The power of storytelling was present as local residents, Florida A&M University students, and faculty attended the Retro Local screening presented by WFSU Public Media. The event took place on Tues, Oct 22 at FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.
The screening displayed two short documentaries that focused on the effects of urban renewal within black communities. A third documentary was also shown that centered on the closing of FAMU Hospital.
WFSU News Director JacqueLynn Hatter sat alongside FAMU professors Kenneth Jones and Reginald Ellis as they shared their thoughts on the stories with the audience.
“How can you get on offense if you’re always playing defense?” Asked Hatter as she discussed the long-term pattern of wanting to merge FAMU with larger colleges.
The screening led to a passionate discussion between the panel and the residents about urban renewal (or what some consider gentrification in Tallahassee) as well as the issue of merging FAMU.
Local activist Max Epstein was one of the attendees that appreciated the screening, as this has been a subject he is familiar with.
“I thought it was amazing,” said Epstein. “It’s continuing an important conversation and I think we need more events like this.”
Epstein explained how there was a lot of information in the documentaries that he wasn’t aware of and how he had to do his own research to be involved with the community.
“I honestly don’t know a lot about FAMU’s history,” Epstein said. “I’ve taken it upon myself to learn more and more as I learn about the injustices here in Tallahassee to become involved and make a difference.”
The interests of residents were piqued, and the most common concern grew to be if they were able to do anything about current plans for urban renewal.
Various residents urged others to not wait to take action. The Florida 2030 Blueprint was the project that was mentioned as something that residents needed to pay attention to.
They shared that most of the information about upcoming plans are available on websites such as the City of Tallahassee and Leon County School District.
Resident Miaisha Mitchell, who grew up in the Smokey Hollow neighborhood of Tallahassee, said, “I’m very excited about this conversation being held on the tallest of the seven hills in Tallahassee. There are several things we have still not learned a lesson in, at my experience at Smokey Hollow.”
The event ended with audience members wanting to become more involved and it initiated smaller conversations about what was happening in the community.