What is this documentary about?
“The Other Side of Grace” is a feature length documentary that charts the rise and decline of the most dangerous city in America—East St. Louis, Illinois. With a murder rate 17 times the national average, the tiny township’s reputation for racial unrest, violent crime and environmental degradation makes urban renewal all but impossible.
Poverty is pervasive here, the desolation complete.
Produced by veteran journalist, opinion writer, and cable news contributor Goldie Taylor, “The Other Side of Grace” is told with a reporter’s eye and a daughter’s heart.Taylor, who grew up in East St. Louis and lost both her father and brother to gun violence, offers a candid look into the social and political pathologies that left generations of devastation in their wake.
“One does not simply live in East St. Louis,” says Taylor. “You fight to survive it.”
Why are we doing this story?
Playing stickball in dusty, empty lot nearly 40 years ago, I never once believed that my school friends and I wouldn’t get married, raise our children and grow old together. In 1976, we were small, brown and indifferent to the world swirling around us. We could not have imagined that, of the eight of us skittering through the weeds to get home before the streetlights came on, only two of us would be alive today.
As maddening as that may be to me, at first look this story is not unlike many others unfolding in urban communities around the country. After all, 74 people were shot in Chicago over the Fourth of July holidays last year.
But, look again.
East St. Louis stands a part not because it has somehow failed to pull itself up by its proverbial bootstraps, but because the depth of affliction here is so profound that the city has no feet, let alone any shoes, to walk on. The journey itself is so treacherous that I cannot even recommend that you see it for yourself. You might be better off at a checkpoint in Fallujah than a stoplight in East St. Louis. Cross-country travelers meandering along Interstate 70 are frequently and sometimes tragically oblivious to what local commuters know all too well: Do not exit into East St. Louis.
Not for gas, not for food.
Driving through East St. Louis means navigating crumbling streets, dodging open manholes where thieves had swiped cast-iron covers. There’s the shopping mall where a police officer was shot in the face and a youth center that saw a triple homicide last September.
Situated on 14 square miles on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River, five in 10 people here live in poverty, compared with a 15 percent nationally. Last year, a mere one percent of its residents reported working a full-time job year round. The city’s public education and health institutions are teetering on the brink of collapse, under constant threat of state take-over. Mortality and infant morbidity rates here are among the worst in the country. East St. Louis, it seems, is a microcosm for all that is wrong in America.
It wasn’t always this way.
Once a boom town in the nation’s Rust Belt, it was once said, “If you cannot find a job in East St. Louis, you cannot find a job anywhere.” Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, was born and raised in East St. Louis. As was Olympic sprinter Jackie Joyner-Kersee, tennis icon Jimmy Connors, filmmaker Reginald Hudlin and music legend Tina Turner. Jazz great Miles Davis got his start here too.
I am doing this story because, despite the catastrophic nature of its present, I believe there is hope. I believe there is a future for this city and for its children.
Over the years, I have written dozens of opinion editorials about social issues. In fact, I wrote my first op-ed for the East St. Louis Monitor when I was just 14 years old. At the time, I was advocating for an end to a teacher’s strike that stretched on for weeks.
By helping me fund “The Other Side of Grace”, you can help me search for tangible answers to some of the most pressing questions faced in this city and so many others who share its dilemmas.
Quite frankly, I have viewed many documentaries and news stories that focus on poverty and gun violence. Most often, they are told through the eyes of people who have never "lived the lives" of those most impacted by the horrors of what I call an "American apartheid." With your help, we will tell the rest of the story. We seek out and report both the compounded roots and contemporary issues that pervade not only East St. Louis, but far too many cities like it. This is the story you won't see on the evening news. This is about an undeclared war. This is about our collective humanity.
Meet the Producers
Goldie Taylor is a veteran journalist and opinion writer. A former staff writer at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Taylor has been a working journalist and political consultant for nearly 25 years, including her current roles as an MSNBC contributor and a columnist at MSNBC.com. Taylor is a former editor-at-large for theGrio.com, the leading news and opinion site for African Americans, where she continues as a writer focused on domestic policy and social issues.
