Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  56 minutes
Date:  2014
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available


Curator imageAmity Doolittle, Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

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Come Hell or High Water

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The journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport.

Come Hell or High Water

Curator and writers
This documentary was selected by Amity Doolittle, senior lecturer and research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and written by Caroline Scanlan, Liz Felker and Elham Shabahat, graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Why we selected this film
The importance of Come High or Hell Water lives in its ability to draw connections between civil rights and responsible urban development, environmental conservation, and environmental disaster relief and recovery. The film highlights the personal experiences of local grassroots activists, including their respective strategies for working toward justice in the Turkey Creek community.
Teacher's guide    
Please see the teacher's guide for maps, background information and suggested subjects, questions and activities.

Come Hell or High Water traces the painful, inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast community of Turkey Creek, first settled by former slaves, when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Evans and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals that include Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice. They build powerful alliances to fight urban sprawl and industrial contamination —to protect the culture and natural environment that sustained eight generations.

The environmental justice focus of the film
Set in an African-American community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Come Hell or High Water (CHHW) explores the connections between civil rights and environmental justice. The film provides a platform for investigating issues corresponding to three types of justice: distributive justice, recognition justice, and procedural justice.

  • The matter of distributive justice is raised in the resident's attempts to reverse the unequal distribution of environmental burdens on the African-American residents of Turkey Creek. These burdens include the loss of land and culturally significant sites, environmental degradation, and increased flooding.

  • Recognition justice is present in the residents' efforts to have Turkey Creek acknowledged as: a historically significant community deserving of federal recognition; an environmental resource deserving of conservation; and a community deserving of adequate FEMA Katrina relief and recovery resources.

  • The film also highlights procedural justice through efforts to improve and increase participation in a wide range of public decision-making processes affecting the Turkey Creek community.

Download the teacher's guide for Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek (PDF)

 Teachers guide for Come Hell or High Water

 Transcript for Come Hell or High Water   See also: Teacher's Guides



Time Code




Wide shot of creek from boat moving toward house ahead on bank, POV from boat on creek going under tree branch


TEXT: Turkey Creek, Gulfport, Mississippi


POV from moving boat of yellow crowned night heron overhead on branch


Lettie Evans-Caldwell & Derrick Evans seated in front of fireplace with Christmas stockings.





Driving POV around bend on Rippy Road past Sandra Evans’ house, Thomas Benton Evans’ house

[water, birds]






“Up Above My Head”]: Up above my head,

[DERRICK repeats: Up above my head], I see trouble in the air.



Trouble in the air]

Up above my head

[DERRICK: Up above my head], I hear trouble in the air. [DERRICK: Trouble in the air] Up above my head,



[DERRICK: Up above my head], I see trouble in the air. [DERRICK: Trouble in the air] There must be a god …




Derrick throws piece of wood on bonfire and turns to go into shed, c/u bonfire


Derrick emerges from shed.


Derrick holds mirror up to Leah filming.



Derrick looks at Leah in mirror he’s holding, Derrick on porch wipes dust off old framed photo of Mr. Skinner and looks up at camera



Eva Skinner on her porch, Derrick listening to her



[singing ends, music begins: “Opening” 1m1]


DERRICK EVANS : This is worth saving. This is an antique mirror that probably used to be in that house.


LEAH: [laughs] Hey, wait a minute.


LEAH MAHAN V/O: This is my friend Derrick Evans.


LEAH V/O: He’d been telling me about Turkey Creek for a dozen years,  before I finally went with him to record his family history.


EVA SKINNER: I’ve been here a long time. I always wanted to stay on Turkey Creek. I love Turkey Creek.







Derrick pushes boat into creek, Derrick in boat looking ahead, fisherman on bank tosses his line into the creek


Rev. Calvin Jackson in boat pushing oar off bank, boys watch from bank



Derrick’s POV from boat of reflections on creek passing by




Derrick standing by aunt Sandra Evans’ house, gestures to ground

[creek sounds]





REV. JACKSON: I ain’t worried about no aligators. See, this is where I learned how to swim –


REV. JACKSON V/O: among the aligators and the snakes.


DERRICK V/O: My great-grandfather’s grandfather founded this community –


DERRICK: on this land.


Pan up from creek to mall development in distance



Derrick looking worried leaning on his truck listening to Dozier Hines


Driving past bulldozers, high rises, oncoming traffic, cluster of hotel and restaurant signs


POV from boat on creek pans from bulldozer on creek bank to clear cut creek bank ahead, Derrick maneuvering with rowboat oar on creek


Heron takes off from log on creek


Creek wide shot POV from boat


Derrick tears up and turns away from camera




LEAH V/O: But our conversations about the past kept shifting to the present.


DOZIER HINES: Everywhere they can push a little dirt back and pour a little concrete, they’re putting something in there now.









DERRICK V/O: I’ve always had it in the back of my head that,


DERRICK: somehow, someday I would tell this story.


DERRICK V/O: If I’m not careful, if Turkey Creek is not careful,


DERRICK: it may be like an obituary, you know?




The Battle for Turkey Creek TEXT: A film by Leah Mahan


[music ends]


City buildings TEXT: Boston, 2001


Kids jumping rope. School bus pulls in front of school. Kids enter classroom.

TEXT: Phyllis Wheatley Middle School


Whiteboard of assignments, poster of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Derrick teaching, kids listen, raise hands














Derrick in the middle of class gesturing, kids raise hands and answer

[kids playing & chattering]








DERRICK: Come on, let’s go! Go to your seat, watch your mouth.  Come on.




DERRICK: Has it got to that point yet where the colonies want to break away and be free from England?




DERRICK: But they getting mad, aren’t they? Who can tell me one thing that they’re mad about?


STUDENT: The Sugar Act.


DERRICK: The Sugar Act.  Tell me something else.


DERRICK: What else? Taxation … STUDENTS: Without representation! DERRICK: What else?

STUDENT: The Stamp Act.


DERRICK SYNC: If the Stamp Act got taken back one year after they passed it, why did they take it back y’all?


GIRL V/O: They took back the Stamp Act because we stood together.


GIRL: Now you’re seeing we’re standing together now!




Derrick exits school as two boys enter







Photograph: Leah and Derrick self-portrait in mirror ARCHIVAL  (NATIONAL

ARCHIVES) Footage: March on Washington footage


Derrick walks up path to class, students listen while Derrick teaches

TEXT: Boston College






Derrick, woman and girl in apartment.







Derrick works with boy in community garden

[music begins: “Boston Life” 1m2  ]


DERRICK SYNC: What’s up.

BOY: What’s up, Mr. Evans. DERRICK SYNC: Bye bye.


LEAH V/O: I met Derrick in 1989 when he was a student at Boston College. We were both interns doing research for a documentary series on the civil rights movement.





LEAH V/O: Derrick went on to teach American History, and I started making documentaries.


DERRICK: You know, we talked about racism is not simply a function of ignorance.  Because if it was simply a function of ignorance, it could be educated away and it would be over.  No, racism is probably the most profitable invention of the last 500 years.


KAREN SAVAGE: Oh, the kitchen cabinet needs to be fixed…


LEAH V/O: After teaching for a number of years, Derrick bought the building where he was a tenant, and eventually bought three run-   down  buildings on his street, fixed them up and rented them out. He turned an empty lot into a community garden that became the center of the neighborhood.


DERRICK: But don’t pull those ones, those are the collard greens.  (Addressing the camera) These are the results of the Great Migration from the North – to the North:


[music ends]


a kid pulling up collard greens and leaving the weeds.


