celebrates work of African-American artists
By Scott Tady, The
Beaver County Times, Feb. 13, 2002
-- All kidding about captive audiences aside, inmates at the
Allegheny County Jail genuinely enjoyed their advanced screening
Tuesday of a new TV documentary, "BrotherMen."
touched inside of me," 33-year-old inmate Mike Barron of Pittsburgh
said of "BrotherMen," which chronicles the historic, political
and cultural realities of the African-American experience.
"BrotherMen" director Demetria Royals chose to premiere her
one-hour documentary at the Pittsburgh jail because she knows
firsthand how the arts can convince troubled people to turn
around their lives. Royals, a Harlem native, served an 11-month
stint in a juvenile detention center.
ask me what I'd be doing if I wasn't a filmmaker, and I say
20-to-life," Royals told 20 mostly youthful inmates hand-picked
by jail officials to attend the "BrotherMen" screening.
debuts publicly Feb. 20 on WQED-TV (Channel 13), the Pittsburgh
Public Broadcasting Station, which sponsored the documentary.
Other PBS stations can begin airing "BrotherMen" in June.
in association with the National Black Programming Consortium,
which has a satellite office at WQED, "BrotherMen" mixes music,
dance, performance, photography, archival footage and interviews
to celebrate the achievements of five African-American artists.
five profiled subjects are famed Philadelphia songwriters Kenneth
Gamble and Leon Huff, photographer Chester Higgins Jr., choreographer
and dancer David Rousseve, and the late Pops Staples, a singer
and civil rights activist.
of Tuesday's inmate audience had never heard of Rousseve and
Staples, or were old enough to recall the early 1970s "Philly
soul" sound created by Gamble and Huff.
the documentary director, had every reason to worry that the
inmates would show indifference to her one-hour work. Seated
beforehand in a makeshift theater in one of the jail's recreation
rooms, Royals nervously tapped her feet on the ground, seated
in a corner, out of view of the inmates.
the documentary ended, she marched to a podium and was relieved
to hear the enthusiastic response from the 11 black and nine
white inmates who, without prompting, began to applaud, then
volunteered their comments and questions.
the 33-year-old inmate from Pittsburgh, said he appreciated
how "BrotherMen" painted a positive portrait of the African-American
experience. He told Royals he has seen other historical accounts
of African Americans that dwelled too much on the negative.
"A lot of them make us want to get radical and stuff," he said,
adding that "BrotherMen" evoked a peaceful vibe.
thought it was time for someone to publicly write a love letter
to black men," Royals said.
Pagone, 25, an inmate from Pittsburgh's North Side, said what
he drew from "BrotherMen" is that men of all races need to come
together and show responsibility in raising their children.
need unity," Pagone said. "As men, we need to stand up and take
our place in society."
DeSabato, 27, of Pittsburgh's Bloomfield section, also liked
the documentary's positive message, adding, "It's not about
black and white anymore. It's about taking care of our children."
their red jail uniforms, inmates thanked Royals for taking the
unusual step of premiering a TV show behind bars.
"Instead of rolling out the red carpet,
we rolled out the red uniforms," DeSabato said.
Beaver County Times/Allegheny Times 2002
from Earl G. Graves, Sr.
Publisher & CEO,
Black Enterprise Magazine
Author, "How to Succeed in Business Without Being White"
one-hour performance-based documentary BrotherMen sends a long
overdue message about the essence of unity and brotherhood experienced
by black men in America.
art, music and dramatic interpretation, the laudable accomplishments
of the five featured personalities -- songwriters Kenneth Gamble
and Leon Huff, photographer Chester Higgins Jr., choreographer/dancer
David Roussève, and gospel/blues patriarch the late Roebuck
"Pops" Staples -- provides a collage of expertise,
guiding you through the spirited struggle and abounding achievements
of black men.
chieftains of BrotherMen open their hearts with sensitivity
and devotion through visual expression, providing you with a
glimpse of underlying unity expressed in pictorial gallantry
-- the spirit of brotherhood amongst black men.
"must see" documentary should be watched and embraced
by both our men and women, young and old, as we continue our
journey to grow and nurture our souls in the understanding of