Upcoming Film, A Small Temporary Inconvenience, Black Disabled Civcil Rights Activist, George Eames, In Louisiana 1950’’s- the 90’s

PNNscholar1 - Posted on 25 February 2016

Leroy Moore

(Pic of George Washington Eames, Jr. aka Mr. Civil Rightssitting in his wheelchair with a Black hat, Black jacket covering a white shirt and a colorful tie)

Leroy Moore: So, give us your name.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK, my official name is Cleveland Bailey Jr., but everybody calls me Cleve.

Leroy Moore: All right, Cleve. Can I call you Cleve?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Certainly.

Leroy Moore: OK, good, good. All right. So let's get started, Cleve. You're based in San Francisco now, right?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: I am. I actually live in Hayward.

Leroy Moore: Oh, OK. Great. So I have a couple of questions, of course, based on the upcoming movie. Tell us the title of the movie again.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Currently, our working title is "A Small Temporary Inconvenience."

Leroy Moore: All right, great. Yeah, just like I said, I'm starting to read the book, and the book is excellent so far.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Great. I'm glad you're enjoying it. My aunt Kathy really put her heart and soul into it, and I think it's a great historical piece.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Now, you're originally from Louisiana, is that right?

 Cleveland Bailey Jr.: I am. I am from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Red Stick. Yeah, it was a great place to grow up and a great time. You don't realize the historical significance of the place that you're born until you grow up. And then you realize that we have the best football players, we have the best basketball players, we have the best looking women, everything down there. We have some of the best stories. It's kinda crazy, you know. The Civil Rights movement, Jim Crow, slavery.

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: A lot of our history is African-American in the South, and when you're from the South, people have a tendency to think that it's all doom and gloom. But I enjoy it very much, and there was a whole lotta love and support in my community, and I'm proud of that.

Leroy Moore: Yeah. I know for me, being a music lover and being a Blues lover, the South has so much history with the Blues.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Right, right.

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So it's a very creative environment, from the African-American minister and the way that he puts on his show to all of the things that go on. It's just a very interesting and exciting place to kinda come from.

Leroy Moore: So, you know as a Black, disabled researcher, journalist, and activist. So when I found the story of George Washington Emmett Jr., I had to get the book. The story is definitely important for the Black community and disabled community. Tell us about your movies all the way up until now. I saw a couple of YouTube clips about your other movies too.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Let me try to get that question. How does the book impact people who are disabled?

Leroy Moore: Yeah, and how to is the movie gonna impact? You know, this is the history of people with disabilities and Black people.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, you know, that's a very good question. I think what the movie will imply is that you can get power from pain. It just depends on how you look at it and how you decide to process what's going on to you and what you choose to do with it. I think that my uncle George was mad about what happened to him. He was so mad that he was willing to risk his life to make sure that it never happened to anybody. And so he went after the law and the institutionalized systems that perpetrated these attitudes, and he rose from a paraplegic to a Civil Rights and American hero. So I think the biggest thing that people can learn from this is as long as you have your mind and your voice, and you choose to put it out there and use it in a constructive way, that you can get rewards, you can get respect, and you can get things done if it's all for the right motives and purposes.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm, yeah. You know, there's a lot of ups and downs in the book like inter-racial marriage back in the '50s, George got shot in a white neighborhood, prison and disability. Give us some background on these times and how would the film bring some of these issues to the big screen.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK. Obviously, my uncle George represents any Black male in America who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or happens to be stereotyped, but not something that he did, was something that someone else did, and they couldn't get a good description of him. So it's the Black male. So he was shot because supposedly, there had been some activities going on at the house, not at the house. Someone had flashed themselves in front of the guy's wife a week or so ago before George walked down the alley. And the guy shot Uncle George, thinking that he was peeping Tom or intruder or whatever the case might be. So it was just a situation of shoot first and ask questions later. He was left for dead in an alley. But by the grace of God, he lived and was able to use his disability to his advantage and to find strength and power in his healing. It helped improve the community for everybody. That's the getting shot part and what he did with his life. In terms of the inter-racial marriage, you know, everybody I talk to says they couldn't understand how this pretty, educated white girl whose father was in the SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN, more like a white citizen's council could fall for a paraplegic Black man.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: But in talking to my aunt Kathy, she said he was the most charismatic person that she had ever met in her life, and it was almost an instant attraction. And so I think what we can learn from that is that we, as human beings, have to try to be more focused on what a person's character is as opposed to what the color of their skin is. And then, it goes even deeper as to how strong our family ties are, are they the ties that should go in our lives, and when do we, as young adults, make decisions that will make us happy for the rest of our lives, as opposed to our parents' happiness?

