Cox v City of Dallas, illegal dumping, environmental justice, Dallas, Texas, environment, film, documentary Deepwood, Pleasant Grove, neighborhood, place

EVENTS







April 15, 2016

Screening and Panel Discussion
DCCCD Sustainability Summit
Cedar Valley College
3030 N Dallas Ave, Lancaster, TX, 75134
3:00-4:30pm
Panelists will include:
Cynthias Herring-Flanagan, former neighbor to the Deepwood Dump
Mike Daniel, attorney with Daniel & Beshara P.C.
T Hanson, former Director of Operations, TRAC
Craig Weflen, filmmaker


January 25, 2016

Screening with Earth Day TX
Angelika Film Center
5321 E Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, TX 75206
6:30 - 8pm
A reception will begin at 5:30pm
Free Admission!

June 26, 2015

Screening at ACD Richmond
The Hippodrome
528 N 2nd St, Richmond, VA 23219, USA
9:30 - 11am ET
Following the screening there will be a panel featuring
filmmaker Craig Weflen, neighbors Cynthia Herring-Flanagan
and Robin Elder, and T Hanson from TRAC.


February 25, 2015

Big Muddy Film Festival
SIU Student Center
1255 Lincoln Dr, Carbondale, Il 62901
Documentary Shorts Block: 1:00 - 3:00pm
More Information


February 7, 2015

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Wilma Theatrer
131 S Higgins Ave, Missoula, MT 59802
Shorts Block 1: 1:30 - 3:00pm MT
Buy Tickets Here


October 14, 2014

Dallas VideoFest 27 Community Screening
South Dallas Cultural Center
3400 S Fitzhugh Ave, Dallas, TX 75210
7:30-9:00pm
Purchase Tickets in Advance

View the full Dallas VideoFest 27 Schedule


September 19, 2014

Community Screening & Q+A
Trinity River Audubon Center
6500 Great Trinity Forest Way (Loop 12), Dallas, TX 75217
214-398-8722
Doors open at 6:30pm, Screening begins at 7 pm
Free admission! Light refreshments provided

NEWS

January 27, 2015

OFFICIAL SELECTION OF THE BIG MUDDY FILM FESTIVAL

OUT OF DEEPWOOD is an official selection of the BIG MUDDY FILM FESTIVAL at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The BIG MUDDY FILM FESTIVAL is a wholly independnet, community-focused film festival in its 37th year, and is among the oldest student-organized film festivals in the United States. We're excited to be screened in Illinois and continue to spread awareness of this story around the country!



January 5, 2015

OUT OF DEEPWOOD TO SCREEN AT BIG SKY!

We're excited to announce the OUT OF DEEPWOOD has been accepted to the BIG SKY DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL in Missoula, Montana, and will screen in early February next month! The BIG SKY DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL has become the largest cinema event in Montana and the premiere venue for non-fiction film in the American West. The festival offers a unique setting for filmmakers to premiere new work and for audiences to see innovative new films, as well as classics in the genre. The festival hosts over seventy-five visiting artists, and presents an average of 125 non-fiction films annually in downtown Missoula.

October 15, 2014

COMMUNITY SCREENING AT DALLAS VIDEOFEST

Tuesday night saw OUT OF DEEPWOOD screened as part of Dallas Videofest 27 at the South Dallas Cultural Center. The Community Screening block we were part of also included 50 YEARS, a film by Christian Vasquez commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, THE NEW SOUTH DALLAS, a film made by local high school students about the effects of gentrification on their neighborhood, and DAWN, a film by Ya’ke Smith about a young woman’s struggles after coming home from prison. Following the screenings, the filmmakers took part in a Q&A session and informal meet and greet.

Chris Mosley of D Magazine was at the screening and was impressed with what he saw, writing, “The documentaries Out of Deepwood and The New South Dallas in particular gave invaluable perspective on the events, old and new, that have greatly impacted the city, south of downtown.”


October 9, 2014

OUT OF DEEPWOOD WINS AWARD OF MERIT FROM BEST SHORTS COMPETITION

OUT OF DEEPWOOD has been honored with an Award of Merit from the Best Shorts Competition, a worldwide competition seeking to discover and honor high quality shorts and new media. We’re honored to receive recognition among so many fantastic short films!


