MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: February 7, 2020

CELEBRATING HARLEM, BRONX “DECADE OF FIRE”.

AIRED: February 07, 2020 | 0:26:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> TONIGHT ON "METROFOCUS."

CELEBRATING HARLEM.

THE IMPACT OF THE ARTISTIC AND

LITERARY EXPLOSION THAT BECAME

KNOWN AS THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE

IS STILL BEING FELT TODAY.

AND NOW IT IS ALSO BEING

CELEBRATED.

WE HAVE AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE

WORLD'S MOST RECOGNIZED

NEIGHBORHOOD AS IT COMMEMORATES

THE CENTENNIAL OF THAT

UNPRECEDENTED CULTURAL

REVOLUTION.

THEN THE BRONX DECADE OF FIRE.

IN THE 1970s, 80% OF THE SOUTH

BRONX BURNED TO THE GROUND.

WHO LIT THE MATCH AND WHO BORE

THE BLAME?

OUR RESIDENT ACTIVIST UNCOVERS

THE UNTOLD STORY BEHIND THE

FIRES AND THE COMMUNITY THAT

CHOSE TO RESIST, REMAIN AND

REBUILD.

>>> THOSE STORIES AND MORE AS

"METROFOCUS" STARTS RIGHT NOW.

>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY

JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH,

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ,

ROSALIND P. WALTER,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

AND BY --

>>> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

HARLEM IS ARGUABLY THE MOST

RECOGNIZED NEIGHBORHOOD.

A MECCA FOR BLACK CULTURE, IT IS

PERHAPS BEST KNOWN FOR THE

EXPLOSION OF ART, POETRY AND

MUSIC OCCURRED THERE IN THE

1920s AND CONSTITUTED A MOVEMENT

KNOWN COLLECTIVELY AS THE HARLEM

RENAISSANCE.

NOW OVER 40 HARLEM INSTITUTIONS

ARE COLLABORATING ON THE HARLEM

RENAISSANCE 100.

A YEAR-LONG CELEBRATION OF THE

HISTORIC CENTENNIAL.

IT AIMS TO BRING TO THE PUBLIC

AN EXTENDED GROUP OF PERHAPS AND

ACTIVITIES ALL HIGHLIGHTING THE

PAST AND THE FUTURE.

JOINING US NOW TO TELL US MORE

ABOUT THE CELEBRATION, THE

PRESIDENT OF THE HARLEM ONE

STOP.

A COMMUNITY BASED NONPROFIT AND

TOUR OPERATOR THAT IS

SPEARHEADING THE PROJECT.

AND JOHN REDDICK, A HARLEM

HISTORIAN PARTICIPATING IN

HARLEM RENT SANCTION 100.

WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU.

WHAT EXACTLY WAS THE HARLEM

RENAISSANCE?

>> THERE WAS A LARGE ARMISTICE

PARADE.

THEY WERE A SIGNIFICANT PLAYER

IN THAT GROUP.

THEY WERE VICTORIOUS IN SENDING

OUT THE MUSIC THAT WOULD BECOME

THE JAZZ RHYTHMS FOR THE

RENAISSANCE PERIOD.

SO WE'RE CELEBRATING THAT

KICKOFF AFTER THE WAR AND WHAT

STARTS TO BE THE PROHIBITION

WITH THE RENAISSANCE.

>> WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE

ASSOCIATED WITH THE HARLEM

RENAISSANCE?

>> IT IS VERY INTERESTING.

THERE WAS AN EARLIER GROUP

THERE, A RAG TIME ARTIST THAT

VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW.

BUT THEY INFLUENCE PEOPLE LIKE

GERSHWIN.

THE SECOND LARGEST JEWISH

COMMUNITY IN NEW YORK.

SO THE AMERICAN SONG BOOK COMES

OUT OF THE INTERSECTION OF THESE

TWO GROUPS.

>> SOME INDIVIDUALS THAT OUR

VIEWERS MAY KNOW.

