The Santa Clarita branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) plans on holding a special fundraising event on Oct. 10 through the red carpet premiere of the documentary film “Scrum” at the Laemmle Newhall theater.
Directed by Thomas Morgan and released this year, the film dives into the story of Frank McKinney, the first and only Black college rugby coach in the United States.
“I thought this was a really interesting story about this Black coach at a very white school in the South, and that this was going to be a film about rugby,” Morgan said. “But, in the end, it’s not really a film about rugby. I think it’s really a film about upward mobility and opportunity, and mentoring and father-son relationships. There were just such great stories and struggles and what all of this kind of meant to these kids and how [McKinney] was able to really inject himself in their lives, not just for the benefit of a sport or a team, but because he truly wants to see them succeed way beyond rugby.”
McKinney is currently the head men’s rugby coach at Queens University in North Carolina. He is the only Black coach at the university, and the only Black rugby coach of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. McKinney was able to lead his team of underdogs all the way to winning the NCAA Championship.
“I’ve known Frank for 26 years, and it really kind of started out that it wasn’t even going to be a movie, I was just going to go and film some stuff for him to help him use it as a recruiting mechanism for other kids. Then I got there, and I started talking to some of his players, and I was just like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I told him, ‘We’ve got to do this,’” said Morgan. “He was a bit reluctant, he was not as interested in doing the movie because he didn’t really see any story in it. Like, ‘This is just what I do.’ But, I think as he heard more from his players and the impact that it had on his players and their lives, he knew the story of where some of these kids came from, but he never realized what that looked like… I think it really moved him as well. I think he really felt proud of all of his work, but also really proud of these kids.”
NAACP Santa Clarita Branch President Valerie Bradford decided to create a fundraiser around this film, as the storyline seemed to mirror the environment within the Santa Clarita Valley.
“It tells the story of the importance of continuing education,” she said. “It’s important for us because right here in Santa Clarita, 33% of African Americans live at or below the poverty line. They get assistance for food at school. Forty-four percent of Latinos live at or below the poverty line and they, too, get assistance for meals at school. These types of individuals might have a dream of continuing education but won’t necessarily be able to attain that dream without support.”
The chapter’s presentation of the film will be its first fundraiser since it launched in March. Funds “will be utilized to create and distribute scholarships for continuing education, whether it be a university or a trade school, just to award these disadvantaged youth with a scholarship to help them with their continuing education,” Bradford said.
The premiere at Laemmle will be the first time the documentary is played in a movie theater. There will be a red carpet and VIP reception starting at 5 p.m., a cast and director Q&A portion beginning at 6:30 p.m., and a film screening at 7 p.m. Kori Withers will also be performing different songs from the movie during the night.
“I hope [the film] drives people to really re-evaluate the way that they look at sport and the way that they look at coaches in their kids’ lives, and the impact that those coaches and those people can have,” said Morgan. “I also hope that they recognize, in 2021, the issues that we still have in this country, maybe even more magnified in the last two years: institutional racism and opportunity and the structural racism that’s inherent in our higher education. When kids don’t have a computer and they don’t have internet and they’re filling out a college application on their phone, what are their chances really? When nobody in their house has ever gone to college, and they don’t know how to fill out a FAFSA application, and they don’t know where to go for help, I mean those kids, there’s no chance.”
Tickets for the “Scrum” can be purchased through the NAACP website. VIP tickets are $100, with the option of adding any additional amount to support the chapter. Scholarship winners will be awarded during the Freedom Fund event from the NAACP towards the end of the year.
“My hope is that people say, ‘I could do that. I could volunteer and be a coach, I could give up my time to be a mentor, I could get involved some way,’ and it moves them to personally challenge themselves to do more,” Morgan said. “I think for all of my films, that’s always what we hope and think would be the best result, is how do you get to be part of the solution.”
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