WCSU Celebrates Women’s History Month with two talks by Kirsten Kelly

Western Connecticut State University will celebrate Women’s History Month with a pair of presentations by Emmy Award-winning director Kirsten Kelly on Wednesday, March 20, and Thursday, March 21. These events will be free and the public is invited.

Kelly will screen the award-winning documentary, “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” as part of Odyssey Impact’s national impact campaign, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, in Room 122 of White Hall on the WCSU Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. The film will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Kelly, who is a senior producer at Transform Films, which released “The Rape of Recy Taylor.” 

On Thursday, March 21, Kelly will screen clips and discuss her current documentary project about women’s work during WWII at 11 a.m., also in Room 122 of White Hall on the Midtown campus.

“This is an amazing opportunity to meet an important female director,” said Marcy May, co-chair of the WCSU Department of History and Non-Western Cultures. “And even better, Kelly’s focus on women workers of World War II, those ‘Rosie the Riveters,’ offers us a great way to explore women’s contributions to our society.”

Kelly’s work has focused not only on the contributions of women in society but also the difficulties they face.

“The Rape of Recy Taylor” retells the trauma Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, faced when she was gang-raped by six white boys in 1944 Alabama. According to the film’s website, sexual violence like this happened commonly in the Jim Crow South and few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor: She bravely identified her rapists. The NAACP sent its rape investigator Rosa Parks to Alabama, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice.

According to the website, the film also exposes the legacy of physical abuse inflicted upon black women and reveals Rosa Parks’ intimate role in Taylor’s story. An attempted rape against Parks was just one inspiration for her own ongoing fight for justice for countless women like Taylor, and Parks’ well-known 1955 bus boycott was the result of decades of activism, not the beginning.

More and more women now speak up after being assaulted. “The Rape of Recy Taylor” shines a light on the black women who spoke up when the danger to do so was as its greatest; it was their noble efforts to reclaim control of their bodies that paved the way for today’s generation of activists. The 2017 Women’s March and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement are directly linked to their courage.

For more information about “The Rape of Recy Taylor” and to view the trailer, visit therapeofrecytaylor.com.

Kelly received the 2015 Emmy Award for News and Documentary film as director, writer, cinematographer and producer with Anne DeMare for “The Homestretch,” which documents the lives of three homeless Chicago teenagers as they struggle to complete their high school degrees and transition to what lies beyond. Terrance Ross of The Atlantic praised the film for its “authentic, no-frills portrayal of what it means to be young and homeless in America.”

Kelly has twice been nominated as a director for the Helen Hayes Award, and has directed theater productions in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and off-Broadway in New York City. She is also an arts educator and is the director and co-creator of CPS Shakespeare, a highly acclaimed program that works with Chicago public high school students at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which was awarded the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by Michelle Obama at the White House. Kelly is a graduate of Juilliard’s Master Directing program where she received the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and is a member of Rising Phoenix Repertory in New York.

These Women’s History Month events are sponsored by the WCSU Office of Diversity and Equity, the Office of the Dean of the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences, the departments of English, Communication, History and Non-Western Cultures, Social Sciences and the American Studies program.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

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