CHURCH PLANTERS & Where are you!? Not here: #RaisingBertieMovie

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: You need to watch this movie to understand why we need indigenous church planting by suburban churches into urban areas. I have discussed this at length in my book The Healthy Church.

I ask, why do so many church planting efforts focus on gentrified urban areas or suburbs? This is not sharing the wealth as John Perkins suggests we should.

Please watch this documentary and expand your tactics so that you don’t stay focused on the up-and-out when there are so many that aren’t there yet.

Riveting Doc Raising Bertie Captures Coming-of-Age Black in Rural North Carolina

Review by Alan Schuerstuhl, LA Weekly Magazine, 6/19/17.

Few films or lives boast a truth teller who makes the stakes more powerfully stark than Vivian Saunders does early in Raising Bertie, Margaret Byrne’s essential debut documentary.

“We’re a quarter of a mile from the jail,” announces Saunders, the executive director at a small North Carolina high school for teen boys in trouble. “I often tell the boys, ‘You got a choice. You can be educated at 117 County Farm Road, or you can be educated at 219 County Farm Road.”

At 117, at the film’s start, is the prefab Bertie County school building dubbed the Hive, populated with young African-American men who have, for individual reasons, been bounced out of the district’s high schools. Saunders’ stern declaration looms over the film, which stands as a coming-of-age counterpoint to last year’s urgent documentaries about the mass incarceration of America’s black men: Raising Bertie charts nothing less than what it’s like to try to grow up free in the prison capital of the world.

One hundred miles east of Raleigh, its two-lane roads straddled by corn and cotton fields, where the Dollar General is next to an empty building that clearly once was a Pizza Hut, Bertie County is predominantly black and doesn’t offer much in the way of jobs. One boy we meet, David “Bud” Perry, works for his father’s landscaping company but vows not to stay on the farm the rest of his life. Another, Davonte “Dada” Harrell, tells us how he and his brother love to test new barber shops; he aspires one day to cut hair himself. “I am intelligent, and I am capable of greatness,” the boys declare when reciting the Hive’s “Power Pledge.” But outside 117 County Farm Road — and excepting a number of hardworking mothers we encounter — Bertie offers them little direction.

“I don’t have no role models, ’cause I just want to be myself,” says Perry in an early scene. Later, as the boys edge toward manhood and Saunders’ and the Hive’s influence wanes, Reginald “Junior” Askew announces, “I want to leave Bertie ’cause it’s boring.” As he speaks, we watch him ping Natural Lite tallboys with a BB gun.
Byrne’s film, shot over six years, at first has a discrete shape: It will follow Perry, Harrell and Askew through their years at the Hive and then out into their adult lives. What we glimpse of the courses and field trips is heartening: a hands-on education that emphasizes habits of learning, strategies for managing emotions, and the possibility of college. But 30 minutes in, after one school year, the Hive is shut down, and the young men are placed back into larger, more indifferent schools…

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