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Home #Hwoodtimes Finding the World in a Grain of Sand: EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A...

Finding the World in a Grain of Sand: EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY airing tonight March 24, 2020

(Photo: PBS)

By Valerie Milano

Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/24/20 – In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened a public housing community called East Lake Meadows on the edge of the city.  Thousands of Atlanta residents came to call East Lake Meadows home over the next 25 years.  For many, it looked like a promised land.

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But the East Lake Meadows neighborhood soon became almost uninhabitable on account of shoddy construction and lack of funding.  People who didn’t live there didn’t go there–and the people who did live there were afraid for their lives. 

A crack wave quickly spread through the region whose residents faced stigmatization but nonetheless managed to carry on raising their children, finding work, and creating community.  In the mid-1990s, Atlanta bulldozed East Lake Meadows to make way for new mixed-income housing built with both public and philanthropic funds.

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The new documentary EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY gives a voice to some of the most marginalized people in the US.  It raises questions about the creation of concentrated poverty and limited opportunity for African-Americans and what responsibility we have to ensure decent housing for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

The documentary uses small moments and intimate stories from the bottom up to deepen viewer understanding of its issues and illuminate both tragedies and triumphs.  It is set to air on Tuesday, March 24th, 2020 on PBS.

During PBS’s EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Friday, January 10, 2020, executive producer Ken Burns answered questions from critics via satellite about their newest film, which sheds light on an Atlanta public housing community through the stories of former residents. (Photo: Rahoul Ghose/PBS)

Executive Producer Ken Burns spoke via satellite about EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY on a PBS panel taking place on Friday, January 10th at the Winter 2020 TCA Press Tours held at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena.  For more than three decades, Burns and his colleagues at Florentine films have produced some of the most-watched award-winning documentaries on public television.

“The American Dream, which we know and promote, has always been about the free mobility of Americans to find the place they wish to live and to buy a place to live there,” said Burns.

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“Conscious government decisions at every level. . .have warehoused African-Americans and other minorities into neighborhoods, kept them from leaving those neighborhoods, built them substandard housing, and then wondered why everything went wrong!” Burns concluded.

Ironically, public housing can become an agent of further segregation, further discrimination, and further diminution of opportunity for the people whom the housing projects were intended to serve.  The problem of who gets to live where in a country that is supposedly free can perplex all who are involved with urban planning.

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Telling true stories like these can be difficult on account of limited archival material.  First-person survival narratives help relate individual concerns to common human experience.  “None of us are getting out of this alive,” commented Ken Burns on the inevitability of human mortality.

Millions upon millions of Americans live in public housing, and much of it is adequate.  But areas like East Lake Meadows can slip between the city planning cracks and disappear off the radar.

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So how can one individual impact the world?  One way would be to tune in to EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY when it airs later this month on PBS.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at TheHollywoodTimes.today, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board as a chief organizer of the Television Critics Association’s press tours, held twice a year in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and the Desert Aids Project, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.