A former Marine trained in public affairs broadcasting, Taylor got her start as a desk assistant with WAGA CBS Atlanta and, after a life on the campaign trail, became a featured political analyst at WXIA 11 Alive NBC News—a role she continues today.
Taylor has been featured on every major broadcast and has been a regular guest on CNN and HLN. She is a frequent guest on a full host of local and national radio shows, including NPR, and is regularly featured in print and digital publications. In recent years, she has written dozens of guest op-ed columns for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Creative Loafing, St. Louis Post Dispatch, TheGrio.com, CNN.com, and Ebony Magazine, among others. She was a consulting producer for "CNN Presents: The Atlanta Child Murders” and has been an executive consultant for both NBC News and CNN Worldwide.
She was the chief architect of Procter & Gamble's "My Black is Beautiful" and the marketing force behind CNN's "Black in America." However, she is perhaps best known for a 2008 "A Woman's Worth", an op-ed featured on EbonyJet.com and "Show me your papers", a televised op-ed that debuted on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
Taylor is the author of In My Father’s House (Wheatmark Press, 2005), The January Girl (Warner Books, 2007/ Hachette Grand Central 2008) and is currently working on her third novel, Paper Gods.
Mario Page is an awarding winning news producer and photographer. An 18-year news veteran and native Midwesterner, Page was born in Detroit and raised in Indianapolis and Chicago. He studied radio, television and film at Indiana University and Clark Atlanta University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1995.
Page started his career as a news video editor, before becoming a broadcast cameraman for various network affiliate TV stations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Chattanooga, and Chicago.He has worked for ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, CNN, Fox Sports and The Weather Channel.He has been a freelance cameraman since 2007 shooting for documentaries, network television news, and several hit reality TV programs. His work has been featured on “Say Yes to the Dress”, “The Real Houswives of Atlanta”, “Car Boss” and “Bridezillas”, among others.
Page is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree while continuing his freelance career behind the camera. He is active as a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
About Faithful Moon Productions
Launched in 2013, Atlanta-based Faithful Moon Productions is dedicated to producing content for television, digital and feature film distribution. We will specialize in documentary, unscripted reality and scripted drama. The company is the namesake of Mississippi slave Peyton “Faithful” Mhoon—the great, great, great grandfather of executive producer Goldie Taylor.
What is the money for?
We are experienced news producers and understand well the pressures of working with limited resources and severe time constraints. Because we are so passionate about this documentary, we have invested our own money into this project. We still need your help to meet our remaining budget. Your donations will go directly toward:
- Film Crew
- Equipment Rentals
- Travel and Lodging
- Original Scoring
- News Footage Licensing
- Still Photography
- Post Production, Editing
- Graphic and Web Design
- Film Festival Fees
- Distribution Marketing
"Goldie Taylor is a gifted storyteller, whose compelling personal narrative about growing up in East St. Louis, joining the Marines, and raising children in an America that didn't always value her as a black, independent woman, will have you weeping, and laughing, and feeling like you've lived every moment with her. Both on theGrio and on MSNBC, she has shared searing personal stories about abuse, about service, about redemption, and about hope. "The Other Side of Grace" promises to be unforgettable." ~Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor theGrio.com
“Goldie Taylor is the fresh, new voice we’ve been waiting for. Her prose is contemporary American writing at its best: crisp, elegant, brisk.” ~Sylvester Monroe, former Time and Newsweek Bureau Chief
“Goldie is an awesome storyteller. She has a powerful way of capturing our experiences. Her stories brilliantly and eloquently represent us in the American tapestry.” ~Yvette Miley, SVP and executive editor MSNBC
“I can think of few emerging writers with Goldie’s clarity of voice and understanding of human nature. Hers is an inspiring, triumphant journey.” ~Terrie Williams, bestselling author
“There is no more compelling voice and no stronger storyteller than Goldie Taylor. Now she is taking her amazing talents and using them to shine a light on her hometown of East St Louis, in this incredible documentary film project that will raise the much needed awareness on the challenges facing this city and compel folks to take a look at their own cities and take action as well. When a woman this great is willing to devote her time and talents tacking problems and finding solutions, it is all of OUR responsibility to help her make it happen.” ~Lizzy Winstead, author, comedian and co-creator of The Daily Show
"…Goldie Taylor always brings passion and intelligence to the conversation, no matter the topic. She digs like a reporter and delivers opinion with clarity…I cannot think of a better person to tell this devastating story." ~Jonathan Capehart, columnist Washington Post
“Goldie Taylor has the insights of a mother and the courage of a Marine – and that’s because she is both. This means that she is neither patronizing nor fearful of East St. Louis. Instead she wants to engage with the challenges and propose some genuine solutions. That’s why this film is worth the watching.” ~Martin Bashir, former host MSNBC
We cannot begin to thank you for your consideration and investment in this documentary film project. I have invested the full of my personal resources into bringing this story to life. Now, I need you!
