United Methodist Churches interested in discussing gentrification, inflation and the social justice impacts of this to people of color and local neighborhoods are invited to screen a new documentary and host a panel discussion at their church this fall or winter.
“Alice Street” is a documentary about diverse communities coming together to try save a four-story mural that was being developed in downtown Oakland but was threatened by expanding urban development.
The mural was created by Chilean painter Pancho Peskador and Chicago-born artist Desi Mundo. The site of the mural was an intersection of Chinese and an Afro-diasporic communities in downtown Oakland. The mural project started in 2013.
The documentary, created by filmmaker Spencer Wilkinson, was initially supposed to tell the story of this beautiful mural going up in the Alice Street neighborhood where he lived. But as the mural was created, and the city of Oakland began planning for a new high-rise to be built right in front of it, the story of community coming together to fight against cultural erasure took shape.
“The community came together to resist this,” Wilkinson said.
Gentrification is spreading, Wilkinson said, from communities such as Denver to Portland, Seattle and even more rural areas where inflation is forcing locals out of their communities.
“It’s a story that has resonance in places that’s never happened before,” he said. “A lot of cultural communities are really feeling this pressure.”
Andru Morgan, a former Greater Northwest Area of The UMC church planter in Portland and filmmaker as well, encourages churches to screen this film and host follow-up discussions. While working for the church, Morgan admired the way churches engage in shaping the moral fabric around their neighborhoods. As time passes people move in and out of neighborhoods.
“Although the people in a neighborhood may change; however, the call to love our neighbors around our church buildings never does. Connecting with issues that are relevant in our communities is vital if we are to answer our command to love,” Morgan said.
Morgan, who has also created documentaries about gentrification, met Wilkinson at a Northwest Documentary in Portland during a film screening and thought “Alice Street” would be a good message for churches to hear.
“Gentrification without justice inflicts trauma on our neighbors by pricing them out of the communities they love. Churches are losing vital members due to being displaced,” Morgan said. “Gentrification is taking away more than houses and small businesses but the loving relationships cultivated by those who gathered there to make it a community.”
Wilkinson believes churches are the perfect place to screen the film, not only because of their neighborhood connections, but also because of their ability to bring people together – which is what happens in “Alice Street.”
“Church leaders are community leaders. A church is a community made up of people with different perspectives and concerns,” Wilkinson said. “The theme of this story is how two different cultures came together.”
Without spoiling the story, Wilkinson the result of the controversy surrounding the Alice Street mural has been more awareness of culture-based urban development. He has received grant funding to allow him to travel the country and not only screen the film, but host community discussions with everyone from church leaders to elected officials and city planners.
He’s traveled from Texas to Canada, the east coast and more to share this story, screening the film and hosting discussions in more than 50 communities. If churches are interested in hosting a screening of “Alice Street” they are encouraged to fill out this form. The production team is hoping to visit the Pacific Northwest area to screen this film this fall or winter.