“I Shouldn’t Be Here …”
This short film — “As I Am” — first appeared in late 2012, thanks to The Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ daily newspaper, which underwrote it as part of a special project called “Memphis Poverty: What Obama Didn’t See” — a deep and thoughtful journalistic examination of poverty in the city.
A year earlier, President Barack Obama had visited Memphis’ Booker T. Washington High School to deliver its commencement address. The student chosen to introduce the president that day was Chris Dean, who later became the subject, the writer and the heart of this film. The film came together during Dean’s 2012 internship at the The Commercial Appeal, where he worked with one of the newspaper’s photojournalists and filmmakers, Alan Spearman.
Spearman and cinematographer Mark Adams spent eight weeks with Dean, walking around his neighborhood, recording his observations about the place that is his home, the surroundings in which the young man grew up.
Today, Chris Dean is 22 years old and beginning his senior year at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., a historically black college founded in 1882, where he is majoring in psychology and minoring in business.
He is remarkable not only for his achievements, but also for the fact that he was alive to make them. Dean's heart stopped when he was 2 years old. Essentially, he died but came back. When he was 5, his father, Ray Lee, died in a gang shootout in South Memphis, his body riddled with more than 20 bullets.
The Bitter Southerner makes no claim whatsoever on the creation of this remarkable film, but we are grateful that its makers gave us permission to present it. We show it to you today because it offers an extraordinary and affecting perspective on the forces driving events we see unfolding in the news right now.
“As I Am” reminds us that reconciliation — whether it’s between two children arguing over a toy or among citizens of an entire nation — begins to happen only when we take the time to look at the world through the other person’s eyes.
— The BS Crew