fbpx

A Reckoning In Boston

Just Economy Conference – May 11, 2021

 

For filmmaker James Rutenbeck, a project to document students who had experienced homelessness, incarceration or faced barriers to a college education as they engaged in a rigorous night course in the humanities started a journey to partner with those students in an attempt to explain the divide between White and Black, rich and poor. What does it look like for Boston residents impacted by structural racism to take back their stories, their lives and their city?

Speakers:

  • James Rutenbeck, Filmmaker, A Reckoning in Boston
  • Kafi Dixon, Farmer in the Northeast & Founder/The Common Good Cooperative, Cooperative for Women and Greater Boston
  • Juan Leyton, director of organizing, NCRC

Transcript

NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Leyton 0:05

Welcome to the Just Economy Conference 2021 with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Happy to have you all here. This workshop recording in Boston. Such a nice documentary that you all want to see if you haven’t seen it highly recommended. So I have with me today James Rutenbeck and Kafi Dixon. So welcome to the Just Economy Conference. Happy to have you here today. 

 

Rutenbeck 0:41

Thank you Juan.

 

Dixon 0:42

Thank you Juan. Thank you for having us.

 

Leyton 0:46

Yeah, so we’re going to have I have a couple of I mean, more than a couple of questions. We’re gonna say this about how our dialogue conversation today. And, and, and I wanted to sort of like, I wanted to start by asking each of you if you can tell us more about yourself. And yet who I mean, tell us more about yourself so people can get to know you a little bit more. Sure.

 

Rutenbeck 1:15

Kafi Do you want to start? No. Okay, I’m, I’m from small, working class farm town in eastern Iowa. where I grew up, I went to college in the Midwest. And then after college, I worked in rural, rural West Virginia on a teacher corps project. And because I thought that I wanted to work with young kids as a teacher, but then I realized I was temperamentally unsuited to that work. And I always loved film and theater. And I just decided to go for it. So I moved to the east coast, I worked in New York for a small educational film company. I moved to Boston because I had heard that there was a long standing tradition of nonfiction filmmaking here, and I wanted to be part of that. And so I was a waiter for many years while I worked on film projects, mostly for no salary. and got to know people in the community went to grad school here, and I’ve stayed on and so I’ve been working as a director and editor for since the early 1980s. When I finished grad school. And I’ve worked on films that are, I worked for a company in Boston called vital pictures that did a series called unnatural causes, which was about health disparities. The subtitle is, is inequality making us sick? And I’ve worked on some other films about race and social justice issues. And but a recognition in Boston is a film that unexpectedly sort of took me to a new involvement with social justice issues.

 

Leyton 3:04

Kafi do you want to tell us about yourself?

 

Dixon 3:06

sure. My name is Kafi Dixon. I am a native northeast gender. I’m also a native Bostonian. We can trace our lineage back in New England and in Boston, at least six generations. I’m also a business owner. And well before I even knew what the concept was or the statement of social impact, at the age of 19, I opened up my first business which was a social impact business now that I know where I was helping women access furniture bedding specifically. After there was a rash of neglect reports opened up against single mothers low income single mothers, for things as simple as not having adequate bedding the children sleeping in the same beds and not having bunk beds so on and so forth. I’ve had many businesses throughout my life so I’m I’ve sold some I’ve moved on from and just decided to at this point in my life that with the background in farming and agriculture, I had an interest in going into rural farming. And the famous story is that in my transition to Vermont, right, or to the mountains of the Berkshires, here in Massachusetts, that I realized that I had a privilege and my ability to be able to transition to rural land. But even though I didn’t have an education to speak of, and, you know, I had challenges in my life a lot around race, class and gender, that being able to have a dream of transitioning from what I consider to violent space to a peaceful space was a privilege within itself. Before transitioning out of the city of Boston, I decided to see if I could assist some of the women that I considered my friends who were in the communities in the urban communities living in poverty, suffering from lower resources challenge, again, by issues of class power and privilege. And to see if I could bring some of my understanding of cooperative knowledge was in cooperative works, and intersect it with food systems work, to provide them ways to come together as a community center and be healthy. From that, intention, common good cooperatives was born. Common Good, cooperative, quiet, as kept, has 900 members sitting on a meetup. We have about 60 members who have registered through our new website. And we’re running a crowdfunding campaign through AI fund woman where we’ve had at least 35 members come on and crowdsource the sustainability of the co op. The future of the co op is to be a zero waste Co Op, in an urban environment, where we talk about community health, wellness and Neighborhood Development, specifically from the voices of the people who embody the community who have been here, Jen generationally, with the focus on reciprocity and reconciliation in the community. And that reciprocity and reconciliation is the generational ties to Dorchester, Roxbury, mattapan, as people of color, and with an acknowledgement that they’ve been deployed, displaced and moved out, and hoping that our organization could act as a gap stop in a way to provide them Foundation, some sustainability, some way to push back against systems that are going on now in the city and country, which are creating challenges to the basic existence of black families here in the city. Thank you.

