4 Little Girls, Emotion, and Community

While I thoroughly enjoyed the film Boycott and its creative take on an ending scene–to fictionalize events of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and bring him into the present day–I personally found the ending scene of Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls to be more compelling and emotional due to its direct message to the viewer. In the final speaking scene of the documentary, Alpha Robertson is featured discussing her own emotional journey in the years after the death of her daughter, Carole, in the church bombing. Robertson dives into her battle against feelings of anger and hatred, as well as the ways the family and community members helped her stay afloat through these feelings.

“…I just had to work on it and I had to kind of keep my spirits up, so that I could help my husband to keep his up. And, you know, the other folks around me. And we had good friends and family who gave us a lot of support, and I just had to work with it and pray….”

-Alpha Robertson

Robertson moves on to speak about how even after this tragic event, her life kept moving with even more ups and downs, so she had to keep moving too. She cites her living family members–her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–as parts of her life that help her “go on and live” after experiencing so much tragedy and loss. Robertson closes her remarks by stating, “I have something to be thankful for after all.”

Final scene of “4 Little Girls” with Alpha Robertson

The reason I was so compelled by this ending scene is because it functions as a message from Robertson–and arguably Spike Lee, since he chose to include this scene last–to the audience of the documentary. After learning in vivid detail about the horrific events of the 16th Street Church bombing and the reactions of those most affected by the deaths, the audience is likely moved to anger or disgust at the actions of the perpetrators and police/elected officials in charge. Like we talked about in class, I found this documentary hard to watch at times when family members were crying in front of the camera, or when footage of protestors being attacked by fire hoses were shown on screen. There is a lot to take in, and it can cause very intense emotions in response. The final scene of Robertson, then, gives the audience a direction in how to guide their own response to the film based on how the affected community has continued to live past these events. Robertson’s messages about being thankful for the people around you and supporting your community members in times of crisis are still essential to bear in mind today, as our country still perpetuates systemic racism and brutality against Black Americans. Feelings of anger towards those causing the injustice are natural, and even helpful at times, but support and care for the loved ones in our lives is essential and powerful at the same time. This is the message that I believe Spike Lee wanted his audience to take away from Alpha Robertson’s final speech.

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