Copyright Office Causes Frustrations for Filmmakers

June 24th, 2015

For filmmakers, the process of finding out who owns the rights to material they want to use in their film can be a lengthy process.  Many have to turn to the Copyright Office, which is responsible for “the legal underpinnings of the copyright industry.”  Often filmmakers have to send someone themselves to search through the documents to avoid paying $200 an hour for a member of the Copyright Office staff to do it (as well as waiting six weeks for a response).  Documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner, whose new film Rosenwald will be in theaters later this summer, has had to deal with trying to find out rights information from the Copyright Office and described the experience as “like pulling teeth.”  Kempner’s lawyer, copyright attorney Janet Fries, says her struggle with the Copyright Office is “very typical.”  Kempner estimates that sometimes weeks are added to a film’s production due to the process.  Efforts have been made since 2008 to modernize the process to no avail.  Some people in Congress are pushing to turn the Copyright Office into a government office to help address people’s needs more efficiently.  Read more about it here in The LA Times.

“Rosenwald” Headed to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

June 23rd, 2015

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has just announced the schedule for their 35th festival, and we are pleased to announce Rosenwald is in the lineup!  The film is a part of Take Action Day, which celebrates social justice filmmaking and the filmmakers and film subjects who are making a difference with their actions.  In July 2009, the film’s director, Aviva Kempner, received the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s Freedom of Expression Award in recognition of her significant contribution to creating positive images of Jewish heroes in film and for her work as a Jewish film curator.  The screening will take place on Friday, July 31 at 6:30 PM at the Castro Theater (429 Castro Street at Market, San Francisco, CA).  Click here to buy your tickets now.  Aviva will also participate in the “Taking A Stand” panel with Rick Goldsmith, Judith Helfand,and Melissa Donovan to discuss, amongst other things, her filmmaking and Jewish identity.  The panel is free at 5:00 PM, also at the Castro Theater.  We hope to see you there!

Rosenwald and girls

Michelle Obama Speaks at Tuskegee

June 16th, 2015

Michelle Obama has been giving commencement speeches at colleges all over the country, including Tuskegee University.  It is no surprise that Obama chose to speak there, as her close friend Valerie Jarrett’s great-grandfather, Robert Robinson Taylor, is an icon of the college.  His story of how he established an architecture school and designed several buildings at Tuskegee, as well as the Rosenwald schools, is discussed in Rosenwald.  In her speech, she spoke about the struggles of the Tuskegee airmen, the military’s first black pilots.  The Rosenwald Fund loaned the money to build the field for the airmen.   Read more about her speech at Tuskegee in The Washington Post here, and to learn more about the Tuskegee airmen, don’t forget to check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer.

Michelle Obama Tuskegee

Photo Credit: Inside Edition

Rosenwald School Restored in Walnut Cove, North Carolina

June 3rd, 2015

A Rosenwald school in Walnut Cove, North Carolina has been restored and is now being used as the Walnut Cove Senior Citizen’s Center.  Even schools that have been abandoned have the potential to be restored to their former glory.  See the picture of the restored school here, and don’t forget to check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer to find out more about the Rosenwald schools.

“Rosenwald” Mentioned in The Jewish Journal

June 1st, 2015

Rosenwald is mentioned in the May 2015 issue of The Jewish Journal.  The article, “Art, Identity, Violence, and Heroism,” by Iris Mann, details several films opening up this summer.  Of Rosenwald, Mann writes, “Filmmaker Aviva Kempner details the life and activities of the man, who never finished high school yet went on to become president of Sears.  She illustrates how Rosenwald put his belief in tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) into such charitable acts as supporting the NAACP and helping to build more than 5,300 schools for African-American students in the South during the early 20th century.”  Rosenwald is coming to theaters later this summer.

Rosenwald Fellow & Renaissance Man Dr. Charles Drew, Co-Wrote Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Hymn

May 29th, 2015


Charlene Drew Jarvis, daughter of Dr. Charles Drew, is interviewed in Rosenwald regarding her father having been awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship to assist with his medical studies at McGill University. Drew is known for many things, foremost his pioneering work developing storage and preservation of blood plasma, which have saved countless lives, beginning with soldiers during World War Two. What is not as widely known is that Dr. Drew co-wrote the “sweetheart song” for one of America’s oldest Greek letter organizations for African Americans, Omega Psi Phi. Omega Dear, was designated the fraternity’s official hymn in 1931. Drew, then Howard University professor of surgery, and Mercer Cook, professor of languages, co-wrote the tune . Cook wrote the music and first stanza; Drew wrote the last two stanzas. Noted athlete at Amherst College and with Washington, D.C.’s Twelfth Street YMCA, medical pioneer, educator and also a composer- Dr. Charles Drew was truly a renaissance man.


