BY HELEN PARSHALL — On Oct. 17, a group gathered at the Hyattsville Branch Library for a film screening and discussion of “The Armor of Light,” the film chosen for the October session of the monthly Independent Film Series.

“It is something that has brought people from disparate points of view together,” said Susie Misleh, library associate in the Adult Services Department and one of the hosts of the evening. “The issue raised is that if you’re pro-life, can you support gun ownership and be pro-life at the same time?”

“The Armor of Light” depicts the journeys of Lucia McBath and the Rev. Rob Schenck, two Christians who take very different paths to becoming outspoken advocates for reform of gun legislation.

Schenck came to prominence in the nineties, where he was active in the pro-life movement.  He is contrasted with McBath, who became an advocate for common sense gun legislation after the 2014 murder of her teenage son, Jordan Davis, in Florida.

Schenck wrestled with taking a political stance on gun violence for a long time before meeting McBath, who in the film, he says “moved me past a point of inertia.”

“If I end up giving my life for this cause, then that will be my life,” says McBath in the film. “I will be doing exactly what God has called me to do.”

First responses to the film were very emotional among the group, with words like “powerful” and “moving” offered.

“Lucy is such a fighter,” said one woman, moved to tears by the film. “For all those people that don’t have a voice, she is the voice.”

In discussing the film’s impact, the group unpacked the bias that often obscures conversations of the reality of gun violence in the United States. The consensus was that the film’s Christian-themed message made the conversation more accessible to traditionally conservative spaces.

“The good part of this is that it was presented from a different perspective,” said one woman. “If that had been presented by Black Lives Matter or something super liberal it wouldn’t come across to the general public. It gave it a different take on presenting the problem.”

“If you believe in God, if you believe you’re a Christian — why do you need a gun? God is your armor,” continued a man, echoing McBath’s words in the film.

The discussion then turned to identifying some of the causes of gun violence in the country, and whether or not the fear expressed by the proponents of the Second Amendment was real.

“For them it’s real, but it isn’t based in something real,” offered one person.

“Black people, Native Americans, Latinos — they are marginalized. Social injustice is the main reason that violence happens,” said another.

The group spoke of the need for addressing these inequalities before gun legislation reform can happen, starting with access to jobs, housing, and education — all things to which marginalized communities often cannot access.

The discussion was part of a monthly series hosted by the Friends of the Hyattsville Library and the Creative Edge Collaborative. The Independent Film Series is designed to draw the local community together for monthly fellowship and conversation.

“We wanted a place to practice community — for us it’s like a lost art. We wanted a place where we can have these safe conversations,” said Pierre Walcott, president and executive director of Creative Edge Collaborative.

Creative Edge Collaborative celebrated its fifth anniversary this June, and they are looking forward to continuing their work in Hyattsville.

Walcott and Misleh are the driving forces behind the Independent Film Series. They say they view film as a way of provoking thoughtful discussions and bringing people together.

“We really believe that people in our community are longing for space to have these very delicate conversations and do it in a way that embraces different points of view,” said Walcott.

“One thing that has always come to mind is that I get emails from people after these events who say, ‘thank you so much for the conversation last night. I could have watched it at home by myself but it was such a heavy subject that I wanted to be with other people,’” Misleh said.  

Next month’s film screening of “She Sings to the Stars” is scheduled for the evening of Nov. 14, and will commemorate Native American Heritage Month.