“Broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us.”
The Film and the Message
North of the Grove was born out of my time as an in-house counselor while living in Virginia several years ago. I signed on to counsel a fourth grader who was more than his single mother could handle. Even with extended family pitching in when they could, it was obvious an older male’s influence was needed. I learned a lot about perseverance and faith after he began to trust me. I would come to his home aggravated because of traffic or the weather, only to sit wide-eyed and speechless from hearing about some of his experiences. I began to look forward to seeing him just to get a better perspective on my own challenges.Several family members had abused and let this young man down in ways I still have trouble putting into words. He managed to forgive them all, so much so that he indirectly showed older members of the family how to do so. This really got me to thinking about the power of forgiveness and redemption.
As a writer (I teach creative writing at Florida Memorial University), I found myself writing a story that was clearly inspired by my experience as an in-house counselor. Questions arose as I developed characters like Howard Capelton, the story’s educated, middle-class mentor: at what point does one draw a line between sustaining their own family and trying to save someone outside of it? Isn’t that question at the heart of the breakdown of so many communities today? The story became a novel, of which I've recently published recently to bring more awareness to the funding of the film. (Please see press release) Many have enjoyed the novel as it developed, all the while insisting it had the rhythm and sensibilities of a movie.
The message in North of the Grove is simple: we all need to reach out to one another - in spite of ourselves. With a shaky economy and an endless stream of tragic news stories, it seems perfectly understandable to go through life from your driveway straight to work and back. It makes sense to keep windows up and doors locked, in a sense, when others ask for help. This, however, narrows one’s vision to miss what one needs to feel like a complete human being. This movie is about the highs and lows of being distracted, selfish, flawed, and yet still trying to make a difference. In doing so, I seek to have the novel version of this project become a valued resource in prisoner advocacy and youth groups and have the project as a whole become part of a viable young male mentoring program in the Miami Gardens area.