Mom: You're too little to go out there marching.
Denise: Well, you're not Mom.
In 4 Little Girls, Spike Lee remembers the lives of
Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair,
Cynthia Wesley and Carole Rosamond
Robertson. These girls were murdered in
Birmingham, Alabama's 16th Street Baptist
Church when it was bombed on
September 15, 1963 by Robert Chambliss.
Lee shares memories of these little girls through the mouths of parents, relatives, and friends. We learn that each girl was different. Carole Robertson was described as beautiful and outgoing.
Denise was conveyed as being very sensitive to others, even animals. Her childhood friend recalls Denise wanting to have a funeral for a dead bird. Her friend just wanted to continue playing ball, but Denise insisted.
Addie Mae was introverted and sweet.
Cynthia Wesley was a delight.
As we get to know each of the girls, we find ourselves relating more to the personality of one or two while also being reminded of how the others are similar to our own childhood friends. They become our family. We like them. We care about them. We love them. And these girls that we love... the girls with the big personality, the quiet disposition, the sensitive spirit, and the delightful presence lived in the same space as the KKK, George Wallace and "Bull" Connor, white men strutting around in all of their racist splendor empowering and emboldening the Birmingham police to terrorize Black men, women, and children marching for Civil Rights.
We see images of police shooting canons of water at marchers.
We see still photos of black men lynched and white men smiling among the dead bodies, as you would after you've hunted a bear or caught or a fish.
We come to understand that black bodies, the girls' bodies, were not treated as their own.
Their murders sparked more outrage and a call for racial equality because they were just 4 little girls. Their murders exposed just how satanic it is to kill people because they have brown skin. It exposed the truth that this mentality leads to even killing children. There was no care in the world as to who was in the church. As one person says in the film, it exposed the depths of hate.
I knew Carole Robertson's story because I attended an after school program called Carole Robertson Center for Learning in Chicago. The Center was my place to go after elementary school. Some of my fondest memories were there: I fell in love with three things: a boy who was a few years older than me; chess; and camping. My childhood was enriched in the name of Carole.
My friend explained that when innocent people are murdered, many may view them as martyrs instead of victims, so that their deaths are wrapped in meaning. Carole and the other 3 girls were indeed martyrs.
They continue to mean so much to us especially in 2015 when we have wtinessed black bodies, again, being treated not as their own.
Watch this film, and understand that your ability to participate in the movement for change is because of these 4 little girls.
4 Little Girls
Directed by: Spike Lee
Runtime: 1 hr., 42 Min.
How to Watch It: HBO Now, HBO Go or HBO Cable