Walking into the classroom at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center on West 9th Street in Little Rock, I had no idea what to expect from the screening of “Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street.” I am a senior at Hendrix College interning with the AETN production department, and, up until the drive to Little Rock, I had not given a thought to how the film would be received by the audience (the audience being the people interviewed in the film). During the drive, though, Tanisha – the film’s producer – said she was nervous. “Of course she is!” I realized. She is telling these people’s stories. She’s becoming their mouthpiece. She wants to do them justice.
Up until that point, I’d just assumed everyone would love “Dream Land.” It was a great film—beautiful, moving, revealing, smart, well-crafted. The more I thought about it, though, the more I understood Tanisha’s anxiety. This story was about more than just a building. It was about people, their triumphs and their deepest cuts. What if they felt their story was misrepresented? What if they felt their voices had been exploited?
By the end of the screening, I realized I had been right to not worry. The “Dream Land” had been received brilliantly. Yet, I was still thinking about the people in the room — living flesh and blood — and the very real fact that this film was a compilation of their stories. This film was their chance for their voices to be heard. As I spoke with some of them during lunch, I heard even more stories, some happy, some deeply troubling. When it came to the deeply troubling ones, I was disturbed to realize how surprised I was at their experiences. I knew about racism. I knew it had affected the South. But I had never heard personal stories. Why had I never heard personal stories?
As I left the classroom, I couldn’t help but realize a disconcerting truth: as far as we have gone in overcoming racism, we have much further to go. If I am 22 years old, born and raised in the South, and am only just now hearing personal accounts of racial prejudice, then something is terribly wrong. I can’t help but think these people still don’t have a loud enough voice, and that’s exactly why this film is so important. It’s a chance for the volume of their voices to be turned up a bit.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Marie Kressin is an intern in the AETN production department and a senior at Hendrix College. Marie is majoring in English and creative writing and will graduate in May of 2017.