September 22, 2014

COMMUNITY SNEAK PREVIEW WAS A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

Friday night was an absolutely incredible experience with the Community Sneak Preview at the Trinity River Audubon Center. By the time the film started, we were at standing room only with an estimated 250 people in the room! Following the screening, we had a fantastic discussion with the key players in the film. Panelists Shirley Davidson of the Shady Hills neighborhood, Mike Daniel of Daniel & Beshara P.C., Jan Sanders, the late Judge Barefoot Sanders’ wife, Ben Jones, Director of the Trinity River Audubon Center, and film director Craig Weflen answered questions from the City of Dallas’ Shawn P. Williams and the audience as we continued the celebration of some of the biggest civil rights heroes in Dallas history.


September 2, 2014

WE'VE BEEN ACCEPTED TO DALLAS VIDEOFEST 27!

We're excited to announce that OUT OF DEEPWOOD is an official selection of Dallas VideoFest 27!

Recognizing independent, alternative, and non-commercial media, Dallas VideoFest is the oldest and largest video festival in the United States and continues to garner critical and popular acclaim. The festival runs from October 8-19 in Dallas, with screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse and the Angelika Theater. We'll update the events section below with the precise date and time shortly!


August 20, 2014

OUT OF DEEPWOOD Finished!

After months in production, OUT OF DEEPWOOD is finished! This is the first Neighborhood Stories film of its scale, and we're excited to share the film with everyone. First, however, the neighborhood deserves a sneak peek! The film will be screened for the Shady Hills/Pleasant Grove community on September 19th at the Trinity River Audubon Center. For more event details, see below.

We will use this space to keep you up to date on all the latest OUT OF DEEPWOOD happenings! Additional screenings and events are coming, and eventually the film will be available for free online, and for sale on DVD. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below:

Out of Deepwood - Official Trailer from buildingcommunityWORKSHOP on Vimeo.

RESOURCES

OUT OF DEEPWOOD is just one telling of this story. The Deepwood and Loop 12 illegal dump sites existed for 25 years, and have been documented in many ways. Below, you will find additional resources and information, including court documentation, full surveillance videos, photos, & audio, and news coverage from Fox 4 News, The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Observer, and The Fort Worth Weekly. Additionally, we will continue to update this page with any pertinent developments that tie back in to this story.

Court Documents

Evidence from Daniel & Beshara

Additional Resources

Highlighted Press Coverage

All Press Coverage

PRESS KIT

What People are Saying

"An amazing documentary that powerfully explains Dallas' north-south gap." - Sharon Grigsby, The Dallas Morning News

"If you watch one 23-minute documentary about a former illegal Dallas dump today, make it director Craig Weflen’s terrific Out of Deepwood." - Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Morning News

"Beautifully and succinctly tells the environmental justice tale." - Julie Thibodeaux, Green Source DFW

“A solid look at a well-kept secret both beautiful and horrendous.” - Gary Dowell, Theater Jones

“Invaluable perspective on the events, old and new, that have greatly impacted the city, south of downtown.” - Chris Mosley, D Magazine

"An awful story, very well told." - Mike Daniel, Daniel & Beshara P.C.

Short Synopsis

Today, the Trinity River Audubon Center is a place of discovery, education, and tranquility. Yet this location, adjacent to a middle-class African-American neighborhood, has not always been so peaceful. For a quarter century, the City of Dallas turned a blind eye to over two million cubic yards of trash being dumped illegally. This is the story of the precedent-setting environmental law case Cox v City of Dallas Texas, a neighborhood’s fight for justice, and the reclamation of land toward a new future.

Medium Synopsis

Today, the Trinity River Audubon Center is a place of discovery, education, and tranquility. Yet this location, adjacent to a residential neighborhood, has not always been so peaceful. Visitors to the area would once have been unable to breathe, the area flooded with smoke, cinder, and headaches from the fire raging beneath the largest illegal dump in Texas history.

The dump existed not in isolation, but in the back yards of a neighborhood bearing the pains of white flight. As blacks moved in, whites moved out, and Dallas turned a blind eye to the illegal activities of the landowners, despite the tireless activism of neighborhood residents.

