and choreography inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.
Both events are free and open to the public. The film will be shown at 1 p.m. Monday in Kenan Auditorium, followed by a 2:30 p.m. panel discussion. The dance experience will be hosted from 1–3 p.m. in the Upper School dance studio.