Channels: Stories from the Niagara Frontier is Squeaky Wheel’s production initiative that matches up local filmmakers with WNY’s activist groups to make short documentaries about social justice issues impacting this region.
This Thursday April 18th at 7 PM, Squeaky Wheel will be premiering three new films produced through the initiative at the Market Arcade Film + Art Center. In advance of the premiere, we’ll be posting brief previews highlighting each film.
This Doesn’t Happen Here by Erie County Fair Housing Partnership + Brian Milbrand
This Doesn’t Happen Here sets out to explain why Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in the United States, despite being far removed from the Jim Crow South. The history of this segregation and its challengers is told through interviews with activists, historians, and Buffalo residents as well as through archival images, documents, and newspaper clippings.
The film begins in the 1930s, when the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s first public housing development opened only to low income white families. After the Buffalo Urban League spearheaded protests demanding that these federally funded developments be available to people of all races, the BMHA conceded a mere 172 units of the total 2,156 to black families. By locating these 172 units in areas separate from the other developments, the BMHA set the stage for racially segregated neighborhoods.
This established pattern was complemented by discriminatory private housing practices. Up until about 35 years ago, real estate agents steering black people into particular parts of the city and banks refusing to issue loans in particular neighborhoods were seen as standard business procedures.
Although the realities presented in the documentary are harsh, the ultimate goal is to show that segregation was created and sustained by human decisions and hard work, and can be unmade in the same way. The film concludes with two more recent developments: the story of Ellicott Homes development residents who in 1995 successfully challenged actions that were meant to displace them from their homes; and the 2005 passing of the Buffalo Fair Housing Ordinance. Although progress has certainly been made, HUD Equal Opportunity Specialist Andrea Mujahi-Moore warns in the interview that closes the film “it’s fairer, not fair yet!”