Plane landing behind green field

TEXT: Gulfport, Mississippi


CU details of old house with



LEAH V/O: It’s December 2001, Derrick is going home for winter break. He’s decided to spend the week researching the history of




vines, weeds. Lettie & Derrick walk beside former home of Thomas Benton Evans (“Big Daddy”), Derrick empties big bucket of rain water in grass TEXT: Derrick’s great- grandfather’s  house


Lettie & Derrick at back porch, entering house



Derrick touches door frame as he enters, taps foot on puddle inside


Lettie finds old papers


TEXT: Rev. Lettie Evans Caldwell, Derrick’s Mother


Derrick comes over to see





Derrick reads funeral program by window, smiling








Photographs: Thomas Benton Evans in suit with his wife and sister, TBE sitting with two workmen on brick wall, workmen standing by derrick with water spouting up

Turkey Creek and he’s asked me to come along and record it.







LETTIE: This needs to be repaired. DERRICK: Be careful.

DERRICK: Here’s that old pine molding. Oh no! The water is…(LETTIE: Here’s a …) OK, so we got problems.


LETTIE: This is the kind of -- Now this is his funeral – I knew we’d find that.  Funeral service for our grandfather. Thomas Benton Evans.



DERRICK: Senior. Can I see this?


LETTIE: Yeah.  Keep it together,  just keep the whole thing together.  Don’t separate it.


DERRICK: He was often referred to as the “well-digger.” In his quiet and unassuming way, he always did whatever he thought was right for humanity.


Wow. That’s pretty lofty goals.

[music begins: “Right for Humanity” 1m3]


DERRICKV/O: He was a deep well driller. And behind the house was his well works. He could drive the pipes down into the ground over 700 feet. In fact I get my name from the derricks  that he used to erect to get that artesian well water.


Creek, man hoes, goat, wind chimes


Rev. J gestures over antique book with Derrick

TEXT: Rev. Calvin Jackson

[birds chirping, wind chimes] [music ends]



REV. CALVIN JACKSON: Turkey Creek has a tremendous story.









THOMPSON)  Photographs: 19th  century Turkey Creek portraits







Derrick bends over old aerial photo of Turkey Creek and looks with loop


MAP: Gulf Coast, zoom to Turkey Creek, map of original eight 40-acre parcels with Turkey Creek and Bayou Bernard



Footage:  black and white film of creek



Photographs: Derrick on pedestal with his mother, Lettie’s mother and child by creek, man in vest and tie kneeling by farm field



FARM) Footage: men and horses plow field, woman washing, children fishing from boat on creek bank




Rev. J and Derrick look through photos of church

DERRICK: You just have to weave it all together.


REV. JACKSON: You got to weave it together. Let me see about this, if I turn it around…


[music begins: “The Eight Forties” 1m4]


DERRICKV/O: Turkey Creek started after slavery, during the Reconstruction. The first four couples got together and when slavery ended, they worked, they worked, and saved up some money,


and traveled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which is where Turkey Creek is.



And each one of those couples bought 80 acres of land, side by side with this meandering bayou that they named Turkey Creek




because of the wild turkeys that were there.




I come from two of those four couples.



REV. JACKSON V/O: When they settled here, they were the first ones here before Gulfport. There weren’t anyone else.


They worked this land over, they cleared it up, because it was a wilderness. They lived on the side of the creek, they washed out of the creek. It was beautiful water, and you could


REV. JACKSON:  catch a lot of large perch in there and feed your family.


You see the old church, I can identify that, you see because–


DERRICK: The old church.


REV J: Yes, yes, I had wondered did anybody have anything of the old church with the





windows …


[music ends]

DERRICKV/O: The people that can tell the story, who always told me the story, are very old now.  And they might not be around much longer.



Photographs: young Derrick sitting in grass, historic photo of woman canning, group outside church



Photograph:  Gulfport Creosote workers



Footage: lumber workers, railroad, port of Gulfport

[music begins: “Enormous Change” 1m5]


LEAH V/O: As a child, Derrick loved hearing about the old days, when Turkey Creek was secluded and self-sufficient. Families built their own church and school, and created jobs by selling land to a creosote company that preserved lumber for railroad ties and telephone poles.


Mississippi’s long leaf pine forest became big business, and at the turn of the century, the city of Gulfport was established to send lumber around the world.


MAP: CU original eight 40- acre parcels, zoom out to MS airport expanding, see North Gulfport, route 49 cutting through it



Photographs: color group photo of Derrick and other boys


Creosote plant behind sign: “CAUTION  HAZARDOUS WASTE DISPOSAL AREA”


Wealthy Gulfport homes


MAP: MS old Gulfport, zoom out to WS full annexation area


Boys on bikes ride across Turkey Creek lawn

Gulfport was four miles south of Turkey Creek, but the city grew steadily north. By the 1950s, the airport expanded to the edge of the community. And soon highways cut through the watershed.


In the 1980s, the creosote plant closed. The federal government declared it a toxic superfund site.








In the early 1990s, the city of Gulfport – to increase its tax base – continued growing northward.


The people of Turkey Creek now found themselves in the center of a city being transformed by a new economy.


Casino signs and buildings


Rev. Tartt


REV. HARRY TARTT: This state accepted the casinos even though it’s in the Bible Belt. And




TEXT: Rev. Harry Tartt



Kim Savant interview in office TEXT: Kim Savant, Gulfport City Councilor







Ken Combs interview in office TEXT: Ken Combs, Gulfport Mayor


Turkey Creek families go into church, Derrick kisses his mom, Rev. Jackson chatting, Rev. Tartt moving slowly and smiling

whatever is expedient, to get more money on the coast, they’ll do it.


KIM SAVANT: Gaming has changed the face of the entire coast.  And I’m sure there are people that won’t agree with me, but I think


SAVANT V/O: 75% of that change has been positive.



envisioned a little town of maybe 15,000 people


COMBS SYNC: growing the way Gulfport’s grown.


LEAH V/O: 70,000 people in Gulfport. About 400 live in the Turkey Creek neighborhood.

Many are elderly, and Derrick hopes a record of their memories will help prevent Turkey Creek from disappearing from the map.


[music ends]


Derrick meets Eva Skinner outside Big Daddy’s house TEXT: Eva Skinner




Eva and Derrick walk to the back of the house




Derrick’s dog, Toussaint, pokes his head out of the house











Derrick hands Eva photographs, CU photo of burial in Eva’s hands

EVA SKINNER: I made many days in here. [laughs]


DERRICK: Yeah, you wanna come on back here?




LEAH V/O: Miss Eva is in her 90s. She worked for Derrick’s great grandmother in the 1920s, laundering clothes here for white families.


DERRICK: Toussaint, you stay there.  I brought him down from Boston.




DERRICK: That’s my companion.


EVA SKINNER: Ooh.  I know he’s trained, isn’t he?


DERRICK: Yes ma’am.


See if you can tell about this one. This is back at that cemetery,  I believe.






EVA SKINNER: My son, he was buried over at that graveyard.


DERRICK: You wanna go on over there? EVA SKINNER: Yeah, okay.

DERRICK: Before it get too late.


Derrick helps Eva up








Derrick drives into apartment complex, from the parked car we see Derrick enter the office, Eva sits in car







Derrick helps Eva out of car








Eva walks up to fence, p.o.v. headstones through fence




Eva and Derrick enter cemetery gate



Eva follows Derrick down path

EVA SKINNER: Now you can pull me. DERRICK: Okay.

EVA: Ooh, Lordy.  My knees hurt me so bad. DERRICK: Yeah?

[music begins: “My Son Was Buried” 1m6]


EVA SKINNER: They done put an office over here.  Ain’t this something?


LEAH: Yeah. He has to go get a key.


EVA SKINNER: Got a key to the gate, oh my god. That’s something.


LEAH V/O: Miss Eva never needed a key to enter the cemetery before.  It was surrounded by woods and accessed by a dirt path.


EVA: Catch my arm. Like that. DERRICK: OK.

LEAH V/O: Now there’s an apartment complex there, and the management holds the key.  This is where the first settlers are buried. And Miss Eva buried her 2-year-old son here in 1937.


EVA: Oh…


[music ends]


DERRICK: Well I know this is not the main part.


EVA: No, it’s not hon.





