Letter from Sylvia Drew Ivie, Daughter of Rosenwald Fellowship Recipient Dr. Charles R. Drew

August 28th, 2015

Julius Rosenwald awarded a fellowship to my father, Charles R. Drew, M.D., in 1932 when he was on the verge of dropping out of McGill Medical School. His father had been laid off as a carpet layer in Virginia due to the depression.  In his letter of thanks for the fellowship my father said   “It is my constant hope that I shall be able at some time to add some new thought, discover some new process or create something which will prevent or cure disease, alleviate suffering or give men a chance to live and thereby (I can) in part repay the debt which I am happy to acknowledge.”  Spencie Love, One Blood, University of North Carolina Press, 1996, p. 116.  Later, based on a thesis titled “Banked Blood”  written for a Doctorate at Columbia,  he was chosen as Medical Director of  Blood for Britain, an emergency project to send liquid plasma to British soldiers on battlefields in France during World War II. . Based on that performance, the Red Cross called upon him to set up their first stored plasma Red Cross Blood Bank, a New York City program that became the model for blood collection all over the country. Spencie Love,16.  Julius Rosenwald made prescient philanthropic investments in the education of African Americans to the lasting betterment of our nation, and in my father’s case, saving lives, still, across the world.

-Sylvia Drew Ivie, daughter of Dr. Charles R. Drew

charles drew

To hear more about Dr. Charles R. Drew’s story, don’t forget to see Rosenwald, in theaters now.  Click here to find a screening near you!

Bring New Children’s Books to The Avalon This Weekend

August 27th, 2015

Everybody Wins_ciesla


August 24th, 2015

We are excited to announce a special screening of Rosenwald presented by The Jewish Historical Society!  It will take place on Monday, August 31, 2015 from 7:45-10:00 PM at The Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20015).  Aviva Kempner will make pre-show remarks with Norris Dodson, who played basketball at the Thurgood Marshall YMCA and went on to become instrumental in helping restore the building.  You can buy tickets here.  Rosenwald will begin its commercial run at the Avalon this Friday, August 28th.  For times and tickets, click here.

People Around The World Come Together To Remember Julian Bond

August 21st, 2015

We are saddened with the passing of Julian Bond, who inspired Aviva Kempner to make the film when he talked about Julius Rosenwald at a lecture at the Hebrew Center 12 years ago on the Vineyard. The family is spreading his ashes in Florida on Saturday and asks that people go by a body of water and throw flowers into the water at 3pm EST. Please post photos of your ceremony to social media with the hashtag #HonorJulianBond. Aviva will be in Philly on Saturday opening Rosenwald and will do it there.

For those who live in DC, below is what is organized by DC VOTE to honor Julian Bond. Bond was a student of MLK and Kempner had filmed Julian Bond for a promo for voting rights for DC residents. He was always a fighter for justice.  And Julian Bond is just wonderful in Rosenwald.



Those wishing to honor Bond’s memory in the DC area are asked to gather at the Tidal Basin by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the 22nd.

  • Who: Those in the DC area who have been inspired by Julian Bond, including DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ralph Neas
  • Where: 1964 Independence Ave SW at the Tidal Basin
  • When: 3:00 PM on Saturday August 22nd

How to Best Honor Julian Bond, the Great Civil Rights Advocate

August 19th, 2015

The Family and Friends of Julian Bond are grateful for the outpouring of love and support during this time. Throughout his life Julian Bond was a leader in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace. For those who wish to honor Julian Bond’s legacy:

1.) Please consider making a donation to the University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts and Science “Julian Bond Professorship of Civil Rights and Social Justice.” Your donation will honor his legacy and advance teaching and scholarship of the civil rights era for future generations of students. Donations can be made online at www.giving.virgina.edu/julianbond

2.)  On Saturday August 22, friends of Julian Bond will gather at bodies of water across the world to reflect on his legacy and release flowers in his honor. We encourage those who wish to honor his legacy to organize a flower release in your community.   Flower releases will take place across the world at 3pm EDT/ 2pm CDT/ 1 pm MDT/ Noon PDT. Participants are encouraged to share photos of their flower release events and use the hashtag #HonorJulianBond and post your event at the URL www.DCVote.org/Julian-Bond

3.) It is likely the public memorial service for Julian Bond will be in Washington, DC around September 10th, though the exact date and location has not been selected.