PAUL ROBE SON?

>> JOSEPHINE BAKER.

THEY GOT THEIR STARTS IN HARLEM

AND BECAME INTERNATIONAL

CELEBRITIES.

THEY BECAME THE AMBASSADORS OF

THE CULTURE.

LOUIE ARMSTRONG.

NO MATTER WHERE YOU WERE IN

AMERICA, IF YOU WERE A BLACK

ARTIST AND INSPIRED, YOU CAME TO

HARLEM.

>> YEAH.

WHAT WAS THE GENESIS OF THIS

AMBITIOUS PROJECT?

HOW DID IT COME TO BE?

>> AMBITIOUS INDEED.

THIS IS AN EXCITING TIME MANY

HARLEM WITH ALL THE CHANGES, THE

GENTRIFICATION, NEW RESIDENTS

MOVING IN.

SO IT IS EXCITING AND WE WANTED

TO INTRODUCE HARLEM AND WHAT IT

MEANS TO THE COMMUNITY AND TO

THE WORLD.

>> WHO IS WE?

YOU AND A FRIEND?

HERE'S AN IDEA.

WHY DON'T WE SPEND A WHOLE YEAR

OF OUR LIVES PUTTING TOGETHER

THE MOST IMPORTANT ORGANIZATION?

>> SO WE THOUGHT IT WAS

IMPORTANT TO COMMEMORATE THE

ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE HARLEM

RENAISSANCE AND NOW MORE THAN

EVER, IT WAS IMPORTANT TO NOT

LOSE THE CULTURAL ESSENCE OF

WHAT WAS HARLEM, WHAT IS HARLEM.

>> DO YOU THINK THAT'S A

POSSIBILITY IN.

>> WELL, THERE IS A POSSIBILITY.

NEIGHBORHOODS CHANGE.

PEOPLE FORGET THEIR HISTORY AND

THAT IS ANOTHER REASON FOR

HAVING THIS CELEBRATION.

>> SHE GROU UP IN JAMAICA, I

GREW UP IN PHILADELPHIA.

BUT HARLEM WAS A BEACON.

WE'RE POST CIVIL RIGHTS ERA.

THE PASSION THEY'VE GIVEN US, WE

WANT TO SEND THAT BACK OUT IN

WAVES.

SO THERE HAS BEEN

GENTRYIFICATION.

I DON'T LIKE TO PEWS WORD

BECAUSE IT IS RESOURCES FOR THE

HARLEM RENAISSANCE.

REASURGENCE, YOUNG PEOPLE.

I WAS TALKING TO THE STAFF HERE

ABOUT THE RESTAURANTS IN THE

NEIGHBORHOOD.

THAT'S WHAT WE WANT TO

REVITALIZE AND GET THE WORD OUT.

>> WHAT ARE SOME OF THE

ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED?

I MENTION AD COUPLE OF THEM.

>> YOU MENTION THAT HAD THERE

ARE OVER 30, 40 ORGANIZATIONS.

IT INCLUDES THE LARGE AND SMALL

ONES.

THE APOLLO, FOR ONE, THE

SCHAUMBURG, THE NEW YORK HIS,

TOAL SOCIETY.

ALTHOUGH THEY'RE NOT BASED IN

HARLEM BUT THEY HAVE A PLETHORA

OF AFRICAN CENTRIST PROGRAMS

WHICH REALLY SPEAK CURRENTLY NOW

TO THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE.

>> AND YOU'RE GOING ON INTRODUCE

SOME ORGANIZATIONS --

>> THAT ARE LESSER KNOWN.

>> TO NEW YORKERS.

>> YES.

>> THE COURSE OF DOING THIS

PROJECT, YOU'VE BEEN AT IT SINCE

THE BEGINNING.

WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT

HOW MUCH NEW YORKERS KNEW ABOUT

HARLEM?

THE RENAISSANCE?

NOT ONLY NEW YORK AND THE

COUNTRY BUT THE WORLD.