Eva looks around, p.o.v. apartment behind fence



Eva talks and points




Pan from headstones to apartments





Derrick and Eva talk standing up

DERRICK: But this is the part they left us.


EVA O/C: Uh-uh.  This…that right there is not right.


EVA: ‘Cause my son was buried on the corner of the graveyard, and seemed like to me it was further that way.


DERRICK O/C: So there’s probably a whole lot of bodies just all around here that…


EVA O/C: It’s a lot of bodies where that building right there is.


EVA SYNC: Ain’t no telling how many hundred people was buried here.


DERRICK O/C: And you said they had a lot of wooden markers.


EVA: That’s right.  Cause my – my son had a wooden mark.  And then the name was on it. My son was named Daniel.



Photographs: men carry casket on wooded dirt road, four people by grave being dug in wooded area


Ken Combs interview  TEXT: Ken Combs, Gulfport Mayor


Kim Savant interview  TEXT: Kim Savant, Gulfport City Councilor





Eva follows Derrick into cemetery


Derrick sets up chairs. “At Rest” headstone



Derrick and Eva sit and talk

[music begins: “My Son Was Buried” 1m6]



KEN COMBS V/O: If there’s any cemetery paved over,


KEN COMBS: then that’s a total violation of our city ordinances.  But I don’t believe that happened.


KIM SAVANT: Land records were very clear, if I recall.  As far as desecration of graves, you’re telling me something I never heard before, and I really find that hard to believe.


[music ends]


EVA: Who’s that right there?


DERRICK: No tellin’ cause the headstone broke off in half.


EVA: Well, I declare.


DERRICK: I wonder why they could go…get











Reflection on water, marsh grass, Derrick standing by creek


Derrick leaning on grandfather’s shed


Goodbye hugs at airport, plane flies off over creek

away with that.


EVA: Well I tell you one thing.  People can do anything they want if nobody don’t try to do nothing about it.


[music begins: “Have to Go Home” 2m1]


DERRICK V/O: I been here eight days now. It’s a lot, man, I, I don’t know.


DERRICK: I’m in. What am I gonna to do? Like, what am I gonna do? (Laughing)



Two years later (2003)



trees, reeds bowing, Butch Ward and son walking






Rev. Calvin Jackson, Turkey Creek homes

MALE NEWSCASTER V/O: It’s a proposed project that would utilize 751 acres of land in North Gulfport to build on, including 524 acres of wetlands in the Turkey Creek basin.


FEMALE NEWSCASTER V/O: Butch Ward is the Louisiana developer who wants to fill wetlands to build a retail office complex north of Turkey Creek.


REV. CALVIN JACKSON V/O: This is our land.


REV. JACKSON:  Once, once they take and get this project in, they’re going to take the rest of Turkey Creek.


REV. JACKSON V/O: We’ve got the fight. See, I don’t have nowhere else to go.


Driving toward Boston skyline, “Welcome to Roxbury” sign




Derrick talks while driving through Boston streets


TEXT (subtitle): I got it pretty good here


DERRICK V/O: Boston has been good to me. I never thought it would happen, but the place has become


DERRICK: a part of me – Boston.  And, um, (Phone rings) it’s not something that you would just thoughtlessly walk away from.  Because I got it pretty good here. (Picks up phone) Hello?


LEAH V/O: For two years, Derrick has been torn.  Between life in Boston and worried calls from home. He fears this massive new







Derrick sighs, slams door to truck and walks across ice toward Wheatley school, boy  in class points to map that says “Gulf of Mexico”


Derrick points to boy with raised hand


Students listen














Derrick points to words on chalkboard  “HISTORY,” “GEOGRAPHY,” “CULTURE”


Derrick says goodbye to students, handshakes, laughter

development could signal the end of Turkey Creek.


[music ends]


DERRICK V/O: Find Turkey Creek on the map. When I was your age, I was there.




RODERICK: You miss that town, huh?


DERRICK: Me? I love Turkey Creek.  I never thought it would change.  I thought it would always be like that. I go home – they have just cut down – woomph! – trees. You know, development is a good thing, right?  Don’t people want jobs?




DERRICK: So development is a good thing, when it happens in a way that helps the people that are already there stay there.  See, I have to leave Boston.  I have to go home, because it would be a sin and a shame for me today to just not do whatever I can do, right, to help save the history, the geography, the land, right? And the culture.


[music begins: “Heading South” 2m2] [kids talking, laughing]

DERRICK: Alright, I’ll see ya.


Derrick at home packing




Derrick lifts his dog Toussaint into car


Derrick drives out of Boston, pets Toussaint, “Massachusetts” turnpike in rear view mirror, NYC bridge, tollworker, tunnel, DC monument, shadow on building, confederate flag,

DERRICK: Toiletries, clothes, sheets, towels, soap, photos, a suit for church. Leases, insurance, a big bag of dog food for the ride.


DERRICK: Alright, come on, let’s go. Go on.




LEAH V/O: Derrick has taken a leave from teaching to head home to Mississippi, not knowing how long he’ll stay, or exactly what he’ll do.




construction, port sign,  beach, truck over Turkey Creek bridge, Rippy Road, Derrick gets out of truck, Toussaint rolls in grass by mailbox Derrick takes curtains off windows


TEXT: Derrick’s great- grandfather’s  house


Derrick looks around, pushes at ceiling to check it


DERRICK: Whenever you make as big of a geographical and cultural change as moving from Roxbury back to Turkey Creek, you need to get oriented, get comfortable, so you’re in a place where you belong.


[music ends]


Rain on creek, rain off roof, Rippy Road in rain


Derrick driving in rain with Rose Johnson





Rose Johnson interview TEXT: Rose Johnson, Mississippi Sierra Club



Rain on creek, rain on roof, man riding bike in rain






Rose interview in car






Wetlands, Rose

[music begins: “Rose Johnson’s Thoughts” 2m3]



ROSE JOHNSON: This is the Forest Heights church. A lot of the controversy started about this church here, flooding. There’s Turkey Creek here, spilling over.


ROSE JOHNSON: When I first met Derrick, I was just…oh, just overjoyed.  I’d been in a struggle for so long and we just didn’t have any young people involved.


LEAH V/O: Rose Johnson lives upstream in the neighborhood of North Gulfport, where homes are flooding more and more as the city grows around them.


[music ends]


ROSE JOHNSON V/O: When I was a little girl, in North Gulfport,


ROSE: when a heavy downpour would come and the ditches would fill up and spill over into the streets, and we would run into the house and get on our little shorts to come pity pat in the water – by the time we got back, the water was gone.  Because the wetlands had absorbed the water. We were not allowed to live in any other area, and we had to live in the most undesirable area, and that was the area near the swamps.


Rain on creek, tilt up toward far end of creek

[music returns]









ARCHIVAL Footage (JOHN ALLEN): Baptism in creek, crowd on bank, CU child looks at camera


Kids in rain with boxing gloves and swords run toward porch, Rose and Derrick driving in car

ROSE JOHNSON V/O: The Turkey Creek was all that we had.  African Americans could not use the beaches.  They were white only.


I was baptized in the Turkey Creek. We’d go down there and stand on the banks and sing songs and it was just so spiritual.


[music ends]


ROSE: Now that they see that they can take the wetlands and create subdivisions and golf courses and make millions of dollars of it, we’re kinda like in the way.


Butch ward interview on his porch


TEXT: Butch Ward, Rockwood Development


Traffic congestion


ARCHIVAL footage (WLOX): news footage of Butch Ward, flooding.




Gaynette  Flowers-Pugh speaking at meeting

TEXT: Gaynette Flowers-Pugh TEXT: Sierra Club press conference


Rose, Derrick, Rev. Jackson listen as reporter writes notes





Kim Savant interview






Driving shot over Turkey Creek bridge, pass by bulldozer moving dirt

BUTCH WARD: It is the best commercial spot in that area in south Mississippi.  I don’t think you have a corridor of that type from maybe Florida to Texas with that kind of traffic count.





