Back in 2013, we profiled Columbus-Athens Schweitzer Fellow Melissa Crum and the documentary film project she spearheaded in Linden, a neighborhood in the northeast corner of Columbus, for her Fellowship project. The completed 45-minute film, The Linden Documentary Project, is now available to view online.
“The Linden Documentary Project was an opportunity for students to engage in their neighborhood in a way they never had before,” Crum says in the film’s introduction. The students, she tells viewers, “did the work. They did the research, they asked the questions, helped create the script, videotaped the interviews, took the field trips, and took time from their spring break and their vacations.”
The film gives a concise and enlightening history of Linden, offering evidence of how decades of systemic racism—including environmental inequality and exclusionary mortgage policies—contributed to the neighborhood’s steep decline.
But the film also showcases the good work of community leaders like Gloria Zebb-Anderson, an environmental activist who has connected the area’s high rates of asthma and colorectal cancer to the chemical emissions of a plastics plant located in Linden, and a homeowner’s program that is rehabbing vacant houses in the neighborhood.
As Crum says in the film, “We can’t come into neighborhoods focusing on pathology. How do we expect students to embrace, clean, care about, work for a community everyone says is terrible?”
That sentiment is reflected by an activist interviewed for the film who laments that the media is quick to focus on crime in Linden at the expense of covering other news like the high school’s graduation ceremony. “The perception of Linden, I think, is all wrong,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of treasures in the community and there’s a lot of people that care about the community.”
It is clear that the group of young filmmakers involved in this project (all of whom are identified in the closing credits) care deeply about their neighborhood. Their film should be an inspiration to teachers and students facing similar circumstances in other neighborhoods to find their voice. As Crum notes in her introduction, the film’s creation was really all up to the students. “I was merely a facilitator, a coordinator of people and resources and timelines,” she says. “That means anyone can do it—any teacher, school, nonprofit, student group or parent. Anyone.”