My Harlem is a feature-length narrative film set in New York's beautiful and historic Harlem neighborhood, where gentrification has been a hotly-debated topic. The discussion has been further inflamed by a Harlem church whose billboard often contains racist and homophobic messages. The sign has suggested that “homos” be stoned, thrown off buildings, and believes the gay community are sexual deviants out to “steal” the neighborhood. The church sign has also targeted Black people, women, President Obama, and many others.
As a Harlem-based filmmaker, Jeff wanted to write a tribute to his neighborhood to showcase all the beautiful and historic aspects of this vibrant corner of New York City. He also wanted to pay tribute to the people who fill its brownstones, restaurants, parks and jazz clubs, and he wanted to address the thorny issue of gentrification and the complications that arise as the neighborhood continues to shift. Jeff has lived in Harlem for the last five years, and he says he recognizes that his presences is part of the problem. He also hopes to be part of the solution.
In My Harlem the sign brings the two main characters of the film together. Nathan who is white and Langston who is black react to the sign's hateful message in different ways. Their relationship dives deep into issues of race, gentrification and sexuality, all set against the backdrop of the police brutality of the summer of 2016. Jeff hopes the film will incite change and inspire healing for all of those affected by police shootings, displaced from their homes, and for all those who have had to hear hateful and dangerous speech as a result of their sexuality or the color of their skin.
Jeff and others in the gay community don't have their own sign to combat hate speech, but Jeff's taken this opportunity to create a film that speaks to this sign with love and with opportunities for community healing. You can read more about Jeff's film and his campaign at Indigogo.