Films document human toll of Philly’s mass school closings

closed philadelphia school
Two films by Amy Yeboah document the impact of Philadelphia’s recent school closings.
Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro

Documentary filmmaker Amy Yeboah shot the last day of classes at Fairhill School in June.

“I stood there while the bell rang, while the principal gave the last announcement,” Yeboah said.

“And she said goodbye and walked out the door.”

The doors never reopened.

Fairhill was one of 24 Philadelphia public schools shuttered in the face of an overwhelming budgetary crisis.

Yeboah documented the human toll taken by those closings in her film, “Goodbye to City Schools,” which premieres Wednesday at Scribe Video Center following the opening reception for the Philadelphia School Closings Photo Collective Exhibit.

Yeboah said the short looks at the closings from a historical perspective.

Fairhill, like many of the shut down schools, was more than 100 years old.

“You see women about 60 years old coming back to the school and saying, ‘I remember this,’” Yeboah said.

“You see that whole story – then it just stops. Then you see generations of people coming together and saying, ‘Is this really over?’

“To see the longevity of the humanity of a school just stop, I think that’s what [the film] gets at – in voices, in pictures and in tears.”

Yeboah will also air a second short documentary Wednesday.

Entitled “(Re)Inscribing Meaning,” it examines how black communities have worked to supplement institutional education by fostering environments of learning at home.

“It’s about parents educating their own children and giving meaning back to parental education, with the family being the core school and then schools coming second,” Yeboah said, noting the strong tradition of black communities providing their own tutelage in the face of inadequate government services.

“Watching this, you understand the real complexities of government politics,” Yeboah said.

“But then the question is, what do we do? Do we keep on asking? Or do we say, ‘I’m not asking no more – I’m going to take control of my child’s education to the best of my ability.’”

When viewed together, Yeboah hopes the two films raise serious questions about the state of public education in Philadelphia.

“When you see a city that clearly has made the value of the education of its children a monetary number – and not even a high monetary number, when we look at where the numbers are going realistically in the city with the prisons and businesses – it says something as far as the city,” she said, again referencing the historic and cultural import of the shuttered schools.

“It just shows that things have gotten that bad,” she continued.

“For a city that claims to be of love and affection, I’m asking where’s the love and how did it get this bad?”

Philadelphia School Closings Photo Collective

A reception for the Philadelphia School Closings Photo Collective will be held Wednesday immediately before the screenings of Yeboah’s films.

Collective member and exhibit curator Katrina Ohstrom said the project was launched in the spring, when local photographer Zoe Strauss through Facebook issued a call to action for fellow artists to document the city’s mass school closings.

The results – haunting snapshots of deteriorating buildings, discarded materials and despondent students and teachers – are now centralized on a dedicated website, Tumblr page and a Flickr group where participants can upload additional contributions.

The Scribe exhibition will feature about 30 of the works shot by 10 photographers.

“I would hope that people come and they see that these aren’t just anonymous schools in poor neighborhoods and that not only are they really important parts of these communities, but that the students who went there and the teachers who teach there really, really care about education,” Ohstrom said.

“And I would hope that people start to see the connections between what’s going on with the school closings and other things that are happening in the city, because there’s definitely money for tax abatements and there’s money for building a new juvenile detention center, but there doesn’t seem to be money for schools. And I would hope that people just maybe make the connections between those things.”

Opening reception for the Philadelphia School Closings Photo Collective Exhibit
6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16
Scribe Video Center
4212 Chestnut St.
Free and open to the public

Storyville: Goodbye to City Schools – includes screenings of “Goodbye to City Schools” and “(Re)Inscribing Meaning”
Yeboah will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.
7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16
Scribe Video Center
4212 Chestnut St.
$5, free for Scribe members


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…

Entertainment

Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

MUSIC Huun Huur Tu Friday, 8 p.m. First Church in Cambridge 11 Garden St., Cambridge $28, 617-876-4275 www.worldmusic.org This group comes from the tiny nation…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox top Yankees, 5-1

John Lackey shines, Pineda ejected in Red Sox win

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston…

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston greedy for more dominance

MLB

Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."