It is easy to think that whistle blowers are something that occur in other parts of the country or world and are not connected to tiny, off-the-beaten-path places like Grand Rapids.
However, on March 8, 1971 a group of ordinary Americans (including a couple from Grand Rapids) who were very concerned about potential violations of civil rights did something quite bold. Their story is the subject of a documentary film, 1971
, and is being screened as a part of Fountain Street Church Duncan Littlefair Great Speaker Series.
Local residents Bonnie Raines and her husband John were members of this group that broke into the FBI office and stole every file at the Media, Pennsylvania office in an attempt to secure answers to their many questions about the agency's alleged spying on unsuspecting Americans.
Bonnie grew up at Fountain Street Church's Character School – its version of children's Sunday school – and learned while a child that one often takes risks for their beliefs.
Here is an excerpt from the book The Burglary
by Betty Medsger, who will be speaking along with John and Bonnie Raines after the screening:
"(Bonnie Raines) loved being a mother, but she also wanted to be able to be a serious activist. Sometimes she wondered how her dreams had become so different from what she assumed were the dreams of most women her age. Part of the answer could be found in a childhood that was peppered with experiences that encouraged her to think beyond the usual expectations of what a woman should be. Her parents, unlike many parents of girls in mid-1950s America, had not wrapped her in a cocoon and isolated her from the world. They had encouraged her to read books, to read the news, to become an informed and questioning person. At the church her family attended in Grand Rapids, the Fountain Street Church, a nondenominational, liberal congregation, she started to develop an appreciation for dissent. When a local group invited Eleanor Roosevelt to speak, the announcement sparked a controversy that closed most doors in the city to her. During the subsequent debate, many hateful letters that opposed her speaking in Grand Rapids were published in the local newspaper. Though Bonnie Muir was only fifteen at the time, she recalls being upset by the effort to silence Mrs. Roosevelt. In the end, the only place in town where she was welcome to speak was the Fountain Street Church. Bonnie Muir went with her parents to hear Mrs. Roosevelt and sat near the front of the church so she could see this woman who had been the subject of so much controversy. She remembers bring impressed by her comments, especially ones about peace and justice."
Come see a documentary that is sure to leave you with a lot of questions; it's an opportunity to address them live in a fascinating setting. To view the trailer for the film, please visit this link
This is sure to be a thrilling marriage of vital cinema and our local history unlike any other we have witnessed before at Fountain Street Church. And you only have one night to experience it.
Admission: $7 in advance, $10 at the door