The Middlesex County NAACP brings William H. 'Smitty' Smith, Ed. D., award-winning documentary filmmaker and human rights activist to Middletown Monday at 6:30 p.m. Smith's documentary film Invisible Soldiers, Unheard Voices will be shown in the Performing Arts Center Theater at Middletown High School, 200 LaRosa Lane.
After watching yet another commercially successful WWII film 10 years ago with no African Americans, Smith felt compelled to try to put the record straight and so he wrote and produced the documentary: Invisible Soldiers, Unheard Voices, a look at World War II through the eyes of those whose service to America has not been recorded in the mainstream depiction of the war.
The focus is on the more than 1 million African-American men and women in uniform who gave their loyalty, blood and lives to protect a country that denied them the very freedoms for which they were fighting. Their voices are raised in interviews that speak candidly of their accomplishments under conditions of racism.
Unsung D-Day hero Waverly Woodson, who pulled drowning soldiers from the bloody waters; Edward Brooke, the first black U.S. senator in the 20th century and a veteran of a key Italian campaign; and Senator Daniel Inouye, who owes his life to African-American soldiers, are among the veterans who tell their stories.
The film won the Best Documentary Film by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and was shown on PBS. In 2000 he organized the historic Joint Congressional Resolution establishing a National Day of Honor to recognize the service of African American and other minority soldiers in World War II for which he attended a ceremony in Washington, DC, President Clinton was present.
Commentary on the film:
“Invisible Soldiers, Unheard Voices is a rare and important contribution to preserving an accurate history of America. The depth and candor of the first hand commentary and the riches of the visual images of the neglected role of African Americans in World War II is stunning. The file should be a requirement for schools throughout the nation.” Julian Bond, former Chairman of the National NAACP
“This film is a sterling testimony of the invincible courage and towering moral statue of African Americans as they fought two wars, one against Axis Powers, the other against racism at home. The “Invisible Soldiers, Unheard Voices” is a remarkable contribution to understanding Americas history and its race dilemma.” Cornel West, Professor Princeton University
Smith is the founding executive director of the National Center for Race Amity based at Wheelock College in Boston, MA. His prior higher education assignment was as executive director of the Center for Diversity in the Communication Industries at Emerson College in Boston.
Smith's initial college career began in integrating division one football in the old Confederate South at Wake Forest College. He was profiled in the Sports Illustrated cover story (November 7, 2005) as one of the pioneers who changed the face of college football. He left Wake Forest to work as a community organizer in the Civil Rights Movement.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a medic in Vietnam, where he was awarded two Bronze Star stars and the Combat Medic Badge. He graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and earned his doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.
After serving as an assistant principal, principal and headmaster in several public and alternative schools in Massachusetts he pursued his entrepreneurial interest in television broadcasting. He founded and served as president and general manager of WNDS TV, a full power UHF station in Derry, New Hampshire (presently MY TV) and later formed the film and multimedia company, ComTel Productions, Inc. which he headed for fourteen years.
Smith has received awards from numerous organizations including the International Academy of Communications Arts and Sciences, the National Association for Black Veterans, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, Screen Actors Guild Diversity in Production Award, National Association of Government Communicators, and the National Education Association. In 2005 he was presented with "The Key to the City of Greenville, S.C." his home town. In 2007 he was selected as the Balfour Scholar by the Balfour Foundation, Bank America Trustee. This honor included a fully sponsored week at the prestigious Aspen Institute, in Aspen Colorado. In 2009 and 2010 Dr. Smith served as a keynote speaker and workshop leader at the annual Leadership Conference for Afro and Indigenous Colombian Fulbright Scholars held in Bogota, Colombia.
Smith has addressed issues of race and diversity in his work with civic, philanthropic and religious organizations including the Phelps Stokes Fund where he serves as a trustee and Senior Fellow, the Regional Bahá'í Council for the Northeast States on which he served for ten years, the Media Advisor to the National Association for Black Veterans (NABVETS), and the Board of Directors of the Africa Media Image Project. He coordinated the national initiatives "Neighborhood Conversations on Race: A Talk Worth Having" and "Campus Conversations on Race"(CCOR) and the handbooks which support those programs. He founded the Campus Conversations on Race College Network whose sixteen member colleges is slated to grow to two hundred and fifty under the focused support of the National Center for Race Amity.
Last year Dr. Smith brought back the National Race Amity Conference inspired by the the first Race Amity Convention held in Washington, DC in 1921 during the Jim Crow era, when there were few examples of interracial gatherings for the purpose of race unity. This was just two years after the worst race riots in the US known as “The Red Summer” when cities all over the US erupted in bloodshed and violence that lasted for six months. One of the worst of these was in Washington, DC, so many of the more than 2000 people who attended the convention were said to have been glad to be a part of something that promoted oneness and healing. Alain Locke served as the session chair on Friday evening, May 21. The Howard University chorus performed and Joseph Douglas, the grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglas, performed on the violin. For several decades, other similar conventions were held across the US one of the largest was in Springfield, MA. The National Center for Race Amity has brought back the conferences as a tool to further understanding and healing for the racial intolerance still plaguing our country.
The National Center of Race Amity conference held last June at Wheelock College in Boston gathered around the theme “The Other Tradition” coined by Dr. Richard Thomas, a Michigan State professor and author who's work demonstrates that in addition to Americas long history racism, there was another tradition, there have always been examples of Blacks & Whites working together to end racism. This is the significance of the Race Amity Conferences, that it will take all of us to 'blot out the stain which this patent evil has left on our common country.' This years conference will be held on May 18th and 19th 2012 at Wheelock College in Boston. All are encouraged to attend this unique and inspiring event. For details go to http://www.wheelock.edu/ncra/