Deborah from New Jersey asks: I was three years old when I was shot in the 1967 riots in Newark, so I myself am a victim of the riots. What do you think that the cops, national guard and state police should have done differently in their efforts to control the riots? Would a different approach have reduced the number of deaths and injuries during the riots? And finally, do you have any good recommendations for books about the Newark riots?
Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno and Jerome Bongiorno: It’s often cited that over 725 people were injured in Newark in 1967, but it’s particularly horrifying to read that you were one of the child victims.
It’s important to note that many riots/rebellions/revolutions occurred across the U.S. in the years prior to Newark, 1967, which are detailed in The Kerner Commission Report. Our leaders had ample warning that law enforcement needed to be trained to deal with these situations.
Another problem in Newark, 1967, which we discuss in the film, is the lack of communication between law enforcement. The Newark Police, the New Jersey State Police and the National Guard were all operating on different radio frequencies and couldn’t communicate with one another. Some have touted “friendly fire” between these forces as being responsible for the deaths of Police Detective Fred Toto and Fire Captain Michael Moran. Once again, coordinated law enforcement prep could have saved many lives.
Additional training and preparation for law enforcement would have also made a big difference. That would have been the different approach that could have prevented the loss of lives.
As for book recommendations, check out:
- Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission Report)
- Report for Action: (NJ) Governor Select Commission on Civil Disorder Feb 1968
- No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark by Ron Porambo
- Ready to Riot by Nathan Wright
- Rebellion in Newark and Reunion by Tom Hayden
L from New Jersey asks: Revolution ’67 was an interesting film, but I wondered why the film focused on Tom Hayden so much? His team was mainly in the south ward, and not in the central ward. How did you choose who to include in the film?
The Bongiornos: Revolution ’67 focuses on the immediate and long term causes of the riot/rebellion/revolution in Newark, 1967, and the poor vital signs in Newark today.
Tom Hayden provided poignant, eyewitness details about what life was like for the poor living in Newark in the sixties and much of his commentary in the film puts Newark in a national context, which is very important since 150 other U.S. cities experienced civil disturbances in 1967 alone and 3000 instances were reported across the U.S. in the 1960s.
Tom Hayden’s group NCUP (the Newark Community Union Project), comprised of black and white activists, worked in what was known as the Clinton Hill section of Newark.
Preeminent historians provided the core of our film: Dr. Kenneth Jackson, Dr. Clement Price and Dr. Nell Irvin Painter laid the historical framework and commented on the lessons of history.
We chose to represent the voices of key players: activists, political figures, law enforcement, the media and eyewitnesses.
Dillan from Washington asks: I really enjoyed this film. I was wondering if you could tell me more about the soundtrack for the film. Specifically, there is one song that I’m interested in. It had a jazz piano sound, and the lyrics went something like “Why do… why do… why do I have to be so afraid.” Could you tell me the name of the song?
The Bongiornos: Thanks for highlighting the film’s soundtrack. When we began to edit Revolution ’67, we decided on jazz since Newark is a jazz city. In our search, we discovered the music of great musicians from around the world whose work was not only technically excellent but also provocative. Many times, the music provided the impetus to edit the sequences in a certain way. The tracks were, literally, inspirational.
Tyler from New Jersey asks: Will there be a sequel to the film that looks at where the city of Newark is today, and evaluating the current status of its residents? I’m interested in finding out more about what has, and has not, changed over the course of forty years.
The Bongiornos: We would like to do a comprehensive sequel that examines the current problems of cities like Newark and also proposes solutions.
For now, you can view our longer video of “Newark Today” on the POV website. This 8 minute segment examines your question in greater detail.
If you walk through the Central Ward, near the Fourth Precinct, which was the epicenter of the rebellion in 1967, you’ll see that some of the complexion of Newark has indeed changed. The high rise public housing next to the precinct is gone; it was replaced by low rise public housing. But the problem lies in the fact that cities like Newark still concentrate the poor. Plus, poverty in Newark has increased from 18 percent in 1970 to 25 percent today. Poverty remains our greatest problem.
Sam from New Mexico asks: Great job on Revolution ’67! I understand that you are also making a narrative film about the riots. Is the process of making a fictional film very different than the process of making a documentary film? What is about the subject that makes you want to return to it again and again?
The Bongiornos: Thank you, Sam. Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard said, “In filmmaking, you can either start with fiction or documentary. But whichever you start with, you inevitably find the other.” We find this to be particularly true with our film projects because we often start with documentary, studying and capturing real life, and then create a fictional work from it. Both genres of filmmaking require good characters and a compelling story to tell.
The story of Newark is a very intriguing subject, a universal one that’s replayed in cities all over the world where corruption, ineffective government, and greed create chaos for a majority of people.