[The 90’s raw: John Parker]

Raw footage for the award-winning TV series "The 90's." In New Haven, Connecticut, ex-addict John Parker of the National AIDS Brigade illegally distributes clean needles to intravenous drug users to prevent the spread of AIDS. Parker is in thousands of dollars of debt, paying for the program entirely himself. He feels that his program empowers people to feel like they can make a difference in their own lives, which is the first step towards treatment. On the day when videomaker Skip Blumberg is shooting, Parker is also being interviewed by an ABC news crew. Blumberg's shooting style contrasts greatly with that of the ABC crew, who prefer to set up artificial situations rather than shoot events as they unfold. After they leave the park where he is distributing the needles, they go to the "shooting gallery" where IV drug addicts inject themselves. We learn that the health department has cut off his support and Parker has competition from gay organizations.

00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with footage from inside videomaker Skip Blumberg’s office.

00:48Copy video clip URL The camera cuts to footage of a number of monster trucks. This is followed by footage from inside a toy shop.

01:27Copy video clip URL Blumberg documents his train’s arrival in New Haven, Connecticut.

02:37Copy video clip URL John Parker gets fitted with a mic. Parker is an ex-addict and member of the National AIDS Brigade, a group that illegally distributes clean needles to intravenous drug users to prevent the spread of AIDS. Both Blumberg and ABC News are recording Parker at work. Blumberg tags along with Parker as they make their way to a distribution site.

06:05Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of a box of clean needles in the back of Parker’s car. Blumberg asks Parker if what he’s doing is illegal. Parker talks about being arrested once before.

07:12Copy video clip URL Upon arriving at the site, Blumberg speaks with Parker as he rolls out a large quilt decorated with uplifting quotes about overcoming drug addiction. Parker says it is a “message quilt” and a “quilt of hope.” The ABC News team takes charge of the interview and acts fairly inconsiderately to Blumberg, and Blumberg continues to document their actions. As users arrive to receive clean needles, Parker instructs a few men to work on some new patches for the quilt. Parker cites the importance of handing out needles, which will “allow people to stay AIDS free.”

13:15Copy video clip URL Blumberg speaks with a drug user about Parker’s work. “It’s great, man. It gives everybody a chance, man, you know? We’ll live a little longer.” He goes on to say that if Parker were to be arrested, he and the many other people who receive assistance from Parker would protest his arrest. Blumberg then gathers footage of Parker speaking with the ABC News reporter. “We’re trying to give them the means to stay AIDS free. We’re empowering them to make a difference in their own life and that’s very important. We’re trying to show them that someone cares.” He goes on talk about his own health being compromised by doing this work. Parker has been tested for HIV after being pricked by three needles. He also talks about his dismal financial situation. “It’s a shame that I have to sacrifice my money and my own health for doing something that should be done by the government.” Parker goes on to talk about the need for a needle exchange program. Blumberg slowly circles the interview, gathering a few different shots.

18:22Copy video clip URL Cut to footage of a user working on the quilt.

19:06Copy video clip URL Parker guides a few users as they work on the quilt. He then hands out a few clean needle kits. Blumberg eventually interviews the ABC News reporter about his experience covering the story. The reporter states that he tries not to become involved in the story due to professional ethics. Blumberg then moves on to speak with a child who is working on the quilt.

24:44Copy video clip URL When asked if there will be an end to the AIDS crisis, Parker responds, “There will never be an end to it. This is the beginning. It’s going to get worse and worse. But I think as time goes on you’re going to see more people taking precaution in preventing AIDS because people are human beings. They care about themselves. You give them a choice, they’ll do the right thing.”

27:36Copy video clip URL The ABC reporter speaks with a drug user about his thoughts on Parker’s work. He emphasizes the importance of Parker’s work. Another user comments on the subject as well. “If John wasn’t out here giving out works [clean needle kits], we’d all be sharing each others’ needles. It’s that bad where we don’t have much money to buy drugs, and therefore we have to have works.” Blumberg continues to gather footage from around the area.

31:10Copy video clip URL Parker and one of the users continue to speak with the ABC reporter about drug usage and the work of the National AIDS Brigade. Blumberg eventually speaks with the man about his drug usage as well. “You have to live it to understand it and to know what we are going through.” The man also talks about his worry about becoming infected with HIV and states that he’ll be looking for drug treatment when he “feels it.” Parker then puts his hand over the camera. Blumberg shoots Parker speaking with the news reporter.

34:03Copy video clip URL Parker talks about the media support his group is receiving. He also states that the drug users trust him because of his own usage in the past. Parker briefly talks about his work at the Yale School of Public Health. He goes on to say, “We’re empowering people to make a difference in their own lives by giving them the means to stay AIDS free– that empowers them and gives them some worth. People tend to become very cynical out here and when they see when we care and stuff like that, that helps. That’s the first step to treatment: to know that they can make a change in their own life.” Parker then talks about the fact that he owes a year and half of rent on his house and that many of his utilities are on the brink of being shut off. “It’s coming from my heart. I see people out here–no one’s helping them and I’m trying to do some work. I’m trying to help them and I’m genuine and I care. I care about people. That’s why they’re receptive to me. That’s why they listen to me because they know I care.” Parker then goes to say that he’s the “Johnny Appleseed of needles.”

37:11Copy video clip URL The tape cuts to footage from inside Parker’s car. The three make their way over to a “shooting gallery,” a place where drug users gather to shoot up. On the way, Parker briefly talks about his kicking drugs sixteen years ago. After they arrive, Parker speaks with a few members of the media before heading inside.

40:03Copy video clip URL We follow Parker inside. Other members of the media make a little conversation.

41:47Copy video clip URL A woman pulls a bloody needle out of her arm. The ABC News crew begins to interview the woman, who ultimately wants no part in contributing to the piece. Blumberg then gathers footage of Parker exchanging needles with a number of users. The ABC reporter interviews one of the users about Parker’s work. Parker throws a number of her used needles into an empty container of bleach. Parker then speaks with one of his associates about the strong need for supplies. ABC reporters try to speak with the users about the benefits of the program.

50:54Copy video clip URL Parker, his associates, and a few users hold a weekly meeting to talk about the problems the group is currently facing and issues facing users. They go on to talk about the politics involved in implementing their work. Blumberg shoots footage of the shooting gallery for several more minutes.

01:07:17Copy video clip URL After the meeting, Parker continues to speak with the ABC reporter about a possible prison sentence he may face if arrested once more. He also talks about his appearance on “Nightline” later in the evening.

01:08:54Copy video clip URL Parker says goodbye to the ABC crew. He and Blumberg leave the site shortly afterward. While in the car, Parker comments on the complicated aspects of his work. “There’s two worlds: the straight world and the addict world. I hope it shows that when you go out to the addict world and you show you care, you actually can make a difference.” Blumberg asks Parker why he brought the ABC crew into the shooting gallery. Parker emphasizes the importance in the public seeing the reality of drug use.

01:12Copy video clip URL 02 Tape ends.

 

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