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'Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story'

January 13, 2012

The documentary, 'Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story,' reveals how, in the 1980s, government officials in Yonkers, New York consciously made policies that resulted in housing segregation. The film follows three families and their struggle for equality and acceptance.

Between 1940 and 1980, 7,000 units of public housing were built in Yonkers, NY.  Ninety-seven percent of it was built in a one square mile area of Southwest Yonkers.Thursday, January 19
3:30-5 p.m.
Lory Student Center
Room 203-205

The film, "Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story," will be shown on campus in connection with CSU's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.

The film shows that segregation has been as virulent and persistent in the North as in the South, and it, too, has resulted from deliberate public policies based in deep-rooted racial predjudice.

The film examines the bitter struggle over equal housing rights in Yonkers, New York, during the 1980s and demonstrates the "massive resistence" the Civil Rights movement came up against as it moved North.

Support for the project

Produced on a shoestring initially, Brick by Brick drew the support of organizations like the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, the Threshold Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Brick by Brick is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Producer describes film

"Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story is a one-hour television documentary about a contemporary American battle for civil rights. It follows three families in Yonkers, New York, in the middle of a confrontation about the politics and law of racial discrimination in housing and schools that challenges and changes their hometown.

"Brick by Brick describes how a ghetto was created through public policies. The film initially paints a picture of isolation for many people of color in the city, most of whom are living in segregated neighborhoods served by failing schools. The primary storytellers are local people from different backgrounds, who relate their personal encounters with housing and educational discrimination, as well as others who experience very different opportunities across town.

"In education, the film details how local public school divisions grew up around a neighborhood overwhelmed with 7,000 units of public housing, further entrenching the city's color line. Along with the harsh reality of this situation, viewers see the community react to the conditions in their children’s schools, fighting back to force Yonkers to change its ways.

"Brick by Brick tracks the resulting federal U.S. v Yonkers litigation, which challenged neighborhood and educational discrimination. Coming back out of the courtroom into the community, the story describes the bitter local confrontation about race and the very concept of community that follows. From a first person perspective, characters weave a tale of years of work attempting to achieve justice, with a labyrinth of successes and setbacks that the struggle entails. 

"At its close, Brick by Brick shows what has happened both to a community and to individual citizens, committed to their city. It also illustrates the difference housing opportunity can make in a single family’s life. The story brings the fiery legal and political crucible of a contemporary city and its larger implications for our nation today onto the screen."

~ Bill Kavanagh