About this project
At the age of sixteen, I was pushed out of my mother’s home because of my sexual orientation and was subsequently forced to live on the streets of New York. I was lucky though. On my first night, I happened upon a group of black gay men and I followed them to the piers at the edge of the West Village. Little did I know that I had found my spiritual home.
Today, white upper-class families make the West Village their home; but as day turns to night, Christopher Street and its adjacent piers also become home to a transient yet vibrant street community known as the Pier Kids. Forming a significant yet invisible network, the Pier Kids are a queer and transgender community of predominately Black and Latino descent representing nearly four thousand of New York City’s sixteen thousand registered homeless youth. Left to wander and with few economic opportunities, the lives of these social refugees are beset with limited and harrowing options as money and food are everyday struggles. Through it all – or, perhaps, because of it all – hope still exists in the shadows of their neglect and abandonment.
Pier Kids: The Life follows the stories of three young people:
DeSean has been homeless for the past four years but considers the piers his “playground, office, [and] living room”;
Krystal arrived in the West Village after she spent years searching for a place she could finally be herself—a beautiful black transgender woman;
and Casper made Christopher Street his home away from home and in doing so found a safe haven away from the homophobic glare of his black community's scornful gaze.
Together, these three people weave a surprisingly complex story of love, family, exploitation, and hope. But it’s more than the story of three. It’s the story of thousands.
THE PURPOSE OF IT ALL
While equal rights regardless of one’s sexual orientation are each day becoming more of a reality, commonly held beliefs of gender and race within communities of color are still in dire need of examining. Too many are thrown out on the street. Too many are neglected and made invisible by a complex of social forces. We are therefore making this film to help bridge the communication gap between families of color and their queer-transgender children. Your child is still your child no matter who they love.
There are two kinds of families that exist in the film—queer ones and blood ones. By placing these two structures next to each other, we aim to show how life might complicate and even challenge the traditional meaning of family but does so by expanding and enriching the very definitions of love.
Risks and challenges
THE REASONS WE NEED YOU
Pier Kids: The Life is a call and response tale. Such a tale, if it is to be told honestly, needs time to simmer in the pot so that it can cook into something greater than the sum of its parts. But time in filmmaking – as you well know – requires the help of many people. That is where you come in.
Over the next year, we will be digging deeper into the history of our protagonists. Just this past holiday season, we returned with Krystal to her hometown in Kansas so that she could be reunited with the biological parents that pushed her out of the house at a young age. The reunion was intense and at times quite difficult to take, but ultimately very rewarding. We would like to take similar journeys. We have learned that in doing so we bring to light the complex histories that have led to the neglect and invisibility of our children.
It is our intention to make this film as professional as possible. We consider it a matter of respect and dignity. As such, we also need money for faster lenses, better on-camera lighting, and professional post-production work (editing, color correction, sound, etc.).
We have a year of filming to go before completing principal photography. Our most supportive donors will receive the Pier Kids: The Life DVD and photo book no later than July 2014 and December 2014 respectively.
Elegance Bratton is the director. After spending ten years homeless, he joined the United States Marine Corps where he acquired and put into practice a host of video skills as a documentarian.
Douglas Ferguson is the producer. He has ten years of experience as a director, cinematographer, and producer.
Diana Budur is the production manager. She is a Ph.D. candidate in gender studies at Princeton University.
Nathan Proctor is the associate producer. He spent over seven years as a professional photographer and currently studies the intersection of aesthetics and politics in literature and film at Columbia University.
The whole crew cannot thank you enough for your support of such an important cause. With it, we will work tirelessly to complete our vision. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
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