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Barnas and Young reveal hate crimes in documentary

     In 1993 Roy Kirkland woke up to find a cross burned on the front lawn of his home in Willacoochee, Ga. After 16 years, Kirkland and his partner at the time, Doug Sebastian, began compiling interviews and newspaper clippings to tell the story of the cross burning and progressively worse threats and attacks in a profound documentary called “A Cross Burning in Willacoochee.” The film was shown in early October in Atlanta’s “Out on Film” Festival, and more recently in the New York International Independent Film Festival, at which it won an award in the documentary category.
 The documentary examines the responses of city officials, who were unsurprised by or dismissive of the attacks, and of the residents of Willacoochee, who were unsupportive of Kirkland and Sebastian when the attacks were happening. Kirkland eventually left his hometown of Willacoochee when his family home burned to the ground; the Georgia Bureau of Investigations halted their investigations shortly after they had begun, ruling out arson. After a frustrating battle with the insurance company, Kirkland and Sebastian closed the doors on Willacoochee for 16 years. Now, though, the two men seek not only emotional closure, but to encourage legislation which prevents public officials from condoning or ignoring hate crimes, according to an article in Southern Voice Atlanta.
 “This documentary reveals how bigotry thrives in some people in public office, law enforcement, and other places, which creates an ongoing negative impact on society. I hope this documentary reveals to everyone that sitting back and not speaking out against bigotry and discrimination is almost as bad as committing the crime itself,” said Kirkland, who now resides in Valdosta.
VSU’s own Dr. Frank Barnas and Jeffrey Young helped put this documentary together. Jeffrey Young said that he was a part of this documentary because “it helps shed light on things that people have thrown to the way side, such as bigotry and racism, and [it] lets people know that [those things are] still going on in today’s society.”
“It is still amazing how hanging out in the bar in Remerton, many folks will come up to me and say, ‘You know I have nothing against gay people; I like gay people,” said Kirkland. “I laugh when I hear this because I have never gone up to someone and said, ‘You know I like straight people or black people or whatever kind of people.’ I find this statement comical because I think to myself, ‘Am I not a person just like you? Do I not breathe the same air and feel just like you?’ I believe that college students can take this documentary and change this world and how people treat other people because they are the future. They have the power to end bigotry and make a mark on this world that can never be erased.”
  For more information or to purchase the documentary, go to www.acrossburning.com.

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