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> Across The River

 

Across the River: Self-Help in Public Housing
Transcript For Segment 3

NARRATOR: LOOKS LIKE THE TYPICAL IMAGE OF CRIME-FIGHTING IN AMERICA'S INNER CITIES. BUT THERE'S A TWIST. COOPERATION WITH NEIGHBORHOOD ACTIVISTS IS WHAT'S NEEDED, ACCORDING TO POLICE VETERANS LIKE TOM BLAGBURN.

BLAGBURN: "This has got to be an intensive, hands-on commitment by people who genuinely care about young people on their own turf."

B. RICHARDSON: "When did you turn 13?...What are you doing out so late?"

NARRATOR: BRENDA RICHARDSON AND THE ANACOSTIA/CONGRESS HEIGHTS PARTNERSHIP WORK CLOSELY WITH THE POLICE.

B. RICHARDSON: "What we're hung-up on is being able to meet people where they and, and to help lift them up to where they want to be."

NARRATOR: THIS EFFORT HAS WON THE RESPECT OF THE AREA'S TOP POLICE OFFICER, INSPECTOR WINSTON ROBINSON.

ROBINSON: "Brenda has taken on some of the toughest areas out here...They see drug dealers, possibly some people that have killed people, and they're able to meet with those families, work with those young kids and bring about some change in attitudes."

NARRATOR: WHO IS BRENDA RICHARDSON AND WHY DOES A GRADUATE OF TWO UNIVERSITIES WORK IN TROUBLED NEIGHBORHOODS?

H. SMITH: "So you grew up in this community and now you want to revive it?"

RICHARDSON: "Absolutely. Um, I think that it's important that those of us who grew up here, that once we make it, so to speak, that we come back and we live here and we work here."

NARRATOR: ANOTHER ANACOSTIA NATIVE, JIM BANKS, DREAMED UP THE ANACOSTIA/CONGRESS HEIGHTS PARTNERSHIP. ITS FOCUS IS ON MOBILIZING PEOPLE IN PUBLIC HOUSING.

BANKS: "....We are simply activating a spirit and an energy and a creativity which is here, which has been ignored."

NARRATOR: FOR THE ANACOSTIA PARTNERSHIP, THAT MEANS GATHERING PEOPLE TOGETHER, CONNECTING THEM WITH ESSENTIAL SERVICES...AND HELPING THEM ORGANIZE TO IMPROVE THEIR OWN LIVES.

RESIDENT: "Well, I can't say how they felt about each other but as I got older, I realized it was simply domestic violence."

NARRATOR: THEY TAKE THAT APPROACH IN WORKSHOPS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, OR IN YOUTH PROGRAMS OR IN SENSITIVITY TRAINING FOR POLICE....

RICHARDSON: "We discovered that the residents had this really bad relationship with the police department."

STOTTS: "Well, I'd say 90 percent of the police I've run into, instead of trying to help, they make you want to go do certain things."

NARRATOR: RODNEY STOTTS, ONCE PART OF THE QUICK MONEY AND FAST STREET LIFE IN ANACOSTIA, VOICES THE TYPICAL MISTRUST OF THE POLICE.

RICHARDSON: "We decided to start this police sensitivity training and it proved to be really useful and really helpful, because the people in the community were able to establish a relationship with the police officers. They are human beings who live and breath just like we do. And the officers were able to see them as real people just like them."

BALLARD: "Okay, Come on. Follow us. We've got a plan."

RICHARDSON: "Attitudes and perceptions are beginning to change because it makes a difference when you've got Officer Ballard walking the streets of Barry Farms and he knows the kids and the kids know him."

BALLARD: "Straight As and straight Bs."

NARRATOR: THE PARTNERSHIP BRINGS TOGETHER TENANT COUNCILS, CHURCHES, AND NON-PROFIT CIVIC GROUPS. AT ITS MONTHLY MEETINGS, IT HELPS LINK THE PEOPLE OF ANACOSTIA WITH RESOURCES FROM THE WIDER COMMUNITY.

GEORGETOWN DR: "The Georgetown pediatric mobile clinic is, has four locations in Ward 8..."

SPEAKER2: "I'm here to talk to you about family preser- vation, family support...."

SPEAKER4: "Co-ed double-header softball league..."

R. TRUEHART: "If you have young teens who are interested in playing softball, talk to me after....."

NARRATOR: BOOKS AND BALLS RUN BY ROGER TRUEHART AND PASTOR WANDA MCNEIL IS ONE OF MANY LOCAL SELF-HELP PROGRAMS FOSTERED BY THE PARTNERSHIP.

H. SMITH: "What is Books and Balls? What's the connection? How do sports and studies work together?...

W. MCNEILL: "We wanted to do more tutoring. The Community wanted to do more recreation, so they suggested we put recreation and education together, and use recreation as the carrot to pull the kids into an educational process."

TRUEHART: "Give me, uh, a paragraph on an imaginary scenario..."

NARRATOR: THEY ALSO RUN A GENERAL EDUCATION PROGRAM TO HELP STRUGGLING MOTHERS.MCNEILL: "It's really sort of like a bridge from some of the women being on public assistance, some of them being in public housing, to making that step to employment or higher education."

