Nashville Public Television is hosting two free online screenings and panel discussions based on East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story. Rosemary Brunton, NPT’s community engagement manager, will serve as moderator for both events, which will take place on the ITVS OVEE screening platform and include the filmmakers among the panelists.
The first event is being presented with the Tennessee State Museum on Thursday, April 30, at 6 p.m. and features a discussion about the history of public housing. Panelists are filmmaker Sarah Burns; Brigette Jones, curator of social history at the Tennessee State Museum; Dr. James C. Fraser, visiting professor and scholar-in-residence at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs; and Dr. Louis Woods, associate professor of African-American history at Middle Tennessee State University. Viewers may RSVP or join the screening at ovee.itvs.org/screenings/7i62z; participants will be able to share opinions and questions during the event.
Art/Activism/East Lake Meadows, the second screening, will take place Wednesday, May 13, at noon and will focus on the importance of art and activism in the African American community. East Lake Meadows filmmaker David McMahon will join Nashvillians musician/poet Rashad Rayford; muralist and educator doughjoe; and local housing advocate Odessa Kelly, executive director of Stand Up Nashville. This panel will discuss Nashville’s own history and artistic responses to issues of housing today. Viewers may RSVP or join this screening at ovee.itvs.org/screenings/slrts; participants will also be able to share opinions and questions during this event.
East Lake Meadows received praise for its spacious units and new construction when it was opened by the Atlanta Housing Authority in 1970. But the development quickly fell into decline due to shoddy construction and insufficient funding, which led to a diminishing quality of life, rampant crime and increasing violence. Coinciding with a nationwide stigmatization of public housing and those who lived there, East Lake Meadows was eventually demolished, then rebuilt with new, mixed-income housing. This new development, though successful, was also ultimately beyond the reach of many of the original residents. Nonetheless, they retain strong ties to each other and to their former home.
East Lake Meadows the film touches on issues of race, gentrification, architecture and media representation. Filmmakers Burns and McMahon tell the community’s story through contemporary and archival interviews, news footage, expert commentary and extraordinary footage of East Lake Meadows life recorded by a student audio-visual club. Burns and McMahon’s previous films include Jackie Robinson and The Central Park Five, both of which aired on NPT. This latest documentary aired on NPT as part of Independent Lens and was executive-produced by Ken Burns.