>> SO VERY LITTLE.

IN TERMS OF HARLEM, ONE OF THE

MAIN MOTIVATIONS AT THAT TIME

WAS TO GET AWAY FROM THE WHITE

STEREO TYPE OF WHAT AFRICAN

NEGRO OR BLACK AMERICAN LIFE

WAS.

TODAY WE WANT TO TELL WORLD THAT

HARLEM IS STILL HARLEM

CULTURALLY.

THE ENERGY AND THE VITALITY

STILL EXISTS.

>> I MENTION THAT HAD IN THE

INTRODUCTION.

THIS IS NOT JUST LOOKING BACK AT

HISTORY.

IT IS THE UNDERPINNING.

I MENTIONED THE HOP HOP WRITERS

CAME BEFORE GEORGE GERSHWIN.

WE WANT TO HAVE THIS

INTERACTION.

THIS IS A WAY TO BRING A LIGHT

TO WHAT'S GOING ON.

CERTAINLY NOT JUST ABOUT THE

PAST.

THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.

>> SO THIS HAS ALREADY STARTED.

WE'VE ALREADY STARTED THE

CENTENNIAL.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE EVENTS

OUR VIEWERS MIGHT HAVE TO LOOK

FORWARD TO GOING ON OVER THE

COURSE OF THE YEAR.

>> WELL, THERE IS THE PROGRAM

THAT HUGE SCALE, IT INCLUDES

100-PIECE CHOIR.

AND IT FEATURES DAMIAN SNEED,

THE COMPOSER AND ARTIST,

RECORDING ARTIST.

THERE IS AN OPEN HOUSE AT THE

APOLLO WHICH FILMS INCLUDE FILM

SCREENING AS WELL AS

PERFORMANCES.

AND WE HAVE ON THE KAENL DARR

HARLEM'S JAZZ ICONS, GEORGE

GERSHWIN WHO IS NOT PARTICULARLY

KNOWN FOR JAZZ.

BILLY STRAYHORN.

>> THAT'S JUST SCRATCHING THE

SURFACE.

ON.

>> YOUR BACKGROUND IS IN

ARCHITECTURE.

I WAS WONDERING, TO WHAT DEGREE

DID THE ARREST TEXTURE OF HARLEM

INSPIRE THE ARTISTS --

>> WELL, COMING FROM

PHILADELPHIA AND READING ABOUT

THE ARM STIS PARADE AND THE

BLACK SOLDIERS MARCHING UP FIFTH

AVENUE.

AS AN ARCHITECT, I CAN NEVER

COME UP FIFTH AVENUE AND

REALIZE, NOT ONLY HAD THOSE

SOLDIERS FOUGHT IN EUROPE AND

SEEN PARIS, BUT THEY REALIZED

THE DISTRICT LOOKED LIKE PARIS.

THE BROAD BOULEVARDS AND THE

SENSE OF HE WILL POWERMENT.

IT IS NOT CATFISH ROW.

IT IS A BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBORHOOD.

EVERYONE GOES, OH, WE DIDN'T

REALIZE IT WAS THAT BEAUTIFUL.

IT HAS BEEN THAT BEAUTIFUL OVER

100 YEARS.

SO THE HEIGHTS IN CENTRAL HARLEM

AND THE BROAD BOULEVARDS, WE

WANT PEOPLE TO COME EXPERIENCE

THE VITALITY, THE ENERGY THAT

MAKES PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY'RE

IN A SPECIAL PLACE OF THE.

>> DO YOU FEE LIKE I WAS

EXAGGERATING IT IN THE

INTRODUCTION?

I SAID THAT HARLEM IS ARGUABLY

THE BEST KNOWN NEIGHBORHOOD IN

THE WORLD?

>> I TRAVEL ALL OVER THE WORLD.

YOU MENTION HARLEM.

YOU CAN MENTION A $5 MILLION

HOUSE AND THE NEXT CONVERSATION

NONGS BILLIONAIRES WILL BE ABOUT

THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

WHAT DID THE OPPRESSED FIND AS A

MECCA?

