A New Chapter for Dudley Street

Kroc Center construction (Travis)

We were first drawn to the story of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative more than twenty years ago, when a grassroots movement of local residents began transforming a Boston neighborhood devastated by disinvestment, arson-for-profit and illegal dumping. Since the mid-1990s, when we released our documentary Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street, we have been heartened to hear how people around the world have been inspired and educated by the Dudley Street story. One of the more memorable accounts came back to us from India, where Boston activist Mel King shared the film with homeless people in Mumbai who were organizing a human rights campaign.

Meanwhile, the Dudley Street saga continued to unfold in remarkable ways. In the midst of the foreclosure crisis, it became clear that it was time to return with our cameras. This week we are releasing a sequel titled Gaining Ground: Building Community on Dudley Street.

We had the good fortune to work with producer/director Llewellyn Smith, producer Christine Herbes-Sommers and co-producer Kelly Thomson of Vital Pictures, who followed the work of a new generation of DSNI leaders for two years.

With the help of the Ford Foundation, the staff at Active Voice worked with us to develop an outreach and engagement strategy for Gaining Ground. Active Voice convened a national “brain trust” meeting to develop ideas about audience engagement and screened the film with pilot audiences in Detroit and Oakland. In addition, the film was previewed and discussed with diverse audiences at events hosted by Creative Change, National League of Cities and The California Endowment.

This week the National Community Reinvestment Coalition will screen the film in Washington, D.C., and we are honored to receive the organization’s annual “Community Empowerment Film Award.” We look forward to continuing to learn from the Dudley Street story – and seeing how it resonates with communities near and far.

Mark Lipman and Leah Mahan are co-executive producers of Gaining Ground.