March 17, 2017
Tune in to hear Kerry talk with her guests from AETN and the Dream Land documentary. Her guests will include: DeWayne Wilbur- AETN Director of Operations, Tanisha Joe- AETN Creative Director, Gabe Mayhan- Director of Photography for Dream Land and Casey Sanders- AETN Senior Producer.
On March 31, the premiere of Dream Land, a documentary by AETN will take place at the CAS Ron Robinson auditorium at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The film is based on the historic past of Taborian Hall and the Dreamland Ballroom located on the third floor. Currently, the building is home to Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com which has worked with the non-profit Friends of Dreamland to restore the historic site.
AETN and the producers of Dream Land, said the following about the film, “Little Rock’s West 9th Street was once a vibrant, African-American business and entertainment district. Today, Taborian Hall is the only remaining historic structure on West 9th Street and stands as a living witness of the street’s former glory days.
Throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, West 9th street was home to varied and prominent black businesses and residences. During this period, Taborian Hall housed professional offices, businesses a USO, the Gem Pharmacy and, perhaps its most lively resident, the Dreamland Ballroom.
By the 1920’s, Dreamland was firmly established as a stop on the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” which showcased regional and national African-American band and stage shows. It was also host to local musicians, dances, socials, concerts and sporting events.
This documentary seeks to recognize, memorialize and share the history of West 9th Street and Dreamland Ballroom – from the spirit and hard work of the people to the implications of federal programs, including Urban Renewal, school desegregation, the Housing Act of 1949 and the Eisenhower Interstate Program.
West 9th Street and the Dreamland Ballroom have waited patiently for the stories of the entrepreneurs and patrons who brought them to life to be told. Through this documentary, audiences will be able to connect with the district’s vivid history and be inspired to take part in its still unfolding future.“
You can reserve your seats for the premiere, which is Friday, March 31 at 7 p.m. at www.eventbrite.com/e/dream-land-little-rocks-west-9th-street-tickets-31545746176?aff=aff0eventful.
Tune in to AETN to watch the documentary- Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th street. It is set to air Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m. and Monday, April 17, at 9 p.m.
Kerry will also be talking to her guests about AETN’s up-coming events and programming.
Major funding for the film was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and The Moving Image Trust Fund. Additional information is available at aetn.org/dreamland. Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:18.8] KM: I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get Up in Your Business. By that, I mean to say share my business knowledge and wisdom with you, our listener. This is when I usually introduce another fellow entrepreneur and we discuss how we maneuvered the path of entrepreneurship in pursuit of our dreams, but today is going to be different.
For the first time, we have four people joining me at the table. We’re going to talk on one of my favorite subjects, the Dreamland Ballroom. 26 years ago while driving down the I630 Freeway I noticed a stately old red brick building falling into disrepair. It seemed to call me. One day I bravely came down to the abandoned building, wove my way over debris and through hallways to the third floor and saw the Dreamland Ballroom. It was like a spiritual experience. The roof was off, sun was shining and birds were flying about. I fell in love.
With extra money in Arkansas Flag & Banner checking account and my growing need for more office space, I began the long process of buying and renovating the building known as the Taborian Hall. Once moved in, old timers visited me. The building was not just handsome, but also historically significant. Built in 1916 by the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, a benevolent business fraternity with ties to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, also a U.S. officer’s club during World War I and World War II and a stop on the legendary Chittlin Circuit, my sense of responsibility towards this old building took route.
In 2009, the Friends of Dreamland, a nonprofit was formed to help save and protect the Dreamland Ballroom. It was a lucky day for all of us when AETN took an interest in her and began the process of making a documentary.
With me today are the directors and the producers from the AETN documentary, simply titled Dream Land. That’s two words. The film is based on the historic past of 9th Street, an African-American business and entertainment district of the early 1900s and on the historical significance of the Taborian Hall, a.k.a. the Arkansas Flag & Banner building, and its famous Dreamland Ballroom located on the third floor.
Today, the Taborian Hall is the only remaining historic structure from the glory days of Little Rock’s west 9th Street known as The Line. This documentary will premier in two weeks on Friday, March the 31st at 7 p.m. at the CAS Ron Robinson Auditorium in the River Market of Little Rock. The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are available online, and we’ll tell you more about that later.
Before we start, I want to introduce you to the people at the table. We have Tim Bowen, our technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the button. Say hello, Tim.
[0:03:20.7] TB: Hello, Tim.
[0:03:22.0] KM: Here to talk with us today are the producers and the directors of the documentary Dream Land. Welcome to the table AETN’s Dwayne Wilbert, director of operations; Tanisha Joe-Conway, creative director; Casey Sanders, senior producer and freelancer. Wave over there, Gabe Mayhan, director of photography for Dream Land.
[0:03:46.5] TC:Hello y’all.
[0:03:47.2] DW: Thanks for having us.
[0:03:47.8] CS: Hi.
[0:03:48.1] KM: You’re welcome. AETN says about this documentary, and I quote, “It seeks to recognize, memorialize and share the history of West 9th Street and the Dreamland Ballroom from the spirit and the hard work of the people to the implications of the federal programs, such as urban renewal, school desegregation, the housing act of 1949 and the Eisenhower Interstate Program.” Which one of you who wants to be the first to tell us why you think this story is so important to tell?
