"A Singing Stream: Reunion" to Debut in Durham at Landis Family Reunion on August 23

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The Landis Family Reunion, 2013, in front of the "home house"The story of a remarkable African American family with a deep roots in North Carolina continues in the new film A Singing Stream: Reunion, which will premier on Saturday, August 23 at 4 p.m. in Durham in the auditorium of the Sheraton Imperial Hotel.

The screening will be part of the 80th Anniversary celebration of the combined Harris, Landis, Lawrence, Byrd, and Green families, making it one of the oldest continuous black family reunions in North Carolina.

This one hour film revisits the Landis Family of Creedmoor, NC, roughly three decades after the original award winning film A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle was broadcast nationally over PBS.

These films are among the few ever to document a single African American family and to tell their story in their own words.

The Golden Echoes

The first film traced the history of the family over the lifetime of Bertha M. Landis, who was born in 1898. She and her husband Coy Landis struggled to get a farm of their own in the 1930s, a time when almost no African Americans in North Carolina could buy or own farm land. The film documents and personalizes the major events in black history – the Jim Crow era, the black migration during and after World War II, segregation, Civil Rights -- and highlights the role of gospel singing in giving the Landis family a sense of unity and joy through difficult times. Three of the Landis sons are part of a classic gospel quartet, The Golden Echoes.

The new film, Reunion, takes up the story of the family after Mrs. Landis’ death in 2000 at age of 102. Her many grandchildren were concerned that their grandmother Bertha was “the glue that held the family together” and that after she had passed, the home farm might be divided and lost and the family would no longer hold together. Some of the grandchildren came to Tom Davenport, the independent filmmaker who had made the first film, and asked him to help them with this new film project. 

Mr. Davenport was intrigued by the idea of following the family into the 21st century, this time working with the members of the family to produce their own story. The resulting film shows the continued role of music and faith in this talented family and contrasts the lives of grandchildren who stayed in North Carolina with descendants of Bertha’s son Fleming, who left home for a job in the tire manufacturing town of Akron, Ohio, in the 1940s. The new film also highlights the dramatic economic and social changes around Raleigh, Durham, and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina since the first film was made.

The 1985 Singing Stream can be viewed in its entirety on the Folkstreams website, where anyone interested can also review background materials prepared by Dr. Daniel Patterson, a Kenan Professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.