While we are feeling the sorrow of his loss, we can come together for support, build community and continue his legacy and struggle for justice, freedom, peace and democracy.

Julian Bond Remembered

August 17th, 2015

Rosenwald director Aviva Kempner made an appearance on MSNBC this morning to discuss the tragic passing of Julian Bond on Saturday.  Kempner was joined by Rev. Al Sharpton and journalist April Ryan.  She discussed the fact that Bond was a tireless civil rights activist, whether it be for things such as voting rights for the District of Columbia or gay rights, which Rev. Sharpton noted at the time was not popular within the black community.  He added that “[Bond] didn’t play to his base, he led his base.”  Kempner called her late friend “very funny, very intellectual” and described how during her many outings with Julian and his wife, Pamela, “invariably someone would come up and say, ‘Are you Julian Bond?’ He’d smile, he’d give them time and you know what he’d usually say? ‘Everyday. I’m Julian Bond everyday.'”  Click here to watch the full interview at msnbc.com.

The Ciesla Foundation Mourns the Passing of Julian Bond

August 16th, 2015

The Ciesla Foundation mourns the passing of civil rights activist Julian Bond, whose speech twelve years ago at the Hebrew Center at Vineyard Haven inspired me to make this film on Julius Rosenwald.  As a consultant Julian guided me every step of the way about who to interview, where to look for materials, what the story line was, what photo to use in the poster, and most of all how important Julius Rosenwald was to African American history.  He always guided me  with humor and kindess.

Julian not only inspired me in the making of  Rosenwald, he delivered one of the best lines in the film that was edited towards film’s closing.

“You can look at the people who got grants from Julius Rosenwald, and say, these are the predecessor generation to the civil rights generation that I’m a part of. And I’m a predecessor generation to the Obama generation that resulted in the election of the first black president of the United States.”

When we appeared together to speak after the film, Bond loved to tell the story about his father, who was working for the Rosenwald Fund.  His father, Horace Mann Bond, was once driving in the South when his car suddenly got stuck in a hole filled with mud. Julian’s father assumed that someone had put the mud there just so they could charge him money to be pulled out. Two African American men came out from behind the bushes and noticed that he was wearing nice clothes and was driving a nice car. When they asked whom Julian’s father was working for, he replied, “I work for the Rosenwald Fund”. The men responded, “Oh you work for Captain Julius?  There’ll be no charge”.


Aviva Kempner and Julian Bond speaking at the Washington Jewish Film Fesitval. Photo credit: Aryeh Schwartz, Washington Jewish Film Festival

Aviva Kempner and Julian Bond speaking at the Washington Jewish Film Fesitval. Photo credit: Aryeh Schwartz, Washington Jewish Film Festival

What I am most grateful is that Julian Bond and his beloved wife Pamela Horowitz became dear friends during the twelve years it took to finish the film.  We were all looking forward to taking ROSENWALD all over the country to show how Julius Rosenwald’s vision for a better America was so needed today.  Am happy that Julian, Rabbi David Saperstein and myself presented the film at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia on July 14 and he was able to hear the warm response to the film.

From now on all my introductions to the film will be dedicated to Julian Bond’s bravery and legacy.  The country lost a great hero today and his legacy made for a better America.

Aviva Kempner

Aviva Kempner took “Rosenwald” to the West Coast and Back to the East Coast Before It Opened on August 14

August 15th, 2015

Director Aviva Kempner took Rosenwald on a preview tour on the West Coast before the film opened up on August 14th. Starting at the Museum of Tolerance on July 27, the film was warmly received in a packed house. The screening was co-sponsored by the Hollywood NAACP, The Wrap and the Museum. The head of the Hollywood Bureau of the NAACP, Robin Harrison, welcomed the crowd and The Wrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman conducted the discussion with director. Among those in the audience were actor Shelley Berman, who has a brief appearance in the film and director Arthur Hiller, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with his family.