IT TURNED INTO THIS GLORIOUS

PLACE.

IT IS A BEACON FOR ANY GROUP

LOOKING THE PUSH THEIR CULTURE

FORWARD.

>> AND I WOULD LIKE THE ASK BOTH

OF YOU THIS QUESTION.

IT IS CLEAR, THE IMPACT, THE

EFFECT THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE

HAD ON BLACK HISTORY AND

CULTURE.

IT HOMELESS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON

THE HISTORY AND THE CULTURE OF

AMERICA OVERALL.

ON TELL US HOW THAT IS.

>> MUSIC GOES OVER THE WALL.

SO HIP HOP, ALL THOSE BEATS.

IF YOU GET THE BEAT, YOU GET THE

CULTURE.

AND I THINK AFRICAN-AMERICANS

WERE SYNCING IN A MUSICAL WAY

THAT BROUGHT OTHERS ON BOARD AND

YOU STILL SEE IT IN THE HIP HOP.

THEY DIDN'T HAVE MUSIC IN THEIR

EXCUSE.

YET THEY FIGURED OUT A WAY TO

MAKE MUSIC THROUGH SAMPLING.

THERE IS A GENIUS THAT WE DON'T

PUT FORWARD.

WE FEEL LIKE THE KEEPERS.

SO WE WANT YOU TO FEEL IT FIRST.

>> WOULD AMERICA BE THE SAME IF

THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE HADN'T

HAPPENED?

>> I DON'T THINK SO.

JUST THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAZZ.

JUST THE JAZZ AND THE LITERARY

ART.

IT WOULDN'T BE THE SAME.

IT WOULDN'T HAVE THE ENERGY AND

VITALITY.

>> WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS

BEFORE THE CAMERAS STARTED

ROLLING OF THIS SHOULD BE TAUGHT

IN HISTORY BOOKS, AT LEAST IN

NEW YORK CITY.

AFTER THE YEAR IS OVER AND

YOU'LL FINALLY BE ABLE TO REST

FOR 24 HOURS, WHAT DO YOU HOPE

TO HAVE ACCOMPLISHED?

>> WELL, A GREATER APPRECIATION

AND AWARENESS FOR HARLEM AND THE

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT

WORLDWIDE.

>> AND ALSO, A SENSE OF

EMPOWERMENT.

ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNG KIDS.

>> AND ORGANIZATIONS

PARTICIPATING, BIG AND SMALL, A

CHANCE FOR THE SMALLER ONES TO

SEE WE CAN REALLY PARTNER

TOGETHER AND PULL THINGS FORWARD

AND GET ATTENTION.

A LOT OF SMALL GROUPS, AS GOOD

AS THEY ARE, LIKE THE AIRING OF

THE SHOW YOU'RE GIVING AS YOU

CHANCE TO GET THE VOICES OUT.

I THINK THAT WILL MAKE A

DIFFERENCE.

AND EACH ORGANIZATION WAS

INVITED BECAUSE OF THE VARIOUS

ELEMENTS OF THE HARLEM RENT

SANLS THEY REPRESENTED EXTREMELY

WELL.

MUSIC, LITERARY, DANCE, JAZZ, SO

WE'RE VERY EXCITED.

WE HOPE EVERYONE WILL COME UP TO

EXPERIENCE IT.

>> I'LL BE THERE.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING

US.

>> OUR PLEASURE.

>> FOR MORE INFORMATION ON

HARLEM RENAISSANCE 100, YOU CAN

VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT

METROFOCUS.ORG.

>>> IN THE 1970s, THE SOUTH

BRONX WAS LITERALLY ON FIRE.

THE SCALE OF THE DEVASTATION

DURING THAT DECADE IS HARD TO

FATHOM.

40 FIRES A DAY ACCORDING TO ONE

ESTIMATE.