[0:04:24.6] GM: Hello everybody. I’m Gave Mayhan. I was the director of the film. We started on this journey about three year, four years ago at some form of iteration. It kind of started with a different producer. I was hired by Carole Adornetto and she paired me with Tanisha to get started on this project, and it was something that from the get go was really interesting to me because I, honestly, had no idea about it. I didn’t know anything about 9th Street. I didn’t really know anything about the flag building as what I called it. When I went up there and saw the Dreamland Ballroom, it just floored me. It was so photographic. You can tell there’s a million stories here and I was like, “I want to know what they are.”
Then Tanisha and I started doing our digging and started finding out what the stories were about the building and what the story was around the street, because growing up pretty much hearing around Little Rock, I had no idea about 9th Street. Never heard of it. It had zero significance to me except an exit of I30 or something like that.
Once I read the book by Berna Love, End of the Line and Dreamland, specifically about the building, I was completely floored. I had no idea we had such a rich cultural history here that sadly exist only in that building. Thankfully, at least we have that building and at least we have some kind of a soundboard to bounce off there and still celebrate all those past accomplishments of a hundred-year story of African-Americans living and having a very vibrant wonderful community that was then destroyed and went away through a series of different programs and things that happen.
This happens, it’s never cut white and black. There was a bunch of things that led to the demise of the street, and so then the documentary gets into that. We thought it was really important. I think that at this time where we’re at as a nation, it’s really important for us to kind of start looking back to the past and start examining how things came to be and kind of if we want to move forward as any community. This is across the board in the United States, or pretty much anywhere, if you want to advance your culture and have a better life for your kids or your grandchildren, I think that you have to look to the past and see where those mistakes happened and accept those mistakes and then start some kind of dialogue where you can correct those issues that had basically created something that is affecting your community in a negative life.
[0:07:02.5] KM: Boy! That was really well said. What year did we start, Tanisha? Do you remember?
[0:07:06.3] TN: Well, I will say we started four years ago and with AETN we were fortunate, people bringing us ideas for stories and we were fortunate to get this one with Berna, and I’m sure, Kerry, you were in some of those early conversations. What ended up happening is we were able to get some grant money from the Arkansas Humanities Council and also The Moving Image Trust Fund, and so that allowed us to be able to go out and tell these stories.
As Gabe said, neither one of us were attached in the beginning and we were asked to come on later on as some things shifted at AETN, and it has been a journey. When we first got the project, I think it was a little bit different in scope, but when you get out there and you start researching and talking to people, the story kind of finds itself, and that’s what happened.
I think along the way the story took over and we had to get out of the way and kind of let that happen. Four years later, here we are at a point where it’s about to get out and people are about to see it and starts some of these discussions, like Gabe said, that we need to have. This is a great time for us to be able to do that.
[0:08:11.5] KM: How many people did y’all interview?
[0:08:13.4] TC: Oh my goodness! I know we probably interviewed at least 30 people, but the more amazing part to me is that not only did we interview them, meaning the hours of the interviews. It’s an hour-long documentary, but one interview with Ms. Annie Abrahams right down the street, the interview itself is 8 hours long. Just her single interview is 8 hours long.
[0:08:35.9] KM: You have to be a good listener. I know you interviewed me three times, and I think I told the same story three times.
[0:08:46.6] TC: It happens that way, but you gave us something every single time.
[0:08:49.1] GM: It was best the first time.
[0:08:51.2] KM: Was it really?
[0:08:51.2] GM: Yeah.
[0:08:51.2] KM: When you’re nervous, I think things are always better when you’re nervous a little bit. I think after I had said it a few times I was going to get in the flow. This is a great opportunity for us to take a break. When we come back we’re going to find out more about AETN and about the people and the business that worked and lived on 9th Street.
[0:09:16.8] TB: That was Flying home with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie an Ella Fitzgerald, all past performers at Dreamland Ballroom.
[0:09:24.4] KM: Wow! Good digging, Tim. That’s a great piece of music. Thank you. You’re listening Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with the directors and the producers of the soon to be released AETN documentary Dream Land. That’s two words.
We’re back and all of you can take this one. What did you learn from making this film? I know I learned a lot when I watched it with you.
[0:09:47.7] DW: I would say the thing that I learned the most from this is just understanding how all of the different parts and pieces of Little Rock’s urban scene fit together. I moved here to Central Arkansas back in the early 90s and didn’t grow up in this area, but I always heard parts and pieces about what happened at Central or different things that came in through the history, but not ever heard in a way where all the parts and pieces were in one story. This one is.
[0:10:20.2] KM: Yeah. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they find out that Little Rock and Arkansas was modern and sympathetic to the African-American community after the emancipation proclamation and that African-Americans walked to Little Rock from all over the south because of Little Rock modernization and liberal mindset.
[0:10:44.1] GM: Yeah, that was true. Again, you have to understand that world. As far as what was considered a moderate as far the relationships between the African-Americans and whites back then. It’s still in the Jim Crow south and it was still segregated and they’re still separate, but equal laws across the board. It was still a repressive society, but yeah, you’re exactly right. It was interesting to find that out of the slave states, Little Rock and Arkansas was considered for a time to be that way. Then, of course, as you watched the documentary, I feel like I’m quoting Berna right now in the documentary.
[0:11:20.2] KM: I hope Berna is listening.
[0:11:21.0] GM: Yeah, things do — They change. People say you have to walk through fire before you can be cleansed and things can happen. That’s kind of what we get into. We get into other reasons why the Civil Rights movement came in stages and waves from these people going — Specifically, wars, is what kind of catapulted each time.
