The movie ends with photographs of Bobby Kennedy as the closing credits roll. Not just photographs. We hear his voice. His distinct, strong voice, comforting voice. The speech he gives is so passionate, so moving and -- today -- still so achingly relevant that I had tears streaming down my face. I felt a reverence. Like I was sitting in church instead of sitting in a critics' screening room in midtown Manhattan. Bobby Kennedy was very dear to me. I wanted him to be our president. I saw him in person two days before he was shot. That was a magnificent moment.
I'd review BOBBY on Whoopi Goldberg's morning radio show. As I usually do when I walk into a private screening room in Manhattan, I looked around to see if there were any other Black folks present. If I did, I'd verbally greet them or give the respectful nod. At that BOBBY screening, I was the only Black person in the room.
Ever since the 1980s when ABC, NBC and CBS each had a weekly film critic on their morning shows and when we had syndicated film review show couples like Siskel & Ebert plus the other pairs that followed, the field of film critics on national TV has been a white boys club. The late Joel Siegel, longtime film critic for GOOD MORNING AMERICA, was at the screening. While a few us waited for the elevator and while we were in the elevator going down to the lobby, Joel Siegel held court somewhat telling us that he was a joke writer for Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
I listened. I stood behind him. When I heard Senator Robert Kennedy, when he was a living force, and in his words that played at the end of the movie, he spoke of civil rights and equal opportunities. I listened to those words, the only Black man in the screening room and wondering if all those white male film critics ever notice the lack of racial diversity in their own occupational field. How would Sen. Kennedy have felt about that lack of diversity?
I wanted to say, behind Joel, "When Nick Cannon has that short speech telling about the hope he felt when Bobby Kennedy came to his South Central community, and about all those kids who were running behind Kennedy's convertible to see him speak in their neighborhood park, I was one of those kids." The movie Emilio Estevez directed did touch me. That Nick Cannon scene was part of my life. He spoke what I felt as a Black youth growing up in South Central Los Angeles that day, two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
The principal of our parochial high school in Watts dismissed classes a half-hour early so we could all go see a political figure, Senator Robert F. Kennedy. When our principal made the announcement over the loud speaker, cheers erupted from classrooms as if L.A. had just won the World Series.
That's how I saw Bobby Kennedy in person.