The Vietnam War, a 10-part documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, premieres Sunday, Sept. 17 on PBS stations nationwide, including the PBS member station at Amarillo College.
Panhandle PBS and its partners will use the film series as a springboard to exploration of the diverse perspectives still held by area residents more than 40 years after the war – and share the resulting dialogue in a variety of ways.
Crossing the Divide: the Texas Panhandle Vietnam War Project will foster discourse and active listening, initiate new curricula, entertain and enlighten, bridge divides, and recognize inherent commonalities, Panhandle-wide.
The months-long project will commence with the Yellow City Sounds Music Festival in September and culminate with a December exhibit featuring The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to honor the many veterans from the Texas Panhandle who served in the Vietnam War, Kevin Ball, CEO of Panhandle PBS, said. “By encouraging dialogue and raising awareness about the war years, we will honor our veterans and all of our affected neighbors in a spirit of healing that invites closure, particularly among those who served.”
The following events and activities have been planned by community partners to accentuate and maximize the Burns-Novick opus:
- Panhandle PBS and AC radio station FM90 will launch the Vietnam War Project with the Yellow City Sounds Music Festival – “Music that Changed the World” – a free concert at Amarillo’s Memorial Park (more below).
- Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and Cornette Library at West Texas A&M University will host Perspectives on Vietnam, a preview of the Burns-Novick documentary – Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the museum.
- Panhandle PBS will build a video library of stories from veterans and other residents throughout the Panhandle who were affected by the war. All will be accessible and many will be aired on the station’s local program, “Live Here,” and online at PanhandlePBS.org, and through the station’s social media. “Live Here” airs at 7 p.m. Thursdays, with the new season beginning Sept. 7.
- Region 16 Education Service Center and Amarillo Independent School District have convened a team of educators to write a new curriculum around the Vietnam War. It will serve as a resource not only for local educators, but to a national audience through PBSLearningMedia.org.
- Amarillo College has selected at its annual Common Reader “The Things They Carried,” a collection of short stories by American novelist Tim O’Brien about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.
- Amarillo Public Library has selected “The Things They Carried” for discussion at the Aug. 24 meeting of the Downtown Lunchtime Book Club. And the book club will focus on another Vietnam War-themed novel at its meeting on Oct. 25 – Kurt Vonnegut’s “Hocus Pocus.”
- The Amarillo Museum of Art will feature three exhibitions with ties to the Vietnam War from Oct. 21-Dec. 30.
- The Southern Light Gallery at Amarillo College will feature a photo exhibit Aug. 21-Sept. 28 by Mary Emeny, who spent a year in war-torn Vietnam.
As a fitting capstone, Crossing the Divide: the Texas Panhandle Vietnam War Project will culminate with a visit from The Wall That Heals, a traveling exhibit that includes a mobile education center. The exhibit will be placed at John Stiff Park from Dec. 6-10, with visitation available 24/7.
According to its website: “The traveling exhibit provides thousands of veterans who have been unable to cope with the prospect of facing The Wall to find the strength and courage to do so within their own communities, thus allowing the healing process to begin.”
As a prelude to all of the above, Panhandle PBS and AC radio station FM90 will launch the Vietnam War Project with the Yellow City Sounds Music Festival – “Music that Changed the World” – a free concert from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 at Amarillo’s Memorial Park.
Anchoring a slate of bands performing soul, folk and classic hits that embody the Vietnam era, is Austin-based The Band of Heathens. They will be joined by Zac Wilkerson, hONEyhoUSe, The Deltaz, Insufficient Funds, Maggie Burt, and the Dustjackets. A jam session featuring local luminaries Andy Chase, Wendy Clay, Eddie Esler, Mike Fuller, Tyler Horning, Tennessee Tuckness and Ray Wilson also dots the playbill.
Kids will find plenty to do at the family-oriented music festival; Panhandle PBS, Amarillo Museum of Art, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, and AC’s Teach Club will sponsor a kids’ area from 2-5 p.m. Craft-making and other activities will be offered. Food trucks and other vendors will be on hand.
The first five episodes of The Vietnam War will air nightly from Sunday, Sept. 17, through Thursday, Sept. 21, and the final five episodes will air nightly from Sunday, Sept. 24, through Thursday, Sept. 28. Each episode premieres at 7 p.m. Central Time, with a repeat broadcast immediately following the premiere.
For more information about the documentary series or Panhandle PBS’ Crossing the Divide: the Texas Panhandle Vietnam War Project, please visit www.PanhandleRemembers.org.