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: That's a very tough situation because Kathy lost her family per se, but we are now related. And I think that she really enjoys being a part of George's extended family. And so I think that God works in mysterious ways and that he gives us what we need. If something is taken from us, he will replace it with something better. So we don't need to be afraid in this life about social barriers and social change and all that kinda thing. I think that God's ultimate plan is to have human beings work through all of that and see people for who they are, not separate them based on some physical attribute such as color or whatever the case may be.

Leroy Moore: Mm, thank you. You know, now that this is a book, so why do you think that this book needs to be on the big screen?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, several reasons. First and foremost, I think that the Black voices of America are getting a chance. There are so many stories about bravery and courage under fire, about people who show great character and moral strength, that have not had a chance to be seen on the big screen because there were not enough Black people who were in the production business. And so, now that the reign of mass media and film and television are loosening up, I think that Black people are more interested in seeing stories about Black people that are written and presented from an objective point of view. Heretofore, when many white writers and directors portrayed us, they portrayed us as step n fetch it, an Aunt Jemima, the old  buffoon. We were always the first to die in their films, and we seldom got a chance to be strong Black people in the center of their own narrative, driving their story, making the decisions, and pushing the envelope. And so I think in today's society, people are tired of seeing those old images of Black people, and they want to see people who are more like people that they know or love:  the great football stars with their story, the great preachers with their story, the Civil Rights movement, and how did we go from slavery to having a Black President in this country?

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK? Those are the types of stories that people want to see. "Gone with the Wind" and all of that old stuff has had its day, and now it's time for new leading men and new leading ladies. There are enough outlets now. So when you look to television, you can watch films. They're on television, they're on demand. You can watch films on your phone. You can watch them everywhere and anywhere, almost. So we need more and more content in order to keep the audiences engaged. So with that being said, it opens the door for stories like these that are important but have never been told because African-Americans didn't have access to getting their stories out and getting their stories finances. So I think that the golden age of African-American cinema is about to begin, or it has begun. And we're gonna see more and more compelling and interesting stories about African-American people and their lives.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, thank you for doing it. I know for me, growing up as a Black, disabled boy in the '70s, I didn't see myself on the screen until "Porgy and Bess," you know?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Mmhmm.

Leroy Moore: So yeah, it definitely needs to happen, especially for Black, disabled youth growing up now.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Right. And I think additionally, when you grow up, and you realize what your race what have gone through and how they were not allowed to learn how to read and write, how they were not allowed to own property and to have their families ripped apart explains some of the chaos that we see in our communities. And so, I think these positive images of us overcoming obstacles and pushing successfully in areas where inclusion is an important message for our young and old people to see.

Leroy Moore: Mm, yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So that's why I think this story's important.

Leroy Moore: This movie will take place in Louisiana. How did you capture the Louisiana back in the '50s and '60s compared to today, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So let me try to restate the question. I think you said how would I compare--

Leroy Moore: No, how does the film capture Louisiana back in the day and now?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK. So our film is what we call in the film industry a "period piece." And so, what we're going to do is to, a lot of the buildings that were up at that point in time are still up, but they may not be in the very best section of town or to do a film. So we're gonna do our very best to use art direction and an Art Director as well as a wardrobe person and a hairstylist to dress the characters. We're gonna use the colors of the '50s, '60s, and of the '70s, and we're gonna make it look like it was happening at that point in time. Is that the question?

Leroy Moore: Yeah, that's the question, yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So it's considered a period piece, where it looks like that period.

Leroy Moore: OK.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.:: And my job as the Director is to create the wardrobe, to scout the locations, the houses, the NAACP. All of those places are gonna be made to look like it's the '60s and '70s.

Leroy Moore: OK, gotcha.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So let's say like basketball uniforms.

Leroy Moore:: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: We would go back to LSU photos, and then we would use and recreate those type of uniforms for the basketball. And then, we would put that older photo from the '70s, and we would get a seamstress to make clothes for the actors and actresses.

Leroy Moore: OK, gotcha. Wow.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: It's quite a process.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, that iix a big process! How many characters are in the film, and how did you pick them, especially the one that plays the early days before he became physically disabled, and after?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK, so let me try to repeat that. You said there are a lot of characters in the movie. How did I choose them, and what was the last part?

Leroy Moore: And how did you pick the one that plays your uncle George before he became disabled and after?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK, so as far as the characters are concerned, all of the lead characters are true in our film. So we have Uncle George, we have Aunt Kathy, we have Dale Brown, and we have Jim  Engster, we have Gloria. So most of the lead characters are picked from people who really existed and were really living and involved with him at that time. So a lot of it came from the book. But in the spirit of filmmaking, sometimes you have to insecure characters. So if 50 people were involved in doing something, in a film you might not be able, well you can't focus on all 50 of them.

