Students from Mike Curb College of Entertainment directed and produced a documentary last year about North Nashville to highlight some of the vibrancy and history that exists there.
Belmont students questioned and challenged what they knew about Nashville throughout the school year to find stories sharing what Music City is.
Nashville Public Television, in collaboration with Belmont University, Fisk University and the Nashville Association of Black Journalists, is screening the documentary, “Exit 207: The Soul of Nashville,” from 5-8 p.m. at a Nashville Black Market Pop-Up on Tuesday.
The documentary narrates a pattern that has occurred in cities across the country where highways cut through diverse neighborhoods and ultimately contribute to income-based segregation and community disruption.
North Nashville has been home to artists such as Jimi Hendrix and home to the fight for Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ civil rights from shop-ins to protests against the construction of Interstate 40.
Joyce Searcy, Belmont director of community outreach, reminisced on her own time at Fisk University when I-40 came through the neighborhood.
“It had a lot of places where people would gather, but as you would go down the street, you had motels, you had restaurants, you had clubs, you had the theater—and we had so much fun! But, everybody we knew…everything we knew—I-440 cut all that off,” Searcy said.
Whole communities were inconvenienced in their route to work and congregations were separated from their church. Suddenly, family, friends and neighbors were physically divided, she said.
This is what drew students to investigate this part of the city that has been stifled in its prime, which now struggles to recover.
Audrey Akins, a senior emerging media major, felt the stories shared through this documentary are beneficial for the greater Nashville community to hear.
“I think for so long, these people just have felt like they can't share their story or there is no place for their story, which is not true,” Akins said. “I think what we can do is allow them to share their story and give them an ear for their story to be told.”
The documentary project class provided technical media skills and an awareness of Nashville history, and led her to realize the value and art of storytelling.
“I didn't want to go into it with the idea that I am telling their story for them. Their community has been hurt by power wielded poorly. And it is experiencing the repercussions of that, generally, generationally-–and it's not an easy fix,” Akins said.
The documentary process, guided by Jennifer Duck, assistant professor of media studies, reflected this perspective.
“I never knew that happened in Nashville—or I didn't know that was happening in my city, too,” Duck said. “When we know better, we do better.”
“Exit 207” works toward “doing better” by sharing the story of a community which might not be widely known before now.
“That's why I think this film is so important. It tells the story of what happened during that time, and students need to know that story as we do,” Searcy said. “To know how people suffered in that community, all of those businesses that were lost… And, it had an impact on students, because we had nowhere to go after the highway was built.”
The event is free to the community. See the flyer below for details.
- This article was written by Nicole Speyrer.