WLOX NEWSCASTER: A developer wants to fill in hundreds of acres of wetlands in Turkey Creek for a large development and opponents say that could lead to flooding in black neighborhoods.


GAYNETTE PEW: It just seems like plain common sense that if you fill this wetland all out here, then it’s going to have the flooding worse in the communities where you live, when it’s already flooding.




KIM SAVANT V/O: People have to decide whether Turkey Creek is a drainage channel, or whether it is


KIM: a scenic creek.  Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anyway to decide but that it is a drainage channel.


[music begins: “Time to Stand Up” 2m3]


DERRICK V/O: It’s not drainage, it’s about the irreversible consequences of pro-development tunnel vision.





Derrick in great-grandfather’s shed


Butch Ward interview


DERRICK: In a wetland.  That’s historically valuable and endangered.


BUTCH WARD: I disagree that I’m filling wetlands, because I don’t believe that there’s wetlands there.  I don’t believe there’s wetlands there to fill.  That’s somebody else’s definition of a wetland.


Butch Ward pointing to his maps


ARCHIVAL footage (WLOX): Ward walks in to door with sign “Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,” bulldozer, airport construction, two men walking on Rippy Road, wetlands









Kim Savant interview

[music begins: “Not on the Map” 2m4 ]


LEAH V/O: The Environmental Protection Agency classifies a significant part of Butch Ward’s property as wetlands, which means he needs a permit from state and federal agencies to move forward.


Ward’s plan is only one of many that will affect Turkey Creek. In the spring of 2003, Gulfport releases a 25-year plan for growth. Some land owned by Turkey Creek families is slated for development.  Turkey Creek’s wetlands and historic sites aren’t even mentioned.


[music ends]


KIM SAVANT: The Turkey Creek community was not recognized.  We knew -- we knew the short cut from highway 49 into the eastern part of the city, and the fact that it ran through Turkey Creek never occurred to me that there was actually a community there.


Man fishing, boys on rope swings under tree, Lettie cutting flowers, man raking


Derrick carrying boards outside Big Daddy’s house, propping up car port, weeds by back porch, Derrick walking toward old shed, big old tree with tire swing

[music: “To Be Recognized” 2m5]




DERRICK: This’ll give me a ten-foot span.


DERRICK V/O: When you’re walking on land that your great-grandfather inherited from his grandfather, who had been a slave, and all of the history that happened in this house, in this yard, in these woods. Words can’t describe how continuous and empowering that makes you  feel as part of something that’s bigger and more poweful than your lifetime.


[music ends]





Derrick at desk looking at old photos and documents, filling out MDAH “African American Heritage Program” form






ARCHIVAL  Photograph (EVANS FAMILY): Thomas

Benton Evans Sr. and wife in front of their home


Architectural detail of carport with peeling paint and vines


DERRICK: That’s his truck … One of the things we gotta do in Turkey Creek is get as many homes as possible listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  And try to use historical preservation initiatives to save the community on this residential side.


[music returns]


LEAH V/O: The state rejects Derrick’s application for historic recognition of his great- grandfather’s house, on the grounds that no one of historical significance had lived there.


But Derrick is not deterred. [music ends]


Derrick and Lettie look at a large map taped to the wall

DERRICK: Alright, Ma. The first part of our war room is up. We have two fights.


It’s gonna take historical preservation on the front and environmental conservation in the back.




DERRICK: If we block ‘em at the top, getting set up as a historical district, we can stop the development that’s coming this way. Alright. But at the back of your land, back here in these woods, we have to use environmental conservation. Alright?


[music: “To Be Recognized”] DERRICK: That’s your mama. Alright?

LETTIE: (Laughs) Where’d you find that?


LEAH V/O: Derrick compiles material to support his argument and presents it at a public hearing on Gulfport’s 25-year growth plan.


Derrick shows old photo to people seated at public meeting


Joseph Lusteck at podium

DERRICK: They utilized the creek for recreation, fishing, baptizing and so on.



JOSEPH LUSTECK: I don’t have that – I




TEXT: Joseph A. Lusteck, City planning  consultant







Woman speaks up TEXT: Sammy Gray




Derrick speaks up

didn’t have the information. DERRICK: It’s right here.


recommendation from the City of Gulfport for Planning Commission for adoption of the plan.


SAMMY GRAY: I’ve been hearing the same conversation, the same conversation, and there has been more development, more development, and less action in our area.


DERRICK: This comprehensive plan leaves the most economically disadvantaged, the most historically or traditionally neglected communities in this city at a distinct disadvantage compared to Butch Ward, the airport, other development interests…


Dozier Hines listens in meeting, Dozier Hines interview in backyard TEXT: Dozier Hines Dozier rides lawnmower





Dozier listens in meeting


Don Hartfield approaches podium at public meeting, Dozier and others listen











Dozier speaks up from his seat

DOZIER HINES : I went to the city council meeting and I started looking at the maps.  And the maps was explaining then,  “Here’s where this road is going,” and they say “there is your place right in here.” I’ve been here all my life.  I know just about every foot of this land.  Now suppose that road is gonna come through right here in my house here.  Gonna move me out, gonna displace me. I don’t care how much they offer me, I don’t care how much they think that I should get. Well, I’m not gonna ever agree   with it.


DON HARTFIELD: My name is Don Hartfield and I’m president of Hart Cars Incorporated, and I am for the economic development.

Economic development means income, it means jobs, it means money to send children to school and to college.  It’s what we work for, it’s what we fight for.  Please, be careful what you oppose! Because sooner or later you’re gonna get what you want.  And that’s not gonna be a good thing, I fear.


DOZIER: ‘Cause you won’t be loosing nothing. Right now where you’re talking about bringing that street down,  it’s my – it’s Hines land.

Where you talking about moving. Now where your house? You ain’t gonna be moving nowhere.  You ain’t gonna be losing nothing…





Derrick and others listen, Dozier now at mic gesturing


FACILITATOR’S VOICE: Now wait a minute folks …


DOZIER: I know what you’re trying but whenever it hit me … I’ve been lost. I’ve been lost. What I want to say.


Driving shot of Turkey Creek homes






Kim Savant interview in office




Exterior Big Daddy’s house, Derrick cuts out wooden letters with jigsaw table saw, Derrick and Warren White put sign into Derrick’s truck, Derrick nails letter on sign at truck in church clothes, Derrick and Rev. Moses place sign inside church




Reverend speaks to congregation

TEXT: Rev. Edward C. Moses, Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, Lettie listens with tears on cheek, Warren and others applaud


People nod in agreement. Ella smiles, Derrick hugs and shakes hands with relative, Lettie and Derrick outside church after service

[music begins: “Buy New Memories” 2m6]


KIM SAVANT: There’s a fella out there in North Gulfport, and I thought his comment was right on target.  We propose this re-zoning, the newspaper asked how he felt about it and he said, “I grew up here. I’ve got a lot of memories right here. But for the right amount of money I can get new memories.” That’s kinda in a nutshell how I feel about Turkey Creek.





REV. EDWARD MOSES V/O: God has given this community not only a name, but a distinction and a history. We have marked it with this sign.


[music ends]


And we’ll set it in this place


REV. MOSES: and give distinction and honor to those who have gone before us, and those who are yet to come.  Bless the lord.





REV. MOSES: We as a community must say, “Not my community! Not my people!” For god has brought us from a mighty long way and we have decided we will not go back! And we will not sell each other!


[music begins: “Dumb Bastards” 2m7]


Flags on City Hall  including confederate flag

KEN COMBS V/O: Well, I was asked to attend a meeting and they asked me what I thought of people that were opposing a shopping center in the most prime location in our city.





Ken Combs interview




ARCHIVAL Headlines (SUN HERALD): “Mayor:

Development foes are ‘dumb bastards’,”  “OUTRAGED”



Woman speaks at city council meeting.

