Saturday, January 26, 2008

Clips from the Upcoming Documentary...

Clip of Monica Robinson, resident, teacher and community activist. She lives in the area of the city that used to be called Newtown, a predominantly African-American neighborhood on the north side of the city. Newtown was established as an independent town adjacent to Harrisonburg by freed slaves from the Shenandoah Valley following the Civil War--later, the area was incorporated into the city. During the 1960's, under the guise of "urban renewal," the city razed housing and African-American businesses in this area, which many say the community hasn't recovered from.

This same area continues to have a strong sense of community and now in addition to African Americans, Latinos and immigrant groups are settling there. This has led the city and its police department to dub the community a "weed and seed" district, part of a federal initiative that seeks to "weed" out criminals and "seed" human services in designated high crime areas. Robinson and her neighbors balk at their historic neighborhood being characterized as "weedy," so she and some other volunteers have organized a branch of Copwatch in the city, to advocate for community policing, monitor and try to prevent police abuses and to help people understand their rights in relation to the police. I went on patrol with Copwatch during the filming of this documentary.

Clip of an interview with Todd Hedinger, Harrisonburg resident active in Friends of Blacks Run Greenway, an organization dedicated to preserving the eleven mile long Blacks Run stream that runs through the city and building a greenway trail along the trunk of the Run.

Clip of an interview with Fred Cooper, long-time Harrisonburg resident and folk artist. He would probably shy away from the term folk artist, but I can't think of a better way to describe his work. He has spent the better part of his life's free time outside of work sketching the houses and buildings of the city before they met with the wrecking ball. In years past, when he would hear of a building that was about to be demolished, he would drop what he was doing and run over to preserve it in his notebooks. When he missed drawing a building before it was down, he would do research to find a photograph or old postcard in order to complete his drawing. Sometimes he only had his memory for a guide. His drawings, and there are hundreds and hundreds, comprise an unbelievable history of the lost parts of the city.

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