Civil rights leaders join local students for screening of Girard College documentary

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It was an inspiring day for some North Philadelphia high school students. (WPVI)

Friday was an inspiring day for some North Philadelphia high school students.

A history lesson in the midst of Black History Month came in the form of a documentary played before the students of Cristo Rey High School.

"Cecil's People" follows the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters and their vigorous campaign to open Girard College to blacks in 1965, and includes the stop Martin Luther King Jr. made.

In the film you can hear Dr. King say, "Now is the time to straighten up Girard College."

Sam Katz is the executive producer of "Cecil's People". He tells us, "Girard College was a complicated legal problem, in which to overturn a will that denied access to the school to people of color."

The film truly came to life in Cristo Rey's auditorium.

On the screen the students could see freedom fighter Kenneth Salaam, featured in the piece as a teenager. He was also at the school in person for the screening, along with a panel of freedom fighters.

Salaam says, "I'm really surprised and thankful that I lived this long to witness this."

Several on the panel, including civil rights leader Cecil B. Moore's daughter, Alexis Moore, spoke to the students.

Moore says, "If you want to participate in saving our community, there's a role for you, you don't have to have a famous name, but you can serve."

Salaam tells us, "We loved those children before we knew them. And to see them now have more opportunity than what I had when I was that age, and to see them now have access to things that were denied to me."

And the kids here, left with a reminder to pass the legacy on and be proud.

Cristo Rey High School senior Bianca Mitchell says, "I've always been proud of Philadelphia, but this just took it up a notch."

And fellow senior Saiah Gabriel says, "We shouldn't leave all the politics and debating and stuff to the older people. We as young people have powers of our own, like social media, that we can get our message out here and effect change in our country."
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