Then you get to desegregation and all that and how it basically impacts the society that we live in today. How Little Rock is seemingly split down the middle into two different cities, South of 630 and North of 630 and understanding — I guess, the comment that I made in the previous section when we’re talking about to learn from our mistakes is to understand that the makeup of our city, the racial geography of our city didn’t just happen.
There was some intent on preserving a way of life because of people’s prejudices and those people being afraid of the change. We have to keep in mind too when we’re looking back through the eyes of history and looking at these people who made these decisions, it’s really easy to see where they made mistakes. That was the way that things were. That was the only world that they knew, to continue that, that’s the problem.
[0:12:42.1] KM: That would be the mistake.
[0:12:42.2] GM: That would be the mistake, especially being able to look back and say, “This is a mistake,” and you’re like, “What are you going to do about it?”
[0:12:48.2] KM: What’s the documentary going to do do you think? Do y’all think this documentary is going to do something for that healing? How do you think it’s going to affect people?
[0:12:55.3] TC: I think it does. I think that one thing we always have to go back and look at that it’s history. Sometimes history is hard to watch. Sometimes history is hard to hear. Sometimes stories are hard to tell, and you have a little bit of all of that. I think when you think about Dream Land two words or Dreamland one word, you think about the great times that they had upstairs in the ballroom, and you’re absolutely right. You can absolutely feel it.
All of that is there, but you also think about the fact that they had to be in a certain area. African-Americans, why did they have to be in this certain area to begin with? You always have this back and forth, this pull and tug, and you have to think about all of the — The fact that the businesses, you’re talking about All Up in Business. They created these businesses, these wonderful businesses. Whether it was clubs or attorneys or doctors or lawyers or fraternal organizations or whatever, you have all these history that a lot of people are driving by there would never even think about. They just don’t think about it.
[0:13:58.1] KM: I do Martin Luther King Day at Dreamland and that we do tours for the high schoolers that want to go out and do service work on Martin Luther King Day and they don’t have a clue about their history. I remember, because I’m probably the oldest person at the table, and I remember 9th Street. It wasn’t the 9th Street that it’s in this documentary. It was after its fall. I am amazed at how many African-American children do not know anything about their grandparents, and I tell them to go home and talk to their grandmother about it, and in a way I’m kind of glad. In a weird sort of way, I’m kind of glad they don’t care or know about it.
[0:14:37.8] TC: I think you’re absolutely right, and that’s one of the things people can learn from this documentary is to go home and have those conversation. It doesn’t which side, black, white, whoever is seeing it. Those conversations are important for histories, but not just for — Or histories, but for moving forward. You need to know. There are so many things that get brought up in this documentary that we’re facing now. There are things about education in this documentary. There are some things going on in education in Little Rock and across the board. There are things about highways. There are plans for different highways in this area right now. All those things come to bear and we need to know that in order to move forward and make some decisions on how we’re going to move forward.
That’s one of the things that I think both of us really hope that people can get from this documentary, and how many stories are there? There is a West 9th Street in so many other cities across, not just Arkansas, but other states. They’re everywhere, and our research shows that. It’s time that we uncover those stories and air them out a little bit and tell them and grow and learn from them.
[0:15:43.8] KM: Do you think you can make a nationwide release of this documentary? Do you think that this documentary, since it did happen all over the country — We’ve talked about it, the three of us before about Harlem and Watts was all the thriving black business districts before the 60s.
[0:15:59.7] TC: We hope so.
[0:16:00.2] KM: Are you going to use what you learned and then go to those cities, or are you going to just kind of expand it — How are you thinking about — I know we’ve talked about doing it nationally. Have you got a plan for maybe trying to expand it and to maybe —
[0:16:12.1] TC: There are several avenues and we’re like exploring them kind of as we go. We’ll get a release. We’re hoping to get in some film festivals around in other states and that sort of thing. Of course, AETN being a part of PBS, we’ll check with PBS and APT and NITA and all the resources that we have to try to get it outside of Arkansas’ border.
[0:16:33.5] KM: Will it be the same Arkansas, Little Rock story, or will we add to it and talk about combine some stuff that’s got to do with their cities?
[0:16:41.2] TC: It will be this story. I think the story as it is will resonate.
[0:16:44.8] KM: You do? Dwayne is over here shaking his head. What are you going to say, Dwayne?
[0:16:48.8] DW: Definitely. It will be this story that we share whether that’s through the PBS system or any other type of syndication, but that doesn’t mean that wherever this program is shared that they can’t do a program around it as well.
A lot of times when we do programs, we’ll come on after it is aired and do some kind of call-in program or some kind of expert panel discussion. If this program is shared at other PBS stations, they can then do that and talk about their specific street and their area. That’s probably how it can be shared.
[0:17:21.5] KM: Is it going to be a film festival in Hot Springs this year?
[0:17:24.3] GM: Probably. I hope so. Yeah. That’s kind of the goal of this though, to get out and to get people talking, right? Because this is not just something that’s unique to Little Rock. It’s not, unfortunately. It’s everywhere. It’s like crack the egg open and let’s get this thing going. Let’s talk about it. That’s what good documentary should do.
[0:17:45.7] DW: We’re not trying to be vague with that answer. We just don’t have any confirmation that any of those things were going to happen, but that is our hope.
[0:17:51.7] KM: Is there anything that was surprising to you in these stories that you heard besides the one I just — There was a lot, really, to me. The one about Little Rock being sympathetic to the African-American flight. Then the other one I thought was interesting is that there were more African-American senators.