 

Leyton 7:08

Thank you. So I want to give back to the corporate the question that you’re talking about, because I am very passionate or cooperative. So I’ll come back to that. But I wanted to ask Steve, I mean, what motivated you to sit on, like, make this documentary? I mean, what is sort of your personal motivation to be to have done this? Yeah, well, I,

 

Rutenbeck 7:28

I had been to I make, I’ve made other documentaries over the years that are mostly like passion projects, I guess, the films that are generally underfunded, but they’re about things I care about. And oftentimes, these films are longitudinal. And they take time to make because part of the filmmaking is documenting people’s lives as they’re changing over time. So sort of finding people who are really interesting and watching their lives unfold. And in this case, it took five years to make this film. And it started I guess, when I went to benefit dinner for mass humanities, which has a program called the Clemente course in the humanities, which is a tuition free night course, in the humanities, art, literature, philosophy and history for people who never had the opportunity to go to college for one reason or another. And there are 34 sites across the US have Clemente courses. And I heard a graduate speak at this dinner and was really impressed by this woman and she, she was able to take the six credits that she got from Bard College, which everyone who completes the course will get and sort of launched yourself into an undergraduate career and was able to had a really inspiring story about graduating from college and becoming, you know, pursuing work that was meaningful to her and sort of releasing this potential that she always had in her but was never allowed to find fruition and so I thought that seemed like a really, you know, I was thinking like within each of the classrooms like in Dorchester, the Dorchester site in mess, there’s several sites in Massachusetts, but there’s one in Dorchester, where Kafi studied. You know, within this one class of 22 people, I, I assume, oh my god, there must be like, such amazing stories from the people in the classroom. And so I had just enough money in 2014. to, to know that we could film The classes over the course of a year, not all the classes, but like eight classes with multi cameras in a black box space at the cabin score health center. And that I trusted that from there. You know, we could do more filming over time, but I didn’t really expect, I thought that we would film a little bit outside the classroom with some of the some of the people and some of the students. And that was where things got more complicated as I got closer to two other students Kafi, and Carl Chandler, who were both, you know, really outstanding students in the course. But as I got to, as I spent more time with them, and saw the obstacles in their lives as people of color in Boston, in a city that was changing dramatically and booming, in many ways, but not for people on the lower tiers of Boston, you know, the city, the film, the film changed pretty dramatically. And so it was a film, starting out as a film about transformation through experience, engagement with art and literature and philosophy, which it still is, in some ways, but there’s a there’s another piece to the film now and another narrative that explores systemic racism, and primarily through through Kafi and Carl’s stories.

 

Leyton 11:17

And I have to say that I was very impressed by some of the reflections and conversations that the students like Daffy had like going through those like, those philosophical conversations. So I was like, I was very impressed by that. I’m gonna I’m gonna get back to you in a minute. But I wanted to sort of have a follow up with James because also, I saw that, as you were telling the story, stories, or the students and the city of Boston, also this house, this film also was sort of impacting you personally. You can say more about that, because it seemed to me that you didn’t know you were going to your own personal sort of like deflection transformation to this process. You can say more of that

 

Rutenbeck 12:05

right well, what happened was, I started to recognize that I didn’t really understand everything that was going on, especially in Kafi slife. And as someone who was aspiring to do something that seemed very noble to me, and something that I think anyone in a conservative or progressive person would say, is admirable, like organizing in your neighborhood, raising food for your neighbors, doing it in a cooperative way. It seemed to me like wow, this, this is the kind of thing that everybody talks about. You know, this is what this is sort of an ideal situation. But there were so many obstacles that Kafi was facing along the way. And Carlos, well, like both of them were faced with the eviction Kafi was evicted during the course of the film. I started seeing other meeting other people from the course, who had housing insecurity, issues, food insecurity issues. I learned some of the members of the Clemente course some of the students had been bussed to South Boston and Charlestown in the 70s 1974. And I just started to see that, like, I’m in, I realized I was in over my head in terms of my understanding of the stories and that I started to see that I was arrogant to even think that I could mediate these stories, because I just didn’t have the wherewithal to do it or the life experience. And so I enlisted Kafi and Carl as producers to work with me in a collaborative way to help me try to tell the story and make sense of it. And then what happened was, we met with an executive from PBS from independent from Independent Lens, the PBS series who was interested in the film but felt that you know, I had sort of dipped my toe into being a widow more than a witness like someone who was actually a minor character in the film who was sort of commenting on what I had seen. And this executive said, James, unless you really bring yourself into the film in a deeper way, the way coffee and carbohydrates, this film is just going to be like every other film of its kind. And so Kafi basically became executive producer and started organizing these sessions where I would meet with her and Carl, and tolga shields, who’s in the film, and Kafi’s, friend Fernando, who teaches at Tufts Medical School, we would meet at his office in Charlestown and look at, basically, the challenge was for me to bring my voice into the film. And to be a witness, and part to be more than a witness like to enter in and sort of be transparent about my difficulty and my missteps in making trying to make this film and being guided and supported by people of color. Who were who valued my voice, and whose were saying to me, James, you know, when you went to a housing court with Kafi, and you saw how chaotic it was, and you saw all these families that were there who were facing eviction, with no legal support, you know, and how did that make you feel? You know, and how did it make you feel when you when Kafi was evicted, and when you went to the housing office with Kafi, and so there was a group of people around me supporting me to bring my voice and not to become a character in the film, but to tell that help give a sharper relief to Kafi and Carl’s stories. And also just to be more transparent about how the film was being made, and who was making the film. And I sort of, you know, I think what happened was, I became friends with Kafi and Carl. And when bad things happened to your friends, you tried to support them, right. And so I couldn’t just be an observer anymore, I had to, like, enter into the film, in a more overt way, and stick up for these people that I’d come to know and care for. And I think that was, that was when the film really changed. The film had been sort of floundering, like it wasn’t coming together as a film. Before that, and I think it bringing my voice in allowed me to do a lot of basic film, film things too, like storytelling and things that broke, we were able to sort of just drop knology and be a little freer about how we told the story. And I was able to bring, say things in a very concise way that would propel the story forward like details that, you know, could have taken a long time to unfold in a long scene or something, I could just sort of expedite some of the storytelling too. So it just ended up working really well. And Nolan Walker, who was the executive from ITVS. We sent him the film after we worked on it together. And he really liked it and wanted me to do some more work. And I worked closely with him. And then PBS Independent Lens, picked up the film license the film for broadcast, so it will be on independent lands next year. 