A CONTINUOUS BLAZE THAT WOULD

END UP DESTROYING 80% OF THE

HOUSING STOCK IN THE AREA,

REDUCING ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS TO

RUBBLE.

BUT JUST WHY AND HOW WAS THE

SOUTH BRONX ALLOWED TO BURN TO

THE GROUND?

IT IS A QUESTION THAT STILL

TROUBLES LONG TIME RESIDENTS AND

THE SUBJECT OF A DOCUMENTARY ON

INDEPENDENT LENS.

DECADE OF FIRE FOLLOWS A BRONX

FOREIGN ACTIVIST AS SHE UNCOVERS

THE UNTOLD STORY BEHIND THE

FIRES, REVEALING SHOCKING

NEGLECT AT EVERY LEVEL OF

GOVERNMENT.

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

>> I GREW UP IN THE 1970s.

LANDLORDS WERE BURNING OUR

BUILDINGS FOR PROFIT AND THEY

DIDN'T HAVE TO REBILLION-DOLLAR

OUR HOLES OF A, OUR HOPES.

ER THESE WERE OUR HOMES.

THIS WAS OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

SNS AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE

DREAM INITIATIVE, CO-PRODUCERS

OF DECADE OF FIRE, VIVIAN

VAZQUEZ AND GRETCHEN JOIN US

NOW.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

>> THANK YOU.

>> THIS WAS SUCH A POWERFUL

DOCUMENTARY.

VIVIAN, I WANT TO START WITH

YOU.

TELL ME HOW DID THIS FILM COME

INTO EXISTENCE?

>> WE, JEWEL I CAN'T ALLEN AND I

WHO IS OUR CO-PRODUCER WORKED

TOGETHER IN THE BRONX DURING THE

EARLY PART OF 2000s.

WE WERE PART OF 21st CENTURY

SMALL SCHOOLS MOVEMENT.

WE WERE WORKING THE CBO, IN A

CBO, I'M SORRY, TO START A SMALL

SCHOOL.

WE WANTED TO WRITE A CRITICAL

LITTLE FOR BRONX HIGH SCHOOL

STUDENTS SO THEY CAN LEARN ABOUT

THEIR HISTORY IN THE BRONX.

BUT WE KEPT TALKING ABOUT WHAT

HAPPENED IN THE SOUTH BRONX

DURING THE 1970s.

I KEPT TALKING ABOUT MY

EXPERIENCES, HOW I GREW UP, AND

JULIA ENCOURAGED ME TO WRITE

ABOUT IT AND THEN EVENTUALLY SHE

ENCOURAGED ME TO WORK ON FILM.

SHE INTRODUCED ME TO GRETCHEN

AND THEN WE BEGAN FILMING

FRIENDS AND TELLING OUR STORY

ABOUT HOW WE GREW UP IN THE

SOUTH BRONX.

WHAT THE CONTEXT WAS OF THE DAY.

FOR MANY OF US, WE HAD A GREAT

TIME LIKE ALL KIDS HAVE A GREAT

TIME BUT THERE WAS THIS BACK

DROP OF DEVASTATION AND NEGLECT

THAT WAS EVER SO PRESENT IN OUR

MEMORIES.

>> I WANT TO SAY, I FOUND IT SO

ENGROSSING ABOUT THE FILM.

YOU WERE ABLE TO GET SO MUCH

FOOTAGE THAT MADE YOU FEEL LIKE

YOU WERE THERE.

HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO PUT

TOGETHER ALL OF THESE PIECES

THAT REALLY BROUGHT THE AUDIENCE

INTO THE SPACE THAT I THINK FOR

MYSELF, I DIDN'T GROW UP IN THE

CITY.

I WASN'T THERE.

YOU FEEL LIKE IT THOUGH WHEN YOU

WATCH IT.

>> WE FIRST STARTED WORKING ON

IT IN 2008.

IT WAS A TEN-YEAR PROCESS.

WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT, THAT

WAS OUR END GOAL.

