An incredible story of transformation and friendship between a former Ku Klux Klan member and an African-American pastor who he tried to kill earlier is being shown in a movie called “Burden” which releases on Feb. 28 in theaters across the United States.
The incredible true story is about Michael Burden from Laurens, South Carolina, whose life was completely transformed after meeting Rev. David Kennedy.
They had a bitter start to their friendship, when in 1996, Burden opened a Klan Museum in their small town and was met by a tough resistance by the Baptist reverend who was concerned that it would result in increase in racial tensions.
With the passing of time, these sworn enemies became the best of friends, and today, the building where the museum and The Redneck Shop stood, is now owned by Kennedy who hopes of converting it into a shrine of reconciliation.
“Racism and hatred, they are both destructive and they have no future,” Rev. Kennedy, whose great-great-uncle was lynched in the community, said. “But love, forgiveness and mercy will always have a future because they are constructive.”
Burden’s girlfriend had a hand in steering him away from the KKK, which he finally did in 1997. Rev. Kennedy, had at one point given shelter to Burden, and also baptized him eventually. Burden gave ownership of the old theater to Rev. Kennedy for $1,000, and with one condition that John Howard, who ran The Redneck Shop, would be allowed to stay there till he died.
Howard abandoned the store several years ago, and did not spend a dime on maintaining the place. So when he passed away in 2017, Kennedy got total control of the building but needed half a million dollars to do it up. That’s where Hollywood entered into the picture.
Rev. Kennedy, the minister of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, which meets in a converted gun store outside of Laurens, received help from The Echo Project and 101 Studios, the production company behind the movie.
Watch: Burden Movie Trailer
Director Andrew Heckler, who had visited the Redneck Shop in the late 90s and had read about Kennedy’s fight, finished the screenplay in 2001, and was waiting for the day when audiences would see this truly inspiring story in theaters. The movie premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and won the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. Kennedy is played by Forest Whitaker and Burden by Garret Hedlund.
“There is a pathway for fighting hate,” Heckler said. “It’s not easy. It’s love, faith and not giving up.” Burden and Kennedy are still friends to this day, although they don’t live close to one another as Burden has become a truck drives and drives across the country.
“When I changed my lifestyle I buried that guy,” Burden said of his racist past. “I’m willing to go through this again. Am I happy about it? Some days yes, some days no.”
What a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption, we all need to see this movie “Burden” because it is so relevant to the times that we are living in today.