[0:18:08.1] GM: Yeah. I think the great thing about this documentary, I think that it’s going to give — It’s not just African-Americans. It’s going to give us a pride as an Arkansans to understand that we had at one time something that was very unique in America. After the Civil War and during reconstruction we had more African-American senators, I believe, than any other state at the time. Unfortunately, we haven’t had that many since, but this little area in 9th street was massively progressive and it was massively successful. It was so successful that in 1950 there was a quote in Ebony Magazine talking about Memphis’ Beale Street, which we all know Memphis Beale Street now, about how as far as an African-American business district, Memphis Beale Street was just kind of decaying and not a great place to be and used that in direct contrast to Little Rock’s West 9th Street which was a shining example of what an African-American business district could be.
Is Beale Street important to Memphis?
[0:19:13.2] KM: Yes.
[0:19:13.5] GM: It is. You talk about business, it’s the thriving heartbeat and cultural identity of Memphis. We had something that was bigger and better than that here. For those types of mistakes that we made and not being able to see because of prejudists and because of people’s fear and thinking in the box, it’s sad. It’s sad that we kind of missed the boat on that. It doesn’t mean that we’re just going to sit around and cry over spilled milk. That’s the reason this documentary has to have legs and it has to start these conversations to start building a bridge back over the I30 split and we always had an opportunity to make this community something special and something unique, because, honestly, Little Rock is small enough to do it, because it’s a community of 200,000. It’s not like you’re dealing with Chicago that’s like 10 million people, which that’s a big task.
Here, you could really do something, right? You really, really could, and it starts and ends — And Tanisha and I were talking about this today. I wish we had time for the documentary to get — Where it obviously gets into is the education system, because that’s where it’s going to start with. It’s going to start with improving the public schools in this town and being able to somehow find a way to have that community spirit that rallies around a public school system that’s good and it’s educating people and people want to come back here and live.
[0:20:43.9] KM: You’re right about it being very well expensive and well to do, because I think the Taborian Hall, my building was one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive building in Little Rock when it was built. It was over a million dollars in 1916 when they built my building.
[0:21:00.1] GM: They had a lot of money flowing down there.
[0:21:00.9] KM: That blew me away kind of.
[0:21:02.4] TC: It apparently turned over about 8 times just in that community. The dollar turned around like eight times.
[0:21:09.1] KM: You should have seen the title when I cleaned it up. Speaking of that building turning over, that title was long — By the time I got it. What was that? Almost 80 years later? Were there any surprises besides those stories? I think it might have hit on all of them.
[0:21:24.5] TC: There were a lot of surprises along the way, but I think the main thing is just allowing people to tell their truth and their stories and their perspectives. I don’t think we realized what would happen when somebody finally, I say, they exhale and said it’s okay to talk to them.
There were so many personal stories that aren’t necessarily in the film, but when you start talking to a person and they start getting into when I was a child, when I climbed the fire escape, when I did this to hear the music, when we went shopping on 9th Street. When I went to get my haircut. It was like we never knew what those personal stories were so amazing and all of the, of course, couldn’t make it into the film, but I think people finally felt heard. The ones that we could get to, they felt like somebody finally took an interest in sharing those stories and that was just amazing to be a part of. That’s why we hope, we hope, we hope that people will take that on and start saying, “Let’s do some oral histories.” Whether it’s the butler, senator, or wherever we can get people in to start telling these stories, because that creates more of a wealth of knowledge. We have Mr. John Cain here. He was gracious enough to interview with us and tell us a lot about the history of the area. The last thing I’ll say on that part is when you think about this doc was an hour, but it could have gone on so many other hours.
[0:22:47.9] KM: Right. I was going to ask you. You wanted it to be two hours long.
[0:22:51.3] TC: Because you could take off and do an hour on just the music. The performance that came through Taborian Hall or 9th Street. You could go off and take off and do a whole story on just the other businesses. You could do a story on how everything was managed, how it was laid out. You could do a story on Mosaic Templars. There are so many that could go on and go on and that’s what we hope people continue to tell those stories and continue to have a dialogue.
[0:23:17.3] KM: That’s a great time for us to segue and to play in some music and then we’ll come back and talk about some of the people that played there. We’ll find out more about the businesses that were there. We also want to save time at the end of this to talk to AETN about their specials they’ve got going on right now. They’ve got a film-making contest, a writing contest. They’ve got something for the kids to do at the Discovery Museum over the spring break. We don’t want to miss out on talking about some of the other great things that AETN does.
[0:23:58.7] TC: People were working on mapping that out. We’ll talk about that, but I think there’s some of that going on. We’re working it out. Also, just to say, the mosaic Templars, after the event on Friday the 31st at the Ron Robinson, on that Saturday there will be a walking tour of 9th Street that’s being sponsored by Mosaic Templars at 1 p.m. You can go down to Mosaic Templars on the 1st, April 1st, and they’re going to do a walking tour at 1 p.m. of West 9th Street.
[0:24:26.7] KM: I did not know that. The premiers at Ron Robinson at 7:00 on March the 31st, on Friday.
[0:24:32.1] TC: On the Friday night. Aha.
[0:24:33.5] KM: Then on April the 1st, you can go to Mosaic Templar at 1:00 and get the actual walking tour. Oh, good! Good to know.
[0:24:33.5] DW: If you can’t make it to the premier on March 31s. The premier on AETN will be April the 6th at 7 p.m. It will broadcast on April 6th.
[0:24:51.6] GM: It’s going to be on TV.