 

Leyton 17:54

Hey, Kafi, I was thinking, what he was striking for me to see you sort of like somebody who was very resilient, that would never would give up for Western like way to sort of fight back no matter what. And so when I was, I wasn’t asked to sort of call it How does it feel to be a corporate lucid and being in the field for these five years? As a one question and then two, I wanted to ask you more about your own involvement in organizing also in Boston. So you can first sort of like, share my feelings about being the film for like five years and how do you feel

 

Dixon 18:37

The you know, opening up we talk about vulnerability a lot in terms of making this documentary we talk about, you know, on a basic level, the vulnerability of myself Carlin Jane’s, but on a higher level, you’re talking about the vulnerability the shared vulnerability of a white man, right? The shared vulnerability of a black woman right, and the shared vulnerability of an interracial man of color with a background And indigenous and Native American community. And a lot of people ask me what brought me to that point of vulnerability, what brought me to the point of committing to being vulnerable, and in the documentary to participating it, to opening up my world to Jane’s to open in my world to Carl, and to open up my world to what I had always seen as a violent space for so many lower class lower resource the women here in the city of Boston, but you know, to opening up my world to be critiqued by so many, right here in the city, who maybe did not resonate with my experiences. Or were in disbelief of the experiences of so many women and men here in the city of Boston around displacement. But I began to realize really, what was a violent space was the cooperative development. What was the violent space was? First, you know, asking for autonomy in the voice of black women and our experiences, and then advocacy for that, right? And then what is it to be seen as a disgruntled, angry black woman, as I demand, you know, to hear our experiences and to hear our suffering. In these spaces and places that were that we were being told, we’re no longer for us. I didn’t think I would survive the process of talking about this work with common good cooperatives or advocating for these women who were marginalized, and very unseen, who are always just names or data or research was statistics in a university or in organizations, but had an actual lives not just within themselves, but within those spaces where they people were supposed to be advocating for them. So um, I said, if you want to know my world, James, because people need to know our world, then yes. And then supporting James, for what he was witnessing, realizing that he was witnessing violence, what was commonplace to us. I was witnessing it taking a toll on Jane’s, and I was witnessing him wrestling with the experiences of ours, difficult subjects that most people prefer not to even approach. He’s standing there by me in Delhi station and the welfare office and the homelessness unit. Not because I was here for myself, but in watching what happens to women and men as maybe get into calves and become their own domestic migrants. So the other side of Massachusetts, two communities that are not their home, you know, just to stabilize themselves. I’m witnessing him wrestling about why he’s at the housing court with me, or why he’s at the section eight office, what his power meant and advocacy for me in those spaces. And why did I feel that he could be that he was important in those spaces, wrestling, what it meant to be a white man of power in those spaces, and for him to provide transparency to the very real issues that black women have that women have in the city, right? So I want it to be gentle and create a space for him those same space I would ask for myself for the woman a space where we could be heard and decompress and feel supported. And Dr. Fernando owner from Tufts came through and in reciprocity and realizing and I guess chains and and self realization of meeting how telling not even help wanting us to be able to have voice in the story. The power of telling somebody to have voice and their own story provided to Carl and I an opportunity to be producers.

 

Leyton 23:56

Because they told you this question came up now as you’re talking that alone final presentation we said James, just totally out of place here. What are you talking about? Everything worked out fine. wasn’t like how did this I mean what tensions conflict coding these sort of relationship? Yeah, I mean, because it’s five years, five years is a long time. So let’s understand one place and the study shows that understand the issues.