NARRATOR: THE PARTNERSHIP'S WORK IS NOT WITHOUT FRICTIONS AND RIVALRIES. THERE'S A NEED TO BREAK DOWN OLD SUSPICIONS.

MASSEY: "The feeling was a feeling of mistrust, totally...

NARRATOR: JACKIE MASSEY, WHO LOST A SON TO STREET VIOLENCE, HEADS THE TENANTS COUNCIL AT VALLEY GREEN PUBLIC HOUSING PROJECT.

B RICHARDSON: "They were like, 'Well, Brenda, talk is cheap. You come here saying that the Partnership is going to do this and the Partnership is going to do that."

MASSEY: "And most people use us as a springboard to get what they want and then they leave us holding the bag."

H. SMITH: "So how did they turn that around and win your trust?

MASSEY: "They won my trust by being consistent... I sat down and talked to Brenda....You know, we did something called the Block of Pain."

RICHARDSON: "And then she drew this block of pain. In this corner here she had shame. In this corner here she had sadness. And down here she had death and over here, she had disrespectfulness. And she said, 'Brenda, when you grow up in this culture that's embodied in this block of pain, it's not easy for us to be excited when you're bringing all these resources into our community and the people don't come out."

NARRATOR: AT BARRY FARMS, THE CONNECTIONS HAVE WORKED WELL. ...RESIDENTS' COUNCIL PRESIDENT DOROTHEA FERRELL.

D. FERRELL: "The Partnership has done a great deal for Barry Farms. We set up a community center. We've gotten computers donated to us through the Partnership, and we have computer classes. We have meetings that I attend with the Partnership. I always meet someone there who has an avenue to resources and I always ask if there's any way that can bring the resources to Barry Farms."

NARRATOR: LIKE MUCH OF ANACOSTIA, BARRY FARMS HAS A RICH HISTORY. A CAMPGROUNDS FOR CIVIL WAR ESCAPED FREEDMEN, IT BECAME A THRIVING BLACK COMMUNITY. THE FREEDMEN BUILT HOMES ON ONE-ACRE LOTS BOUGHT FROM THE FREEDMEN'S BUREAU. THAT PROUD PAST MOTIVATES COMMUNITY LEADERS LIKE MRS. FERRELL, WHOSE GRANDSON WAS ALSO A VICTIM OF THE VIOLENCE PLAGUING THIS PUBLIC HOUSING AREA.

FERRELL: "...another drive-by shooting...."ROBINSON: "These areas are all tough. Barry Farms being the number one toughest. And Brenda Richardson along with Dorothea Ferrell, the resident council chair and the ANC commissioner for that area, have worked together to bring that neighborhood around."

H.SMITH: "Can you see an actual impact on the crime rate from the work of the Partnership?"

ROBINSON: "Certainly. I've seen a drastic decrease in the homicide rate....Bullets won't solve it. Lockin' people up won't solve it. It takes participation by all citizens to solve the problems that we have in our communities."

NARRATOR: ANOTHER CHANGE...CURBSIDE PEDIATRIC CARE FOR BARRY FARMS AND OTHER COMMUNITIES.

FERRELL: "We had a lot of young moms in Barry Farms who had sickly babies, and they'd always tell me they had no carfare to get the babies over to D.C. General or to the well-baby clinic....And when we have our GED classes and the young people come in, we encourage them to continue their education and have families later. But the ones that have their families there, the van is positively great for them."

NARRATOR: THE PARTNERSHIP ALSO LINKED BOB NIXON'S EARTH CONSERVATION CORPS WITH SOME OF ANACOSTIA'S STREET TOUGHS.

R. STOTTS: "...a few years ago, I used to be, like a, how would you say it? A criminal. I just wasn't on the right side of the law. Then I had my little daughter and I wanted to change. (shot of Nixon at Partnership meeting)

NIXON: "I just want to thank the Partnership..."STOTTS: "And I met Robert Nixon down at one of the Valley Green council meetings.

RICHARDSON: "Bob came to the Partnership office about three years ago. So I called Mrs. Massey and I told her about Bob, and that he had opportunities to present to the people in the community."

STOTTS: "And I ended up getting a job with the Earth Conservation Corps."H. SMITH: "It's a little bit of a turn around for you, isn't it? I mean I recall you saying at one point when they offered you first $100 a week, you said, 'I can make $100 in five minutes.'"

STOTTS: "And I stood up. I was about to leave. And my mom was like, 'What would you rather have - $100 a week and be able to walk the streets freely or $100 in five minutes and looking over your back for that bullet or the police. So I wanted to walk the streets freely, so I took the $100 a week."

H. SMITH: "So for you...it's meant the difference between dealing drugs on the corner and finding a way to support a family?"

STOTTS: "Right."

MASSEY: "And it takes certain people to come into your life to bring some love and some - just some human kindness...I am loyal to the Partnership because they have done a lot for me."

RICHARDSON: "Each one of us has to play a role in embracing communities, nurturing them and supporting them. And we do that by letting them know that we appreciate you whether you live in public housing or not."

BLAGBURN: "The majority of people who live in inner cities across the country and public housing are not involved in crimes and violence but nobody talks about all the non-profits, all the churches, all the wonderful people who are out here on a daily basis - uncompensated many times - trying to change the trajectory which lands too many young people in the penitentiary and the graveyard."