New Doc on Racist Forced Relocation In Bay Area Helps Spur Action & Official Apology
- 5 months ago
The Apology (Mimi Chakarova), an upcoming doc about the forced relocation of Russell City, a majority Black and Brown community in the 1960s Bay Area, is pivotal to an official apology, which the Alameda Board of Supervisors will present to the community’s residents and their descendants on June 27 at 2 p.m. The apology is the first of its kind in Alameda County’s 170-year history, and describes the County’s culpability in the community’s seizure and destruction as an example of “historic institutional racism and structural barriers that remain in our society and institutions.”
The documentary figures centrally in the text of the apology, which identifies it as the culmination of an effort by past Russell City residents and their descendants to share the history of a close-knit, diverse, working class community whose existence and destruction has been “ignored and eventually erased” to make way for industry. The doc, which is currently being submitted to festivals, was given a special screening earlier this year to an audience that included former Russell City residents and their descendants, at the same Veterans’ Memorial Building where the Board of Supervisors had originally held public hearings for the redevelopment plan that would dismantle the community.
The Apology is the sixth documentary feature by Chakarova, a SebDocs alumni filmmaker. The film investigates how Alameda County and the City of Hayward dismantled Russell City in 1963, pushing 1,400 residents out of their homes and off their land. The impact of this dispossession was compounded by the fact that most of Russell City’s Black and Latino residents made a home in the unincorporated area after being barred from purchasing land elsewhere. For the folks who lived in the south Oakland locale, it was a beloved village that housed 13 businesses, seven churches and 205 families. All lost to make way for a 200 acre industrial park.
Chakarova’s shorts have shown at the most recent two SebDocs festivals, and share both thematic and formal similarities with The Apology. Her mixed media documentary short The Block, which examines life on the longest block of one of America’s most progressive cities, won the Audience Award for Best Short at this year’s festival. Her animated short The Mirror, which weaves together the personal experiences of 9 black women as they recount interacting with white people, showed at the 2022 festival.
As with Chakarova’s other work, The Apology is a mixed media doc, using archival footage, animated photos and illustrations to tell the stories of more than 20 Russell City residents and their descendants, as they have unfolded over the past 60 years. The film explores the historical significance of an apology, and examines what it means to make amends for a past that continues to mark the present.
For more information about the film, the history it tells and details on how it was made, check out “The Making Of The Apology,” an interview with Chakarova and the film’s producer Aisha Knowles, presented by the Hayward Historical Society, which is also available the film’s website.
This story is an update of a piece about the original screening, which you can find right here.