 

Dixon 24:26

Yeah. Can I go ahead? There may have been people circling, circling and orbiting me who did not understand who weren’t clear on what James was doing, or what I was doing with James. The Odd Couple, right? In our friendship. Yes, I can see how people believe that in working across race and class, there are conflicts, I can also see how people perceive that those conflicts, specifically lie with women of color, and their ability to integrate into the understanding of other people’s culture, right, while they advocating for themselves or that their experiences again, or the community. But the thing that made James different than a lot of people is that a lot of people that black woman would push back on right, the concept of hero, right, James did not come in, he came in behind a camera and shied away from making himself the the lead in the stories of our lives. It just so happened that his story was integral to Rs and intersected Rs, and very, a very powerful way. But there were very few conflicts in five years to be had between James and I. Because he came in to listen. And till he came into witness, he did not come in, in judgment or critique. He came in understanding that we had a story to be told, and he wanted to know what that story was. And even more awesome, he could have just told the story, documented it and then left. Right and invited Carl and I to watch the documentary of our lives, watch the development around our lives, he could have been on these panels solely. But in the true form of altruism, I think I’m pronouncing that right. And the true form of giving right and a true form of community and friendship. He took what power that he would have had as a director with such a powerful film, and seated that power into Carl and I. And then understanding that again, we had the ability to capacity and competency, to speak to our experiences, and to speak to an audience so that they fully understand what they were witnessing in the documentary and made it equitable. Let’s not forget about that.

 

Leyton 27:40

But that’s great. I wanted to shift gears a little bit. And I have to say there are many things that relate to me intermodal, like, I’ve been in Boston for 30 years. So some of the situation like I did, where were you the one to Thompson Island. And so there are scenes like that they were like, very touching into molesting you, and very, very nice things. But I wanted to sort of like talk about, I mean, pretty much bring us back to the issue of like, in some ways, race equity and the issue of gentrification in the city of Boston. I think in some ways, and your work ethic has been sort of like trying to sort of like, not just speak up, but also like be an example of somebody who’s a little like, organizing. And, by the way, I also did work for city level one. So I was very pleased to see you there. Standing up and, and doing that protest. So if you can if you can talk more about like I wanted to sort of like you tell me more about how you see like, like Boston with things that are right now I know there’s a long history of like, neighborhood segregation, school segregation, and issue when the integration happens, and many things that are still lingering in many different levels. And now being gentrified. Do you have any reflections that you’d like to share? Other Lego Iran activation and organizing?

 

Dixon 29:20

Yeah, boss is a fascinating city. And again, being generational to Boston, I want to think about the displacement of my family generations and generations ago from Beacon Hill right? as African American Northerners as working class as domestic labor, and how they will push out of Beacon Hill and ended up in New in Newton, Massachusetts, and how they sought a place to be able to build community and worship on their own. And found at Myrtle Baptist Church, a new in center, the matriarchs of our line, and how thank you to my paternal relationship with my family from New in. I think often times in development we miss where it stands on the neck, shoulders and bodies of the people who existed in that city. One of the conversations I really hear spoken about we always talking about how to make room in the city for so many. But we don’t talk about what community was last. The advocacy for the women specifically around people of colors around African American communities in Boston, in the face of gentrification was we knew the city was being gentrified. A long time ago, we knew there was no space for African American communities. And that’s brought forth by just looking I encourage anybody to look at the statistics for the diminish nature, numbers of African American families here in the city of Boston, I realized that nobody talked about that, right. nobody talked about how few African American families there existed in the city. How we were replaced, right, and in the truest way of a colonized country in the truest ways of politics, right and a truest way of pitting communities against each other. You know, we were slowly but surely replaced right by other communities with a question or a blink of an eye on what happened to all the African American businesses. African American hair salons. What happened to the African American social halls, clubs, restaurants? What happened to the African American community in his culture that once existed and thrived all through South End, all through Roxbury, all through Dorchester, right. What happened to that community there? It’s not talked about that they were no longer African American social gathering places that they’ve been closed down, or unsupported and lost. Right? So the gentrification is not doesn’t just start by raised rents, or raise rents or le iL iL Ill use policy right? Or Ill lead disseminate a policy. The red flag that there was no longer space was a for us was the diminished support around economic development to stay stabilize. And I want to talk about gentrification in Boston. It was first gutting African American communities have the ability to participate in economic development, and business development, that led to our inability to stabilize within the city that led to us being a vulnerable community that is now scattered throughout the state. And some will say New Hampshire and Rhode Island as well.

 

Leyton 33:42

One of the things that I that I want to share with you sort of like the fact that I mean, talking about gentrification is the fact that there are places that change the names that were like roseberry they change the name and zip codes to sort of disassociate themselves from Roxbury because he was the one that black people live right like let’s say mission hill that was part of like they changed the name yet to sort of like market themselves differently. Or maybe another like a documentary at some point James is also like all these like clubs formed by black people in Dudley and also like in the In the south end, that also was by a robbery that totally was to form over the past four years. So there was a lot of sort of like, was a thriving black community with like jazz and businesses at some point. And that’s part of the history. But, and, and the thing that I was thinking, but the geography because you mentioned cooperatives and others, and when you went, and I’m not going to guess that with the city processor, their policy that can solve things, and halfway through them, probably was for you going to.to, a CD? And what? How do you see the solutions in the model? I think about like, from a community perspective, I mean, when it comes down, sort of like we could do X, Y, and Z. I mean, if you can educate you have any reflections and things like that, and these problems, and driven by things that can be driven from a community perspective, and then also they can, they can sort of like bubble up to sort of the policy level in some ways.

