|Ayesha Nadarajah,Felix Lajeunesse,Paul Raphael,Roger Ross Williams
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“Traveling While Black was created to highlight the urgent need to facilitate a dialogue about the challenges minority travelers still face today.”
This 360-video documentary and installation takes the viewers through an emotional journey into the difficult history of traveling while black and the danger it posed to black people in the U.S during the Jim Crow Era and up through present day. It is based on the Green Book, a guidebook for black people during the 1950’s and 1960’s that listed restaurants, gas stations and hotels that welcomed them. One of those places was Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington D.C., where the documentary takes place. In the installation, the viewer sits at a table in the diner, dons a VR headset, and watches the interviews, archival footage and people in the diner from that perspective. As the narrative changes, so does the space, creating different moods: an empty space with red lights and archival footage projections on the walls; a crowded, lively dinner recreating past times and current times and intimate interviews such as the interview of Samaria Rice, the mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was shot and killed by the police in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014. The documentary explores how police brutality and racial issues are a continuation throughout U.S. history, and that it is necessary to create spaces for intergenerational dialogue.
The project was directed by Academy Award-winner Roger Ross Williams in collaboration with Felix and Paul studios and co-directed by Ayesha Nadarajah. The 360 video is now available at NY Times Op-Docs and at the Oculus library.