“When I Rise” tells the inspirational story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a small-town black girl with a big voice from East Texas. All Barbara wanted to do was sing, and her local church choir wasn’t cutting it, which is why she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. She was consistently discriminated against at school, but always kept her eye on the prize. Being the excellent singer she was, she was cast for the part of Dido in Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” This sparked an issue due to the “outrage” that she was cast across a white male student. Our “great” Texas Legislature would not stand for this, because it MUST have directly affected them. They threatened to withhold the state’s funding to the university if they went through with the production. The president could not take the chance; therefore he stepped in and gave Barbara’s well-deserved role to a white female student, this crushed her. Once this controversy hit the headlines, it immediately caught the eye of the beloved Harry Belafonte. Being the singer and social activist that he was, he was compelled to step in, and offered to pay for Barbara’s music school to anywhere in the world if she wanted to leave Texas. She did the right thing and decided to stay, because as ...
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...that the kids were taught that led them so blindly. Also, how did the sexism and racism towards black women compare to just the racism toward black men, was it the same or worse?
This documentary film has full coverage of Barbara’s life, honing in on the challenges that she faced with discrimination. Luckily we were able to see how the discrimination subsided as her life went on, but there is always that one moment she was never able to experience, performing alongside a white-male in front of her UT peers. We got a first hand take on the social norms of the sixties and how a black woman faced struggles in everyday life. Learning in a new way from the film really helps to drive a different perspective into an average viewer’s mind. Barbara Smith Conrad went through tough times, but triumphed over them all, she can be looked up to as an icon of courage and strength.
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