 

Dixon 35:23

I’m going to shy away from answering those questions. Um, yes. In looking at this model, right, this model that was based off of the experiences that grew out of the experiences, oppressions and the challenges that I experience, and innately understood that if I, as someone that felt like I was really competent was experiencing them, then what hope is there for a Kesha? what hope is there for tolga or a shower, right? But if I as a business person, talking about social impact work as a social entrepreneur, as a farmer as agriculturalists, as an environmentalist, if I was experiencing as a pleasant person, typically, right, it’s same pleasant person I was experiencing these challenges would make me question my whole entire existence in mental health, right? What hope was there for anybody else. But what I also understood and made sure not to do is I am not a storyteller. And I push back on anybody that considers themselves a storyteller, because you can quantify the financial benefit and storytelling, right. But I, I realized that it wasn’t for me the same as James right. It wasn’t for me to tell the stories of the other women, or to take what they their kitchen table conversations they had, we have as a resolution, it’s to create space through a cooperative model to give them voice. And obviously they want to voice because they wouldn’t have signed up 900 people strong for a meet up with absolutely barely any programs on it. Right? And my fear of, or my concern of how do I support the lives of these women? The model that we’re working on as part of our cooperative is to advocate right it is to give power play some voice to the women. What can be done in the city of us? I mean, basic, the cooperative has developed the policy brief that if anybody’s interested, feel free to contact us through our website, to share a policy brief, developed by black woman from toughs write on ways that we can ensure that policy is being used properly, right, to make sure that our city stays equitable, and diverse and as a welcoming space for all races and cultures, all levels of socio economic communities. And that’s my biggest thing is where are we with policy? Where are we with our elected officials? Where are we with who’s being actionable? Right? About in policy, around understanding the community is not a reflection of the community. But who is putting policy into place to support these communities. And I always ask people to interrogate themselves on how an organization that is poised with over 900 women and the cooperative is not acknowledged in the city. And how does that tie as an African American Well, how does that tie to the history and the relationship between the city and its African American community that fought back so vigorously, that we were able to create space and demand space not only for ourselves, but for so many others, and then to be the victim of marginalization and advocacy. So I hope that you will keep an eye on the co op and some of the policy suggestions that we have But also in supporting the women and telling their stories and experience so that people who are thought leaders, right, as I look to transition out of this Co Op, that the people who are thought leaders can help with those stories in a way that creates a truly sustainable impact, I mean, sustainable to sustain each family that wants to stay in the city of Boston as a generational member and contributor to the cities and neighborhoods.

 

Leyton 39:53

And, yeah, that’s beautiful. I have to say ahead there is this like, low history of African American and cooperatives in the US that no many people know about? So it’s like, it’s amazing to see you sort of like continuing that? Because I think it is. Yep.

 

Dixon 40:13

I want to be thankful to the cooperative community around the country. I was asked if we would we be safe to say in the documentary that we are the first African American Co Op in the city of Boston. And I said, Oh, if you show me somebody else that developed the co op, historically, I will gladly see that that reputation that brands somebody else, right, because I always was looking for someone who understand, who had a cultural competence and understanding around this work to be able to again, provide us autonomy and allow us to dream out our future, and be resolution based about that future. But I want to honor Ben Bearcat, and Myrna and tamala, blacklock, tamela flatlock. And so many other people who came from around the country, African American people just to condemn hardcore it and who came and sat with me and educated me that even though I didn’t have an understanding of the history of African American clocks in Boston, that there was a deep legacy of community sustainability, stabilizing against violence, that went into most cooperatives throughout this country, and especially in the deep south. So I’d like to thank those farmers and agricultural agriculturalists in the south, who have allowed me to better understand and to harness the the symbiotic relationship between African Americans community stabilizing, and community cooperation and cooperative development.

 

Leyton 51:53

And the connection to the line. I mean, there is a lot I mean, I mean, one of the I mean, again, this is not about just divert, I think it’s also like, I think it’s striking to me that, that you’re connecting many components, that there have been, they’re deeply connected to the history of the African American community in the US. I know that we are running out of time. So I wanted to, I wanted to ask you about the lesson that you have learned from this documentary and reflections that you want to share with, with us, with our members from ncrc. And basically, when it comes down to sort of like organizing social and social justice, things that you that you want to share with that symptom of affections. Yeah.