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.:: You have to infuse some of the attributes or contributions of people into a specific character that you can follow and track. So instead of having 50 characters, you might only have five or six. But our main people are real, were real living, breathing people during those times. Now, in terms of who we're going to choose to play Uncle George, we have not made that determination yet. We have to go through the casting call process. We have identified a number of young Black actors who would potentially play that role, and so we haven't gotten there yet. That's sort of where we are right now. We're going after the actors and the money, and we're getting Lynn Whitfield, who's a famous Black actress, to help us with that process. Lynn is from Baton Rouge. She grew up--her parents and my Uncle George grew up together. So we have a connection to Hollywood through her.

Leroy Moore: OK. Great. I was just wondering, if your uncle was alive today, would he be involved with the movie and with police brutality and the recent presidential race? Would he be involved in those aspects, if he was alive today?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Mm, I wanna say yes, and I wanna say no. He was 82 when he died, and he was kinda in bad shape. He died from cancer.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So it's hard to say if he would be in the mental capacity and shape to actually be involved.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: But I think that he left us a strong and lasting legacy to pull from and to share with the world, which is why I thought that the film was worthy of being made in the first place. He has a website called Mr. Civil Rights, and it just lists all the things that he did in his lifetime to help other people and to help African-American people and other minorities gain a foothold in this country. He helped to bang on the doors so that they were open, so that he could go into any building that there was that one. So I think his spirit is guiding us in this process and that he would be very proud of the screenplay and how the film will look. In order to do this, we have to have Kathy's approval, and she was very pleased with what we did with Uncle George. So when I say yes and no, if he were alive today, it would be like well, how old would he be [laughs]?

Leroy Moore: Yeah, yeah, that's true.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: How old would he be? You know, would he be 85 and not in such good shape? Would he be 25? So that's a yes and no question, and I think I answered it as best I could.

Leroy Moore: Yeah. With this movie, after it's out and after you do the film festivals, would you go into universities and have it there? I know Black history and disability history would definitely enjoy this film.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, our goal is not to do film festivals.

Leroy Moore: Oh, OK.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Our goal is to have it released in theaters all over the country as a feature film. And so we want to have people to go to the theater and pay their $10 and watch the movie, and then we hope that it will go to on-demand and be available for both to rent and purchase. So this is a film that's gonna be of the same quality as "Selma" and the same quality as "The Butler," as the same quality as "12 Years a Slave." It's gonna have those types of stars and that kind of distribution.

Leroy Moore: Wow. It's so great because like what I said in the beginning, as a Black, disabled man, there's like zero in Hollywood that represents me and my community.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Right. You know, I think that times are changing for everybody. And so we're gonna see--I don't know if you watch "Empire," you watch "Power." I mean, we're seeing Black man projected or presented in an entirely different way than they have been in the past.

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: And so I think that, like I said, the golden age of African-American cinema is just starting because only now are we able to have the money, the acting talent, the technical talent, the distribution. All the things that make film and television special are now working for us as well. And so I think you're gonna see more and more characters of people who we haven't seen before.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: I think it's gonna be exciting. That's what people are gonna want to watch and see what these different worlds are all about. So that's the beauty of film is that it allows us to go into places that we never would go in our normal lives, and we can see how the people live, what their struggles are, and how they respond to those struggles. And so film is one of the most powerful mediums on earth because we can empathize and put ourselves in other people's situations or in other people's shoes, and that can change the way we think about those people and those situations. And so it can help us to overcome racial stereotypes in the comfort of our own home, and I think that's good for America.

Leroy Moore: Yeah. True. Who is your main audience for this film, and how would you promote it?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, I mentioned "Selma," I mentioned "The Butler," and I mentioned "12 Years a Slave." So those were American films. They had Black lead characters, but they had strong white characters and alike. So we think it's a film for everybody. It has Civil Rights in it, it has inter-racial relationships in it, it has a handicapped lead person in it, it has the integration of LSU sports--which makes it a sports film--it deals with social justice, it deals with the prison system. So it's a very, very wide net that we're casting, and we want potentially everyone in America to go see it. Young people can learn that we can work together if we put aside our past issues. And so those are some of the things that I think will make it attractive to a very, very wide segment and audience in the United States and maybe even, on an international basis, some as well.

