In March 2007, Bloomberg announced Sunset Park was going to be rezoned.
In March 2008, the re-zoning plan for Sunset Park was announced.
¡Basta Ya!, or Rise Up! is a 34-minute educational documentary that brings together the perspectives and insights of community members, academics, and activists about encroaching gentrification and the challenges of resisting it in Sunset Park. It captures community board meeting brawls and pleas, breaks down the language of re-zoning, and the political power structure of how these processes are moved along, as well as their stakeholders. It is collaborative in every sense of the word: from storyboard planning by local youth to special beats by Optiks. The production began in early 2008 and was finalized in 2010. The video, available on vimeo, is an educational tool, and screenings are encouraged at your block parties, churches, neighborhood events, and schools to provide folks with the knowledge to take localized action.
One of the leading organizers of the project is 26 year old, active community member, lida Shao. She has lived and worked in Sunset Park for close to three years. She moved to the neighborhood because she felt comfortable with the Chinese speaking demographic and it was affordable; she desired to establish conscious roots. When I asked about her personal definition of home, she replied, “[Home, for me is…]being grounded, local, and understanding geography for the first time by living in Sunset and staying in Sunset; so something I’m trying out, but something I know doesn’t have to be a very simple answer to a very complex history.”
A “red-diaper baby,” lida Shao was raised by parents who were diehard Maoists. Politics were an everyday topic at dinner and family get-togethers. Her father, for instance, devoted much of his life’s work demanding reparations from the Japanese for the Nanjing Massacre of World War II in his organization Alliance in Memory of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre (AMVNM). Born in Manhattan, lida migrated to the burbs of Westchester, New York at an early age and returned to attend high school in lower Manhattan. After university in Providence, she returned to New York City and became involved with a creative collective called Paper Tiger Television where the idea for a documentary about the re-zoning talks in Sunset Park surfaced.
At the end of our conversation, lida expressed how good it felt to talk about the collaborative documentary that came from a group of folks who after the momentum of the re-zoning struggle have since gone in different directions. Regarding the trajectory of ¡Basta Ya!, she states, “It’s up to community to continue and hold the torch for creative projects like these. There are moments when the creative person loses faith in the project, and it’s so helpful to have other people to remind you how powerful a process could be and once was.”
If you’d like to show ¡Basta Ya! as an educational tool, please go right ahead! It is a Creative Commons (NC-ND-BY) piece. Questions and comments highly welcome! You can reach lida Shao at lidaShao <at> gmail <dot> com.