THE AUGUST 7th 8PM SCREENING OF LORD THING IS SOLD OUT…stay tuned for further news
In 2012, the National Film Preservation Foundation awarded CFA a grant to preserve two 16mm films that document the activities and social-political transformation of the Vice Lords, a black street gang from Chicago’s West Side. Two years later, we are delighted to premiere LORD THING and THE CORNER at the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 20th annual Black Harvest Film Festival. Both films were photo-chemically restored by the folks over at Colorlab and we can’t wait to share their hard work with all of you. The films fall within a period that begins when the Supreme Court struck down the practice of segregation in 1955 to 1970 when the civil rights movement was at its height.
Purchase advanced tickets here
THE CORNER (1963, Robert Ford, 16mm., B&W, Sound, 26 min.; found in Chicago Film Archives’ Robert Ford Collection)
THE CORNER provides an unprecedented window into one of Chicago’s most notorious street gangs, the Vice Lords. The film was made by Northwestern Grad student, Robert Ford, over the course of seven months and is constructed from a series of audio interviews with the teenage Vice Lord gang members as they reflect on their lives, daily struggles, and the law of the streets. Filmed at the corner of Lake Street and Homan Avenue on Chicago’s West Side, THE CORNER captures the raw energy and grit of the urban city and those who call this street corner home.
LORD THING (1970, DeWitt Beall, 16mm., Color, Sound, 52 min.; found in Chicago Film Archives’ DeWitt Beall Collection)
Produced at the height of the black power movement in the early ‘70s, this film is an insider history into the genesis and transformation of the Conservative Vice Lords gang. Partially shaped and told by by CVL members who also appear in the film, LORD THING is a unique and powerful tool that expresses an effort in self-transformation during a volatile and violent time in US race history. Gritty and rhythmic, this unusual film reflects an under-told chapter in gang history as members from the West Side neighborhood of North Lawndale try to become viable and political agents in their community. LORD THING won a silver medal at the 1970 Venice Film Festival.
Just a couple of years ago only one muddy VHS copy** of the historical film, LORD THING, could be found. Our colleague on the east coast, Buckey Grimm, did some research for CFA and found the film elements in California under the care of the director’s widow, Elina Katsioula-Beall. Little-known today, DeWitt Beall was a filmmaker who seemed to work independently from other documentary filmmakers of the time. His films grapple with social justice issues as well as the conservation of our natural world.
Layers of complex stories are woven throughout this film representation of a brief era in the Conservative Vice Lord’s history. In an effort to sort out the many perspectives that surround this history, CFA is delighted to provide a platform for this discussion after the screening with panelists who will include:
Lance Williams (Facilitator)
Lance Williams is an Associate Professor and Assistant Director at the historic Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. His fields of special interest include the mass media’s influence on adolescent behaviors and culture, street organizations, and youth violence.
Dr. Williams served as the National Coordinator of the African American Male Initiative for the President’s Roundtable. He currently serves as the Board Chair of the Lupe Fiasco Foundation.
He is the author of Culture and Perceptions of Violence Related Behaviors Among Adolescents and co-author of the book titled The Almighty Black P Stone Nation: The Fall, Rise and Resurgence of an American Gang.
His expertise has been frequently aired and published by numerous international, national, and local media outlets such as Al Jazeera , French TV Canal, Bloomberg News, CNN, BET, HBO, Essence Magazine, Ebony & Jet Magazines, and a number of other cable, television, radio and print media.
Benneth Lee (Panelist)
Mr. Lee is the Founder and Director of the National Alliance For The Empowerment of The Formerly Incarcerated. Mr. Lee’s areas of expertise include street gang prevention and intervention strategies, rites of passage, how to provide culturally specific services, breaking the cycle of addictive relationships, best practice in addictions treatment, and how to work with clients in the criminal justice system.
He is a sought-after international trainer and consultant, having presented throughout the United States, Israel, and Africa. He has received numerous awards for his outstanding work, including the Professional of the Year award from the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (IAODAPCA), a Project Safe Neighborhoods award from U.S. Department of Justice, and a national America Honors Recovery award from the Johnson Institute for his work in providing innovative services to gang affiliated individuals in the criminal justice system.
Mr. Lee received his associate’s degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse at Kennedy King College (Chicago). He received his bachelor’s degree at Northeastern Illinois University and his master’s degree at Northeastern. Benny is married with children.
Cynthia Kobel (Panelist)
Cynthia Kobel is the Executive Director of the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Foundation. She graduated Cum Laude from Arizona State University and later attended Bennington College where she studied writing with Tobias Wolff and Madison Smartt Bell. She was a writer at Dartmouth College, the Communications Director of Stamford Center for the Arts, a photojournalist for several newspapers and a life-long advocate for prison reform. She also came to know LORD THING’s director, DeWitt Beall, when the film was being made in the late 60s.
Today Cynthia publishes a newsletter called Stateville Speaks that goes out to the prison population, the media and to politicians, and she is also developing Second Chance Initiative, a program designed to help older men mentor younger men with assistance from psychologists and social workers. She is currently producing a documentary that looks at the connections between poverty and violence.
Over the years, Cynthia has been the recipient of The Mary Herrick Humanitarian Award, The 1999 Service Provider Award at Malcolm X College, The Wentworth Award from Northeastern Illinois University, the SAFER Foundation Community Service Award and the Community Communications Award from City Colleges of Chicago. She lives in Harbert, Michigan and has two children.
**Big acknowledgments to Michael W. Phillips Jr. – South Side Projections – and Rebecca Zorach for identifying and presenting this tape at the South Side Community Arts Center in 2011.