The Black Vote
A Feature Length Documentary To Be Shot on DV and HD Video.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
-- 15th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, 1870
In this unprecedented documentary, we will take a pilgrimage across America exploring the past, present and future state of the increasingly important phenomenon known as “The Black Vote.”

From Crispus Attucks to Medgar Evers, from Fannie Lou Hamer to Martin Luther King, African-Americans have fought, bled, and died for the dream of American democracy. Blacks have envisioned a true democracy where the rights of all citizens are protected, an honest democracy where everyone’s vote counts and everyone’s vote is counted.

Given recent events – the 2000 election, the questionable reasons for the war in Iraq, the disinvestment in public health and education, and the electronic voting controversy – No wonder many citizens, particularly blacks choose not to participate in the voting process. They feel a profound disenchantment and a sad disbelief in our current political system.

Yet, their vote continues to be crucial. Without it, the Democrats can’t win. With it, Republicans can’t lose. In an ever changing political landscape, Republicans who once wrote off the black vote, are now inviting conservative blacks back to the party.

The effort to protect and engage the black vote is part of a larger power struggle in our country. A battle that will define the future of the United States for all of its citizens, a battle that will test the heart, soul and body politic of our nation.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission report concerning the controversial 2000 Florida election results concluded that 179,855 votes cast were considered “spoiled ballots,” and were therefore not counted.Fifty-three percent of these so called “spoiled ballots” were cast by African-American voters.
Based upon the findings and an additionalnationwidestudy, conducted by commissioner Christopher Edley and Harvard University, it has been reported that a whopping1.9 million votes were uncounted in the 2000 national election. Even more disturbing, one million of these votes were cast by non-white voters. In the 2000 Florida election, a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as was a white citizen.

Thirteen states across the nation, Florida included, do not allow convicted felons who have served out their complete sentence to vote. These laws prevent 1.4 million African-Americans from casting ballots nationwide.

Several prominent news publications have reported that over 90,000 African-American citizens were purged from the 2000 voter rolls as alleged felons in the state of Florida. It has subsequently been reported that more than 90 percent of these citizens were not felons. Thus tens of thousands of eligible voters were disenfranchised from voting in one of the closest and most important presidential elections in U. S. history.

George Bush won the state of Florida and along with it the 2000 presidential election by a margin of only 537 votes. Obviously, those tens of thousands of disenfranchised voters would have made a significant difference in the outcome of that election.

This isn’t the first time the voting rights of African Americans had such a marked effect on a Presidential election. The margin of victory for Thomas Jefferson in 1800 was exceptionally close, and the black vote played a decisive role, even though no slave had the right to vote. Yet, due to the political power and savvy of the southern states, African-American’s became de-facto voters for their white slave owners.

How was this possible?
Most twenty-first century citizens have heard that Blacks were once considered ‘three fifths of a man.’ What this actually refers to is that the U.S. Constitution granted slave owners three votes for every five slaves owned in all national elections. Thus the “slave power” of The South gave Thomas Jefferson the necessary twelve electoral votes in his presidential win over the incumbent John Adams. The black vote played such an important role in his margin of victory, in what is the most important election in early U.S. history, that Jefferson’s detractors dubbed him the “Negro President.”

Our film will engage in enlightening and provocative conversations with politicians, historians, scholars, journalists, entertainers, business professionals, and everyday citizens of all political parties and economic stripes. These interviews and anecdotes will serve to illustrate the unique and extraordinary relationship between black voters, presidential politics, and elections in American history. It is an association long filled with struggle, success, irony, and injustice.

We will also follow two voter registration workers from different generations, the Civil Rights/Vietnam War years and the Hip Hop age. Our cameras will observe these workers during their day-to-day struggles in their final week of voter registration drives. Along the way, we will learn their views on party alliances, grassroots politics and American democracy, as they get voters out for the historic November 2004 presidential elections.

The heroes of our story are those ordinary citizens who are on the front line fighting the winds of cynicism in a noble effort to maintain their belief in the important role that voting can still play in our society. We will witness, first hand, how they impel fellow citizens to join them in the pursuit of democracy through the simple act of voting.

Our story will feature Americans with a variety of points of view be they Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Progressives, Radicals or non-voters. The film will speak beyond our borders to people in other countries seeking to build and strengthen their own democracies.

“The Black Vote” will take a compelling and serious look at the most important aspects of our contemporary democracy: the right to vote, patriotism, politicians, race and ethnicity, class, and political warfare. With a fresh look at the future and at the past we will explore all of this and more… against the backdrop of the election of our next president.

