Overtown: Inside/Out

I began shooting video stories in Overtown in late 2009 as part of my work toward a Master’s in Multimedia Journalism degree at the University of Miami.

When it came time to begin my thesis/capstone project, I decided to use the opportunity both to continue my work in Overtown and to purposefully engage the residents of Overtown (“Towners,” as they call themselves) in an interactive dialog about those original videos.

Because I wanted the feedback to also be in video form and because of Towners’ limited access to broadband Internet, I installed touch-screen interactive kiosks (similar to the information kiosks found at museums, shopping malls, and airports but equipped with small video cameras) at four venues in Overtown.

The kiosks have no keyboard or mouse; all user-input is through the touch-sensitive screens and viewers are told that the kiosk’s camera will record them as they watch the videos.  Each video begins with hip-hop artist Desloc Piccalo, an Overtown native, explaining that the viewer will be asked three questions at the end of the video, when Piccalo reappears to ask those questions, which are as follows -

  • “How does seeing this film make you feel about Overtown?”

  • “Should this film be shown outside of Overtown?  How would that make you feel?”

  • “What should be the next subject we film for ‘Overtown: Inside/Out’?”

As I write this on May 5, 2011, the videos have been played about 800 times since the kiosks were installed in early April; only about one in fifty views result in comments.  This web site displays some of those comments as well as the original videos.

The kiosks are to be removed from Overtown in mid-June. I hope that Overtowner.com will continue to provide an “Inside” view of Overtown – not only for Towners themselves, but also for the political, journalistic, judicial and academic establishments “Outside” of Overtown.  It is there, where political power intersects with social, cultural, economic and racial prejudices, that decisions are made every day that continue to marginalize the people of Overtown.

    – Charles “Stretch” Ledford, May 2011, Overtown, Miami

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