[0:24:53.3] KM: And the 17th I think too, right?
[0:24:55.6] TC: Right. Repeat on April 17th.
[0:24:57.9] KM: I bet it comes on more than that.
[0:24:59.9] TC: Yeah, it will.
[0:25:00.5] KM: You also have another show called Front Row, and you had the Wildflowers.
[0:25:06.2] TC: We did.
[0:25:07.6] KM: This is Casey Sanders. She’s going to put on the headset and talk to us. You’re the senior producer at AETN.
[0:25:16.5] CS: That means I’m old.
[0:25:17.1] KM: You’ve got a long history though of doing great things with the Hot Springs Film Festival.
[0:25:21.7] CS: That’s right.
[0:25:22.5] KM: You are also doing the Front Row and you did the Wildflower review. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
[0:25:28.6] CS: Yeah. Our music show is called AETN Presents on the Front Row and we’ve been doing it for around 11, 12 years. It started out in our studio, and we did it for many years out of our studio. All Arkansas musicians, everything from jazz, folk. We even had rock. We had Go Fast. We had everything in our studio. Then we decided a couple of years ago to get out of the studio and we partnered with Ryan Harris at the Oxford American at South on Maine and we did a series of shows there. Kind of test in the waters on getting us out of the studio and using a little bit smaller footprint and going into venues. That worked beautifully.
We have a series of programs from South on Maine that are wonderful and we’re really pleased with them. One of the places that I kind of had my eyes set on after I helped out. I’m kind of a fan and on the sidelines of the Dream Land documentary. My office is right next door to Tanisha and I’ve known Gabe for years, and I sort of watched them as they took — I think they told you, 30 interviews. One of them was eight hours long. You can imagine the amount that they had, that they had to boil down into the story that they’re telling.
I’ve been kind of on the sidelines to that, but I got to help out during the reenactments, and we had Rodney Block and we had all these wonderful people come in to Dreamland in the ballroom to do these reenactments and kind of thought, “Why can’t we do a music program that’s now?” Long and behold Kim Swank and her husband, Chris Spencer, put together the Wildflower Review CD Release Party. The Wildflower Review is Amy Garland Angel, and Mandy McBryde and Bonnie Montgomery and then all of their amazingly talented friends that came in for their CD release party.
We kind of united with them, because they were already doing some audio and some lighting and some camera work and then we came in with extra cameras and shot an hour’s worth of music there in Dreamland. It was January 21st, and Tanisha and I talked about it and it’s kind of like with this documentary there’s so many things that come out of it, but one thing is, is can we bring some vibrancy again and doing a music show that’s current there in Dreamland was a teensy little bit of that.
It was an amazing night. It looked beautiful. It sounded beautiful and we’re currently working on that show. We don’t have it set for air yet. We’re still actually kind of swapping footage back and forth between the two teams that shot, but we’ve got high hopes to that program.
[0:28:15.8] KM: It was a beautiful night. The lighting was beautiful. I was wondering if you were going to add some of that Wildflower Review to the Dream Land documentary. No? You didn’t go back and put any on it?
[0:28:25.1] CS: They are picture lock.
[0:28:27.5] KM: They’re picture lock. Is that technical term? Picture lock?
[0:28:30.2] CS: Yes it is. That means —
[0:28:31.5] GM: Done-done.
[0:28:32.4] KM: You had somebody edit the Dream Land from California.
[0:28:35.6] GM: Yeah. My friend, Lucas Mireles, who honestly I cannot say enough about that guy, because it was insane. We had so much footage to go through and I felt like this story had to be told by the people that are in it. Basically, what that means is there’s not going to be any voiceover. There’s just going to be the people that are interviewed the ones that are telling the story.
[0:28:59.0] KM: A few people have seen it.
[0:29:00.7] DW: Yeah.
[0:29:01.5] KM: Tell me what they did.
[0:29:03.6] DW: The first thing they did was standup and scream, “How did y’all do that? That was the most overwhelming thing that we heard.” Of course, these two down here at the end can do unbelievable things with the tools that they had. A lot of the credit goes to them, but we’ve been very, very overwhelmed with the amount of support that we’ve gotten from the people that have watched it.
[0:29:23.3] KM: What was the second thing they did? They cried.
[0:29:27.4] DW: Yes. I cry every time I watch it. I probably watched it 50 times at this point and I cry every time I watch. It’s at a different place every time. I can’t explain why. Just soft that way, I guess.
[0:29:40.5] GM: There’s a spot, I can almost repeat this documentary verbatim, but there’s a spot that gets me every single time, every time. Every time it’s like, “Ah! I’m going to walk out now because I know this is coming up.”
[0:29:54.7] KM: Which spot?
[0:29:55.9] GM: You have to come and watch it.
[0:29:59.2] KM: You sent a five-minute clip over for us to watch to review a year ago and my husband watched it and he cried. My husband never cries on stuff like that. I was like, “Why are you crying?” He goes, “I don’t know.” He did that same thing. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve heard it so many time, I’m just calloused.
Since we’re talking about on the Front Row, let’s talk about some of the music that played in the Dreamland Ballroom and about what the Chittlin Circuit is. I didn’t know what it was till’ I moved down there.
[0:30:26.6] TC: Oh my! The Chittlin Circuit. Of course, it was places where African-American performers could perform when they couldn’t get into the other venues, that that was the circuit that they would travel from state to state to state. We were fortunate to be on that and several played at the Dreamland Ballroom. I mean you have Memphis. You have Birmingham. You have all these places that had their own little club, little place that they will go and play.
