What makes a good civil rights activist? How should demonstrators react when attacked by police? How does a gay person or an undocumented person or an Earth First person best deal with the hate and rejection society throws at him? Spiritual activism is what gives peaceful resistance it’s power, according to film maker Velcrow Ripper. He should know, Ripper, a videographer, specializes in recording protests all over the globe.
Fierce Light, When spirit Meets Action is a documentary about civil rights activists and community organizers. Ripper produced the film after his close friend, Brad Roland Will, was killed likely by police, in Oaxaca, City, Mx. during a teacher’s strike. Will took two bullets to his chest and died en route to the hospital. Ripper began to search for the meaning behind the risky business of recording civil disobedience where ever it erupts. In Fierce Light, Ripper explains how an activist can remain calm while the entire world is erupting in chaos through spirituality.
“The spirituality is outside of all boxes. But it is not outside of the world. It brings me closer to the world,” Ripper says in his compelling documentary.
Fierce Light takes the activist on a journey through various conflicts, from Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat in a redwood tree for two years to prevent it from being cut down, to Daryl Hannah, Ralph Nader and actor Danny Glover who fought for a community farm scheduled to be bull dozed in L.A., to Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who spoke during the Martin Luther King March on Washington to Arch Bishop Desmond Desmond Tu Tu who protested against Apartheid in South Africa.
The principles of activism have one thing in common: loving the person who is the oppressor. That gives the activist personal peace hence frees him to make sacrifices.
Mahatma Gandhi, who employed civil disobedience to bring freedom to India says it begins with self awareness. When the ego gets in the way, the activist cannot serve others. When one is self aware of his thoughts, he can transform peaceful thoughts to peaceful activity.
Loving the person who oppresses while the protester carries out actions of civil disobedience is hard to do. At first blush, love and spirituality do not go with resistance. Ripper disagrees. In fact, it is Ripper’s spiritual grounding that helps him maintain his focus, even while being gassed during a protest in Quebec City, Canada.
This is a great film for organizers and activists who wish to make a difference. The opening scenes are difficult to watch, as Brad Will’s camera is rolling when he is shot. The message for activists from peaceful resistance movements is well stated. Give of yourself to help others. Love all people, even when they shed violence and hate upon you.