 

Dixon 42:42

I mean, I I deeply love, honor and acknowledge so many women who are in this work. My focus is on women. My focus is on a community of African American women inclusion. I guess what I’d like to share with so many people who are involved in policy is that to look around and not see more space created for African American women and men, but African American women, is to deny the power that we’ve had in saving this country. to not have to deny an African American woman or business person, the ability to live and thrive. And I’m not talking about municipality, I’m not talking about who advocates for us. Right. I’m talking about African American women in each community in the cities and states, who came out and fought back against the legacy legacy of oppression for all of us LGBTQ immigrant rights, other minority woman, lower income class woman, lower and lower class women. I want to think about tosha Brown, I want to think about so many women, our Patreon patron saint Stacey Abrams, who push back against gerrymandering, who organize in the simplest ways of door knocking and engagement, that if we cannot consistently, not provide safe space or policies or ensure that Implementation of those policies is falls down onto the ground where women stand to honor and acknowledge African American women who with their votes came out, and said that we as a country need to be more equitable. More, more, there needs to be more quality, we need to push back against isms that are oppressive. And so I asked the audience, to watch the documentary and the microaggressions, that is still faced in 2020 2021. For communities that are perceived to have little voice, and to pick it up, and to use it as a tool of education, and to see what is happening on the ground, and to figure out ways to make sure the policies are implemented in a way that the resources are received by women of color. Right. And acknowledgement for the work that we do constantly. and wanting to have space and a country that recognizes the experiences of all.

 

Leyton 45:30

Thank you, James, any final reflections that you may have?

 

Rutenbeck 45:34

I just want to mention that we Kafi and I are engaged in a campaign to bring the film to partner organizations around the country. We have a website called reckoning and Boston calm that where you can learn more about the film. And if you want to be part if if you’re part of an organization that cares about, you know, for example, affordable housing, or racial justice, economic equity, please join with us and bring bring the film to your organization. And we will have these kinds of conversations all over the country. And I mean, we put a lot we put like six years of work into this film with very, very little funding. And we care deeply about the issues in the film. And I feel, you know, we really hope that the film maybe could make a little bit of a difference in the world, making the world a bit better. So yeah, that’s my pitch. Well,

 

Rutenbeck 46:45

I like to make a lot of difference. I don’t know why James is shying away from this, this documentary, making a lot of difference in how we look at communities as in the background, and my living room. I’m watching CNN, and the George Floyd trial, we need to understand how to better support these communities, so that we are not African American communities, migrant communities are not subject to the type of violence that causes them their lives, livelihoods, and issues with mental and physical stress and ailments. Almost the difference?

 

Leyton 47:25

Well, I have to say, it is a very powerful film, to watch. I think this guy for you did an amazing job of film and games. I mean, the whole production was amazing. So I really recommend the film, to anybody who’s gonna watch, see this workshop, we definitely want to set out like, we’re going to set on a robot gate for people to sort of see it, I do think can really connect us with, as you say, with social justice, racial justice, and economic equity that we also like, fighting for and I really want to congratulate you because i think i think it takes it takes a lot of sort of like courage to sort of like put yourself out there and go through these thinking caffee yourself, and then James, making yourself vulnerable and really gonna, like, connect to your personal life to all these sort of big and deep kind of systemic issues going on here that is affecting all of us. So I want to thank you for being part of this again in this workshop, and I appreciate the Do you. Thank you. And from the in the name of ncrc.

 

Dixon 48:45

Thank you, Juan, NCRC, thank you James as usual.

 

Rutenbeck 48:51

Thank you Kafi and thank you Juan, 

 

Leyton 48:52

and let’s keep in touch has been great.

 

Dixon 48:53

Thank you.

 

Leyton 53:30

Hello everyone,

 

Rutenbeck 53:49

Good to see you again. 

 

Leyton 53:50

Now we’re live. So we have I think we have a few minutes and see we have any questions from people attending this workshop first place well again I like to appreciate your participation in this workshop and Every time that I see the trailer, I see many new things. And it’s in the field and they film so so I think it’s a I truly recommend the film to people attending this workshop. I think you sort of like I said, as I said, in the recording session that he brings some of the complexities. Yeah. Yeah, one question is about like, Kafi, if you can provide any update on the collaborative, how’s that going?

 

Dixon 54:48

It’s going well, we’re still, of course, doing a crowdfunder. I’m still trying to process like why we don’t have more resources around capital investment for the co op. But in that frame of thought, one, I’d like to thank Kafi, King of compass and Dr. Kim Richards, Chris hunter of lease Nkc, Brock Williams, city, Boston. And Ben briquette, Robert great gates, and especially Congresswoman Presley’s office, and especially senator Warren’s office, who I didn’t have a chance to think before because when I was going through eviction, and go through some of my more troubling issues, calls to her office are heard. And it’s unfortunate that the calls around personal issues rather than in community issues, but the responsiveness has always provided me a sincere level of hope, and what our elected officials are doing. So thank you to Dr. Warren. I mean, sorry. Senator Warren’s office, how’s it going? So this is our second year growing we’ve, as far as a co op itself, I should say, we are still organizing, we are working on business plan development, my hope is that with updated business plans and financial outlooks that we’ll be able to receive more support around capital investment problem that we’ve noticed in this Co Op. Leaf was able to Chris was able to dig into that and Kafi King, we’re able to dig into that of being in this social impact nonprofit. But for profit framework, and right now, a lot of people haven’t exposed themselves as people who could provide us capital startup money to, to complete the business planning, complete destructuring, and so on and so forth, do outreach for the women. But I’d like to admit that we’ve also just completed our first round of a community health program that we put our first round of women through. So the first round of women in the co op 10, women went through tufts program, Community Health certification, and that community health certification is to deal with to respond to the mental health issues that go into doing community outreach, and real effective work around dealing with trauma and healing. I’m very thankful to again, Dr. Ana, for working in partnership with us. And for the women who completed that program. So the CO ops going well were thankfully, which was always my intention have grown slowly, but effectively towards sustainability. And this added piece of bringing community health workers into the co op. Again, to deal with mental health and trauma issues. Is all design is the same design that we worked on five years ago, and to see it coming to fruition and all the weight, but to see it come into fruition, provide to me the utmost hope, faith and humility.

