Series consultants Rev. Wheeler Parker, Dr. Marvel Parker and Ollie Gordon pose with the cast of "Women of the Movement." (Supplied photo)

Series consultants Rev. Wheeler Parker, Dr. Marvel Parker and Ollie Gordon pose with the cast of "Women of the Movement." (Supplied photo)

ABC series to focus on Mamie Till-Mobley, Summit connection

By Carol McGowan

ABC’s “Women of the Movement” will premiere next week.

The six-episode series chronicles the story of Mamie Till-Mobley seeking justice for her son, Emmett Till. It airs on Thursday, January 6, at 7 p.m. on ABC.

“Women of the Movement” is produced by Kapital Entertainment and created by Marissa Jo Cerar, who also serves as executive producer.

Summit’s Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., and his wife, Dr. Marvel Parker, along with Ollie Gordon and author Christopher Benson serve as consultants for the series.

Joshua Caleb Johnson Wheeler Parker

Rev. Wheeler Parker stands with Joshua Caleb Johnson who plays Parker in “Women of the Movement.” (Photo courtesy of ABC)

The six-episode series will air two episodes back-to-back, for three consecutive weeks from 7-9 p.m. It will also be available on demand and on Hulu the day after.

The series stars Adrienne Warren as Mamie Till-Mobley, Tonya Pinkins as Alma, Cedric Joe as Emmett Till, Ray Fisher as Gene Mobley, Glynn Turman as Mose Wright, Chris Coy as J.W. Milam, Carter Jenkins as Roy Bryant and Julia McDermott as Carolyn Bryant.

Joshua Caleb Johnson portrays Wheeler Parker, who was Emmett Till’s cousin and best friend.

The series is based on the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley, a former Summit resident and Argo High School graduate, who, in 1955, risked her life to find justice after her son Emmett was brutally murdered in the Jim Crow South.

Unwilling to let Emmett’s murder disappear from the headlines, Mamie chose to bear her pain on the world’s stage, emerging as an activist for justice and igniting the civil rights movement as we know it today.

After each two-hour episode, another special limited docuseries, “Let the World See,” will air from 9-10 p.m.

That series will chronicle Mamie Till-Mobley’s fierce quest for justice that sparked the civil rights movement after her son Emmett’s brutal murder, inspiring heroes like Rosa Parks and others to stand up boldly for their rights.

“Let the World See” looks at Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight to bring her son’s body home to Chicago and her decision to have an open-casket funeral for the public to see, which ultimately served as a turning point for the civil rights movement.

The program will show how the Till family has continued her legacy since her death in 2003, and continue to keep their word that her son will never be forgotten.

Marvel Parker is the executive director of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute that’s headquartered at the Emmett Till Center in Summit.

Parker said she and her husband had a whirlwind week of travel recently with attending the Chicago premiere at Loyola University, then traveling to Los Angeles and New York for the premieres in those cities.

“ABC treated us well all of the way. All we did was step out of the door. We were greeted and treated first class all of the way. From travel, to the airport Admiral Club, it was wonderful.”

“The series turned out awesome in its view of the story of Emmett Till,” she said. “The documentary is filled with people who, like Rev. Parker, were present the night Emmett was abducted, or experienced all of this with first-hand views.”

“They did a fantastic job of telling the story. The essence of the story is told truthfully, and depiction of Mamie is accurate. Her showing Emmett’s body was the catalyst that began the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks attributed her not giving up her seat to Emmett,” said Parker.

In September, there was a church service, “A Celebration of Life: The Legacy of Emmett Louis Till” that was taped at Reverend Parker’s Church, Argo Temple Church of God in Christ. Some of that service and Rev. Parker speaking, as well as some other scenes from the Summit area will be in the docuseries.

Also at the Chicago premiere, were longtime friends of Mamie Till-Mobley, Mike and Tina Small. The Mount Prospect couple had befriended Mamie back in 2000 while Mike was a teacher at Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette. He was a history teacher there for 37 years, and has been teaching for 50 years.

Being that he was a history teacher, Mike had taught his students about Emmett Till. Small recalls that a student had raised her hand and wanted to know if Emmett’s mother was still alive. With that, Mike called the Chicago History Museum and got in touch with Vernon Jarrett, the late journalist.

Jarrett got back to the couple with Till-Mobley’s number. The Smalls recall that at first, Mamie was reluctant to have them visit, but they then offered her a wonderful home cooked Italian meal since Tina is a great cook. After that meal, the three remained friends until Mamie’s passing.

“Mamie opened the door for us on a Sunday, and we remained friends ever since that day.” Mamie loved Tina’s Italian meals and that was one thing that they bonded over. They would talk over the phone weekly, and get together every two or three weeks thereafter.

When Mamie passed away, the family asked Mike to be a pallbearer. He was the only white pallbearer for her funeral. That’s something he was grateful to do for his friend.

The Smalls are no strangers to Summit. They attended last summer’s unveiling of the Emmett Till Historical Marker where his childhood home was, and came to town again at Rev. Parker’s church when a portion of the docuseries was filmed.

They told Mamie before she passed that they would do their part to keep Emmett’s memory alive, and they do that to this day.

Tina and Mike Small

Tina and Mike Small. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Small told the Desplaines Valley News, that in the past, he has taken his history students to the Sumner Courthouse in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, where the Emmett Till trial took place. His first trip was back in 2008.

Regina Dominican was the First High School in the nation to visit the newly formed Emmett Till Trail and Courthouse, which is part of the Emmett Till Trail. To this day, there’s a plaque on the wall of the courthouse commemorating that visit.

The courtroom has been refurbished to look as it did during the historic Till trial.

The Smalls think their friend Mamie would be satisfied with how the TV series was written. Mike appreciated that in the series, they made sure they had Emmett whistle at Carolyn Bryant. “Many say it ‘allegedly’ happened, those that were there know it in fact, did.”

“Emmett thought it would be funny. He was a jokester. After he did it, he knew by the reaction of those with him, that he shouldn’t have done it.”

They remember their dear friend Mamie as one of the leading civil rights advocates in the country. “She depended on her mother for advice all of her life, but when Emmett was murdered, she emerged as a strong civil rights leader, touring the country to tell his story.”

“She never had hatred, she felt Emmett was a sacrificial lamb. She had no hatred towards the men and in her mind forgave them in a sense. She was an open and honest person. She was insightful as she made presentations to make peace between races.”

1 Comment

  1. Verna Tillman on January 5, 2022 at 4:44 pm

    Just one horrible tragedy in many from the Deep South that is widespread in America now. Will there ever be justice and equality for Black Americans?



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