Jun 17, 2022 - Things to Do

"Barry Farm: Community, Land, and Justice" documentary screens this weekend

A row of tan houses sit behind a fence in the foreground.

Photo courtesy of Samuel George

A new documentary tells the history of Barry Farm, the subsequent displacement of its Black residents, and their ongoing push for justice.

Why it matters: The destruction of Barry Farm, a neighborhood in Southeast D.C. purchased by the Freedmen's Bureau in 1867 and largely demolished in 2019, isn’t unlike the countless other Black communities across the U.S. that are vanishing to make way for commercial districts and housing.

  • The documentary, by filmmakers Samuel George and Sabiyha Prince and created in partnership with the Bertelsmann Foundation and the DC Legacy Project, aims to be a “mobilizing tool,” Prince says, in the fight of former residents to preserve the site.

Flashback: In 2020, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board gave part of the site historic designation, but former residents said that wasn’t enough.

Details: The documentary includes footage of Barry Farm, interviews with former residents and descendants of original residents, and music from the go-go group The Junk Yard Band.

  • Without these interviews, “it’s this tremendous history we risk losing,” says George, who adds that many of the interviewees are aging and at least one person they interviewed passed away prior to the film coming out.

What they’re saying: “We see this as a part of that work of letting people know how important this history is, why we fought for it so strongly, and why it is our desire to make sure that those landmark buildings are going to stay in the hands of the public,” Prince says.

  • Prince adds that even as a native Washingtonian there was a lot of information she never knew before making the film.
  • She asks, "why didn’t anyone tell us this? And why wasn’t this community protected?”
  • “I’m hoping [filmgoers] can feel the joy and the love the community has for each other,” Prince adds.

Where to see it: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will be hosting a free screening of "Barry Farm: Community, Land, and Justice" tomorrow at 4pm.


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