By Ebube Onwusika ‘21 News Reporter
On Friday January 17, the Mercersburg community gathered in the Simon Theatre to view the film Cornie, focused on the experiences of Robert L. (Cornie) Watson’s, as one of the few African-American residents of Mercersburg in the mid-twentieth century. The entire forty-one minute film was put together by former faculty member Kristy Higby, who taught in the arts department at Mercersburg for twenty-three years alongside her husband, Mark Flowers. Though not her first film, Cornie took a whole year to make and went on to be shown at national film festivals. The film centered around an interview Emily Parsons’ history class some years back, and featured as well a Mercersburg alumna from the class of 2008.
At the brown bag lunch, Higby shared her account of the process of filming. She said, “It takes staying curious and paying attention and refusing to settle for less.” There is no denying the amount of work put into filming, and she credited her passion to the creativity around her: “I was inspired by the students at Mercersburg Academy.” She stressed the importance of using past knowledge to create something amazing, by, as she said “building on what I already know, but being open to new methods and materials.”
The film offered touching lessons, as indicated by members of the school community. Alexa Marsh ’21 remarked, “I really like how enthusiastic she [Kristy Higby] is about filmmaking, and I thought it was really clear through both the film and listening to her speak how passionate she is. As a student it was very interesting to learn about the history of the town, and Cornie’s story was very powerful and moving.” School minister Reverend Will Whitmore emphasized the importance these guest speakers have in “getting the stories of our town heard.”
“Trying to involve the whole school has evolved,” he says, “continuously trying to provide what will help us think out of the box.” Higby’s message for students at the academy fell along the same lines: “You’re in a bubble, nice, friendly and happy, we need to allow the bubble to open up more.” English faculty Kristen Ahlgren found the film interesting and “enjoyed hearing Cornie’s story; it really taught me new things about Mercersburg’s history.” Folake Okunsanya ’22 said, “It was really interesting to see that even though he had gone through that adversity he was peaceful and had no hate in his heart. I was really struck by his ‘good people with bad ideas’ theory and found it very insightful. I wish I had the opportunity to meet him.” Kristy Higby’s film left the viewers inspired.