Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema in Greensboro is known for many things aside from coffee, such as attention-grabbing events like video game competitions, colorful game and trivia nights that fill every seat.
Most notably, are the TV series and film screenings right out of their own basement. The shop’s promotion of “nerd culture,” as one might expect of a store of such a name, has made them a much-loved coffee and culture spot for kids, college students and adults alike since their opening in the fall of 2012.
On this past Wednesday evening, however, the eclectic coffeehouse was home to quite a sobering event, a stark contrast to the comic-book-culture films and television shows that one might expect to see screened at Geeksboro.
The event was organized by the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro as well as the Greensboro, North Carolina chapter of Black Lives Matter.
The activist organization was founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza in response to police brutality against African Americans in the United States and the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other men, women and children at the hands of police officers. Since its formation following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, largely held responsible by the public for Martin’s death, Black Lives Matter has garnered much attention from the media, both positive and negative.
Wednesday’s event featured the one-night-only film screening of Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, “4 Little Girls,” which told the story of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that took the lives of four girls: Addie Mae Collins, age 14, Carol Denise McNair, age 11, Carole Robertson, age 14 and Cynthia Wesley, age 14. The film screening attracted much attention from residents of Greensboro and surrounding areas, and the coffeehouse cinema had a full house of a diverse group of customers of all races, ages and genders.
Geeksboro patrons were also invited to participate in an open community discussion following the film, facilitated by lead organizers of Black Lives Matter such as April Parker, who organized the event with Geeksboro owner, Joe Scott.
“I’ve worked with April Parker on several projects and I really like her tenacity and that she never backs down from her beliefs,” Scott said. “We’ve collaborated on a lot of screenings in the past and I think especially after the events that we’ve had in the past couple decades… The idea that black lives matter seems more important now, that’s something that people are talking about and are starting to pay attention to for once.”
Scott emphasized the importance of the event, referencing the fires in the Southern United States at predominantly African American churches, some classified as arsons, as recently as this past July. “What’s interesting about this particular film is that it’s the story of a particular church [bombing], an incident at a church where people died,” Scott said.
“You want to say ‘hey that happened a long time ago, we’re better now’ but it happened this summer and it’s happening continuously.” Scott expressed a belief that renewed reflection upon the atrocious hate crime of 1963 could provide insight to ongoing racial tensions in the United States.
In the discussion following the film, Parker and other Black Lives Matter supporters, as well as participants from the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, discussed the film’s implications and relevance to police brutality and racism in the United States today.
Despite the tragic nature of the film, patrons had the general consensus that the viewing was an important experience.
Parker, who facilitated the discussion, emphasized the screening event as an opportunity to reflect on history and have meaningful dialogue about current issues happening even in Greensboro.
Patrons shared their views about the film as well as the recent police brutality incidents that Black Lives Matter aims to address and prevent. Parker explained the importance of the movement and its continual efforts to end institutional racism and discrimination by referencing his children and future generations.
She expressed the desire for them to grow up in a world without racism and racially motivated hate crimes, like the bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham and the recent arsons at churches in the South. Scott concluded, “We can no longer put ourselves in the headspace where racism is a thing of the past. Racism is a thing of the now and we won’t fix it if we ignore it.”
He explained that his motivation in hosting the screening was, “To help people acknowledge what [racism] is, its history and what people are doing, in the past and the present, to deal with it.”