Civil rights

New documentary aims to show civil rights struggle in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – A new documentary produced by a group of creators from Grand Rapids aims to highlight the city’s civil rights struggles and foster change.

” There is so much [to learn]”Said Victor Williams, filmmaker. “There is so much when you document a community that has not been documented. ”

In 2018, Williams, Jazmyne Fuentes and Rodney Brown formed Photos of the grandstand, a film production company that focuses on “the travels and debates of blacks in Grand Rapids”.

Within months, they started working on their first project, a documentary based on the book City within City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids.

As of 2022, the film is in its final stages of production and is slated for release next August.

“It gives a lot of information about many games that have been played here in the city for a very long time,” said Fuentes. “There is a kind of facade of a progressive and very open-minded community, but then there are a lot of roadblocks being thrown at the same time.”

The book was written in 2012 by Dr Todd Robinson and examines issues related to inclusive education and bureaucratic reforms.

He argues that the “postwar political reform championed by local Republicans transformed the racial geography of the city, creating a racialized ‘city within a city’ with a system of ‘managerial racism’ designed to maintain blacks in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city center. ”

In an interview with FOX 17, Fuentes illustrated the Auburn Hills Development Project, in which a group of black men wanted to create an integrated neighborhood in the city’s northeast, but was turned down.

“There was a lot done in the city to make it seem like it was a great idea and would be welcomed by government and business alike, and yet there were only a million roadblocks that had just been put in place, ”says Fuentes. “Planning commissions would just block things or put them down forever. “

READ MORE: Streets of Grand Rapids to be renamed in honor of civil rights leaders

Fuentes added: “They continued to feel like they were getting a lot of support, and yet they didn’t even know how many roadblocks were coming from the very people who said they were supporting them.”

Grand Stand Pictures says the book articulates the experience of black people in the city, but the film allows more people to understand and learn how it impacts their lives today.

“It’s a relationship where it’s always going to be in the best interests of white culture and the business interests of this community, no matter how you cut it,” Brown said. “The fact that we have a president from South High School, President Ford, and one of the greatest soul singing legends in the world, Reverend Al Green… we never uplift Al Green by telling our story on our Grand Rapids. “

Since work on the project began, Grand Stand Pictures has said it has partnered with Dr Robinson, interviewed countless people in the southeastern part of the city, and held many community meetings to shape their work.

The company also recently acquired a space in the annex building of the rich theater of the Community Media Center. The aim is to make it a media incubator and help cultivate people’s interest in music, art, film and photography through training and learning opportunities.

“His [managerial racism] preventing people from achieving certain goals, from having opportunities available to them, ”said Williams. “Our mission is to create a base of black jobs here in Grand Rapids who can do these jobs and thus be able to come out into the community and fill some of these roles.”

READ MORE: Governor Whitmer awards $ 65,000 for two Michigan projects focused on civil rights history

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