College Grad Returns to Roots to Reminisce and to Find ‘Hood Undergoing Urban Renewal
When 31 year-old Stefanie Joshua was growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, her crime-infested neighborhood was a scary place where gunshots rang out every night. During the day, she had to run a gauntlet of crack and heroin dealers hanging on the corners, and she was even robbed of her gold necklace while riding the subway on her way home from school.
Coming of age in the Nineties during the rise of gangsta rap meant that many members of the Hip-Hop Generation would become victims of street violence. And the death in 2002 of a gentle friend nicknamed Poohbear inspired Stefanie to return to her roots to find out what became of some of the kids she grew up with.
For Ms. Joshua had somehow escaped the ghetto and attended Stony Brook University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. Next, she earned an MA in Sociology at CCNY, writing her master’s thesis on delinquency and social disorganization theory.
Though she had no formal training in filmmaking, Stefanie started interviewing men from her block, encouraging them to reflect honestly on their challenging childhoods. The result is Bushwick Homecomings, a remarkable documentary which leaves the viewer with the feeling that it’s a miracle that any of them could have survived such a dysfunctional and dangerous concrete jungle.
Ironically, the picture also points out that blacks are currently disappearing from the area which is belatedly benefiting from an aggressive urban renewal program. With gentrification gradually erasing the African-American footprint from the community, Bushwick Homecomings stands as all the more significant as an historical record of tougher times and a tribute to those still around to talk about them.
Very good (3 stars)
Running time: 37 minutes