(Courtesy of Padriac Farma)
A South Boston resident whose family has lived in the neighborhood for generations is working on a documentary about the court-ordered desegregation of Boston Public Schools in 1974, and how South Boston's resistance to busing tainted the reputation of his home.
Padriac Farma, a 28 year old MFA student at Emerson College, says his film thesis -- titled "Southie 74" -- is the culmination of years of research. He's sorted through newspaper clippings and meeting notes, and has already interviewed family members and neighbors who were anti-busing activists and worked as transitional aides in the high school.
In 1974, federal Judge Arthur Garrity mandated that Boston desegregate its school system. The process involved shuttling students between South Boston, a working-class Irish Catholic enclave, and Roxbury, a community a few miles west which had become predominantly African American.
Some parent activists protested the harm of splitting up families by sending students outside of a tight-knit community, but more infamously, the decision sparked violent confrontations and assaults, and earned South Boston a reputation for racism.
Farma grew up in the City Point section, and says he didn't really become aware of the long lasting effects of the integration protests until he attended Boston College High School.
"Busing was something that I always knew about. At family functions they would talk about it. But, growing up here, I never really understood how people from other neighborhoods perceived South Boston," he said. "When I started going to BC High, I started recognizing that there was a stigma attached to coming from here."
Farma hopes to finish his interviews this summer, and is still looking for interview subjects from Roxbury and South Boston who were public school students in the mid-70s. Those interested in participating can email him.
"With busing, we're hitting issues we hit with World War II veterans and then Vietnam veterans. People are starting to die," said Farma, who adds that two of his potential subjects already passed away before he got a chance to interview them. "I want to get a sense of what was it like walking into South Boston High School in September 1974 and to really getting that captured before it's too late."
As a lifelong South Bostonian, Farma admits he might not be the most objective documentarian, but he's interested in representing the South Boston perspective on film. He also wants the hour-long piece to serve as a dialogue between both sides; he envisions filming a conversation between a student from South Boston and a student from Roxbury on Dorchester Heights, with the entire city sprawled out in the background.
"I'm trying to capture the South Boston voice, but I'm not trying to defend it. I just want an honest take on it," Farma said. "It's not about right or wrong, it's about sitting down and having a conversation. That hasn't happened yet."
E-mail Cara Bayles at firstname.lastname@example.org.