One of the interesting things to me is I always been — When you think about the music of West 9th Street and you think about a lot of times they came to play the Robinson Auditorium. They were here to play the Robinson and the same audience of course couldn’t go to the Robinson, and so they would then come down to 9th Street and play all night long. We heard that over and over, that it was all night long. The musicians will come in and sit in and play
One of the things Gabe and I were talking about earlier as well was with Duke Ellington. He came in to play and got stranded here in Arkansas and ended up being here for a couple of weeks. You think about the people who housed them, the people who got to sit and just hear him play.
[0:31:35.5] KM: I’ve never heard that story. Tell me.
[0:31:36.7] TC: Hear him play. It was just that. He came in town to play and couldn’t get out of town because — An issue with transportation.
[0:31:42.9] GM: The issue was he lost his bus gambling.
[0:31:46.0] KM: Oh, say that again, Gabe. He lost —
[0:31:49.2] GM: That’s what we heard. You never know. That’s what so wonderful about these stories, is like they take on — Hopefully, they take on a life of their own and become like these really big — It’s been 60 years, 60, 70 years since all these stories that we’re going to talk about in this documentary have happened. Any good storyteller, they’re going to take in and put their little spin on it. I personally think that’s a fantastic spin.
[0:32:13.4] KM: He said that he got stranded because he gambled away his —
[0:32:15.8] GM: Supposedly, he lost his bus in Hot Springs gambling and then his band left him and he crewed up here and played Dreamland enough times to get some money to get another but or something to get out of town.
[0:32:32.1] KM: I love it. Some of the people that played there are Duke Ellington. I didn’t realize Little Richard played there till I read it today. BB King, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Sara Von, Nat King Cole. The list is unbelievable.
[0:32:44.8] TC: The one thing that I think we’d remissive if we didn’t say about the musicians is that we talked about the national musicians, but there were so many local wonderful musicians in Arkansas that played up and down that street. I think that we have to make sure that people know that Arkansas had a wonderful, wonderful musicians.
[0:33:02.7] KM: Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
[0:33:04.2] TC: Yes.
[0:33:04.3] GM: Louis Jordan.
[0:33:05.9] KM: Louis Jordan. Al Heber. Wasn’t he from Arkansas?
[0:33:07.9] TC: When you think about Lloyd Arman. You think about there are just so many — Art Porter. You think about all the people who played there and there were these wonderful Arkansas folks who got a chance to play by themselves and also with the national acts. I think that it’s treat that we get to celebrate that as well.
[0:33:25.9] KM: You could come out and see the documentary on the 31st. You can also watch it on TV on AETN. I am a huge lower of AETN. I probably watch it more than any other channel, and I have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I can watch anything I want. I watch AETN more than any of them because I love the Traveling Arkansas. I love the biographies about famous people, and I hope someday I got to be in one of those when I’m dead and gone. I think about that when I see it. Like I’ve got to do something great before I die so I can be on the documentary.
Then we haven’t talked about the Knights and Daughters of Tabor built the Taborian Hall. They were a big deal. I didn’t even know about this African-American business fraternity with the social responsibility of providing burial insurance and taking care of widows and orphans. It was really kind of our first welfare system. I’ve been told, and see if this rings true with you through storytelling, that it’s really what we model our current welfare system after is what these Knights and Daughters of Tabor did.
[0:34:25.9] TC: We’ve heard that. Also, the fact that they couldn’t go anywhere else to get these, and so they built their own. The fraternal organizations; Mosaic Templars, Knights and Daughters of Tabor. These were the organizations that they could go to to buy burial insurance and what they needed because they couldn’t get it anywhere else. That’s another thing about the self-sufficiency of the people of that area, whether they were out building businesses or hospitals. They had to do all of that. The Knights and Daughters of Tabor as well as Mosaic Templars and other organizations helped to give them a bedrock of what they needed for that area to function.
[0:35:01.8] KM: They were doctors?
[0:35:02.7] TC: There were doctors, there were lawyers, there were grocers, there were barbershops, there were beauty salons, they were [inaudible 0:35:09.7], stable yards. It was all there.
[0:35:11.9] KM: The theater, the gym theater was probably one of the most spectacular theaters in Little Rock.
[0:35:16.8] GM: It was a complete city. It had to be a complete city within a city, but it was just those 8 or 9 blocks. Everything was there. Like everything; their entertainment, their churches, their hospitals, their business, everything. Everything existed on that street, and that’s pretty amazing. It’s also the idea that it had to be allocated in that one area. There’s going to be some romance about this, like were going to romanticize it, but let’s not forget that it had to just be in these blocks. These people were a repressed society, but look at what they did inside of that.
[0:35:52.7] KM: When is the documentary in? What decade is it in? At the end of the 50s?
[0:35:57.4] GM: No. We bounced back and forth. We have kind of this little motif that happens. We have these things, these little devices that bring us back out to present day. You’re actually one of them that comes out and shows what the life of the street is. How some of these were affected by this relocation have dealt with business relocation and the spread. Also, unfortunately I’m glad that you actually brought this up. We lost one of our key players in the documentary.
[0:36:23.8] KM: Who?
[0:36:25.0] GM: Lean Majors died. Yeah.
[0:36:27.1] KM: No.
[0:36:27.9] GM: Yeah.
[0:36:28.3] KM: When?
[0:36:28.3] GM: Earlier this week.
[0:36:30.7] KM: I didn’t know.