 

Leyton 58:21

Great, it’s good to know that. Also, there is a link of the recording embossed on website so that people can go there and see the trailer and hopefully, like, see the film. And James, I’ve been talking to different videos for the film, and it’s kind of causing people curiosity, and I saw there was an interview or some reporting. I think that will you be you are, I believe? So he’s getting sort of the word out there. We

 

Rutenbeck 58:52

had a New England premiere on over the weekend. And we were on radio Boston Kafi, Carl and I and there were two pieces in the Boston Globe that were both really positive. And there’s a recent piece in art fuse. Yeah, we’re getting just lots of lots of coverage for that. So and we’ll be at the Roxbury internet. National Film Festival at the end of June, as well. So that’s because we sold out at iffp. fairly quickly, this is another opportunity for people who didn’t get a chance to see it at the

 

Dixon 59:28

Yeah, that it was sold out showing. And the response back from public radio and web UI, on covering the subject matters has been amazing. And it’s really been amazing for me to talk about not just the work with a documentary, and the work with our long term intentions for this Co Op for women involved in agriculture and community development. But it’s been amazing to be able to not only talk about and identify myself, as a farmer, and to ask the question of our community, here in New England, and especially Massachusetts, who who are the black farmers in Massachusetts, and hopefully solely, I’m not the only one. But to hopefully, is a tribe out there of other black woman who are world and Christ farmers, him Massachusetts, you know, the to come to light. And for me to be able to find a community. And if not, begin the very large step of creating one.

 

Leyton 1:00:35

How you have you connected with some of those? How can I call them all the cafes around like the Massachusetts a, you know,

 

Dixon 1:00:44

the other cafes, we really just be farmers. A lot of this work intersected and engaged with social impact work and social entrepreneur. And I appreciate that question about talking about the many ways that we can look at this work and how it’s all interconnected. And this documentary being one of the first documentaries that show the interconnectedness of, you know, of community health and public health, especially when we look at African American minority and immigrant women. But no, they haven’t identified this. I know, it’s like one other maternal, paternal African American farmer out there, who I believe came from revisione house, but I have to believe somewhere in Massachusetts, for his maternal paternal experience of the African American growers and intentions around that there has to be more than two of us. And if they’re not, if everybody anybody knows who is out there, and who asked experience around socioeconomic class issues, African American experiences around poverty and can bring those experiences to the table around holding space, please reach out to me in Massachusetts, I would love to connect with them.

 

Leyton 1:02:10

Great. See this. Any questions? Comments? If not, I’m going to keep asking questions. And I mean, one thing that I’ve been thinking after, like, I like pre recorded sort of session. And they’re like, community groups in the Boston area, and other places, they’re sort of like, have you been in contact with them into a lake is sparking the interest in seeing the film or like using the film, as a as a tool for reflection for community kind of like conversations and principal? Think about how that space also can be a space for the film, that that can be used?

 

Dixon 1:02:52

Um, I’ll speak to my truth. And then James can speak to his, I still think that many organizations see this documentary as a grenade, or as something that can be highly politicized. We were talking to Suffolk University today. And I just had to remind them that as everybody, you know, talks about the tenacity of having that conversation with the city, I have to remind them that we hold no ill will to the Department of Neighborhood Development, or Sheila Dillon, that we just understand that it’s also a misunderstanding and a mis communication that is specific to a socio economic class here in Boston. It just so happens that that socio economic class is the majority rather than the minority. But we were talking about how nobody’s even in this political time, nobody’s question who had we talked to about this Co Op in the last five years, what city councilors we did talk to or who weren’t, wasn’t responsive to the plates. And talking about creating safe space for, you know, this generational community of African American women and men here in the city who desperately needed the space and the advocacy. So what we would be looking for is not just use it as a tool. What we’d be looking for is an in partnership and acknowledgement around still the majority of deficits that exists in thinking about food systems for African Americans, mental health services for African American women. And, you know, how we, how we re envision how funding is allocated to organizations and how we continue to innovate, and problem solving that provides actual real resolutions, rather than, you know, continues to to build these cathedrals to a solely charitable work. So, no, we haven’t had a huge response back out in Boston, we hope to be able to hear from our policymakers, and embracing the project, the finding out what the needs of the project are, through policy through, again, municipal funding. And we hope as we come to our spin around the city of Boston, Massachusetts, that we do have more outreach from people who are not afraid of these subject matters, and want to resolve them and want to understand again, not just the successes of the co op, but want to understand where we where we fail, what do we learn in five years, that’s the big thing. And also to encourage, as we think about policy, I realized that and doing a little research around an article that we were considering writing it to remind our community that this has to be policy work, and thinking about when there was a provisioning of the Massachusetts food plan A few years ago, and how in that that food revision of the foods plan for the state of Massachusetts, there was no mention of black farmers at all. And reading that over and over and over again, trying to see in partnership with that organization, how they looked at Black farmers and a co op and cooperatives and stabilizing food systems for environmental justice, climate change to meaning Development and Community Health. So it does I see it first being around policy work, but I’m hoping that a partner’s identify themselves, I’m sure James and speak to organizations, maybe around the documentary as a tool. Chains,

