A ‘Two-Front War”: highlighting Black veterans stories

By: Amethyst Martinez

Danielle Jackson, senior film and television major, knew something was missing from history books when she was younger.

“What inspired me was being in elementary school and being intrigued by the military, but not seeing Black people in it. … That kind of created a dissonance with me, like, yeah okay, that makes sense because of our historical relationship with America,” said Jackson.

The second part to her docuseries, “A Two-Front War,” which premiered Nov. 11 at the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater, revolves around African American war veterans and their service to America when they were still fighting for civil rights.

“It wasn’t until I started this project that I learned that we have [had] African Americans participate in the military since the Revolutionary War. … Learning that really inspired me to want to share this story with people other than myself,” said Jackson.

The second part of the docuseries premiered on Veterans Day, and was the biggest event of Rider’s Veterans Week, which took place from Nov. 4-12. The first part virtually premiered on May 15 last semester.

When asked what the film was about, Jackson said, “It’s about the radicalization of African American war vets and how they fought overseas in the name of America but returned to still not have civil rights. And so, because of that, they joined together to create a movement that would start the civil rights movement.”

Danielle Jackson answers questions after the movie in a panel discussion. Photo courtesy of Carolo Pascale

Walking into the BLC lobby, guests were greeted with a red carpet photo op taken by Rider students, which led into a reception with food and a merchandise table featuring “A Two-Front War” T-shirts. The guests were then led upstairs to the theater where they could watch the first and second episodes of the docuseries. The tickets were free, and many students, faculty and visitors filled up the theater. Around 100 tickets were sold for the event. 

Thomas Reddington, coordinator of veterans affairs, helped Jackson along her way with planning the premiere.

“She’s professional, she’s detailed, she cares. … I have so much respect for people that just, you know, make this happen like she has. That’s really what I wanted to be a part of,” said Reddington.

Kelly Phillips and Kaylee Ettinger, both senior film and television majors, helped Jackson plan the event.

“[Jackson] is one of the most hardworking people that I’ve ever met. She made this process so much easier, and she was as hands on as we as the event planners were. Working with her was definitely super fun and very special,” said Phillips.

Jackson created the docuseries while working at The Rider News as a business/advertising manager and also being a full time student. 

“From its infancy to now, [it’s been] about a year and six or seven months … so it’s been my life for that amount of time. … I always compare it to a child. It’s been the greatest challenge I’ve ever had as of yet,” said Jackson.

Last year’s premiere of the first episode was drastically different due to the pandemic, which led to the docuseries being a virtual event.

Phillips said, “I think everyone was excited to have an in-person event. … The premiere last night was to show that first episode, but then to premiere the second episode. So, being able to have that in person, I think there was a lot of excitement surrounding that.”

The docuseries is one of its kind in the way that it showcases African American veterans and their stories, which have been erased throughout history.

Reddington said, “Our whitewashed history of this country is doing us a huge disservice because we’re an immigrant nation. … It’s such a kaleidoscope of colors in our history and how we got here, and it’s a downright crime to have that whitewashed out. What is so threatening about, you know, learning the great deeds of people, regardless of what color or background they come from. Those are stories that inspire me, not scare me.”

The docuseries has been incredibly meaningful to Jackson while working on the project.

“What it means to me is to be sharing this legacy. … These men and women quite literally had their lives on the line every single day … and literally just for being Black, they would come home and there was a danger because as they walk down the street, they could be hung by a tree,” Jackson said.” So it’s those types of things that mean so much to me because I do it for them. If they could see now what we have, that we could even be in school with people who are different races and orientations. … I just want to make them proud. … I love talking about Black veterans because they’re so proud to be both Black and American. And that’s something that I’m still learning.”

Danielle Jackson and Pamela Pruitt, Executive Director of Center of Diversity and Inclusion smile with each other at the premiere. Photo courtesy of Andrew Xon

Danielle Jackson is the Business/Advertising Manager for the Rider News. Jackson had no part in the writing or editing of this story.

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