[0:36:32.9] GM: Oops! I’m sorry.
[0:36:32.9] KM: That’s all right. He’s been with me since the day I bought that building. I may cry.
[0:36:38.8] GM: Yeah. He’s a big deal. He was a big deal. He was a big deal for the street. He was the living and breathing part of 9th Street and we had the fortunate time of interviewing and there’s a segment in there that he’s in and then fortunately we did lose him, and he was 95, 96 years old.
[0:36:55.0] KM: He was a staple of the Arkansas State Capital.
[0:36:58.1] GM: That’s right.
[0:36:58.4] KM: He went there every day and he was such a characters. Every time we tried to interview him, he always thought the police were still trying to find him for gambling, and it was so hard. I had to call him up and go, “Leon! They are not going to arrest you. Come down here, we’re going to immortalize you forever.”
I had to do a lot of the interviews with him because his teeth clacked when he talked and I was the only person that could understand him when he talks. I saw in the documentary where y’all did — What is that? Aha? Subtitles on him, because nobody can understand him.
[0:37:29.5] DW: We’re so proud that we were able to preserve his oral history and got his perspective on what happened on 9th Street. Again, we need to reemphasize that we’re talking about how as we’ve gone through our lives and learned about the history of Arkansas, we’re surprised that this community existed right there on 9th street, but it happened in every community. Every other town had a 9th street. We can’t say that enough. We hope that’s what people can take away from this program that they need to take time to understand these stories and just don’t take things at face value. Find out what happened in your community and decide to get involved.
[0:38:09.6] CS: I have question for my two buddies next door here. This kind of brings up the fact that you’ve got so many hours of stories with these wonderful folks, are we going to do something with the oral histories that you didn’t get use in the documentary?
[0:38:25.6] TC: We hope so. Exactly what that’s going to be, we don’t know. We don’t know what that’s going to look like, but we would love to do that, because like we said, the personal stories. A lot of the personal stories are within those. Of course, we’ll archive them, but as far as how we’re going to present them, we haven’t decided that yet. There are so many stories in that that are worth telling.
[0:38:49.8] KM: Mosaic Templars could probably house all that information for you. They’re doing a good job down there.
[0:38:54.0] TC: We hope to do something. We just don’t know quite yet.
[0:38:57.7] KM: That one that I wished we’d gotten that none of you y’all got to meet was the very first gentleman that ever came to see me, Max Hunnicutt. He owned the Hunnicutt Hotel that was right next door me, and he came down. Those older gentleman were such gentlemen. He was such a gentleman. I was sitting at my desk and I’ve only been there maybe a month and I look up and he’s got both of his hands up to his and he’s up against the glass and he’s looking through the glass trying to see inside and I jumped up and ran out there and I tell him who I am and he starts telling me all about his wife and his business and he takes me around the corner to Izard Street and she shows me where he and his wife laid the tiles that walked up to the front porch of his house. Then he tells me a story about the history of the black community after desegregation, and this was something I never thought of, was that the desegregation was wonderful but a lot of his patrons quit shopping in the 9th Street stores and that unknowingly it was kind of like Walmart came to town and all the African-Americans begin to shop over on Maine Street, because they could and it was a little bit less expensive because they have larger buying power. Then, knowingly, bankrupted a lot of their businesses and that he talked a little bit about that. I never heard that part of the story. There’s just so much to tell.
[0:40:15.7] TC: That’s so true. There’s so many different angles.
[0:40:18.7] KM: We got to talk about some of your great projects. AETN is searching for a aspiring young filmmakers.
[0:40:24.2] CS: Yeah.
[0:40:24.8] KM: There’s a deadline to enter?
[0:40:26.7] CS: March 31st.
[0:40:27.8] KM: That’s just around the corner.
[0:40:29.3] CS: It is, but there’s opportunities all the way through the year. I don’t want people to think, “Oh, March 31st.” I don’t need to keep listening, because we have all kinds of opportunities past March 31st, but it’s student selects and that’s a young filmmaker showcase and I’ve got a bunch of partners, and what we do is AETN opens — Basically, we just opened up. We would like to see student films that have been created for kids, I mean kindergarten through high school. If we have somebody in kindergarten that actually tries to make a little film, we want to see it.
We have had a kindergarten on send in a submission and we’ve actually broadcast something by a third grader. It’s primarily middle school and high school and we just like to get a highlight the student filmmakers and get their work seen beyond the classroom. Then we partner with lots of folks. The Thea foundation offers scholarships. I’ve got four $2,500 scholarships for filmmaker in cinematography, screenwriting, editing and directing.
[0:41:34.2] KM: Is that for the March 31st deadline?
[0:41:35.3] CS: Mm-hmm. I have a partner that is the Arkansas Department of Heritage and the Arkansas History Preservation Program. That’s a cash prize that they offer for students making films on historical sites, 50 years or older. They’re trying to support historical documentaries about a historical site, which is what we’re just talking about.
We’re trying to support young filmmakers getting started doing this. I have a new partner this year and it’s Central High National Historic Site and they also have a cash prize and this is tied in with their 60th anniversary. The 60th anniversary of the Central High prizes is coming up next year.
They’re supporting students making films about Civil Rights, possibly looking at someone who has inspired them, but we’re looking forward, and what is the change that they want to see. Central High, like a lot of our top today is about looking back at history and being informed by history, but looking at where we are now and what can we do now.
