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by Mark Elijah Rosenberg
March 10th, 2007

I walked over to the screening of Third Ward, TX, taking in some warm Texas atmosphere before checking out this lovely documentary. The Third Ward is a neighborhood in Houston that was historically populated by African-Americans. In the 1960s, the city ran a highway through the area, removing 30,000 people, isolating and dividing the area, and wrecking the tight, vibrant community. In the late 1990s, a group of black artists began The Project Row Houses, a program in which they converted abandoned houses into artist residencies and low-income housing, primarily for black artists and particularly for single mothers. The artists in the project were careful to communicate and listen to the local residents, and the results have been spectacular, rebuilding the community, staving off gentrification and providing historical and cultural dialogue. I missed or the film leaves vague the facts of how this program operates, but the focus of the film is on the clearly powerful, rejuvenating effects Project Row Houses has on the neighborhood. It’s a great story, told with charm and dexterity, and really has universal appeal — these are issues facing every city in America, and our country needs more innovative ideas like Project Row Houses. A first step is for people to see Third Ward, TX.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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