PrideIndex.com recently chatted with filmmaker Jon Ross, co-founder/producer of JR2 Films about his kickstarter campaign to produce “The Lost Shepherd,” a documentary about Dr. T.R.M. Howard a largely unknown civil rights leader. Howard was an important contributor to the black suffrage movement, his relentless dedication and persistence, cannot be dismissed. During the Emmett Till trial Howard provided help to the black witnesses and protection to Till’s mother. He also mentored many civil rights leaders including Medgar Evers.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): How did you become familiar with Dr. T R M Howard?
JON ROSS (JR): While filming our last documentary, “Mound Bayou: Jewel of the Delta,” Dr. Howard’s name kept popping up during our video interviews. He’s very much a part of their history and those that spoke about him spoke very highly of him.
PI: Why is his work so important?
JR: Dr. Howard work is important to history in many ways. His distaste for Jim Crow laws led him to help spark the first non-violent protest in Mississippi “Don’t buy gas where you can’t use the restrooms” 4 years before Dr. King protest in Montgomery, Alabama. He mentored other civil rights leaders including Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer who were very influential in the civil rights movement. Dr. Howard showed bravery when he publicly criticize J. Edgar Hoover’s lack of action during the Emmett Till case while also providing protection for Mammie Till and other black witnesses. There are many more examples of how Dr. Howard’s leadership made history and that’s what makes his story so fascinating and important.
PI: How come the general public has not heard of him until now?
JR: That’s a good question and the best answer that I have for you is from a quote Dr. Leon Finney Jr. gave us while we spoke to him about Dr. Howard. Dr. Finney said that Nelson Mandela told him that “A man that does work or does things not to receive accolades but just because it’s the right thing to do is a man that’s unstoppable” and that’s how Dr. Howard was. He didn’t want the attention or the fame; he did things just because it was the right thing to do and that’s probably the reason you haven’t heard of him.
PI: What is the one thing you want audiences to retain from Dr. Howard’s story?
JR: The main thing we want audiences to retain is that Dr. Howard was the father of the Civil Rights Movement. Without his contributions, who knows how the Civil Rights Movement would have turned out in its early stages? We are not trying to take away anything from other Civil Rights leaders, but we are trying to honor the one who’s been forgotten.
PI: Describe any obstacles that you have encountered during the filmmaking process and tell us what you did to overcome them.
JR: Our last documentary, “Mound Bayou: Jewel of the Delta,” had many obstacles during shooting and after its completion. We got snowed in Memphis, TN where we were staying but we had enough since to have a plan b, c, and d schedule so we overcame that. Last, we struggled to get the movie released to the public, however that film went on to win several film festival awards and ultimately landed us a television run. With that being said, we expect nothing less with our new project, “The Lost Shepherd!“
PI: Talk about your kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign.
JR: Well we started the kickstarter campaign because we need financial help to finish our project. We’ve started shooting the movie already but the more we’ve learned about his story, it’s taking us to multiple locations in order to film a complete story of his life. So we are raising money so that we can have the financial resources to pay for travel, housing, and transportation while we travel from town to town filming Dr. Howard’s story.
PI: When do you expect this film to finished?
JR: We expect this film to be finished by late summer and possibly doing film festival later this year with nationally televised release for Black History Month next year.
PI: What is the most important thing that you have learned about yourself as a result of having made this film?
JR: Ummm… now you are really making me soul search (laughing). Well I guess the most noticeable thing I’ve learned about myself is that I have a lot more learning to do as it refers to my African American History. I wouldn’t call myself a historian by any stretch of the imagination but I am a lover of history. So since we have started shooting this project, I’ve learned so much about my African American history as result I’ve been motivate to continue sharing the history I’ve learned using the art form of filmmaking.
PI: What do you hope to accomplish by sharing his story?
JR: I hope that Dr. Howard starts to get the recognition he deserves. His name should be in the same conversation with other Civil Rights Leaders. I’m hoping that some young man or young woman out there would be inspired by Dr. Howard’s story to speak out about injustices in their situation. Whether it be the schools they attend, the neighborhood they live in, or city they live in; I’m hoping they realize that by them standing up for what’s right can be the catalyst for change. I hope that anyone that sees this documentary would be inspired to do the same.
PI: Are there plans down the road for Jr2Films to share other stories of undiscovered black history? If so what can you share about those projects?
JR: Oh yes, there are plenty of stories that we are planning to visually tell stories about but just can’t go into depth about it. What I can tell you is that these stories not only deal with the experiences of blacks in this country but abroad as well. They are fascinating stories that we can’t wait to get started on but first our focus is shooting and finishing “The Lost Shepherd.”
PI: Is there anything else you would like to share?
JR: First off, we would like to thank you guys here at prideindex.com for all of your support of us. We are really appreciative for the support! With that being said, we are asking that you can help us out by going to our kickstarter page https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/825367451/the-lost-shepherd, and giving to our cause. We are really trying to create great content that not only entertains, but also inspires and educate those that view our movies. In order to do that we need your continued support. So again, thank you and be on the lookout for our new documentary “The Lost Shepherd!” To find out more about JR2 Films go to www.jr2films.com.