Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street
- , 58 minute video produced by Leah Mahan and Mark Lipman, Holding Ground Productions, will be aired on public television beginning in May.
- A VHS videocassette and viewers guide is available.
Since residents of the Dudley Street neighborhood of Roxbury, Massachusetts, won eminent domain power to redevelop abandoned property in their community, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) has become a beacon in the community development field. A new documentary now brings the Dudley Street story to a wider audience as well.
Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street by Holding Ground productions, taps into this idea of DSNI as an archetype for inner-city revitalization by opening with a clip of Martin Luther King declaring, “Boston must conduct the creative experiments and the abolition of ghettos which will point the way to other communities.” The video presents a history of this Boston neighborhood and its various ethnic groups, from the Irish and Italians who settled there earlier in the century to the immigrants from the Cape Verdean Islands and American blacks who moved in while post World War II mortgage programs helped white residents move out to the suburbs. The segment on the arson epidemic that struck the area in the 1970s, attributed partly to bank redlining, is particularly striking.
The video then moves into DSNI’s early phases, when the initiative grew out of residents’ anger at being excluded from a plan to redevelop the community. With interviews of Dudley Street residents, community development professionals, and Boston city officials, the video chronicles the progression of the initiative, from residents’ taking ownership of the community planning process and working to clean up the problem of illegal garbage dumping and to DSNI’s securing eminent domain power to take over abandoned land for housing development. To a lesser extent, the documentary offers a glimpse at some of the interesting personalities that helped push the initiative through, such as Che Madyun, an outspoken young community resident, activist, and leader who is featured as both an interviewee and narrator.
Professionals in community building would benefit from more pointed details on the group’s decision making process, a look at internal challenges DSNI may have faced, and more information about its future plans. But overall, the video is important viewing for people and groups involved in any aspect of community building, particularly anyone new to the field.
Spreading the Word
Holding Ground has been used by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and various other college courses and community development training programs. But the documentary’s producers are aiming for an audience beyond community development professionals. Beginning in mid-May, the documentary will air on public television stations around the country. Check local listings or the public television station in your area for broadcast times. Holding Ground Productions also encourages community organizations to coordinate a screening of the documentary with their own outreach activities. They suggest showing the video at conferences, at city council or other community meetings, at local libraries in conjunction with panel discussions, or as part of tours of other community improvement efforts or areas in need of such efforts.
Holding Ground along with a discussion guide and simulation activity, is available from New Day Films, 190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154.
Viewers may want to use the book Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of An Urban Neighborhood by Peter Medoff and Holly Sklar (available from Shelterforce) for background.