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Robin Harrison, head of the Hollywood Bureau of the NAACP speaking at the Rosenwald screening

Rosenwald had a wonderful screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival after Kempner participated in an interesting panel entitled Taking a Stand with filmmakers Rick Goldsmith, Judith Helfand, and Melissa Donovan. There was a standing ovation after the film, and Peter Ascoli, grandson of Julius Rosenwald, joined Kempner on the stage to answer questions. In the audience were a dozen West Coast members of the Rosenwald family who enuthusiatically embraced the movie.

Back in LA there were a couple more preview screenings. On Sunday, August 2nd the film was shown at The Samuel Goldwyn Theater for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a discussion afterwards. Among the Academy members was Kempner’s favorite European actor, Armin Mueller-Sthal. There was one more preview screening for the REEL TALK film series, with Kempner’s favorite American actor, Ed Asner, in the audience.

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Elizabeth Varet (granddaughter of Julius Rosenwald), Ed Asner (actor), and Aviva Kempner (director)

Upon return to the East Coast, the film was shown at the beautifully renovated Avon Theatre Film Center in Stamford, Connecticut. Rosenwald was also shown at the JCC Manhattan as a final preview screening with Kempner in dialogue with Dr. Annette Insdorf, film professor at Columbia University. A couple days before its commercial opening, Kempner and Elizabeth Varet, granddaughter of Julius Rosenwald, spoke about Julius Rosenwald at the Old Broadway Synagogue in Harlem, one of the oldest synagogues in New York. The local efforts to keep it going are commendable.

Rosenwald is now running at the Landmark Sunshine theatre in New York City. Friends and family met together at a place nearby to celebrate the opening. Please go with all your friends and family, and see the wonderful review of the film in The New York Times here.

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Eli Evans (interviewee, right) with his son and son’s fiancee

George C. Wolfe to Direct “Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed”

August 11th, 2015

Next year, George C. Wolfe will direct the Broadway musical, “Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.” The show will “present and explain the back story of ‘Shuffle Along,’ a largely forgotten musical that premiered in 1921.”  Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald has already signed on for the show, and will be joined by four of American theater’s leading African-American singer-actors: Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Joshua Henry.  Performances will begin next March.  You can read more about it in The New York Times here.  In the mean time, make sure to see Rosenwald when it hits theaters beginning this Friday, August 14, in New York City.  George C. Wolfe makes an appearance in the film describing how he went to a Rosenwald school and his mother taught at one.  Don’t miss it!


Humanity in Action and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights hosts screening of ‘Rosenwald’ in Atlanta, GA

July 22nd, 2015

On Monday, July 20, Rosenwald was screened privately at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. The screening was sponsored by Humanity in Action, an international education organization dedicated to promoting global human rights, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, an Atlanta-based museum that connects the American Civil Rights movement to today’s global human rights movements.

Attendees mingle before the screening of Rosenwald.

Attendees mingle before the screening of Rosenwald.

Rosenwald director Aviva Kempner and the Bond family.

Rosenwald director Aviva Kempner and the Bond family.

Prior to the screening, there was a reception for the attendees, many of whom were members of Julian Bond’s family including his son, Michael Julian Bond, the Atlanta City Councilman. Bond, the American social activist, politician and professor, inspired the making of Rosenwald.  Afterwards the film was shown, there was a Q&A session with Aviva Kempner, the director of the documentary.


The John Lewis Fellows, a fellowship program jointly sponsored by the Center for Civil and Human Rights and Humanity in Action, were present at the screening. The fellowship is named for Georgia congressman John Lewis, who has dedicated his life to the protection of human rights and civil liberties. Representative Lewis is featured in Rosenwald, having attended a Rosenwald school in his youth.


Also in attendance at the screening was Jeanne Cyriaque, the African American Programs Coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Eleanor Kinlaw-Ross, director of The Heritage Project. Ms. Cyriaque is spearheading an effort to preserve and restore existing Rosenwald schools, and Ms. Kinlaw-Ross is a historian committed to the preservation of African American history.


Coincidentally, the chief creative officer of the NCCHR Museum, which hosted the Rosenwald screening, is George C. Wolfe, an American playwright and director whose mother was a principal of a Rosenwald school, and the music accompanying the exhibits was composed by Brooklyn-based artist Zane Mark, who composed the music for Rosenwald, making everyone associated with Rosenwald feel at home in Atlanta.