BUT IT DEFINITELY WAS A HUGE

AMOUNT OF WORK AND WE WORKED

TOGETHER COLLABORATIVELY.

WHILE I WOULD BE DOING THE

FILMING OR THE ED ITTING, WE

ALSO TALKED EVERY WEEK ABOUT THE

STORY.

THERE'S A HUGE AMOUNT OF AMAZING

FOOTAGE AND I CAN TELL YOU MORE

ABOUT WHERE WE FOUND THAT.

I THINK WHAT DRAWS YOU IN, WE

SPENT SO MUCH TIME TALKING ABOUT

HOW TO LET THE VIEWER EXPERIENCE

THIS STORY THROUGH VIVIAN'S

EYES.

SO OFTEN THE BRONX IS PORTRAYED

BY OUTSIDERS AS THIS OTHER

PLACE.

YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE WHAT'S

HAPPENING THERE AND WE WANTED TO

BRING PEOPLE INTO THAT

EXPERIENCE.

THE ACTUAL LOVE THAT PEOPLE HAD

FOR THE BRONX AND FOR THEIR

NEIGHBORHOODS THERE.

IT IS WHAT ENTICED THEM TO STAY

AND FIGHT FOR IT.

>> SO IN ADDITION TO THE HEART

AND SOUL OF YOUR STORY

SPECIFICALLY, THIS IS VERY MUCH

A HISTORY LESSON.

AND YOU LEARN A LOT ABOUT, AS

I'M SAYING IN THE INTRO, THE

FAILURES OF GOVERNMENT AT EVERY

SINGLE LEVEL.

LET'S GO BACK TO ONE OF THE BIG

ISSUES.

THAT WAS THE RED LINING.

THE CREATION OF THE SOUTH BRONX,

IF YOU WILL.

WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT TO MAKE

PEOPLE UNDERSTAND, FIRST OF ALL,

WHY THIS NEIGHBORHOOD WAS

INTENTIONALLY CREATED THE WAY IT

WAS?

>> SO RED LINING BEGAN IN

BROOKLYN IN THE 19, THE

BEGINNING OF THE 1900s.

AND IT STARTED OFF IN

NEIGHBORHOODS THAT BANKS OR

POLICY MAKERS JUST WANTED TO

KIND OF GET RID OF.

SO WHEN IT CAME TO THE BRONX, IT

BASICALLY CAME, THE WAY THAT I

INTERPRETED IT WAS, THIS

NEIGHBORHOOD IS A BAD BET

BECAUSE WE NOW HAVE A GROWING

NUMBER OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND

PUERTO RICAN PEOPLE LIVING IN

AND IT THERE IS NO USE IN

SUPPORTING THIS NEIGHBORHOOD.

THESE FOLKS DON'T KNOW HOW TO

TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES SO WE

MIGHT AS WELL LEAVE THEM THERE.

SO WHAT THAT MEANT IN PRACTICAL

TERMS BALTIMORE FOLKS WERE NOT

PROVIDED WITH ANY LOANS.

THERE WERE NO RESOURCES TO HELP

BUILD OR RESTORE OR MAINTAIN THE

BUILDINGS.

WHICH WAS REALLY IMPORTANT.

THESE WERE PRE-WAR BELIEVES.

A LOT OF THE ELECTRICAL WIRING

WAS OLD.

THEY COULDN'T SUPPORT THE NEW

ITEMS COMING INTO PLAY, HAIR

DRYERS AND HEATERS AND THINGS

LIKE THAT.

ON THERE WAS NO WAY TO GET NEW

SERVICES.

WHAT RED LINING MEANS, YOU DRAW

A RED LINE AROUND A COMMUNITY

AND THEN YOU DECIDE NOT TO

PROVIDE, THE GOVERNMENT DECIDES

ALONG WITH PRIVATE ENTITIES,

DECIDE THAT THEY'RE NOT GOING TO

PROVIDE ANY ECONOMIC SUPPORT TO

THAT AREA.