On the hook for $1.5 million for fire fighting efforts, city officials finally visited the site and were horrified by what they saw. Infuriated city council members urged the neighbors sue the city. The neighbors listened. In 1999, Judge Barefoot Sanders’ precedent-setting decision, Cox v City of Dallas Texas, found the city and landowners liable under federal law and ordered the cleanup of the site.

While there now exists a resource where there was nothing but abuse, the area is still overlooked by most Dallasites. Over a quarter century, Dallas allowed two million cubic yards of trash to accumulate, which, if stacked on a vacant block downtown, would stand taller than the Empire State Building. This neighborhood’s story must be shared, lest we forget the damage that can be caused by indifference and neglect.

Long Synopsis

Drive along the Great Trinity Forest Highway today and you will find, tucked between junk yards and used car lots, a gravel road leading to the Trinity River Audubon Center. This secluded refuge has become a place of solitude and tranquility that Dallasites have enjoyed over the last 6 years.

And yet this site was not always quiet or peaceful. Not long ago, visitors would have been unable to breathe due to the clouds of smoke from a burning landfill. They would have been choked with the stench, stabbed by the nails and unmarked needles that littered the ground, and unable to believe the horrific sights of the largest illegal dump in Texas history. The Deepwood Dump, unregulated for over a quarter of a century, was the home for anything and everything that could not be put in a regular landfill. Not only was it filled with construction debris from controversial city demolition practices, but contained dangerous chemicals such as asbestos and benzene.

The dump existed not in isolation, but in the back yards of a neighborhood bearing the pains of white flight. As blacks moved in, whites moved out, and Dallas turned a blind eye to the illegal activities of the landowners. Despite countless complaints and tireless activism on the part of the neighborhood residents, they were unable to hold the city’s attention and secure a lasting change at the site. Twenty-three years after the city initially granted the landowner a permit for sand and gravel mining operations, the landfill caught fire and burned for over a month, flooding the neighborhood with smoke, cinder, and headaches. On the hook for $1.5 million for fire fighting efforts, city officials finally came down to the site and were horrified by what they saw. Infuriated city council members suggested that the neighbors sue the city. The neighbors listened.

In 1999’s precedent-setting decision, Cox v City of Dallas Texas, Judge Barefoot Sanders, longtime advocate for equity in all realms of civic life, found the city and landowners liable under federal law and ordered the cleanup of the site. Leveraging funds and public interest in the Trinity River Corridor Project, the judge allowed the city to keep most of the waste on-site, provided it was occupied with a building they would have a vested interest in maintaining.

While there now exists a resource where there was nothing but abuse, the area is still overlooked by most Dallasites. Over a quarter century, Dallas allowed two million cubic yards of trash to accumulate, which, if stacked on a vacant block in downtown Dallas, would stand taller than the Empire State Building. This neighborhood’s story must be shared, lest we forget the damage that can be caused by indifference and neglect.

Images



Q&A with Filmmaker Craig Weflen

Q - What got the film started?

A - T Hanson, Trinity River Audubon Center’s (TRAC) Operations Director, contacted [bc] and expressed interest in producing a video about the history of the center and the site while folks were still around who remembered the details about what had happened. Given our work with neighborhoods at [bc], we expanded the focus of the film to share the story of TRAC’s neighbors.

Q - At it’s core, what is the film about? What is the message?

A -The film is really about two things. First, it is an example of the damage that can be done through the inattention or neglect by city officials on a specific area of a city. Whether you believe the 25 years of almost total inaction were due to the bumbling bureaucracy, or to a more sinister belief that some racial areas of the city are less important than others, the fact remains - as stated by Judge Sanders in his ruling - the city had ample opportunities to act by simply following its own procedures, and yet did not.

Putting aside the (in)actions of the city, however, this film at its core is really about the neighbors, who have displayed unbelievable sentiments of hope and optimism despite the decades of insults and injustice. The near universal expressions of hope for the future of their neighborhood really is a stirring testament to the best qualities of the human spirit.

Q - Could the neighborhood residents and leaders be described as “resilient” in the face of such hazards?

A - Without question. That doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns about future development, and maintaining the attention of the city government. But they have shown an incredible amount of resiliency by not allowing decades of injustice to define them.

Q - What does it take to prevent these issues in the future?

