By Juan Calvillo
Harold Welton, former East Los Angeles College student, fashions intense student stories in his documentaries about Black student life in Los Angeles during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. While at ELAC, he was a member of the Black Student Union and the Black Guard Newspaper, a Black student-run paper.
Welton’s films are “Jackson: Not Just a Name” and “The Liberation of Fremont High.” While creating good trailers is an art, making documentary trailers intriguing is difficult. Welton’s two trailers accomplish this feat by focusing on the details of these remarkable stories.
“Jackson: Not Just a Name” follows events which transpired after an attempt to free George Jackson by his younger brother Jonathan Peter Jackson. This act was done to help liberate The Soledad Brothers, of whom George was a member, who were on trial for the murder of a guard. All this happened while the group was in court.
“That was at a court called the Marin County Court. That was near San Quentin prison…So when Jonathan went into the courtroom he was armed. You didn’t have metal detectors, well that’s the reason you have metal detectors now. So he went into the courtroom and he told the judge ‘All right gentlemen, I’m taking over now’,” Welton said.
This event was later referred to as the August 7th Courthouse Rebellion. The movie talks about a group that formed of former ELAC and Fremont High School students. That went on to work alongside the Black Guard Newspaper and other groups to continue to organize revolutionary black liberation in their community, which was renamed the “Proudjects.” The documentary follows the work of the group. The group was made up of ELAC and Fremont High students that worked in helping their community despite the growing gang influences.
In “The Liberation of Fremont High” Welton shows members of the high school’s Black Student Union, students and teachers from Fremont High demanding that shortcomings in the school’s programs be addressed. The film uses rare news footage, old newspapers and interviews with members of the revolt to explain the causes that were asked to be fulfilled by the protesting students. The demands were for the removal of racist teachers, the appointing of a Black principal and teachers of color. There was also a demand for a reading program that focused on Black history.
These two films follow the struggles of Black students as well as other students of color. Welton’s two films are intended as tools to better show the errors of inequality from the past, and to show how people of color have overcome these trying situations.