Gesmonde fights for redress in Justice on Trial: The Movie


By Pam Johnson / • 6/10/2020 8:30 AM EST

A strong new movie Justice in Court: The Film will appoint local attorney John Gesmonde as a civil rights attorney who fights for redress to resolve systemic, unfair problems faced by black Americans. The virtual world premiere of the film on Saturday, July 4th, will be distributed via Amazon Prime.

John is based in Northford and practices law from his Hamden office and has served as North Branford City Attorney through several previous administrations, most recently serving as City Attorney 2013-2015.

For John, this role is the chance of a lifetime as he hopes it will support the very important mission of the film. Justice in court began as a celebrated play by Chad Lawson Cooper. Its history dates back to the aftermath of an America built on slavery and its legacy of racial terror, segregation, and discrimination.

As Gesmonde notes, “Cooper urges us to discover a better truth, and therefore a better America, by brilliantly blending and coordinating documentary and fictional formats, combining historical and existing narrative with real and recreated characters. To this end, he summons time traveler witnesses – Harriet Tubman, Emmett Till and Medgar Evers – to testify for redress in a lawsuit brought by the African-American people of the United States against the US Department of Justice. He successfully creates a hybrid imaginative reality … an alternative present. “

John says it is important to note what is being discussed under the term “reparation”.

“This film is about reparations, but reparations to fix this land by pouring extra money into the areas that have created black discontent and disadvantage for many years,” says John, pointing to areas like housing and poor public education, lack of access to medical care, redlining of home ownership and loans, unfair bank loans, “and then just the daily humiliation that a white man really cannot understand because he does not experience it.” he adds.

He also notes that the original film premiere date was delayed by COVID-19, a virus that has since been found to disproportionately affect the black community. And now, sparked by the unimaginable death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th, the country has entered a time of powerful protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

These recent experiences further reinforce the message of the film, says John.

“Although it has to go back and show the inhumanity blacks have endured for 400 years to get a sense of why things are happening the way they are today, this is a repetitive situation,” he says. “They have been treated that way since 1619 and we are currently going through another iteration.”

In the film, John portrays Thaddeus Crump, the leading civil rights activist. In a twist of fate, the lawyer now representing George Floyd’s family is named Benjamin Crump.

The role was offered to John at a happy moment that could be its own Hollywood story. He originally met the four filmmakers in his Hamden office as legal advisor, but the conversation became much deeper and more meaningful as they got to know each other. They invited John to join them in Macon, Georgia to see more of what inspired the story.

John traveled to meet her at the Tubman Museum in Macon, where John Harriet Tubman’s 96-year-old great-nephew, who is a retired doctor, and several of his children, who are also doctors, were introduced.

“I was overwhelmed,” says John, who also studies history. “I felt like I was talking to a time machine. That was just unbelievable. “

Next, the filmmakers invited John to Sunday services in Atlanta’s “megachurches”. John, who grew up in Christ Chapel in New Haven, accepted the invitation with enthusiasm.

“[Christ Chapel] was my first contact with a black community and it was so positive and so welcoming, ”says John.

The size of the congregation at Christ Chapel, however, was slightly different from that of the Atlanta service that John attended, which was attended by about 1,000 and one of John’s hosts played a key role.

“The author – who happens to be a pastor, singer and actor too – belts out a huge song that just shocked me, it was so incredible,” says John. “And then when he finished he said, ‘I’d like to introduce you to a super attorney from Hamden, Connecticut. Why don’t you tell the community about the movie and what we were talking about? ‘”

So John found himself in front of this huge gathering where he spoke for about 10 minutes. And as he shared their discussions about the history of the film and what he had learned from further exploration of the shared history, his own deep beliefs began to surface.

“I got emotional. I was starting to bloom a bit because, frankly, I have big problems understanding how people can be so rude and how horrible to other people, ”says John.

This feeling was not lost on the filmmakers. Afterward, writer and producer John said they wanted him to portray the civil rights attorney in the film.

“You had one before [black] Civil rights attorney in their play, but they felt that this had a stronger impact, ”says John. “And it took me months to understand why, but this really isn’t a black film. It really is a white film about black people. I don’t have to tell black people about all of the terrible things that have happened to them personally or historically. I have to be able to tell the whites that. “

What the filmmakers also understood, says John, was that “I had no acting experience.” [but] I didn’t really act. First and foremost, I am in court as a lawyer in this film. And that’s where I live. “

Growing up, John said he had the privilege of receiving education that included attending the private Hopkins School for secondary school. John recalls that the school only had three black students at the time. One was a young man who was in the same class as John.

“We became very good friends; we studied at home and his father and father took turns driving us to school, ”says John. “And that young man’s name was John Huggins.”

Huggins later became one of the leaders of the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles. In 1969, Huggins and another party leader, Bunchy Carter, were shot dead by a 21-year-old member of the US black nationalist organization during a meeting between the two factions at UCLA. Huggins was 23 years old when he died.

John recalls that Huggins started out at Hopkins as a popular student who was elected class president but decided in later years not to attend school.

“He was the greatest kid. Everyone wanted to be with him. But he saw something I don’t think the whites saw, ”says John. “I think he saw for that time, at that age he had more to do with his intelligence.”

Based on his own personal experiences with people in the black community throughout his life, John says that he feels that racist views that continue to emerge among people of different races and backgrounds indicate that “it is possible that this is not one genetic difference is. That is a socialization difference. The film wants whites to understand why blacks might think that way. “

John hopes the film will help everyone who sees it realize that this segment of Americans deserves redress to “catch up”.

“The more people get it, the more people will understand that it’s about catching up,” says John. “It’s not about white debt or repayment or anything. You just can’t take the position that blacks or people of color don’t deserve to catch up. “

The judiciary in court: the film The virtual premiere will take place on Saturday, July 4th, all day on Vimeo, Amazon Prime, The Holy Connection Network and. instead of Website, with more than 250 churches across the country and other organizations working together.

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