A - The attention of the city government. The Trinity River Project (the Audubon Center, Golf Course, and Horse Park specifically) will help this to an extent, as they will bring visitors to this part of our city. However, these facilities operate essentially on an island, set back from the roads and the communities that surround them. Visitors to these places come in on highways and major roads, but don’t really drive through or interact with the communities that surround them. While this is certainly better than nothing, these facilities won’t in and of themselves bring the economic development and other improvements that are needed. A more concentrated planning and investment strategy needs to be developed for this area.

Q - Did you face any challenges in securing information from any of the parties? Especially those conveyed in a less than glowing light?

A - The neighbors were incredibly helpful in providing any photos or newspaper clippings they had saved, and Shirley Davidson was invaluable, organizing with the rest of the neighbors. Mike Daniel and Laura Beshara, in addition to providing an absolute wealth of images and footage, were also incredibly helpful in answering countless detail oriented questions for months after we interviewed them. Jan Sanders was also a massive assistance, putting us in contact with various people and was ready to help on a moments notice.

The City was actually pretty helpful with providing photos and other information. Don Burns with the Park & Recreation Department shared construction photos, initial site plans and diagrams, as well as a few documents from Terracon, the company who handled the remediation of the site. While we weren’t able to get ahold of anyone in the Sanitation Department to grant us permission to speak directly with Terracon, we were able to speak with Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan, who leads the Trinity River Project and was involved with both the remediation efforts and the site selection of the Trinity River Audubon Center.

Additionally, almost all of the photos shown of the dump itself are from the City Attorney’s office. While it was great for us that such comprehensive evidence exists, it was also disturbing to know that these photos had existed in City Hall while these activities were taking place. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the documentation and enforcement teams in City Hall had, at the very least, a massive breakdown in communication during this period.

Q - What do you hope this film will bring to those who see it?

A - My hope in making this film is that it will remind us all that inaction can be as damaging as action. The landowners abused the property where this dumping occurred, but I find myself less angry with them than I am at the city for not stopping it when they had multiple opportunities. It’s really about making this story more visible so that we, as citizens of the entire city, never again stand idly by and let another Deepwood develop.

Key Players

The Neighbors

After decades of persistent advocacy with little resulting change, neighbors sued the City of Dallas and the landowners of the Deepwood Dump, an illegal dumping operation that had been operating in their backyard for a quarter of a century. The Plaintiffs, Harold Cox, Shirley Davidson, Robert Stubblefield, Cynthia Herring, Eloise Edwards, Betty Curley, and Leo Easter, alleged violations of federal environmental laws and asked for injunctive relief.


Mike Daniel & Laura Beshara

The Daniel & Beshara, P.C. law firm represents civil rights plaintiffs in public housing desegregation, voting rights, and municipal services discrimination lawsuits in Dallas and the East Texas region. Mike and Laura represented the neighbors in Cox v City of Dallas Texas, and continue to advocate for the protection of the site.


Judge H. Barefoot Sanders

(Feb. 5, 1925 - Sep 21, 2008) a longtime United States District Judge best known for overseeing the lawsuit to desegregate the Dallas Independent School District. In Cox v. City of Dallas Texas, Judge Sanders found the City of Dallas and the landowners liable for violations contributing to the Deepwood Dump, and supervised the remediation of the property.

Producers

Craig Weflen

A second year Fellow working in [bc]’s Dallas office, Craig focuses on Neighborhood Stories, an initiative to identify, research, and celebrate the neighborhoods of our cities. Neighborhood Stories produces public events and media that document the stories, cultures, and identities of these communities, and how these communities have changed over time. Out of Deepwood is Craig’s first film at this scale.


buildingcommunityWORKSHOP

A Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our city where resources are most scarce. To do so, the [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work.


Trinity River Audubon Center

Located eight minutes from downtown Dallas on 120 acres, opened October 2008 and is part of the City of Dallas-Trinity River Corridor Project. The land, formerly an illegal dump site, has been reclaimed by the City of Dallas and beautifully demonstrates how a municipal liability can be transformed into a major asset for people of all ages to enjoy. Visitors have the opportunity to explore hands-on exhibits, five miles of nature viewing trails, the Children's Discovery Garden, and a great nature store with unique gifts and nature related items. Programs offered at the center educate and entertain children, families, and adults. We also invite you to join the center.