The Uncle Junior Project
A documentary about wild animal trainer Emanuel "Junior" Ruffin, and other African-American circus performers.
-Harriet TubmanHi! My name is Veronica Blair, and I'm an aerialist.
For the past year I have been researching and filming African-American circus performers. Despite my years of working for the only African-American owned circus in the country and performing alongside talent from all over the world, I began to wonder; where are the American performers of African descent? We all know they exist, ( I am one! ) and yet it is very rare that you find one. Sadly, having no strong family tradition in the circus means our stories and legacies disappear.
“The Uncle Junior Project” is a feature length documentary that weaves the story of wild animal trainer Emanuel “Junior” Ruffin, with my journey across America to document and archive relatively unknown African-American circus performers. The film through intimate interviews will capture their unique stories of life on the road, and under the big top. What inspired them to run away with the circus, and how we fit into an ostracized realm of entertainment where African-American performers are not traditionally present.
PLUS! AFTER THE FILM IS COMPLETE THE PROJECT GOES ON!
Complete individual interviews and footage of every performer will be donated to the Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Sample TUJP Interview with Aerialist Susan Voyticky.
MY CALL FOR HELP!
Research and pre-production for "THE UNCLE JUNIOR PROJECT" began in October 2010. In mid January, my crew and I began filming. Our first artist profile was on PARIS the Hip Hop Juggler from Harlem N.Y.,
after a day of shooting we knew we had something special. Since then we have completed 13 interviews in three cities, but we still have a long way to go. So far, I have paid for TUJP out of pocket, I spent most of 2011 performing simultaneously while filming to raise funds for the production. My WONDERFUL team consists of 4 amazing people who believe in the project, and have cut their day rates in half or have volunteered their time in order to bring TUJP to life.
In order to finish production for TUJP I need your help. I would like to humbly invite you to join me in the documentary and archiving efforts by donating to “The Uncle Junior Project”.
100% of your generous gift will go towards:
- Travel Expenses: Air Fare/Car Rentals/Gas
- Equipment Rental
- Food for Crew and Interviewees
- Transcription Services
....and don't forget you are contributing to preservation of a unique part of American history!
- Donate frequent flyer miles to help with travel.
- SPREAD THE WORD! Tell your family and friends about TUJP
- Join TUJP Facebook Community. “LIKE” it, and suggest the page to your friends! www.facebook.com/UncleJuniorProject
Despite this, Junior continued to break color barriers holding down the positions of star lion and tiger trainer, adult elephant act trainer, baby elephant act trainer, big top tent boss, lot superintendent, master welder, head truck mechanic and truck driver for the Hoxie Bros. Circus. In 1972, he was in charge of, at the time, the world’s largest big top circus tent as Tent Boss for Circus Vargas. He headed the transportation department on the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus blue unit. Which resulted in Junior becoming the first, and only highest ranking African American department head in R.B.B.B.C. history. In January 2010 Junior broke another barrier by becoming the first African American to be inducted into the Ring of Fame, the highest honor a circus performer can achieve.
***Emanuel "Junior" Ruffin interview by Lane Talburt.
“Uncle Junior”, (one of his many nicknames) was given to him by first generation members of legendary The King Charles Unicycle Troupe. I believe that name is the most special of them all. In a lot of ways he is my uncle, and the uncle of all of us who defy all cultural and social stereotypes by simply following their dreams. I am honored, and think it would be a great blessing to tell Junior's story, and the story of other performers like him.
First African-American Female Ringmaster, Vanessa Thomas Smith.
Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires. REMEMBER you pledge the amounts but don't actually pay until the goal is reached. If we don't reach our goal your pledge becomes void, which means we won’t receive anything. Please donate today.OH...and if you live outside the US, you can still use any major credit card to donate! YAY!
Thank you for checking out our campaign, and may the spirit of circus always be with you!Sincerely,
- (60 days)