OXFORD, Miss. — When a federal judge ordered Cleveland, Mississippi, to desegregate its schools over 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, local residents were forced to grapple with a new reality while moving forward. The documentary, “Educational Divide: The Story of East Side High,” takes a candid look at the Cleveland community in the heart of the Mississippi Delta as it works through the transition.
The film will be screened at 4 p.m. on March 22 in the Overby Auditorium in Farley Hall. The screening event is free and open to the community. A panel discussion featuring executive producer Dr. Eric Elston, director and UM alum David Ross, and producer Don Allan Mitchell of Delta State University will be hosted immediately following the film, and moderated by UM journalism professor Ellen Meacham. The screening is sponsored in part by an award from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Partnership, with funding provided by the National Park Service.
“Educational Divide: The Story of East Side High” is a celebration of the legacy of East Side High School. The film features interviews with East Side legends like Hall of Fame Coach Lucy Seaberry, former Ole Miss and NFL football standout Ken Lucas, and the film’s executive producer and NBA veteran Johnny O’Bryant, as well as community leaders, legal experts, and scholars of the Delta’s complex history and culture.
“Telling the story of East Side High was something I knew must be done. East Side was a school that was a second home to many students but also a staple in its community,” said O’Bryant, an East Side alumnus and professional basketball player. “East Side is filled with rich history and the world needs to understand how a very small place could leave behind such a huge legacy for its community. I hope anyone that watches this film understands that East Side’s story is one of perseverance and pride.”
Seaberry, an East Side living legend who coached women’s basketball for more than 30 years, said she is excited to share the project with all Mississippians.
“East Side was my pride and joy,” said Seaberry. “I believe in helping others, and East Side provided me the opportunity to do just that. This documentary will be an eye-opener for a lot of people. I hope that [the audience] will take away that we may be different, but we are all equal in God’s eyes.”
According to the film’s producers, “Educational Divide: The Story of East Side High” reveals that in America, culture and history are complicated and our past is never that far away from the present. Covering issues of race, public education and civil rights—all via the prism of basketball and high school sports—the film explores what America can learn from Cleveland.
“We hope this film allows us to recognize that we have a long way to go with race relations and equality in America, but the first step in making progress is listening to each other,” said Director David Ross. “The film forces its viewers to wonder, what can the rest of America learn from this small town in Mississippi?”