Raising +$50,000 through small donations is a monumental task. But, our mission is to deliver a deeply moving, if not mutable, story of a city and its people. We are extraordinarily thankful for your support. The more you give, the more we can do...
Risks and challenges
Making a quality feature length documentary on an extremely tight budget is an extraordinary challenge. Then too, the security risks are immeasurable. We are a highly experienced team and know the terrain. With your help, we promise to do everything possible to give this project solid reporting and the high quality look and feel that it deserves. We are devoted to delivering a compelling story worthy of your contribution.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
For starters, network and studio budgets are increasingly narrow. Most of their resources go towards people and projects with whom they already have a significant investment. However, we also believe that by doing this project independently we can tell the story we need to tell. In this way, we're in charge of what makes it onto the tape. While we expect that this project will receive broad distribution, those who know me best also know that I am a free-spirit. Why wait for someone to tell me "no", when I can say "yes" to myself?
This documentary has been a lifetime in the making. I believe that if we make a great film and tell a compelling story, we will have our choice of studios or networks with which to partner...
We've heard this question a lot in recent days. While the documentary is set in East St. Louis, it is important for us to talk about poverty, gun violence and environmental degradation in a more global way. Communities of color, specifically in the US, share an unfortunate history of economic flight that produced many of the pathologies that are so pervasive in East St. Louis and other cities like it.
My Uncle Albert Ross bought the house on 10th Street in 1969 when I was just nine months old. We lived there until my mother was approved to move into a new public housing project in the Duckhill ("The Hill") neighborhood. I attended Headstart and then Longfellow Elementary School. Our family went to church at Mt. Paran (Mt. Perion) Baptist Church where I sang in the Youth and Young Adult Choir and taught Sunday School. That church was our life.
I also went to school in St. Ann, but returned to East St. Louis and the house on 10th Street. I went to junior high at Rock, where Peggy Lewis LeCompte was my homeroom teacher and first mentor. She taught me to write and published my first editorial in the East St. Louis Monitor during the teacher's strike. I was president of our student council and graduated from Rock in 1983. I was captain of our Speech and Debate team and represented the District 189 in the statewide competition. I won First Prize and met then Mayor Harold Ford. My mother's then fiancé (L.C. "Top Cop" Moore) was Sergeant of Detectives for the East St. Louis Police Department. My mother and I later moved to Normandy, MO where I went to high school until she transferred to Atlanta. I finished my senior year in Atlanta.
My younger cousin Naomi Petty-Ayers still lives in our old house on 10th Street (now renamed Katherine Dunham Place) with her husband and children.
I have had many "homes", but my hometown will always be East St. Louis.
This documentary is in its pre-production phase. We are still collecting stories from former and current residents. Our job is to tell the ENTIRE story.
East St. Louis has a rich history and has produced many of the world's most notable cultural icons. It's beauty cannot be missed. But we also cannot ignore the ways in which economic flight has impacted real families. We cannot ignore the devastation that real people are living in every day. We will not sugarcoat that truth.
I have invested my life's savings into producing this documentary. I will not make that back. That said, I have a healthy career as a political analyst with a global news network. The truth is most documentaries are unprofitable.
We are "in this" to make certain this story doesn't get lost.
East St. Louis gave me a fighting chance and taught me how to fight. My personal stake is making sure the other children coming to growth have that same chance.
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