Good White People short film screening

Good White People short film screening

by Erick Stoll

45 days. 200 dollars. That’s what Reginald Stroud Sr. and his family were offered when the building they rented in Over-The-Rhine was bought. Reginald lived at 1232 (?) Walnut St. for over ten years, running two businesses below: Anybody’s Dream, a popular variety store, and a martial arts school, where he taught.

Watching Over-The-Rhine gentrify around him, Reginald thought he might be able to survive the wave of development and white newcomers. Anybody’s Dream was no common convenience store. In addition to the usual snacks, soda, and canned foods, the store carried Halloween costumes, used video games, incense, lingerie, classic literature, and most famously, 2 cent candy.

On the average afternoon, Anybody’s Dream was packed with folks from the neighborhood, exchanging gossip, sampling out the many varieties of candy, playing a video game in the back corner, or just hanging out. Reginald knew nearly all his customers by name, and had seen neighborhood children become adults before his eyes over the years.

In contrast to the controlled chaos of his busy store, Reginald ran his karate school next door with a firm, but caring touch. He taught his students, many from Over-The-Rhine, classic martial arts techniques and practical street-safety moves alike. He emphasized the importance of offering affordable lessons, so that kids in the city who couldn’t pay $200 a month could still study martial arts.

In 2014, Urban Sites, a market-rate developer with a large presence on Main Street, bought the buildings that housed Anybody’s Dream, the karate school, the apartment shared by Reginald, his wife Miranda, and their three children, as well as a dozen or so other elderly and low-income tenants. When the building sold, Reginald says, someone from Urban Sites briefly entered his store to introduce himself, insisted that they weren’t going be making any changes right away, and then left.

The next time Reginald heard from Urban Sites, it was in the form of a noticed taped to his door, telling him he had 45 days to move his home and two businesses, and offering $200 for their inconveniences. $200 might be enough to rent you a moving truck to move across town, but it’s nothing to a family who is losing their source of income, their businesses. And 45 days isn’t near enough time to relocate two businesses.

I met Reginald Stroud shortly after he received this notice. A friend, Jarrod-Welling Cann, and I had heard about what was happening and approached him with the hopes of following his family for a documentary film about gentrification in Over-The-Rhine. Reginald didn’t hesitate: he knew what was happening to him was wrong, and he wanted to tell his story. To Reginald, as to much of the community, it was obvious: white people with money are moving into the neighborhood, pushing black people out.

What most insulted Reginald, I think, was that Urban Sites didn’t even entertain the possibility of his businesses returning to the building after it was renovated, nor did they offer him any extra time or compensation as someone losing two businesses. According to Reginald, “they had another plan, and we weren’t in that plan.” But why not? Wouldn’t two family-owned businesses beloved by the community be the exact thing that developers would strive to maintain as they pay lip service to the notion of a “diverse, mixed-income neighborhood”?

Of course not, and we know why: gentrification is a racist, classist process, and a “diverse, mixed-income neighborhood” is just a stepping-stone on the way to exclusively wealthy, white neighborhoods. The white executives at Urban Sites took one look at Reginald’s businesses, which served a predominately black clientele, and knew it wasn’t what they wanted in their newly renovated building; they see no future for low-income black folk in Over-The-Rhine.

For the next month, we filmed as Reginald and his family closed-up shop and prepared for the move, maintaining karate classes and the stocking bare essentials in the store until the day they left. We saw his friends and customers react to the news with anger and sadness, but also resignation, as though they knew it was inevitable.

And up the block, in the evenings, we saw growing crowds of boisterous white newcomers, commonly drunk, shuttling down 12th street between the bars on Main and Vine streets, ignorant of and indifferent to the struggles of long-time residents around them.

This is why Jarrod and I made our short film, now titled “Good White People”. We wanted to show that the redevelopment of Over-The-Rhine might be exciting for white professionals moving to the city, but was a racist, violent process for those whose livelihoods and community are threatened by it. Our film is a testament to the experience of Reginald and other OTR residents who have been displaced, and a call to the ‘good white people’ moving into the neighborhood to confront their role in this process, and, hopefully, to join the struggle against it.

On April 16th at 3pm, “Good White People” will be premiering in Over-The-Rhine at St. Francis Seraph School at the corner of Vine and Liberty streets.

We’ve teamed up with the Peaslee Neighborhood Center, and will be hosting a discussion after the screening featuring Reginald and other current and former residents of Over-The-Rhine sharing their perspectives on race and gentrification. The event is free and all are welcome.

It’s too late to save Anybody’s Dream and the karate school on Walnut St. from being pushed out. But we hope “Good White People” will contribute to a growing awareness that economic development without economic justice is just another brutal capitalist process that perpetuates the marginalization and incarceration of our low-income brothers and sisters of color.

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