Have you ever wanted to know a little more about the current migration patterns of Black America? Here at Polite On Society, we had the opportunity to reach out to filmmaker Naimah Fuller about her latest project “Home” It is a film that deals with the current migration of African-Americans to the South.
Polite On Society: What motivated you to create the documentary Home: The Great Migration of the 21st Century?
The final title of my documentary is HOME. Initially, I became interested in creating the HOME Project after having moved from New York City (Fort Green-Brooklyn) to Atlanta. What struck me was nearly everyone I met in Atlanta was from somewhere else. One was hard pressed to meet someone who was actually from Atlanta. I started out thinking about doing a documentary on Atlanta as this new point of destination for people primarily from New York City. However, after I started to research some of the data, it was clear that Atlanta wasn’t the only southern city that northerners was relocating to. What I discovered was, folks were moving south – period! And not just from New York – but in fact they were coming from everywhere, from New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and as far west as Oakland and LA. and they were coming by the droves, at a very high pace. I soon realized I had stumbled upon a historical event that was occurring right before my eyes. That – like the Great Migration that began its huge wave of movement during the early 1900’s and continued on for another fifty years, the same phenomenon was occurring in the early years of the 21st century. It was like a mirror of history repeating itself. And not only were black folks moving to Atlanta, they were relocating to cities and towns and little hamlets throughout the south. Places like Charlotte, Houston, Birmingham, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, New Orleans. I was blown away to discover that this was actually taking place, and hardly anyone was talking about it. At least anyone in the major media outlets, i.e. the CNN’s, the New York Times, etc.
POS: There are great historical works about The Great Migration such as “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. Do you feel that the Reverse Migration will eventually be as widely studied as the earlier Black migratory patterns?
NF: Yes… of course. But this is the 21st century – and like everything else – sweeping changes are occurring at a very rapid pace – so much so that it is hard to keep up with the changes that are occurring. The question I found myself asking regarding this mass migration of African Americans is what is the impact right now?? Fifty years from now what would be the point of revisiting this subject – save for the sake of historians who wanted to study it? What use would it be, what purpose would it serve to look back as opposed to looking at what is happening right now? My answer to that question is, if we opt not to look at the causes and the consequences of this current migration trend among Black people would be a great disservice to so-called “history”. We place a lot of importance on our “History”, as we should, however that process of revisiting our past should not deter us from being aware of the events that are shaping our lives right now.
Isabel Wilkerson’s book “The Warmth Of Other Suns”, is a wonderful book, but when one examines the over arching impact that The Great Migration of African Americans moving by the millions in what was the largest internal migration of any ethnic group in the history (U.S. History) of this nation, that alone speaks volumes to the relevance of such an event. And there should literally be many volumes of books written regarding that era. And notwithstanding the importance of that time, and that history, it remains that we must keep our eyes on what is happening around us as it actually unfolds. Therein lies the opportunity to seize the moment and to act accordingly. Not to wait for history’s sake. What purpose would it serve in a practical sense to wait to examine such an obviously important event of our times? As a group, African Americans have already experienced several mass migrations, beginning with the first great migration when millions of Africans were forced into a mass migration from Africa, which is what got black folks here in the first place. How widely do we need to study this subject of the migration of African Americans before we are able to arrive at some significant conclusion that answers the question. Why are African Americans migrating en mass yet again? We can’t afford to wait another fifty years to widely study this subject. By then the answer will be moot. We need answers now!
POS: Why do you feel as though the stories in this documentary need to be told? How does this film add to the understanding of 21st century African American living conditions?
NF: Because it is by no means a small thing that is happening. Period! As we speak, the entire population of the largest ethnic group in the United States – those being African Americans, are moving by the millions (yes millions) to the same location of this country. According to the data of the 2012 census report, 58% of “all black people” are currently residing in the south. That is huge. That data was gathered nearly three years ago, yet the numbers continue to grow. When one takes into consideration that Black people contribute billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy, one has to realize that this migration has major economic implications. In other words, when black people move by the millions, money is moving by the billions. That alone is a point for pause and contemplation. Add to that the social and political implications, and one can clearly see that a migration of this magnitude has far-reaching consequences, consequences that already occurring. Case in point the “gentrification” factor that has already reshaped traditional black communities in major urban cities across this country. So I hope the questions raised in HOME will at the very least stir the pot and cause the inquiries to start right now.