When independent filmmaker Shirah Dedman moved from the San Fernando Valley to Oakland, she asked herself: What happened to all the black people in Oakland?, a city known for its rich Black population.
Now, in her 30-minute film production, “You A Nomad,” she interview with longtime residents, historians and researchers to answer that question.
According to Dedman’s research, Oakland’s Black population has dwindled from 44% to an estimated 26%. She recently hosted a screening and post-film dialogue at the Greenlining Institute, where guests had the opportunity to ask questions and share their perspective and experience on her film and urban regentrification.
“What really struck me was conversing with a person that attended a dozen different schools because they had to keep moving from one place to another,” said Dedman. “Displacement is a very serious issue with the rising costs of housing currently and previously with red-lining, re-development and now modern-day gentrification.”
In her film, Dedman uses a unique cross-section of African-American voices that deconstructs the layers behind urban removal occurring nationwide. The film explains how the once valuable Section 8 vouchers, providing rent subsidies from the government to low-income earners alleviated housing issues. However, due to the rising costs of housing in the bay area, Section 8 is now cost-prohibitive to property owners, leaving many on a wait list with vouchers and no place to live.
The film also discusses the transformation a neighborhood undergoes when industries leave and jobs are gone.
“This creates urban blight and drives home values down, making properties ripe for regentrification and thus the cycle begins,” said Dedman. “This disproportionately impacts African American communities who have experienced a loss of income, homeownership, creating transient communities.”
Dedman hopes to get the word out about how these on-going issues and states people first need to be clear on how the problem was created so there’s a healthy dialogue to support solutions to the problem.
Dedman and her family members were featured in the short film “Uprooted,” revealing the horrifying Louisiana lynching of their grandfather in 1912. Dedman has also produced a short narrative, “Let Her In” and mentors minority filmmakers. For more information, go to www.youanomad.com.