Leroy Moore: So how can we keep up with your work and this film? When is it gonna be out in theaters?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, that's hard to say exactly right now. Basically, what we're doing is going after the actors and the money at this point. We have the screenplay finished. So once we do that, it could be as early as next summer or next Christmas, but it's hard to say. As we move closer to production and things of that sort, we will do the circuit of the late night shows, things like Good Morning America, and let everybody know, do billboards, talk shows, things of that sort, like people do when they promote a film.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm. Tell me again how is the book really captured in the film? Is Kathleen really tied to the film?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: You know, a lot of times when you hear people, and they say, "I read the book, and the movie was nothing like the book."

Leroy Moore: Yeah!

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, our situation is a lot like that too because we focus on basically just Uncle George and Aunt Kathy's relationship, how their families reacted to it, and some of Uncle George's Civil Rights work, but more specifically LSU basketball, and then his prison stint. So we had to do what's called "condensed time." So when you go into the theater, it's like you're there, this is the story. Whereas the book was more of a autobiography of Aunt Kathy and Uncle George. So she's writing this story in her voice, from Kathy's point of view. Whereas in our story, the characters themselves are talking. And so it's just a different medium, and you have to deal with it differently. Sometimes people think that the movie's gonna be exactly like the book. But a book is not a movie, and a movie is not a book.

Leroy Moore: Exactly!

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So the novelist is the person who writes a novel. The screenplay writer is the person who writes the screenplay. So they're really two different mediums.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: But what we communicate in the film, and what the book communicates, is the spirit of truth of a segment of the book. So was Uncle George shot in the back? Yes. Did he stay in the hospital for a long time, and they thought he was gonna die? Yes. Did he meet Aunt Kathy? Yes. Did they get married? So a lot of it's true, but a lot of times, in order to make it the most exciting it can be, it has to spruce it up a little bit. That's what we do with the film.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, yeah. Now, one more question. I know Kathy told me that Uncle George was a poet. Is that gonna be captured in the film some way? And also, she told me that he was a good public speaker.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: OK, so I think Kathy is the poet.

Leroy Moore: OK!

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Kathy is the poet, and she is--I don't know if it's a licensed poet or professional poet, but she has some type of designation as a poet. So that's Kathy.

Leroy Moore: OK.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Now, Kathy also was a English teacher, and she helped Uncle George with a lot of his speeches.

Leroy Moore: Oh, OK.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So they kinda worked together as a team. Uncle George was not educated per se. He only went to about the 10th grade, and so she helped him with a lot of his public speaking and his speeches and helped kind of formulate that for him or with him.

Leroy Moore: OK, great, great. Now, is there a website for the film yet?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: No, there's not. We're waiting until we get the actors and the money.

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: And then we start kinda getting it. We have to go through the process of going through Louisiana Film Office, and they take us through this process of qualifying for certain tax breaks and things of that sort. So once we get the money, the actors, and we have our principle photography dates set, then we'll start a Facebook page and things of that sort so people can know what's going on.

Leroy Moore: OK. So how can people get in contact with you now?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: I have a Facebook page, Cleve Bailey on Facebook. That's the way. And then, my email address: clevebailey.jr@gmail.com. And if someone wants to touch bases with me through email or Facebook, that's great.

Leroy Moore: OK. I know there's a Facebook page about the book too. Can you give that too?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: The book title:  WARRIOR FOR JUSTICE:  The George Eames Story, it is available at Amazon.com and can be ordered by Barnes & Noble.  

Leroy Moore: All right, great. Thank you. Anything that you wanna add?

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: Well, this is my first feature film.

Leroy Moore: Wow!

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: I went to the Academy of Art University to learn this, and I spent three and a half years learning film, learning directing, learning writing. It's a tremendously energizing process. When I was younger, I never really understood--I knew it was important to read and write, but I never imagined that I would be a film director. And so I'd just like to say to everybody who's out there struggling with school that it's important because once you learn how to learn, you can basically do anything.

Leroy Moore: Yeah.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So I went back to school at like 40 years old to learn this, and it was easy. But I'd been learning all of my life, and then with the right opportunity, I would also want the right opportunity or the big opportunity. But I think life was preparing me for this, but I had to put in some time to learn how to read and write. And then, when I found something that I was sufficient in, I had to be willing to spend the time and burn the midnight oil to make it a strength.

Leroy Moore: Mmhmm.

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: So keep up the grades, put in the work. You're never too old. It's never too late. It doesn't matter if you have a disability. It's just a made up mind: this is something that I want to do, and I'm gonna see it through. That's what I'd like to leave with everybody.

Leroy Moore: OK, thank you so much!

Cleveland Bailey Jr.: All right. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. It's very interesting, and I look forward to talking to you at some point in time in the future.

 Leroy Moore: OK, great. Take care.


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