Two videos that aim to highlight human connectedness and Get Out the Vote have been produced by two RPCVs for East Village Magazine (EVM) in Flint, Michigan, and are available for viewing online now at the magazine’s website, eastvillagemagazine.org.
The videos, both titled “Faces of Flint: A message from the anvil of America’s democracy,” feature 130 Flint residents photographed by Flint native, Kansas City photographer Dan White, in three days of shooting last November at the Flint Farmers’ Market and Berston Field House. Flint filmmaker Justin Brown was the editor for both videos.The narration for both videos was written by Ted Nelson (Turkey 1964-67) EVM editor at large and a participant in civil rights actions in Washington D.C in the Sixties. Nelson’s co-producer on the project was RPCV Jan Worth-Nelson (Tonga 1976-78).
Asked about the significance of the “anvil” as a symbol of Flint, Nelson said, “We have been pounded on, and our values have been tempered by our struggles. Flint has an incredible history of firsts in this country: it is the city where organized labor got its real start at the Sitdown Strike of 1936; it is the city that many say created the middle class; it is the city that gave us the first black mayor in the country; it is the city that gave us the first open housing ordinance in the United State of America. And Flint is the city that was the first to be poisoned by its own government.”
Nelson said the idea for the videos came from his recollection of those times 50 years ago, when attempting to protest against racism and poverty, sometimes led to violence–very much like today. Back then, as head of the volunteer speakers’ bureau of the original Poor People’s Campaign, he created a slide show featuring the faces of participants in a series of caravans of poor people converging on D.C. to educate politicians about poverty, racism, economic inequality and the war in Vietnam. He said seeing those faces helped create a sense of common humanity instead of hostility.
Nelson narrates the first, six-minute video. Flint’s poet laureate, Semaj Brown, loaned her voice to read Ted Nelson’s narration in the longer video. Brown is the author of Bleeding Fire! Tap the Eternal Spring of Regenerative Light (Broadside Lotus Press/ HealthCollectors LLC, 2019); a performance and discussion of her work, titled Word Power, is available Aug. 13 on Zoom. Details here.
Both videos feature Flint musician Erik McIntyre, violinist William Harvey, and Ann Arbor musician and songwriter David Tamulevich. McIntyre teaches at the Flint Institute of Music and lives in Carriage Town. Harvey was born in Flint but is now concertmaster of the National Symphony of Mexico. Tamulevich is a member of the Michigan ensemble Mustard’s Retreat, which has performed numerous times in Flint over the decades. His original song, “Ours is a Simple Faith” concludes both videos.
The project was supported with major funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the Flint Area League of Women Voters, a group of supporters from Nelson’s Amherst College Class of ’64, and numerous individual donors locally and across the country.
Both videos debuted in a July 28 Zoom premiere, attended by more than 90 people locally and from across the country.”
Jan Worth-Nelson (Tonga 1976-78) retired in 2014 after 23 years as a writing teacher at the University of Michigan – Flint She is the author of Night Blind (2006) a novel based on her Peace Corps experiences. Since 2015, she has been editor of East Village Magazine, a venerable community journalism publication in Flint started in 1976. She recently wrote an essay reflecting on the 50h anniversary of the 1970 Kent State shootings, which occurred when she was a junior journalism major there. The essay is available HERE.