I met Dre on Sunday. I was walking down Broadway and his style caught my attention. I nervously asked him for a photograph. He instinctively asked me if I was the police. I laughed. I tried to reassure him that I was only a photographer. He still insisted that I say out loud that I was not the police. And after I did, the tone instantly changed. His energy shifted and he told me he wanted me to capture him. I photographed him for a bit. And after it was over, we exchanged contact information.
I sent him the photos later that night. We decided to meet the next day to work on another project. In my mind, I wanted the piece to center around space. A friend once told me, "There are people in East Oakland who have never been to San Francisco." I believed her. I grew up in the Bay Area - mainly San Francisco and Oakland. Even though I lived in such a vibrant city, I rarely left the house. When I was in an AA meeting once, an addict said "the block was her life." I saw that as a child: drug dealers and addicts would live their entire lives within a one to two block radius. And that was the story I wanted to tell through Dre.
It's incredibly hard to film documentaries in the way that I try to. I am learning to create a some type of game plan beforehand. And I also make every effort to be conscious of my energy and not let my stress concerning the production aspect affect the subjects that we're shooting. There are no scripts. And we aren't filming people who have a lot of experience on camera. And for now, the plan is to put the videos on Instagram - which only allows us a one minute platform. How do you tell a story in such a small time frame - all the while capturing people's attention who are programmed to scroll through media flippantly? And then, if we put effort into a longer story for YouTube - it gets attacked by trolls.
But we're slowly building our own platform. And that underlines my initial point: space. In the Black community, we have a phrase called "hugging the block." Dre spends a lot of time on Broadway - selling drugs and building community with his friends. His world, physically, is small. All the while, transplants invade his space and push him deeper into poverty by forcing him to live in a shelter now because of rising rents. These people moving to Oakland do not belong here. This is Dre's space. He should feel empowered to exist here on his own terms - without having to fear prosecution for selling drugs or interference from African store owners on Broadway who despise the way he earns money. And that dynamic exists between Dre and the African immigrants on Broadway. They respected me because I had a professional camera - my equipment functions as social capital that gains me immediate respect despite my skin color. But the man drinking alcohol earlier on in the video piece above expressed a lot of dismay towards the African store owner. The scene where he is waving at the camera was an effort on his part to tell me that there was someone "evil" behind me - it was the African store owner. I have seen African store owners treat Black Americans as if they're subhuman. I also find it interesting that African store owners sell malt liquor to Black American communities. They're taking part in our destruction still to this day.