Street Poetry vol. 1

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Street Poetry vol. 1
LA: Project Gentrification

Genre: Experimental, Documentary
Format: Shot on DVX 100A, Mini-DV
Length: 11 mins

A two lane, ten block long strip of pavement in downtown Los Angeles has become a symbolic frontline in the war for economic justice in America.

Detailed Synopsis

Forces are gathering on both sides. On one, 20,000 homeless, dug in, refusing to budge. On the other, urban developers with 10 billion dollars, a boatload of political clout and grand plans for a luxury housing. Fifth Street, commonly referred to as “The Nickel,” is LA’s Skid Row, the last stop for the city’s most hopeless: the homeless, the indigent, the working poor, recent parolees and the hustlers and dealers who prey upon them. For decades, affluent Angelenos were more than happy to have them safely out-of-sight, miles from their beachfront bungalows and houses in the Hollywood Hills. In fact, this “enclave of despair” has been institutionalized through a woeful lack of social services and bureaucrats who want the “problem” contained right where it is.

But, in recent years, property in downtown LA has become much sought after turf and city leaders and wealthy developers are chomping at the bit to polish “The Nickel.” Plans have been drawn to transform 5th Street’s feces covered concrete into pleasant patio restaurants and to replace its cardboard shanties with trendy lofts.

Like so many conflicts that have come before it, the battle for “The Nickel” is a battle for economic justice, a war over the widening chasm separating the haves and have-nots. You’d be hard-pressed to find a place where this reality is starker or more evident than in downtown Los Angeles. Here, a few feet separate multi-million dollar apartments from makeshift shelters and exclusive restaurants from soup kitchens.

Examining – in microcosm – the most urgent issues facing America – inequality of wealth, housing, healthcare and education – through lives of people living on opposite sides of the street. Can the powerless fight the power? Can LA justify displacing the displaced in the name of progress? Or, will the City of Angels rise above “special” interests and do something concrete and lasting to care for the needs of her most needy?

This is not a heavy-handed social policy survey. This is an honest, poignant, stylish, and striking portrait of a few square blocks of America and the people who want to inhabit it. With a narrative driven by acclaimed Def Jam poet Al B Back and keen insight from the hustlers, cops, spin doctors, developers, do-gooders and urban “pioneers,” which inhabit the area known as Skid Row, Street Poetry vol. 1 – LA: Project Gentrification documents a tale of growth and survival while delivering healthy doses of drama and hope.

Combining spoken word with documentary footage and interviews, Def Poet Al Back and filmmaker Gerald ‘JC’ Crump Jr. lend a voice to LA’s Skid Row community while providing soulful insight to an economic injustice.
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