AND THAT DEVASTATED THE

COMMUNITY.

WE NEEDED ECONOMIC SUPPORT.

EVERY COMMUNITY NEEDS A LEVEL OF

ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, SOCIAL

SUPPORT.

WHAT THAT DID, WHEN SOMEONE BUYS

A HOME NOWADAYS, YOU GET A HOME.

YOU WANT TO FIX IT.

YOU REFINANCE.

YOU DO SOMETHING.

THERE WAS NO ECONOMIC INCENTIVE

TO SUPPORT THE SOUTH BRONX.

>> AND OF COURSE, THE FILM ALSO

ADDRESSES THERE WAS NO ECONOMIC

INCREMENTIVE ON THE PART OF THE

LAND LORDS TO SUPPORT.

HAS THERE EVER BEEN PROVEN

BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT

LANDLORDS WERE BURNING THESE

BUILDINGS?

OR IS THAT SOMETHING THAT HAS

BEEN COME TO BE UNDERSTOOD?

>> WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO

KNOW DURING THIS PERIOD IS THAT

THE CITY WAS CUTTING BACK FIRE

SERVICES ACROSS THE CITY.

SO THE ABILITY OF THE FIRE

DEPARTMENT TO RESPOND TO FIRES

AND THEY CUT DRAMATICALLY THE

NUMBER OF FIRE SHALS.

WE TALK ABOUT THIS IN THE FILM.

FIRE MARSHALS SHOW UP TO

INVESTIGATE A SUSPICIOUS FIRE.

THE NUMBERS VARY OVER TIME BUT

IT WAS WOEFULLY UNDERSTAFFED.

SO THE VAST MAJORITY, IF THEY

WERE RECORDED AT ALL, MANY WERE

NEVER REPORTED, THEY WERE NOT

INVESTIGATED.

SO IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO KNOW

THE CAUSES OF MANY OF THESE

FIRES BECAUSE THEY HAPPENED FOUR

YEARS AGO AND NOBODY EVER TOOK

DOWN RECORDS ABOUT WHAT

HAPPENED.

BUT THERE WERE A HANDLE OF

PROSECUTIONS AND THERE WAS A

FEDERAL INVESTIGATION BY FEMA,

ACTUALLY.

INTO THE PRACTICES OF LAND LORDS

AND THE INSURANCE COMPANIES AS

WELL.

WE FOUND THIS RESEARCH BY VIVIAN

GOES TO DIFFERENT ARCHIVES AND

DIGS IT UP.

IT IS NOT OUT THERE.

IT IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC MIND

THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WAS

A PRETTY WIDESPREAD PRACTICE BY

A CERTAIN TIME.

ANECDOTALLY, IT WAS WELL KNOWN.

>> SO MANY REASONS WHY THIS FILM

IS SO IMPORTANT AND IT ADDRESSES

THE ISSUE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE

IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE

SOUTH BRONX INTERNALIZED AND

BLAMED THEMSELVES FOR THE FIRES.

AND THERE IS ALSO ARCHIVAL

FOOTAGE OF THE CITY OFFICIALS AT

THE TIME.

SAYING IT WAS THE FAULT OF THE

PEOPLE IN THE SOUTH BRONX.

THIS FILM LAYS OUT A CASE FOR

WHY IT'S NOT.

WHY THE PEOPLE IN THE

NEIGHBORHOOD SHOULDN'T BE

BLAMING THEMSELVES.

WHY WAS THAT SO IMPORTANT?

>> BECAUSE IF YOU LOOK AT THE

CURRENT DAY, YOU WALK AROUND.

I WORK IN YOUTH DEVELOPMENT WEST

SEE YOUNG PEOPLE CARRY A LEGACY

THAT DOESN'T BELONG TO THEM.

THEY COME FROM THE SOUTH BRONX.

THEY COME FROM A POOR

NEIGHBORHOOD.

