[Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries, reel 3; John Pitman Weber]

In this 1994 trip to artist John Pitman Weber's studio, a group of filmmakers from Kartemquin Films talk with Weber about his work, his life, and Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement.

0:20Copy video clip URL Continuing their interview with Weber, the Kartemquin filmmakers ask Weber to talk about his aforementioned mixed background.

0:47Copy video clip URL Weber begins talking about his parents’ respective backgrounds, elucidating that his father was a Southern Baptist who, from a young age, devoted his life to the struggle for civil liberties, focusing primarily on issues dealing with race.

2:22Copy video clip URL Weber reveals that, although his father had a tremendous impact on his life, he grew up primarily with his mother in New York as his parents were divorced. He goes on to refer to this setting as “partially integrated,” explaining that the family took a form that “went beyond strict genetic kinship” and, as such, he enjoyed a(n unusually) racially diverse childhood.

3:31Copy video clip URL Weber begins to go through and talk about a number of photographs he has obtained from friends and family, including a photo with his best childhood friend, a photo of his oldest son, a photo of his brother, etc.

6:28Copy video clip URL While talking about his brother who lives in Los Angeles, Weber argues: “With all of the tensions that people talk about in Los Angeles, it’s really a less segregated city than Chicago. Chicago is incredibly segregated… You can work with people for years, and even be very close to them in terms of a work relationship, and there’s very little translation of that into a social-level relationship.”

7:25Copy video clip URL Weber continues to go through photographs, all illustrating a “mixed setting.”

9:26Copy video clip URL Weber talks about ideas for his piece, his struggle to alter his style to accommodate a gallery setting, and his general struggle in searching for the right way to convey his message. “There was a bit of interracialism. I happen to have grown up in that so it’s something very important to me, but how to share it I haven’t figured out yet.”

13:23Copy video clip URL Weber remembers his spirited aunt, a woman who “didn’t allow any shit to get past her in the way of any racial remark, about anyone. If someone said a comment about Arabs, she’d turn on them and say ‘I’m an Arab!’ And if they said a comment about Blacks, she’d turn on them and say ‘I’m Black!'” Weber’s anecdote is met with laughter from the Kartemquin crew.

15:25Copy video clip URL Weber talks about the poverty crisis in America, as well as White ignorance towards this problem and social issues in general. “For a lot of Whites, concentrating on looking at race too much almost becomes a way of distancing themselves from problems that are very real,” he argues, going on to explain the dangers to society fostered by this false barrier.

19:25Copy video clip URL Weber begins to tell a short story about him and his brother visiting their grandmother in Virginia. The two attempted to look through a fence covered in blooming honeysuckle, only to see a number of dilapidated shacks housing Black children on the other side.

20:55Copy video clip URL The tape ends, cutting Weber’s story short.

 

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