SXSW 2010: Reconciliation Along the Red Carpet


The following post is a continuation of BustedHalo’s coverage of the 2010 South By Southwest festival.

This is my week to play “press agent.”  I have a badge that makes me feel extra special and my name is on a list that allows me to take pictures on many of the Red Carpet premieres here at South By Southwest.  Yet the casual observer might notice little things about me that betray that this is not my full time job.

My camera—although a nice piece of equipment that has always served me well on vacations—appears to have cost thousands of dollars less than the other cameras around me.  The fact that I am dressed entirely in black—save a white tab around my neck—also suggests other employment pursuits.

But my amateur status was probably most on display when, after securing my place behind the velvet ropes along the red carpet, a press agent for the film wanted to know if I had any questions for Ms. Conrad.  Because this was the moment in which I had to confess that I had never heard of Barbara Smith Conrad.  The agent told me that she was a very prominent opera singer.  “Opera… Oh!  Did she have a role in The Who’s Tommy?”  The blank look of the promoter and the shake of her head indicated that it would probably be better if I did not have any questions for Ms. Conrad.

I had only briefly heard about the movie that was premiering, that When I Rise was a film that addressed the discrimination of an African-American student when the University of Texas first integrated.  I would have to wait until viewing the movie to find out more about the woman who was just coming out of the limousine.

But when I first saw her approach the red carpet, I immediately regretted that I had not heard of her.  I regretted that I did not have a question for Ms. Conrad.  Because amidst the crowd that swarmed around her, amidst the snapping flashes from cameras more professional than my own, I saw this look on her face that radiated a sense of release… a sense of victory.

It would not be until the next two hours unfolded that I learned that this event at the Paramount Theater was far from her first red carpet.  But even after watching the spectacular film about her life, the look on her face while walking into the premiere of When I Rise said that it was one of the most satisfying.

For our next “Spirituality @ SXSW” post, local Austin writer Lynn Freehill will give her reflection on the film and its tie to reconciliation.

For more information on the film when I rise, visit