Film to showcase Thurman’s boyhood in Daytona


A documentary is in the works that highlights the life of Howard Thurman, who became one of the country’s renowned theologians. Thurman grew up in Daytona Beach.

Arleigh Prelow, right, directs a scene. Derek Sanford films as James Felton re-enacts a young Howard Thurman looking out into the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.

Massachusetts-based filmmaker Arleigh Prelow was in Daytona last weekend to film scenes for the film.

“The Psalm of Howard Thurman’’ is being produced by Prelow’s company, inSpirit Communications and Film. It is the first feature-length film on the life and wisdom of Thurman.

According to its website, “the film introduces audiences to Thurman’s uplifting story, his transcendent yet grounded presence, and his important voice for our times. The film aspires to be a psalm, a lyrical work of beauty and truth, and a creative utterance that moves, touches and inspires.’’

Minister, professor
Born on Nov. 18, 1899, Thurman lived in his home at 614 Whitehall Street in Daytona Beach until he moved to Jacksonville to attend the Florida Academy Baptist High School, the closest high school available to Black Daytonans in the 1910s.

He received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1923 and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1925 after graduating from Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary.

In 1928, he returned to Atlanta to serve as director of religious life and professor of theology at Morehouse and Spelman colleges, and in 1932 was appointed dean of Rankin Chapel and professor of systematic theology at Howard University.

Author, mentor
While on sabbatical from Howard, he traveled to Burma, Ceylon and India where he established a friendship with Mahatma Gandhi.

Thurman was appointed dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University in 1953, and after his retirement from Boston University in 1965, he returned to The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, America’s first interracial church, which he founded in 1944.

Thurman was the author of over 20 books and provided spiritual guidance for the civil rights movement. He was a mentor for many of the movement’s key leaders.

Named a, 20th-century saint by Ebony magazine, Thurman was selected as one of America’s 12 outstanding preachers in a nationwide poll conducted by Life magazine.

His work has profoundly influenced leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and President Barack Obama.

This photo is in front of the backyard oak tree of Howard Thurman’s childhood, which still stands outside of the Howard Thurman Historical Home on Whitehall Street. Left to right: LaToya McCoy, mother of James Felton; Jeremiah Felton, brother of James Felton; Arleigh Prelow, Leroy Meadows, James Felton, and Derek Sanford.

Childhood scenes
Prelow focused her filming last weekend on depicting Thurman’s childhood experiences of nature in Daytona Beach. Shooting locations included Ponce Inlet and the Howard Thurman Historical Home on Whitehall Street.

Helping to re-create the scenes of Howard Thurman as a boy included James Felton, a member of the Inner Acting Youth Ensemble at the Yvonne Scarlett Golden Cultural & Educational Center; cameraman Derek Sanford of Captivating Minds Entertainment; Leroy Meadows, founder and director of the Inner Acting Youth Ensemble and photographer; and Qasim Abdul-Tawwab, administrator of the Howard Thurman Historical Home.

Percy Williamson of Daytona Beach’s Leisure Services Department, and Eric and Kathy Breitenbach assisted in securing the location shoot.

Vision fulfilled
Prelow is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University.

“I have envisioned these shots since I started work on ‘The Psalm of Howard Thurman, many moons ago. I am so thankful that after all of these years, I am now able to fulfill this vision and capture the experiences that helped to shape the heart, mind, and spirit of Howard,’’ Prelew said.

“The Psalm of Howard Thurman’’ will undertake a Crowdfunding campaign this fall to help secure funding to complete the film.

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