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During the summers of 2011 thru 2015, each year, DC youth led,  researched and independently produced five documentary videos as time capsules of the past by uncovering forgotten histories.  The youths investigated a landscape concealing remains of enslaved African Americans and freed persons of color who contributed to the development and prosperity of our nation's capital and simultaneously shared their voices and reflections on the disappearance of their own homes, and lives buried in the explosion of gentrification in DC.. The documentary videos produced and archived each year are now flashes of light alive with DC youth making their own history..  


The production of a youth produced rough cut of the documentary video project

Part One

An Introduction to The Making of I SAW DC!


A Youth Perspective 

The video project involved developing part one of the documentary video including pre-production planning, research and post production of a rough cut documentary from the perspective of

I SAW DC!’s youth project’s founder, who initiated the project at the age of 14. He subsequently served as the chief youth researcher through the age of 19 years old. Part 1 of the documentary serves as an introduction with a narrative that highlights the growth of a DC youth’s personal perspective involving his five years of youth led research into the history of DC’s earliest African American communities as well as witnessing the dynamics of DC’s changing city. The aim is to produce an upcoming full length feature video that will document the five-year development of I SAW DC!’s youth led community based research program through the voices and perspectives of different youth participants investigating the history of DC’s earliest African American community’s while they simultaneously experience the current decreasing presence of the African American community’s in D.C.

the film




I SAW DC! engages diverse youths representing each Ward throughout DC, yet focuses on under-served communities placed at a social economic disadvantaged and neighborhoods impacted by underperforming schools. I SAW DC! is a youth led organization by youths predominately of color, ages 13 to 24, emerging from historically under-served communities traditionally place at a social, economic, political and academic disadvantage. We are currently seeking partnerships and resources to assist our youth director who is now a college film and history major to produce the video documentary including input of other past I SAW DC! youth participants, most are presently attending colleges as students, graduated college or are high school graduates with various educational backgrounds, skills  and talents that can contribute value and meaning to the video documentary project as consultants.


The facts


The rough cut includes interviews with DC archeologists, Ruth Trocolli and Charde Reid on Yarrow Mamout’s dig site, DC historian and project mentor, Mr. C.R. Gibbs and author of From Slave ships to Harvard, Mr. Johnston as well as footage.


The planning, production and post production of I SAW DC!’s projects are exclusively done by youth with the mentorship of intergenerational elders and experts in related fields.  As result of the funding, the rough cut was presented at the 2015 DC Community Heritage Project Showcase sponsored by the DC Humanities Council and is available to professionally edit for multimedia presentation on the website for a global audience.  The goal is to professionally edit the rough cut documentary for a trailer and present the rough cut film to a focus group for pertinent feedback through surveys, comments and discussion to complete the post-production treatment phase for the professional editing of the rough cut documentary Part One, “Introduction to The Making of I SAW DC!  2010-2015: A Youth Perspective as well as commence pre- planning and production for Part 2 of The Making of I SAW DC! 2011-2015: Rites of Passage in Visions of DC Youth which would include archive footage of past youth teams involved in the research projects represented each year and current interview of past youth leaders with their current perspectives of their research on early African American communities and DC’s changing city.

During the 2014 fiscal year, I SAW DC! successfully implemented its youth led community based field research programming with a $2,500 grant awarded by the DC Humanities Council, $1,000 grant awarded by Generations United and a $1,500 grant awarded by the Diverse City Fund. I SAW DC!’s chief teen researcher coordinated with the historical sites such as the Charles Sumner Museum, 15th Street Presbyterian Church, Mount Zion United Methodist Church, Ashbury Methodist Church, Tudor Place Historic House & Gardens and George Washington’s Estate at Mt. Vernon, Library of Congress and National Archives for summer youth to tour sites in DC and participate in oral histories, interviews and community based field research uncovering the earliest legacy of DC’s local African American community buried behind the buildings of gentrification. As a result of the 2014 youth led research project, an interactive online multi-media digital exhibit was produced by the summer youth for a global audience.


 The funding was used for the following I SAW DC! youth led projects:


1)      A new youth initiative-In the spring of 2014, we successfully launched a pilot youth leadership in training project on Saturdays during 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 a.m. The project was initiated the 2nd week of March thru June 21st, four youth leaders, ages 13 to 16 years old were interviewed, recruited and trained to participate in planning I SAW DC!’s 2014 annual summer youth led community based intergenerational research project.


2)      Annual youth led summer community based project-During the summer of 2014, eight youth leaders were engaged in researching and documenting the legacy of DC’s earliest African American community members and their civic accomplishments as well as focuses on current themes. The use of technology, film, photography and artistic interpretations were produced to digitally highlight and preserve their discoveries in a 2014 online web-based exhibit.


3)      Film Screening & Presentation-During the spring and summer programs as well at the conclusion of the summer research the youth leaders held a film screening documenting their research project and presented their historical findings at a community event hosted by Sankofa Videos & Bookstore and with use of video projection equipment by courtesy of our fiscal sponsor, The Washington Peace Center.


DC Annual Historical Studies Conference-On November 21st & 22nd in 2014, I SAW DC! youths presented their 2014 summer research historical findings and videos documenting the earliest legacy of African American communities at the 41st annual conference hosted by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.


In the midst of gentrification and urban removal, SAW DC!’s youth participants have engaged with intergenerational mentors to uncover, highlight and preserve the historical contributions and empowering legacy of resilience within DC’s earliest communities of color. By researching their communities and documenting the past, the youth as leaders become not only witnesses but are empowered by understanding the historical legacy of oppression, resistance, self-determination, collective action and resilience. The video documentaries and digital platforms our youth researchers have used to artistically express their voices to a global audience to not forget lives traditionally neglected. Those lives have meaning, a history and those lives matter. Our youth leaders have also engaged in community outreach at DC’s annual historical studies conference, presentations at Sanfoka Video & Bookstore, historically Black churches and African American Civil War Museum. Each year our youth historians leave their own impressions in video, exhibits, and discussions that are now documented and archive in history and go forward with a greater vision of what has been done, what can be done and more questions of what they must do toward change. Our work empowers through knowledge in our intergenerational community based action research and engages youths to use video to reflect to us history as a mirror.

The challenge
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