TEXT: Mary Spinks-Thigpen Ken Combs listens


Ken Combs interview



Rip Daniels speaks at city council meeting







Rip Daniels interview TEXT: Rip Daniels, WJDZ Radio


KEN COMBS: And I referred to obstructionists as “dumb bastards.”






raise dumb children.  And we are not dumb ourselves.



tongue cannot be handled any better than that, you have no place in public office.


KEN COMBS: I’m the kind of man who will defend whatever I have to defend, whatever way I have to defend it.


RIP DANIELS: We are not “dumb bastards” here.



RIP DANIELS V/O: At this point, people in North Gulfport have taxation without representation.


RIP DANIELS: He’s the mayor.  Well, not for those dumb bastards, that’s for sure.


[music ends]


Rip and Derrick carry boat through woods






Rip gets into boat while Derrick guides it into water the creek





They row on the creek

[birds, walking on leaves]


LEAH V/O: People who have never heard of Turkey Creek are now paying attention.


RIP DANIELS V/O: Alright.  I’ll get in.


LEAH V/O: And Derrick and his cousin Rip see an opportunity to rally support for their beleagured creek.




DERRICK: Yeah, hold on.


LEAH V/O: They launch a canoe 13 miles upstream and broadcast a live radio show from the creek.





Dirty stream empties into creek, cottonmouth snake under branches













Rip and Derrick row past snakes on banks of creek






















Branches hang over creek ahead






Rip and Derrick’s boat goes under branches, Rip falls back into boat, on other side of overhanging branches now,


DERRICK: That’s what they call coliform bacteria, the largest culprit is runoff … And look at your cottonmouth right there to the left of us!


[music begins: “Snakes” 2m9] LEAH: Ah!

RIP DANIELS: Something hit me in the back right when you said that! (Isn’t) that amazing?


RIP: You’re alright.


LEAH: Let’s get out of here. DERRICK: Put some dig on the oar.

RIP: You gotta watch it cause we’re right at that height where they can hit you right in the face. But it’s good that we’re talking like this.


DERRICK: That’s right. LEAH: Keep talking.

RIP: Yeah, ha ha ha.


DERRICK: One on the right, one on the right, Rip.  One on the right, one on the right.  Just chill…


RIP: There’s one sitting on the bank! DERRICK: Right over your shoulder. RIP: Right in front of you!

DERRICK: You don’t wanna go under that, Leah? You sure?




LEAH: I ain’t goin’ under there.


RIP: Alright here we go. Derrick, we’re gonna push off here.






Derrick pushes his hood off


DERRICK: Alright! Did I mess up my hair? [music ends]


Rip Daniels with headset on creek, lizard on branch puffs throat, dragon fly takes off from leaf


Heron takes off over creek and airport overpass, Rip adjusts headset and talks to caller, people on porch, man sits by BBQ, Flowers’ wife on porch, Lettie driving lawnmower

RIP: Okay.   As I speak, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am on the Turkey Creek.  It is an environmental marvel.  It is not a headache.  It is not a ditch.  It’s history.


[music begins: “Time to Stand Up” 2m10]


RIP: Let’s go ahead and go to the phones here. Hello, Charles?


CHARLES V/O: To all the residents in the community – if never you’ve taken a part in something, it’s time for people to just stand up and say, “we ain’t gonna take it anymore.”


Forrest Heights church exterior, WLOX reporter interviews Mayor Combs outside




Congregation listens as Mayor Combs speaks to church, Rip Daniels and others listen, police watch


LEAH V/O: Mayor Combs comes to offer an apology to the community. And a promise to address the flooding problem.


[music out]


KEN COMBS: We had a little safari about a week ago.  A group of people set out there on Turkey Creek. They saw how bad work needs to be done.  So, please, if you have preconceived notions about me, watch what I do now in this next two years, and don’t try to hang me for something that I did in a moment of excitement.


Truck goes over creek overpass, bulldozers by clear- cut creek bank











Derrick interview in motor

[Truck over bridge] [music returns] [music out]

LEAH V/O: But the community is further angered by the mayor’s next move, which they fear will increase flooding.


DERRICK V/O: This is where the city of Gulfport


DERRICK: hired a contractor to clear-cut the




boat on clear-cut creek

creek bank entirely in the name of improving drainage.  It’s like somebody died.  Uselessly, unnecessarily.  I feel the same way that I did when I first saw what happened to our  cemetery.  It’s not progress.  It’s not necessary. It’s actually regressive. It’s ass-backwards. And uh, hard to repair.  Maybe impossible.


You know, this ain’t gonna happen to me again. [music returns]

We’ve got to advance a plan for what we do want.  Not just react every time to what we don’t want.


Rev. Moses with a group of men in church parking lot preparing boating supplies


TEXT: Rev. Edward C. Moses, Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church


Derrick and others talking, milling about


Men in circle for prayer





Boot stomps boat trailer hitch, boat on trailer leaves church lot


Rev. Moses jumps into boat, Derrick and others clear trash and branches out of creek, Dashawn in front of boat, kids on bank, man tosses fishing line into creek, Flowers White holds up a fish

REV. MOSES: I’m telling you, we gotta organize here! (Laughter) So you and I are not in a boat.  Now who else is not in a boat?




DERRICK V/O: Reverend Moses found that environmental justice was one of the principles of the United Methodist Church.



REV MOSES: Oh Lord, our god, we thank you for this day, for this opportunity to come together to help us see you in nature, Amen.




DERRICK: And he just took that and ran with it!


LEAH V/O: The church spearheads a campaign to reclaim the creek, and Derrick begins talking about a greenway, a buffer zone to protect the wetlands and community. For the idea to succeed, the city and private landowners would need to donate a substantial amount of  creekside property.


Derrick leads NAAEE group across Big Daddy’s lawn, Audubon Master Naturalist class putting boats in creek

DERRICK V/O: So I went to a couple of friends you know, from Audubon, from the Land Trust, the Sierra Club and others, and I said, look man, instead of fighting against environmentally unjust permitting decisions every week, why don’t we promote something,






Derrick explains the plan to master birder




Derrick and Rose in canoe leading tour on creek




Derrick showing maps inside Big Daddy’s house to NAAEE group

play offense?


DERRICK: Inland urban waterway of Gulfport. MAN: Ah, what a wonderful great idea!

DERRICK: That’s it. That’s the master plan. DERRICK: Take a right!


DERRICK V/O: And what that means is buy land.


DERRICK (to group): … We’re trying to get them to put a conservation easement on it, as part of an urban greenway, along the creekbank.


DERRICK: And throw that land into perpetual conservation. Get it off the development table.


Derrick and Andrew rowing canoe on creek


TEXT: Andrew Whitehurst, Mississippi Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks


Birds on branches above










Andrew observing banks, bird on branch walks on branch above and calls out


Rose and Derrick in canoe, Butch Ward putting papers away

ANDREW WHITEHURST: You’re gonna have to duck.  Here under this pine tree.




DERRICK: What kind of bird is that?


ANDREW: I think it’s a Louisiana heron or a tri-color heron.


DERRICK: Look straight above.


ANDREW: Ooowee! It’s a yellow crowned night heron.  It’s beautiful.


[music begins: “Environmental Justice” 2m12]


LEAH V/O: Derrick and his allies gather evidence in support of the Greenway. State scientists discover rare plants. The Audubon Society identifies the creek as a critical habitat for birds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico. The Sierra Club challenges the Butch Ward project with environmental impact studies and legal objections. These efforts strengthen the community’s case against wetland development, and in December 2004, Ward withdraws his permit request.




ROSE V/O: They were just so assured that this






Rose interview


Woman taking photo of group in woods by trailer, adults and children walk across grassy area


Derrick in Boston fixing up his buildings with workmen



Derrick interview on Boston rooftop


Derrick jokes with workmen and smiles

was a done deal.


ROSE: It empowered a community. WOMAN: (Laughter) Alright, one more shot.

LEAH V/O: A few months later, Gulfport elects a new mayor who supports the greenway. And Derrick returns to Boston.  For two years, his financial situation had been unstable.  It’s August 2005.  And he needs to get back to teaching and being a landlord.


