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Tackling Dallas community issues with dance, music, documentary

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In this week’s episode of “Frame of Mind”, the KERA TV series spotlighting Texas independent film, we stick close to home. All three pieces explore different community issues in Dallas.

Check out the entire 2021 Frame of Mind season.

The filmmakers use wildly different approaches, from documentary, to music video to dance. But all are telling stories straight from the community: a STEM-based program for Black teenage boys in Oak Cliff; a take on justice and policing; an experience of intensive care with COVID-19.

Here’s a look:

Building The Bridge

Still of YES T.H.R.I.V.E. participants Shaun, Malik, and Jaylyn from “Building The Bridge”. Image courtesy: Elroy “EJ” Johnson.

Dallas filmmaker Elroy “EJ” Johnson directs this 40-minute award-winning documentary. If his name sounds familiar, that might be because his documentary “Food Justice” was featured on “Frame of Mind” last week.

“Building The Bridge” explores the frustrations of community members and activists trying to bring science and technology education to Black youth in Oak Cliff.  The primary focus is YES T.H.R.I.V.E., an organization that offers STEM-based classes for young Black students.  Three teenage boys in the program share their experiences and insights as they navigate educational hurdles in Oak Cliff.

Life Interrupted

“Life Interrupted” is a contemporary dance performance that captures the reality of intensive care during COVID-19. The performance is inspired by the first-hand experience of two Bruce Wood Dance Company patrons, Sally and Mark Dietz. It is choreographed by Joy Billinger.

The performance starts off as a regular day. The dancers joyfully maneuver together alongside a pleasant and lighthearted piano. No one is sick, yet. Until one of the dancers clutches his chest, his partner reaches for him in desperation, but their hands slip away, and the set darkens.

The dancer that’s fallen ill is now dancing alone. The piano plays rapidly. The weight of battling COVID-19 is portrayed through convulsive movements. Close to death, he collapses on top of a white cloth, motionless. It’s apparent that just as much as sickness is physical, it is also a mental and emotional rollercoaster.

“Policing”

“Policing” is a music video performed by Dat Mayne DeeWayne, Vocab, and Lil Aubrey, and directed by Ya’ke Smith.

In an emotional vocal performance, Lil Aubrey sings a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” on top of a hip hop beat. Rap verses by Dat Mayne DeeWayne and Vocab explore Black power and affirmation, as well as family, nostalgia, and policing. As the musicians perform, a montage of people in all black hold photos of their loved ones who have died at the hands of police. In an act of power, these family members tell their stories of policing and loss. It is a commanding video showcasing Black power and the fight for justice.