MIT Honored the New Stamp of Robert Robinson Taylor

May 27th, 2015

MIT hosted an event on Wednesday, May 13 in honor of Robert Robinson Taylor’s induction into the Postal Service’s Black Heritage Stamp Series.  Taylor’s limited edition Forever Stamp was released earlier this year.  The event featured MIT and USPS revealing a special pictorial postmark of the stamp at the event, and remarks from the dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, the postmaster for the City of Cambridge, and the Cambridge city councillor.  Taylor was MIT’s first African American graduate, and is believed to be the first academically trained black architect in the nation.  After graduating from MIT in 1892, he worked at Tuskegee University, where he is “credited with developing the school’s architecture curriculum, and designing and overseeing construction for dozens of new, state-of-the-art buildings on campus.”

Robert Taylor stamp

Photo Credit: US Postal Service

To read more about it, click here.  Taylor’s story is also discussed in Rosenwald, hitting theaters later this summer.

Rabbi Emil Hirsch: One of Julius Rosenwald’s Greatest Influences

May 27th, 2015

May 22nd would have been the 164th birthday of Rabbi Emil Hirsch, one of Julius Rosenwald’s greatest philanthropic influences.  In fact, according to Peter Ascoli’s book Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South, “it was largely Emil Hirsch who set Julius Rosenwald on the road to becoming one of the preeminent philanthropists of the early twentieth century.”  Hirsch was a reform rabbi at the Sinai Congregation in Chicago whose views were progressive and radical for his day.  One of his main tenets was the idea of “tikkun olam,” or to heal the world, which resulted in Rosenwald adopting it as one of his own tenets.  Many of the donations that Rosenwald decided to make were given to places that had a connection to Hirsch.

Rabbi Emil Hirsch
 Photo Credit: Jim Craig,
Hirsch was also an early signer to the NAACP.  President Obama visited Adas Israel last Friday, on Hirsch’s birthday.  We think he would have been proud to see an African American elected President of the United States.
To learn more about Emil Hirsch, check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer.

Harris Rosen is a Modern Day Julius Rosenwald

May 26th, 2015

Harris Rosen could be considered a modern day Julius Rosenwald.  Rosen, who gained wealth from the Florida hotel business, decided to put several million of his own dollars into helping the community of Tangelo Park in Orange County, Florida.  Due to Rosen’s generosity, nearly all of the seniors in the neighborhood graduate.  Most also attend college on scholarships financed by Rosen.  Before Rosen stepped in to help, nearly half of its students dropped out.  Since his involvement in the community, crime rates have lowered and property values have risen.  Jerry L. Demings, sheriff of Orange County, said that “the quality of life there has improved significantly.”

To read more about Harris Rosen in The New York Times, click here.  To learn more about Julius Rosenwald, don’t forget to see Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer.

First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to Tuskegee Univeristy Recalls Another First Lady’s Visit

May 26th, 2015

On May 16, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris- Perry addressed First Lady Michelle Obama’s commencement speech to the graduating class of Tuskegee University. During her show, Dr. Harris-Perry referenced another first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who made headlines in 1941 for getting into a plane and flying with a training Tuskegee Airman named Chief Charles Alfred Anderson, an event which is covered in Rosenwald. Mrs. Roosevelt’s flight was controversial because many doubted the abilities of African American pilots, and the sense of even having a training program for the airmen. The First Lady flew against the wishes of the Secret Service who accompanied her on the visit.  The Secret Service even called the White House to notify FDR of his wife’s decision, which is covered in Rosenwald. News and images of Mrs. Roosevelt in the cockpit circulated nationwide, sparking the backlash the Secret Service had anticipated. This story is told in Rosenwald by Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves – granddaughter of Rosenwald Fund board member Eleanor Roosevelt.

Just as Julius Rosenwald had demonstrated faith in and support of Southern African American students, teachers, and communities by partnering with them to fund education and school construction, Mrs. Roosevelt exhibited her confidence in the Tuskegee pilot training program. Her confidence was later borne out by their stellar service record during World War Two.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported the Civilian Pilot Training Program and the War Training Service. She is pictured here in a Piper J-3 Cub trainer with C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, a pioneer black aviator and respected instructor at Tuskegee Institute. (U.S. Air Force photo)

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported the Civilian Pilot Training Program and the War Training Service. She is pictured here in a Piper J-3 Cub trainer with C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, a pioneer black aviator and respected instructor at Tuskegee Institute. (U.S. Air Force photo)