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'Know Your Place' explores Central Florida’s racial history through the stories of local leaders

Know Your Place exploring Central Florida’s history through the stories of local leaders who faced racism, segregation, and bias. The film features (left to right) Nick Aiken, Mable Butler, Jerry L. Demings, Val Demings, Annetta Wilson, Lorenzo 'Tee' Taylor, Kathleen 'Kat' Gordon, Belvin Perry, Jr., Geraldine Thompson, Clara Walters, and Alzo Reddick (not pictured). The group stands for a photo at the premier of the film on February 5, 2024 in Orlando.
RTW Photography/RTW Photography
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Heart of Florida United Way
"Know Your Place" exploring Central Florida’s history through the stories of local leaders who faced racism, segregation, and bias. The film features (left to right) Nick Aiken, Mable Butler, Jerry L. Demings, Val Demings, Annetta Wilson, Lorenzo 'Tee' Taylor, Kathleen 'Kat' Gordon, Belvin Perry, Jr., Geraldine Thompson, Clara Walters, and Alzo Reddick (not pictured). The group stands for a photo at the premier of the film on February 5, 2024 in Orlando.

Making The Film

During the summer of 2020, while the world was on lock down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the video of George Floyd’s murder went viral sparking Black Lives Matter protests across the country and in Florida.

That video led to conversations about racial equality and the summer of protests was born as was the idea for the documentary "Know Your Place." Jeff Hayward, CEO of Heart of Florida United Way is the brainchild.

“This started over breakfast as an idea. Jim with Macbeth studio and his team did a remarkable job. They just took what I felt was maybe a crazy idea and they ran with it,” Hayward said at a media screening for the film.

"Know Your Place" is a 60 minute non narrated documentary featuring prominent Central Florida voices like Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, former U.S. Rep. Val Demings, State Senator Geraldine Thompson, Former Ninth Circuit Judge Belvin Perry, and more.

Jim Hobart, owner of Macbeth Studio, directed the documentary.

He said one story that stuck with him was told by Geraldine Thompson about her experience as the wife to the only Black judge at the time in Central Florida.

In the film, Thompson explains her experience of trying to gain entry to an Orlando country club for an event for wives of all the judges. The country club did not allow Blacks or Jews in their building, but Thompson didn’t let that get in her way of joining the other wives.

“She had to deal with some pretty awful racism and bias and discrimination. And she handled it with grace and with poise. And to be fair, a white wife of another judge stepped up and defended her and was ready to go and get arrested with her,” said Hobart.

Call To Action

Each person interviewed in "Know Your Place" grew up or lived in Central Florida during the Civil Rights Movement and are still alive in 2024.

They have seen the progress that has been made thus far, but Hobart said everyone agrees that more work still needs to be done.

“The sentiment that I got out of it was, it used to be a lot worse, things have gotten better. We still have a long way to go. And I think that that is basically the theme of the film.”

Although the film looks back at a difficult time in history, Hobart said he wants it to also make you feel hopeful.

“I don’t want this to be a negative look back. I want this to be a hopeful and inspirational film that says, look how far we've come in a single lifetime, where we have much better conditions. Let’s keep that trend going, and not slide backwards.”

Hobart said there have been indications that we are heading backwards, pointing to reports of a rise in white supremacy across the country.

It feels like if we're not vigilant that we could start to slide backwards. I think that this film's message is, we have got to keep pushing forward because we're on the right track if we don't take our foot off the gas.”

Hobart said to keep the momentum going, each individual person must ask themselves how they can contribute to the conversation.

Heart of Florida United Way
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Heart of Florida United Way

“I feel like making this film was one thing I could do to move in that direction. But each individual who watches the film is going to have to ask themselves that question, ‘What can I do to advance the causes of minorities in this country? What can I do to help make sure that racism, antisemitism, and bigotry are squashed instead of being allowed to come out from under the rocks and start to flourish again?’”

How To Watch The Film

WFTV Channel 9 will air "Know Your Place" on February 10 at 7 p.m.

Heart of Florida United Way is working on airing the film on other stations, but Hobart said that is yet to be finalized.

“United Way is on a mission to try to get this into as many eyeballs as possible.”

For more information on the film, visit KnowYourPlace.org.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.
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