DERRICK: I have no reason to be anything but happy, (laughing) alright? This greenway thing is gonna happen.  It’s imminent.  It is imminent.


[music ends]



THOMPSON) Footage: Storm footage of Turkey Creek houses

TEXT: August 29, 2005,

Hurricane Katrina TEXT: Turkey Creek


POV driving and rear view mirror shots of Derrick driving to Mississippi
















Driving shots of Katrina aftermath in Gulfport, debris of large buildings and banana trucks ripped up, debris from homes piled by road

[wind, rain]






[music begins: “Katrina” 3m1]





Gulfport, Mississippi was extremely hard hit by the storm surge …. Devastated … Obliterated, absolutely obliterated … People are completely shellshocked …


LEAH V/O: Derrick is desparate to reach his mother. But phone lines are down. He has no idea if Turkey Creek has survived the storm.


NEWSCASTERS: Bodies of loved ones, bodies of neighbors …


LEAH V/O: He’s thrown together a caravan of volunteers and loaded trucks with emergency supplies.


NEWSCASTERS: It’s tremendous damage. They need help. We’ve got fire and rescue … The reality of it because it’s simply so unreal … You can see half of this neighborhood has been





wiped off of its foundations. [music ends]


Derrick drives down streets after storm, destroyed homes. Derrick parks his truck. Big Daddy’s house with huge tree down.

TEXT: Derrick’s great- grandfather’s  house


Derrick approaches his mom outside Big Daddy’s house, they hug





Lettie interview outside




Derrick enters house






Lettie sitting quietly inside the house




Derrick on Big Daddy’s front porch, reaches for clock above windows, Lettie smiling in chair as Derrick sets up clock for her, Derrick smiles to himself, walks away, zoom into Lettie smiling in chair

DERRICK: Ooh, Lord.  Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.


[music begins: “One Man Band” 3m2]


LEAH V/O: Shortly before arriving, Derrick learned that water from the creek had risen to record heights. His mother had not evacuated. But she survived the storm.




LETTIE V/O:  I looked out on the porch and the water had come up a foot or so.


LETTIE: And I’m thinking, “Gee if I could get my boots and get in my car, this would be a good time to break.”


LETTIE V/O: But I couldn't leave my husband there. He’s on a walker.


LETTIE: And I’m 70 years old, unstable on my feet.


LETTIE V/O: I didn’t know where help would come from, but I knew God was there so something would happen.


LEAH V/O: By the time Derrick’s mother and her husband were rescued by neighbors, the water had reached their necks.


[music ends]


DERRICK:  (to camera) 10:04. (to mother) We’re okay.  We’re synchronized – look. I’m gonna give you this one and I’m gonna change that one a little bit.  Talk to you later.  Stay here, you the guard.  You’re the National Guard.  [laughs]


[music returns]


Derrick gives Ronnie supplies from truck outside Big

DERRICK: Let’s load up Ronnie’s wheelbarrow. What else? Give me a box of




Daddy’s house, Dashawn unloading bleach inside truck, Dashawn handing bleach to man from inside moving truck


Derrick gives Rose Johnson supplies from back of truck




Karen Savage hugs Rose Johnson as she cries



Derrick parks truck while talking to people out window, hands bleach to man and toilet paper rolls to woman with baby













Derrick on front stairs of Big Daddy’s



Derrick CNN interview

Nutrigrain. Here, take this down there.





DERRICK: Here, fill this up with duct tape. And tell them what they don’t need right away, pass it on.







Life in Turkey Creek has little to spare in the best of times, and these are not the best of times.


[music ends]


DERRICK(to man outside truck): You need some bleach?


CNN NEWSCASTER:: Derrick Evans is sixth- generation Turkey Creek – a Gulfport, Mississippi neighborhood founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.


DERRICK(to women): That’ll hold you for now. There’s more at Good Deeds …


CNN NEWSCASTER: He’s a one-man band who has run his credit card debt into the

$20,000 range.


DERRICK: So there’s a particular base camp over there near Highway 90.  [crying] They still need bleach.


[music begins: “Preservation” 3m3]


Netterine Theodore with pile of damaged belongings outside her home, CU she turns pages of photo album destroyed by water, antique marriage license


People stand in line for food, men hammer blue tarp on roof,


MAN: It can all be replaced.






LEAH V/O: Less than three weeks after Katrina, Hurricane Rita hits the Gulf Coast.




destroyed home inside with water coming in, Derrick through rain soaked window pulling boards off Big Daddy’s house, Derrick using chainsaw outside with Turkey Creek sign next to him


ARCHIVAL (Los Angeles Times) Headline and photo of Derrick with Turkey Creek sign: “A SHATTERED GULF

COAST – After Hurricane, Eyes on Historic Area”

Without money for repairs, homes that withstood these storms were now in danger of being demolished.




Derrick was determined not to let that happen.





Derrick talks to historians and engineers outside in T-shirt


TEXT: Historic preservation tour for federal and state agencies


Derrick points out old white house, talks to Cherilyn Widell with clipboard, group walks past battered historic home

DERRICK V/O: I don’t see you getting more Gulf Coast, more Mississippi,


DERRICK: or more American heritage than this place.  You show me a place.


DERRICK: You guys ready?




I wanna draw your attention to that house.


CHERILYN WIDELL: This is a great house, this is a great house.


DERRICK: This is an awesome house.


LEAH V/O: Derrick has been sharing Turkey Creek’s history with anyone who will listen. And people are finally listening.




Derrick walks up marble steps in suit


Speaks at US congressional hearing.

TEXT: U.S. Congressional subcommittee hearing on historic  preservation

DERRICK V/O: My name is Derrick Evans and I am a 6th  generation descendant of the men and women who settled coastal Mississippi’s  Turkey Creek community in 1866.


DERRICK: Mississippi is one of the nation’s poorest states and Hurricane Katrina has only worsened the economic prospects for her coastal residents.  A very large number, like my mother, have lost everything they own – save for a solid, old house.


[music ends]




Derrick interview on DC porch in shirt and tie



Derrick passed out on couch

DERRICK: It’s been over two-and-a-half days since I went to – been asleep. Maybe I’ll go to sleep in about an hour or two.


[music begins: “No Rest” 3m4]


LEAH V/O: Derrick is overworked, though he doesn’t have a paying job.  He is deeply in debt. And the divide between competing visions for the Gulf Coast is getting more extreme.



State House with sign “Capitol Building State of Mississippi”


Gov. Barbour speaks at podium.

TEXT: Gov. Haley Barbour, State of Mississippi


Derrick listens from balcony, teleprompter reads: “… bigger and better than ever before,  but I believe it will also spread prosperity and dignity across more of our citizens ...”


Driving shot of cleared land




Derrick interview in car, driving past new construction

GOV. BARBOUR: Last year’s gigantic catastrophe with all its destruction,


[music ends]


gave birth to a renaissance in Mississippi that will surely result in rebuilding our state bigger and better than ever before.


But I believe it will also spread prosperity and dignity, equality across more of our citizens than ever before. I ask you to embrace that vision as we go forward this year. Thank you.




DERRICK V/O: Our governor views these resources that came in response to Katrina almost like investment capital.


DERRICK: See this has all been cleared since Hurricane Katrina. This here, you can see is wetlands.  This is the airport clearing all of this to put this car wash facility, and there’s hotels coming up over here now.  This is – see, this is not rebuilding.  This not recovery.  This is new stuff with federally-subsidized tax credits and CDBG funds, that needs to be going into these peoples’ houses.


Bulldozer scoops up dirt Derrick interview in woods



DERRICK: You know, some of these plants are what you call “facultative,” which means, by their presence, you can tell you’re in wetlands. And you know, you can drive around coastal Mississippi and you can see – like, just look up and you’ll see the white underside of a sweet bay tree, and you can tell the person in the

















Derrick’s truck pulls up onto cleared land


Rose Johnson gets out of the truck, she and Derrick show cleared red dirt area






Derrick and Rose walk over clear-cut land together.

bulldozer, “Can you show me your wetlands permit, because this is actually wetlands that you’re  bulldozing.”




