When local filmmaker Lorenzo Dickerson was young, his grandmother used to talk about a place called Maupintown. Her maiden name was Maupin, and she said that African American Maupins lived on Morgantown Road and white Maupins lived near Garth Road.
The area in between, where everyone would meet to relax and enjoy themselves, was called Maupintown.
It took Dickerson years to find the location of his grandmother’s stories. Trees have since grown over Maupintown, but Dickerson carries its essence of history and community in his company, Maupintown Media, and in the Maupintown Film Festival he organizes every year.
“A lot of these stories, if they’re not shown at Maupintown or re-shown at Maupintown, they are often forgotten,” Dickerson said.
The fifth annual Maupintown Film Festival begins at 10:20 a.m. Friday with a documentary about Arthur Ashe, the Richmond-born tennis star and activist recently commemorated with a boulevard name in his hometown.
The festival will continue all weekend at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and includes a range of documentaries, dramas, panels and presentations through Sunday evening. By this Wednesday, attendees had claimed 626 tickets online.
The 1897 deed for these properties near Locust Avenue included a clause that forbade African Americans from purchasing the properties.
Credit: Courtesy of Jordy Yager
Several events at the festival illuminate history even closer to home than Richmond. On Saturday afternoon, the festival will include an update from local journalist Jordy Yager on his research on racial covenants in Charlottesville.
Yager has been mapping property records over the course of the last year, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. He looks for language that prohibited the sale of homes to African Americans or to anyone who was not Caucasian.
On Saturday, Yager plans to show 16 examples of white-only neighborhoods in the city.
“We’re trying to craft solutions to problems, but we don’t fully understand how those problems got to the point where they are today [or] how firmly they’re entrenched in our structures and our systems and our way of being,” Yager said.
Yager has just accepted a position as a digital humanities archivist at the heritage center. His final project will also live there as an interactive display that connects the dots between past discrimination and present wealth, education and other disparities.
Yager’s component of the film festival will showcase another future exhibit at the heritage center, an oral history project about generations of black experiences in the area by Yager, Dickerson and local director Ty Cooper.
Eventually, visitors will be able to listen to the histories on touchscreen devices throughout the Jefferson School building and sort the stories to hear only female perspectives or teenagers’ recollections of the 1960s.
Screenings of “Silence Sam,” a student-made film about the University of North Carolina’s Confederate monument, and “In the Fullness of Time,” a documentary about Jefferson School educator Rebecca McGinness, are scheduled before and after Yager’s presentation.
The Maupintown Film Festival’s Friday evening schedule features a panel of African American women leading Charlottesville.
The panelists are Mayor Nikuyah Walker, Charlottesville City Schools’ supervisor of equity and inclusion Denise Johnson, Police Chief RaShall Brackney, University of Virginia Health System CEO Pamela Sutton Wallace and CACF program director Eboni Bugg.
Positive Channels founder Andrea Copeland-Whitsett will moderate the discussion.
“For me, it’s almost like being a little girl, going, ‘Oh my goodness, I get to sit in the presence of these [women].’ While I’ll be moderating, I’ll certainly be soaking up what they’ll be sharing as well,” Copeland-Whitsett said.
Copeland-Whitsett said that she is excited to hear the full stories of each of the panelists, including how each woman addresses discriminatory behavior from others.
Walker has discussed similar themes in Q&A segments in Vinegar Hill Magazine.
“You can be black and you can be brilliant and you can have all the skills, but you can also be placed in a position where you are not able to be your authentic self,” Walker said in one of the magazine’s February articles.
“I understand that it takes the power of group thought, group effort, group energy. That’s how you raise people, that’s how you survive.”
The last event, a screening of John Singleton’s film “Higher Learning,” takes place at 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are free and can be reserved online through Eventive.