THE NARRATIVE THAT IS

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IS THAT POOR

PEOPLE ARE POOR AND THEIR

NEIGHBORHOODS ARE RUN DOWN

BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO

TAKE CARE OF THEIR

NEIGHBORHOODS.

THAT'S WHAT WE OFTEN HEAR.

THAT'S WHAT WE OFTEN HEARD.

WE WERE TOLD, THE PEOPLE THERE

THE SOUTH BRONX.

IT WAS ARSON.

AND THE PEOPLE IN THE SOUTH

BRONX BURNED THEIR BUILDINGS.

THAT'S WHAT WE OFTEN HEARD.

THAT IS A VERY NEGATIVE AND

INTERNAL EMOTION.

THAT IS A MESSAGE THAT MANIFESTS

ITSELF IN ANGER OR FEAR.

OR SELF-BLAME OR EVEN LIKE

SELF-ESTEEM.

PLENTY OF US, WE KNEW LANDLORDS

WERE BURNING THEIR BUILDINGS BUT

WE WERE BLAMED.

I TALK ABOUT THIS WITH FREEDOM

THE SOUTH BRONX OR MY FRIENDS.

ANYWHERE I GO, IF I SAY FRYMAN

THE SOUTH BRONX, PEOPLE SAY OH,

DO YOU CARRY A KNIFE?

IS IT SAFE?

THERE IS ALWAYS THAT STIGMA.

WE HAVE INTERNALIZED THAT.

THAT'S THE MESSAGE WE'VE

RECEIVED FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD

AND EVEN WITHIN OURSELVES.

WE WERE LIKE, OH, YEAH.

WE WERE THE ONES WHO BURNED IT

BUT THAT'S NOT THE CASE.

FOR ME, IT WAS SO REVEALING TO

REVEAL THE FACT PORES RED LINING

DID.

WE DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE.

URBAN RENEWAL.

WHITE FLIGHT.

THE IDEA THAT FIRE HOUSES WERE

CUT AT A TIME WHEN WE WERE

BURNING?

AND THEN WE GOT BLAMED FOR THAT.

BUT WE THE PROTECTION WE NEEDED.

BUT WE GOT BLAMED FOR BURNING

OUR NEIGHBORHOODS?

THAT'S VERY IMPACTFUL.

I THINK PEOPLE WALK AROUND

THINKING, I DON'T LIVE IN A SAFE

NEIGHBORHOOD.

I'M FROM THIS PLACE CALLED THE

SOUTH BRONX.

PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO HAVE

ANYTHING TO DO WITH ME OR THEY

SEE ME IN A CERTAIN WAY.

WE NEEDED TO FLIP THE SCRIPT.

>> DEFINITELY THE FILM DOES

THAT.

NOT ONLY DO YOU LAY OUT THE

REASONS REQUEST THERE SHOULDN'T

BE SELF-BLAME BUT THE RESILIENCY

OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD AFTER THE

FIRES.

HOW PEOPLE CAME TOGETHER AND

SAID, IF WE'RE NOT GOING TO GET

HELP, WE'LL REBUILD OUR

NEIGHBORHOODS.

>> RIGHT.

WE WEREN'T RESPONSIBLE FOR IT.

WE ACTUALLY SAVED THE SOUTH

BRONX.

>> ALL RIGHT.

LADIES, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR

THIS FILM.

IT IS SUCH A CRUCIAL RETELLING.

IT HASN'T BEEN GIVEN THE

ATTENTION THAT IT SHOULD SO

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS FLIP.

>> FOR MORE INFORMATION ON

DECADE OF FIRE, VISIT US AT

METROFOCUS.ORG.

>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY

JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH,

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ,

ROSALIND P. WALTER,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

AND BY --


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When The World Answered
Walk, Turn, Walk
VOCES
Under a Minute
Tractor: The Movie
THIRTEEN Specials
The “C” Files with Maria Brito
The Temple Makers
The Art Assignment
State of the Arts
State of the Art
Secrets of the Dead