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Documentary reflects on movement to ‘Move the Monument’

By Laura Ray/For The Sentinel

MURRAY – Former Murray State University assistant football coach, Sherman Neal II returns to Murray for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day screening of the documentary “Ghosts of a Lost Cause.” Neal co-produced and stars in the film, which chronicles residents’ efforts in 2020 to relocate the Confederate monument that currently stands on the grounds of the Calloway County Courthouse.

Neal, a decorated Marine Corps officer, attorney, founder/owner of Rising Tide Sports and father of two, catalyzed a local movement on June 1 of that year when he wrote a letter to Murray Mayor Bob Rogers, requesting that the monument be removed from public property. The conflict that ensued over the following months drew national attention. Despite persistent efforts, the monument remains on the courthouse lawn.

Held at Wrather West Kentucky Museum, next Monday’s event is intended to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while fostering a dialogue about justice, equality and the ongoing pursuit of civil rights in the community. “Ghosts of a Lost Cause” confronts the lasting impacts that the American Civil War and the Lost Cause narrative have had on the Murray-Calloway County community through storytelling, research and interviews. 

“We believe that films like ‘Ghosts of a Lost Cause’ provide a unique opportunity to reflect on our history, confront uncomfortable truths and inspire positive change,” said Neal. “By hosting this screening on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we aim to honor Dr. King’s legacy and encourage open conversations that promote understanding and unity.”

In addition to Neal, the film features Shelly Baskin, who led another effort to remove the Confederate monument in 2017, and Robyn Pizzo, who created the design for the “Move the Monument” signs that peppered yards throughout Murray and Calloway County, in addition to award-winning poet, playwright and long-time Murray resident Constance Alexander, Murray native MarTeze Hammonds and Mayfield activist Crystal Fox.

Two panel discussions follow the film screening, allowing attendees to engage with the film’s participants as well as local leaders and experts in history, civil rights and social justice, including MSU Associate Professor of History Dr. Brian Clardy and Rivka Maizlish of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The discussions will be moderated by Fox’s daughter Aniji and David Pool.

A scholarship celebrating change agents in the community will be presented as well, followed by a reception with the sponsors. 

Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) provided funding and production support for the documentary through its Kentucky Rural-Urban Solidarity Project. Founding member of RUX Gerry Seavo James co-produced the film with Neal. James serves as the Deputy Director of Outdoors for All at the Sierra Club, as well as the founding Director of the Explore Kentucky Initiative.  

Ghosts of a Lost Cause: Film Screening & Panel Discussion will be from 6-9 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, at the Wrather West Kentucky Museum, located on the campus of Murray State University. Tickets for this public event are $10 ($12.51 after fees), but students get in free.

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Participants share perspectives on film

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“As a native of Murray, I wanted people to see a familiar face of color from Murray, who had lived experience with the statue. Some people assume we don’t or didn’t care about it because they didn’t see us march or speak out in the past; however, we did raise our voices. Sometimes you simply get really tired of fighting for and raising awareness for people to not listen or care to change.  I remember when I was 7 or 8, we had a Martin Luther King Jr. march that started at Boone’s Laundry, down Main Street, past the statue and turned off on LP Miller to St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church. I remember moving through that space and knowing how significant it was as comments were made about the statute while enroute. One must ask the questions: Just look at the direction the statue faces – toward the Douglass neighborhood. What is the symbolism? What or whose history is being safeguarded by the monument?” – MarTeze Hammonds

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“I wanted to find a way to make meaning of what we’d been through together as a community, and telling our story through the documentary was a way to do that. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but we learned a lot about resistance, purpose, patience, and compassion. That became the fuel to keep going.” – Robyn Pizzo

“I was asked to be interviewed for the film because I had written articles in support of removing the statue honoring Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy that has stood on the Calloway County Courthouse grounds for one hundred years. Paying tribute to a movement that sought to preserve slavery and dismantle the union has no place on government property. The monument casts a shadow on the promise of “liberty and justice for all” and the film explores the contradictions of its enduring presence.” – Constance Alexander

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“I decided to participate in the documentary because I wanted to help create a record of the work we did in the community, with the focus being on telling that story in our own words. There’s been many projects that I’ve been involved in that have quickly faded from memory because the only records of what happened are a few scattered local news pieces that just gave dispassionate accounting of the events. I want people, especially our fellow activists in other communities, to hear this story straight from us and know that they’re not alone in working towards justice. I hope that other people out there that are struggling towards changing their communities can see this documentary and see a reflection of themselves and their own activism and feel like, even if we’re far apart, we’re still doing this work together.” – Shelly Baskin

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Sentinel Staff

Jessica Paine
I’m Jessica Paine, founder of The Murray Sentinel. You may know me from my time as a citizen journalist, running the Calloway Covid-19 Count page on Facebook, or you may be familiar with my more recent work for another local news outlet. Being that I’m “from here,” you may have known me since I was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although you knew me as Jessica Jones. But whether you know me or not, I’m glad you found your way here.


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