DERRICK V/O: Before Katrina, a landowner could fill in a half an acre of wetlands.


DERRICK: And I thought after Katrina that they would scrutinize it a little bit more closely. But instead, the Army Corps, at the Governor’s urging, decided to increase that from one half of an acre to five acres!  Without any public notice or comment – in the name of recovery.


ROSE: Okay, this is what – this is the Gulfport city project here.  By the time we were aware of what was going on, they had clear-cutted all these trees in this area right here.


DERRICK: They brought in this red clay to fill it in, to build it up, that’s how they do it. It’s non-porous, as opposed to the native soil.


ROSE O/C: Before Hurricane Katrina, this was wooded wetlands.


ROSE: Somebody has to try to stop this. This is crazy!


[music begins: “Allies and Vision” 3M5]



Barbara Arnwine speaking to crowded meeting


TEXT: Barbara Arnwine, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights



BARBARA ARNWINE: There are so many people here today. You have come because you want to make sure that you are treated fairly.

You want your rights to be vindicated! And we understand that as long as you’re here, as long as you’re fighting, we’ll be here!


Derrick on phone in office, walks out door.



Community meeting outside, woman writes on large notepad, Daniel Iacofano speaks to group seated in yard

DERRICK: Like I said, if you guys come on Saturday, you’re gonna be amazed at the range of people that have a vested interested and commitment…


DANIEL IACOFANO: We’re all urban planners, urban designers, landscape architects.




TEXT: Daniel Iacofano, MIG planning and design


Ella gestures at map


Derrick responds, close up hand highlighting Turkey Creek on map, circling “CREEK ACCESS & RESTORATION”





Lettie and Martha listen, MIG staff write with colored markers



ELLA HOLMES HINES: All of this area we consider to be us.


DERRICK: We actually are hoping to bring the creek back to being used, like a dock type of public access and educational nature trail in there.


ROSE: We need all the basic –


COUNCIL WOMAN: And definitely streetlights!!


DANIEL: Lighting … ROSE: Most definitely.









CVB) Footage: woman runs on beach with scarf, schooner, fishing poles,  aerial of golf course, silouette of golfer, man offers oysters, seafood feast, casino with fireworks, slot machine gamblers, black jack dealer, couple on sunset beach with text: “RELAX, IT’S THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST.”


LEAH V/O: Meanwhile, the tourism industry is working to bring visitors back to the coast.


[music begins: “Come Back” ad score]


TOURISM NARRATOR: Soft breezes fill the sails of our skooners. The big ones are biting better than ever.  Our greens have never been greener.  Our welcome is as warm as our gumbo.  And at night, the sky lights up with excitement.  Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we’re coming back.  It’s time for you to come back, too.



[music ends]


FEMA trailers lined up, car drives by, chickens squawk. Derrick follows Miss Eva on a crutch down a ramp from her trailer.




“Katrina, the long road back”) Footage: Beau Rivage wreckage, crowds rushing in. Scarborough chats with Gov. Barbour in casino.

[music begins: “Still Homeless” 3m6]


LEAH V/O: It’s been a year since the storm,  and many people are are still homeless, living in trailers and temporary housing, including Derrick’s mother and Miss Eva.


In August 2006, Governor Barbour marks the anniversary of Katrina at the reopening of the Beau Rivage casino.


[music ends]














Demonstrator staples sign that says: “WE DEMAND JUSTICE,” “REBUILD ALL OUR  NEIGHBORHOODS,”




was ground zero for Hurricane Katrina.  Why were you forgotten?


GOV. BARBOUR: We bore the brunt of the storm, you’re right.  I’ll tell you why we’re forgotten.  The news media doesn’t like to  cover airplanes that land safely. You know, they want to go somewhere where somebody is complaining and whining, saying,  “Give me something.”


LEAH V/O: Across the street from the casino, residents gather to voice their frustration.



MAN WITH BULLHORN: And if they think that everything is okay, come join us on a line trying to get something from FEMA.  (Yeah!) Come join us in a FEMA trailer for a month. (Yeah!)


ARCHIVAL  (SAMANTHA ELDRIDGE) Footage: POV driving shot past huge lot of FEMA trailers


FEMA trailer behind Derrick’s truck on coast highway








Derrick speaking to group inside





Man with bullhorn and brass band in rain, women signing petitions, Hot 8 with trailer outside Wally’s in Boston





[music returns]


LEAH V/O: Governor Barbour convinces the federal government that Mississippi no longer needs recovery funds for affordable housing. He diverts the remaining $600 million dollars designated for housing to expanding the  port of Gulfport.


Derrick is fed up with Barbour’s message, that the recovery effort is a success. He hitches a FEMA trailer to the back of his truck and takes to the road to tell a different story.


DERRICK: They say the recovery effort in Mississippi is going good. Well, there is no recovery in Mississippi. And if you’re a Rita victim you live in the shadow of Hurricane Katrina.


HOT 8 BAND MEMBERS: We’re fired up! Can’t take it no more! We’re fired up!


[music begins: “Ray Nagin”]


LEAH V/O: Teaming up with musicians and activists, Derrick crisscrosses the country, drawing crowds, holding teach ins, showing up




headline: “Activist Tours with Icon of Shame”


Derrick, Bishop Black in front of FEMA trailer outside Alabama Coastal Response Center.


Derrick at mic in Denver radio studio, KRV drives past Denver skyline with “Today is day 1099 Since Katrina … ONE GULF, ONE NATION, ONE PROMISE”

TEXT: Denver

Hot 8 playing outside at night TEXT: Boston

Older woman in white exists KRV

TEXT: New York



PHOTOS) Photographs: little girl in front of KRV, KRV in front of U.S. Capitol with “Day 969,” Times Square at night with “Eviction is not the solution”, on snowy highway with “Day 1,237”


Man speaks to crowd in Alabama

TEXT: Alabama

Monique Harden speaking at podium

TEXT: Monique Harden, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights

Derrick and group including Wilma Subra and Bishop Black applaud

at political events and attracting media attention.


DERRICK V/O: We decided that FEMA had in fact given us an icon,




DERRICK: a FEMA trailer, that we use as a 32-foot billboard.


DERRICK V/O: I believe some of your listeners may have seen it this week moving around.


LEAH V/O: For 14 months Derrick drives the KatrinaRitaVille Express over 30,000 miles, connecting with Gulf Coast community leaders whose stories echoed Turkey Creek’s.















MONIQUE HARDEN: we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of groups that are part of this work of rebuilding not just our communities but our policies.  Let’s work together on it. (applause)



[music ends]


Driving shot past trees, Turkey Creek homes, Derrick walks over Turkey Creek bridge


Gutted historic homes, Turkey Creek wooden sign




LEAH V/O: Back home in Turkey Creek, the storms continue to take their toll. Many residents are still displaced and struggling to rebuild.  And many of the elders, who have been the keepers of Turkey Creek’s history had







Derrick and others carry casket, woman holding child greets mourners at church, man with beard wipes his eyes, Theracine cries, Derrick cries while singing, Rev. Tartt prays



Photographs: group photo of children and adults outside the old church, two men in hats by shed, Big Mama with four children dressed up, Thomas Benton Evans and his wife in front of their home

survived the storms but did not survive long afterward.


[music begins: church sings “How Great Thou Art”]


So it’s a bittersweet moment when the Turkey Creek neighborhood is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.



History once only known among Turkey Creek families is now recognized by the federal government as a national treasure.


Derrick walks through creek woods






Large container truck in traffic


Boy on bike followed by happy boy, kids playing basketball







Rose interview

[music ends]


LEAH V/O:  In addition to securing historic designation, the greenway has become a reality. Almost 200 acres are held in a land trust. But the conservation effort faces a new threat.