This is our area where we’re encouraging Arkansas’s young filmmakers to really look at some of these issues and provide an incentive, because schools don’t support this kind of filmmaking across the board. A lot of times there’s a journalism class or broadcasting or they might do a PSA or something like that, and this is a little broader than that, a little beyond that. The cash prizes in the scholarships are very important.
We also partner with film festivals and we take student films to film festivals to get them seen by a larger, often, an international audience. We partner with the film festivals to put them together with professional filmmakers. Gabe has done this several times. He’s taught workshops for middle school and high school students here in Little Rock and it’s wonderful to connect young filmmakers with professional filmmakers.
It’s great if they come in, but it’s also great to show them that we have filmmakers right here in Arkansas that are making a living and they’re able to actually do professionally their art.
[0:43:47.4] KM: We got a lot of filmmakers in Arkansas. I’m kind of surprised. Good ones. I saw Loving, it was good. I’m sorry. That wasn’t your, Gabe.
Gabe, you’re a rock star. I’ve known Gabe for a while. I had no idea you got three movies coming out.
[0:44:04.1] GM: Yeah. There is. By day job I’m a cinematographer.
[0:44:09.4] KM: Oh, let me call you that. Call you the right thing.
[0:44:12.3] GM: No. Director photography and cinematographer are the same thing. Dream Land was the second time I’ve directed something that long. As a cinematographer, I shot the movie Greater, which was a very Arkansan-citric movie about the football player Brandon Burlsworth. Then released, I guess, limited release theatrically, last year as well, was a film I shot in California called Lazy Eye and it’s set in Joshua Tree, California, and that’s available on iTunes and things of that nature. It was released in New York and L.A. theatrically.
[0:44:48.9] KM: You shot one with Joey Lauren Adams [inaudible 0:44:49.8].
[0:44:49.8] GM: Yup. There was a film I shot with Paul Sparks and Joey Lauren Adams.
[0:44:55.0] KM: It’s not been released yet.
[0:44:55.8] GM: It’s not been released, but it looks to like it’s going to be released this year. It’s called All the Birds have Flown South. Then I just finished this past fall shooting a film called Antiquities that was written by my good friend and directed by Daniel Campbell and co-written with Graham Gordy.
[0:45:14.1] KM: Mary Steenburg’s in it too.
[0:45:15.0] GM: Mary Steenburgen is in that.
[0:45:15.7] KM: Rick St. Vincent. My friend Rick St. Vincent.
[0:45:17.9] GM: Rick St. Vincent, he’s coach.
[0:45:18.7] KM: He’s a Dreamland Ballroom board member.
[0:45:21.3] GM: That’s right. Actually, Greene from the Twilight movie and Andrew West from Walking Dead were the stars of that.
[0:45:29.8] KM: All right. Let’s go back to AETN. You’ve got a writer’s contest coming up. Don’t you? April the 7th.
[0:45:35.8] DW: We do. I can’t say that I have a whole lot information on that. That’s done with our marketing and outreach department. If you want to call AETN or go to our website, aetn.org. The phone number is 501-682-2386 and someone there can get you any of the information on that contest, but it is coming up.
[0:45:55.0] KM: Next week, AETN is partnering with the Discovery Museum for all the kids that are out of school. Y’all got a lot going on down at the museum. Let’s see, there’s Daniel Tiger, Juris George, PBS Kids. Oh, then you got a petition you can go and sign about the political action, about the president’s budget and the proposal to eliminate funding for public media. If you want to sign that petition you can go to AETN, right?
[0:46:18.8] DW: Right.
[0:46:19.8] KM: I’m going, because I love AETN. You’ve got a new executive director, or a new director, Courtney. She’s coming on? That happens in just a few days, I think. Doesn’t she start in — Monday or Tuesday is her first day.
It’s time for us to go. Anything you want to say last before we leave?
[0:46:39.6] TC: If you’re interested in coming on the 31st to the Ron Robinson, you actually have to go to their website, which is arkansassounds.org. It’s free. It’s absolutely free, but they just need to keep track of how many people are coming.
[0:46:54.4] KM: You can make reservations.
[0:46:55.9] TC: You can go there and make reservations so that they can keep account of folks that are coming, or you can get a little ticket. Please do that. We’d love to see you there.
[0:47:03.6] KM: I had my people put a link on the top of the Flag & Banner website. If you go to flagandbanner.com, there’s a link up at the top that will give you all the AETN information about when it’s airing on TV and how to get tickets. They should have that all up and posted.
I want to thank y’all for being here today.
[0:47:21.0] TC: Thank you for having us.
[0:47:21.5] DW: Thank you.
[0:47:22.7] GM: Thank you so much.
[0:47:23.7] KM: You’re so welcome. Y’all did so much credibility to Dreamland and what’s going on down there. The credibility goes towards the friend of Dreamland’s mission statement, which is healing our community through music, history and the part of Dreamland. Y’all are really helping us do that. Thank you y’all very, very much.
[0:47:42.1] GM: Thank you for having us.
[0:47:42.7] CS: Thank you.
[0:47:43.5] KM: Now, for the closing. This was not really an entrepreneurial story, but Gabe is an entrepreneur, and if you’ve got an entrepreneurial story you would like to share with me, I would love to hear from you. Send me a brief bio and your contact info to email@example.com and someone will be in touch.
Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right, but it’s also been about me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence, or your life.
I’m Kerry McCoy, and I’ll see you next Friday at 2 p.m. on KABF Radio in Little Rock, Arkansas. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:48:32.7] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Next week a podcast will be available flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.