The film is not a 75-minute woe-is-me tale but one that helps to place in context the lives of those who are at least on the verge of making it, but who know that the fields and the factories and the fast-food joints may be a short stumble away. It is against all odds that I am here, a university professor, a journalist, living fairly comfortably in Baltimore. A good portion of my Georgia childhood was in raggedy houses without indoor plumbing. Educational opportunities were my path of escape. The same was true for the congressman, the son of South Carolina sharecroppers who migrated to Baltimore. When his father saw him sworn in as a member of Congress in 1996, the elder Mr. Cummings later explained that he wept because he was thinking of what could have been — for him and for others — had racial barriers not been what they were when he was in the prime of life.