[music begins: “Port Road” 3m9]


LEAH V/O:  Gov. Barbour’s port expansion plan includes a major road that would carry a million trucks a year directly through North Gulfport and the Turkey Creek watershed.


ROSE V/O: My community will take a direct impact of pollution and of flooding.


ROSE: So I am not comfortable with that.


Derrick points to map with Rose looking on


Derrick points to map outside with group of men looking on


Derrick interview outside Wide, traveling shot on creek USA Today: “For them, Earth

DERRICK (to Rose): The airport, I-10 and 49 and Canal Road, I mean we are it. This is where everything is going to want to try to go through.


DERRICK V/O: The state wanted to fill in over 160 acres of wetlands.


DERRICK: And right there I knew we had a bargaining chip.


LEAH V/O: For every acre filled, Derrick demands that the state donate ten times as much




Day was late in coming … Minority, low-income areas finally feel environmentalism”


CU Derrick photo on front page, caption reads “Shouldn’t have to be so hard”

land to the greenway. It would be an unprecedented land deal, but it has the support of the Environmental Protection Agency. And on the 40th  anniversary of Earth Day it makes the front page of USA Today.





Derrick speaks at meeting TEXT: Turkey Creek Watershed Team Meeting


Lettie, Ken Dean listen while meeting proceeds







Lettie stands to address meeting, Judy Stekler, Rose, Howard, Derrick listen







TEXT:  My son is not on salary





Lettie sits down




Lettie interview

DERRICK V/O: I believe that some of what we’ve been subjected to in the past


[music ends]


DERRICK: – some of it is no longer possible. Because of the eyes of the nation, people of good faith and good will, who have decided that the Turkey Creek watershed is a place that they want to have continue to be a part of the world that they live in.


LEAH V/O: But the greenway expansion  hinges on the government buying Butch Ward’s land and Ward is fighting it. It could be tied up in the courts for years.


KENNETH DEAN: Miss Caldwell has been waiting patiently to say something.


LETTIE: I’ll make it brief but I really fear for my son because he visions and while he visions, stuff is being – it’s like the ground is being cut out from under your feet. I mean, I’m sorry. I respect what he’s doing, but my son is not on salary. And we have to survive.  And  sometimes  just to keep a positive attitude, we tend to go into denial because we have to live. Thank you.


LETTIE V/O: I don’t know how long he’s gonna last.


LETTIE: I keep wishing there would be a time when he would be finished with it and he could go ahead with a normal life.


Derrick exits house, sifts through mail



DERRICKV/O: The more this long, long and very difficult fight called for my time and






Derrick interview on porch, continues to sift through mail





Derrick interview

attention, the more my own


DERRICK: personal business matters were diving like a kamikaze pilot.


DERRICK V/O: I haven’t earned an income. Like, I don’t have health insurance.


DERRICK: My health is in the tank.  [music begins: “Oil Disaster” 3m11]

LEAH V/O: It’s even worse than Derrick is letting on. It’s been almost a decade since he returned to Mississippi, and his buildings in Boston are threatened with foreclosure. He needs to head back to Boston to get his life in order. This is supposed to be our last interview. But suddenly, things change.



aerial shot of BP rig on fire, oil spill in the ocean

TEXT: April 20, 2010

BP Deepwater Horizon Rig Gulf of Mexico


Derrick walking on the beach






Derrick interview





Little girl on beach with industry in background, birds


Derrick interview



Bird, ocean








The massive oil spill in the Gulf … eleven workers … sending up a wall of fire … unable to cap the well … the winds are coming from the south and they’re strong … and five times more oil is spewing than originally was thought

… an environmental nightmare along the U.S. Gulf Coast.


DERRICK EVANS V/O: This is huge. This is like


DERRICK: a Bible story of a tragedy and it’s unfolding. It hasn’t even hit yet.


[music out]


DERRICK V/O: This is gonna alter life as we know it for a very,


DERRICK: very long time in a very, very bad way


DERRICK V/O: Environmentalists aren’t born, they’re made – by necessity and circumstance. That sort of intense period of my life where sort of environmentalism is a defining


DERRICK: tagline, is gonna be prolonged






Derrick’s phone rings, he answers it and squeezes his eyes shut as he listens










Derrick walking off down the beach, talking on the phone.



[music begins: “Derrick's Lessons Learned” 3m12]





LEAH V/O: The oil rig explosion became the largest man made environmental disaster in

U.S. history. And Derrick did not return to Boston as he had hoped. It seems everything he’s been through in recent years has prepared him for this moment. And while this isn’t the life he planned, I see no end to this journey he’s begun.


DERRICK: Would you agree that the bullet points revolve around, number one, citizen groups have got to be involved, at the front end, as they were not in the aftermath of Katrina ...


[music ends]


TEXT: Credits on several black cards with video window


Leah putting mic on Derrick in hotel room












Derrick exits DC train station, walks toward Capital


TEXT: Credit roll




DERRICK: ppfff (exasperated sigh). LEAH: Ok, can you put this down there? DERRICK: Uh huh.

[music begins: “Enormous Change CREDITS” 3m13]


LEAH: This may be the last time. DERRICK: I doubt it (laughs).







[music ends]



ITVS (3 seconds), MPB (3

[music cue: ITVS logo]







This film was supported by CPB, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, Chicken

& Egg Pictures, Fledgling Fund



Additional funding was provided by Berkeley Film Foundation, Just Media Fund, Winograd-Hutner  Family Fund, Nu Lambda Trust, LEF Moving Image Fund, Fleishhacker Foundation and individual donors




COVER IMAGE: To purchase a copy of the film, visit  www.bullfrogfilms.com

(800) 543-3764




To get involved, visit BridgeTheGulfProject.org







“This intimate film tells a gigantic story … It’s about everything that matters in our society.” – Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools

“A powerful film for all those interested in social and environmental justice.” – Stephen L. Hupp, Library Journal

“We highly recommend this documentary film about a middle school teacher who leads an environmental justice battle in a historic African American community in Mississippi.” – Deborah Menkart, Teaching for Change

“Viewers will be touched by Evans’ courage and self-sacrifice and gain insight into the region’s historical, environmental, and racial issues.” – Candance Smith, Booklist

“Exposes raw in-your-face Mississippi politics … a perfect lesson that we are not living in a post-racial era.” – Dr. Robert Bullard, Dean, School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University

“A powerful story of one man’s good fight.” – C. Cassady, Video Librarian


2014 Official Selection, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital 2014 Official Selection, San Francisco Green Film Festival Winner, 2013 Audience Award, Documentary Feature, New Orleans Film Festival


Main credits

Evans, Derrick (participant)
Mahan, Leah (film director)
Mahan, Leah (film producer)
Mahan, Leah (cinematographer)
Greenberg, Jane (film producer)
Greenberg, Jane (film editor)

Other credits

Co-editors, William A. Anderson and Dawn Logsdon; composer, Derrick Hodge.

Distributor credits

Leah Mahan and Jane Greenberg

Leah Mahan

Producer, Director, Cinematographer – Leah Mahan
Producer and Editor – Jane Greenberg
Co-Editors – William A. Anderson, Dawn Logsdon
Composer – Derrick Hodge
Additional Editing – Sari Gilman, Ken Schneider

Docuseek2 subjects

Environmental Justice
Anthropology and Archaeology
Politics and Political Science
North American Studies
Americas, The
African-American Studies
Government Policy
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism
Human Rights
Global / International Studies
United States
Environmental Geography

Distributor subjects

African American Studies
Cultural Anthropology
Environmental Justice
North American Studies
Oceans and Coasts
Race and Racism
United States


slave graves bulldozed in Mississippi, Derrick Evans, Gulfport, protecting the community, Turkey Creek, Mississippi, Hurricane Katrina,Gulf Coast, BP rig explosion, Deepwater Horizon, Earth Day; "Come Hell or High Water"; Bullfrog Films; "Come Hell or High Water "; Global Environmental Justice; African American;

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