 

Rutenbeck 1:06:54

I think we’ve heard probably around like 20 screenings over the last couple of months. And they really vary widely in terms of how it how the q&a goes. But there’s some been some really deeply moving conversations that I think have really been deep and profound. We’ve talked to colleges and universities, urban planners, inquiry at Cornell University, humanities organizations. And there’s, there’s a lot more in the works in the next few months. So we just want to keep it going. We’ve got thing, I think now that we’ve sort of opened up in Boston, and it’s been seen fairly wide here, there’s going to be more opportunities in Boston. Coming up for more screenings here.

 

Dixon 1:07:40

My hope is that we can start landing these conversations out of just media and academia. Although we do love academia, as far as using those thought leaders in the perspective of people who have these subject matters, which are well studied and well researched, and how they, again, advise policy and policy leaders and politicians. But we have not landed squarely in the space of talking about food systems work. We want to think, the University of Vermont, the humanities course for bringing us there. But we do hope that the organizations continue to say that this is not a taboo subject matter, and that we’re not, we don’t succumb to individualism in this work, but that this is all part of the process of building a stronger community. And that, as I’ve been saying, that nobody in New England can consider themselves progressive, while silencing the voice of the people who were on the ground who were having these everyday experiences around eviction around food access around cooperative development, around self actualization and mental health and wellness.

 

Rutenbeck 1:09:00

I just wanted to add one that our website is a recognition in Boston Comm. Like if you’re part of an organization or university that wants to partner with us screening the film, we would welcome that opportunity. We’re at working on that. That’s a reckoning and Boston calm.

 

Leyton 1:09:19

That’s great. And we and we just posted that in the, in the comments site.

 

Rutenbeck 1:09:24

Okay, great.

 

Leyton 1:09:25

I think we’re running out of time.

 

Dixon 1:09:29

I am so sorry for the common God cooperative. I just missed one. Oh, that’s a beautiful title. But it is very egoic. So

 

Rutenbeck 1:09:40

I kept trying to reach, reach over to see if I could correct it.

 

Leyton 1:09:44

And I thought you were saying that it’s a common name for everybody. But

 

Dixon 1:09:52

yes, it is. Very attachments. But it’s common, good cooperative. And we also ask the community that our crowdfunder that we have on the iPhone and women platform, I’m hopefully it can be linked to this project is that if you’re interested in the work and would like to keep up with the work? Again, we don’t own this land as this weekend, I just came back from Western Mass, Southern Vermont, in western northern Connecticut looking for land and attending a polo match. That the you got become a member, it’s a $25 membership, but it keeps you up to date and in solidarity with us and where we’re going. As we expand out to rural spaces.

 

Leyton 1:10:42

Kafi, if you want a poster in the comments, right? I’m gonna have, because we’re running out of time, you want to post the link for that? Sure. And now, I just wanted to ask you like any final thoughts, words, games, maybe you can, for closing these these workshops,

 

Rutenbeck 1:11:03

I guess I’d say you know, try to see the film try to to look for opportunities to see it, we want to partner with you. I think these stories are powerful. They’re stories that I didn’t know about five years ago, myself, and that they have changed me in important ways. And I think that they have the film has the potential to change other people as well and change hearts and minds about the lives of people of color in Boston.

 

Dixon 1:11:35

And then an attachment to this work and keeping an eye on us and supporting us and not being afraid. Again, not we don’t ask anybody to live in guilt or shame, or be tribalistic about this work, we say that this is going to be efforts by like and RCR. I hope anyone and so many other thought leaders out there in this region to see how do we support this and then as a model, how do we replicate it in city of Boston? And how do we use it as a case study for other cooperatives and the sustainability and well lean? well meaning this as we start to look at new ways of providing health care to lower resource communities.

 

Leyton 1:12:16

Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate your time with us and your thoughts. Again, see the film. And Kafi you know what to find me I’m in Boston, so in a way

 

Dixon 1:12:29

you might be the one writing paper for Dr. Fernando onah and Nicole Morris and again coffee King and Chris hunter of very much. Okay,

 

Leyton 1:12:41

thank you again and have a good night. Enjoy

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

Complete the form to download the full report: