Dante James is easy to talk to and his passion for his work becomes evident after only a few minutes. James, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, now calls Atlanta home but when I caught up with him he was in New York, working on yet another, documentary. That's what he does. He tells stories on film; he brings history to life and introduces his viewers to people whose voices have been silent.
In his role as an executive producer for the upcoming broadcast of the PBS series, This Far By Faith, James adds to his list of accomplishments in the area of documentary film making. This Far By Faith: African American Spiritual Journeys traces the religious experience of people of African descent, through enslavement to emancipation, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement to today. The program premieres on PBS Tuesday, June 24 and concludes on Thursday, June 26 (check your local listing for times).
During the six hour broadcast, James hopes the audience will understand, "that our religious faith and spiritual experience has been essential to not only changing this country but also in facilitating black peoples survival in this country." That is the message of This Fa r By Faith. "Religion," he continues, "has always been there. It is constant and has weathered every political, economic, or social change."
Each episode contains interviews, photographs, music and recreations that detail the religious life of African Americans including Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vesey, Henry McNeal Turner, Thomas Dorsey, the Rev. Cecil Williams, and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. The series concludes on a journey of discovery from Massachusetts to Africa, led by an interreligious and multiracial group.
James is pleased to see the project conceived by his friend and mentor, Henry Hampton, come to fruition. Hampton, the creative force behind the award winning Eyes on the Prize series, died in 1998, shortly before the project got underway. Determined to see it through, James gathered former producers from, "the Blackside family," to help in the endeavor. Blackside was the company founded by Hampton. "The love and respect," for Hampton motivated James to put what he calls, "the exclamation point on his body of work." "This Far By Faith is a series he would be proud of."
Since 1987, James has produced several documentaries for PBS including Politics: The New Black Power, narrated by Juan Williams, who also co-authored the companion book, This Far By Faith (a BlackandChristian.com book feature) and other award winning films. James is busy at work on a new four part series on the enslavement of African people from, "the point of view of the enslaved."
James wants viewers of This Far By Faith to, "use it as a vehicle to find
common ground with other human beings. The fact is that for most of us, a religious
faith and spiritual experience is part of being fully human."
© 2003, BlackandChristian.com, All rights reserved.