Production Notes:
In a cinema verite style, we will follow the citizen activist heroes who will serve as the film’s primary narrative through-line. That narrative will be accompanied by a stylish cinematic and sound collage of archival clips, photos, graphics, illustrations, quotes and music designed to compliment a host of captivating interviews (see list below). These combined elements will provide historical context, emotional resonance, diversity of opinion, and occasional humor to our project.

We will select our citizen activists from a variety of local and national organizations currently active in voter registration drives across the nation including Hip Hop Summit, the Florida Voters League, Citizen Change, Rock the Vote, the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee, and the Green Party.

Florida and Ohio are again critical swing states in this important presidential election. We propose to pay particular attention to registration workers in Miami, Orlando, and Cincinnati. We will also feature interviews with African-Americans in other important cities including Los Angeles and New York. To capture the flavor of the African-American community, we intend to speak with people on the street, on the job, at gatherings, in barbershops and beauty shops, on college campuses and at churches.

Proposed Interview List:
The following list will be reduced by subject availability and scheduling. We intend to approach a variety of authors, historians, politicians, journalists, entertainers, business leaders, filmmakers, and activists including:

Dr. Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Fmr. Pres. Bill Clinton, Chris Rock, Harry Belafonte, Colin Powell, Quincy Jones, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Chuck D, Rep. Maxine Waters, Michael Moore, Rev. Al Sharpton, Shirley Chisholm, Russell Simmons, Damon Dash, P. Diddy, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Richard Parsons, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Whoopi Goldberg, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Aaron Magruder, Dr. Cornel West – Democracy Matters, Coretta Scott King, Gary Wills – Negro President, Fmr. Vice President Al Gore, Charles Dutton, Alan Keyes, Donna Brazile, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Dr. Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Toni Morrison, John Singleton, Nelson George, Vicki Mabrey, Greg Palast – The BBC/The Nation, Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley, Fmr. Rep. J. C. Watts, Fmr. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Charles Barkley, Ted Hayes – Homeless Activist/Republican, Dr. Todd Boyd - The New HNIC: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop, Kenneth Chenault, Larry Elder, Rev. Cecil Murray, Bob Herbert – NY Times, Constance Rice, Bill Moyers on the Johnson administration/Civil Rights Act of1964 & Voting Rights Act of1965, Dr. Christopher Edley, Mary Frances Berry – U.S. Civil Rights Commissioners, Fmr. Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Vernon Jordan, Dan T. Carter - author & scholar on race and southern politics, Julian Bond, Kwesi Mfume, Myrlie Evers – NAACP, Paris Barclay and Barry Sanders & Francis Adams - Alienable Rights.

St.Clair Bourne: Director – Bourne has been the producer, director and writer of some 42 film productions, including documentaries for HBO, PBS, NBC, BBC and National Geographic, in addition to his own independent work. He produced “Half Past Autumn: The Life and Work Of Gordon Parks” for HBO and with actor Wesley Snipes as executive producer, directed “John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk.” Bourne also directed “Paul Robeson: Here I Stand!” for the "American Masters" PBS series.

Darryl D. Pryor : Producer/Co-Writer – Pryor is a producer of the award-winning feature film “Harlem Aria.” A former film and television executive for Barbour/Langley Films (COPS, CODE 3), he also produced and directed several behind the scenes documentaries for New Line Cinema and MCEG. As an Executive Producer he is currently in development on the HBO Films political drama “Coup.”

Steven Reich: Producer/Co-Writer – Nominated for an Emmy for his work as a writer for National Geographic Television. He has written for Discovery, The Learning Channel, Fox Kid’s Network and is the writer of “The Liberty Bell” currently onscreen in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. He has also produced a variety of award-winning documentary and feature films.

Distribution Plan:
Our plan is to explore the festival and theatrical arena initially, which will benefit the film in our primary markets in DVD, Home Video, and on cable and broadcast television.

Marketing Plan:
We will build strategic promotional partnerships with citizen organizations dedicated to greater democracy and voter education. This will assist in building grassroots support and to create a ‘word of mouth’ buzz about the film. In addition, we will work with institutions, grassroots organizations and churches within the African-American community.

An interactive website will also be created for the online promotion of “The Black Vote.” The website will provide additional information and educational resources regarding the history of voting in America. As well as, weblinks for those interested in becoming more involved with local and national citizens organizations.