Through These Gates is a tribute to Buffalo's first African American architect, John Edmonston Brent (1889-1962) and his contributions as an architect, landscape architect, and draftsman in Buffalo and Western New York. This 20-minute video documentary was written and co-produced by Christine A. Parker, a SUNY Buffalo State museum studies graduate student and diversity research fellow. She is the principle researcher of a recent comprehensive study of Brent that culminated in an exhibition organized for the Burchfield Penney Art Center by Nancy Weekly, head of collections, Charles Cary Rumsey curator, and Burchfield Penney instructor of museum studies. The production was directed by local television journalist Sandy White at Mustard Seed World Productions, with an award-winning crew, TVRE Productions Inc.
As an added feature to Parker’s master’s project thesis, this mini-documentary features reenactments of historical nineteenth- and twentieth-century highlights of Brent’s life and accomplishments, played by Aaron Moss, assistant professor of theater. The documentary also showcases interviews with local historian and author Lillian Serece Williams and Uncrowned Community Builders co-founder Barbara Seals Nevergold. The two historians along with Parker, provide added insight into the “soul” of Brent, who lived through segregation and went on to contribute to the landscape, culture, and socio-political development of the city of Buffalo and the surrounding region.
Through These Gates sends viewers back in time and takes them on a journey through local and national historical events, narrated by Rev. Pedro A. Castro Jr., who is the WNY Conference Presiding Elder of the AME Church, pastor of Fellowship AME Church and chaplain at Syracuse University. The cast also includes historian and Buffalo Criterion columnist Eva Doyle, community activist Derrick Byrd, and student Jaylen Hearon (as young John Brent) and Kenneth Parker Jr. (as senior John Brent). Special cameo appearances were made by Clifford Bell, a representative of Buffalo State’s Small Business Development Center, entrepreneur, and former city council man; Rev. Diann Holt, director of Durham Central City Baby Café; and Brent Rollins, great nephew of John E. Brent. Mayor Byron W. Brown provided special commentary about the importance of education and preparation in shaping the future of the City of Buffalo. Wardrobe was provided locally by Allita Stewart (AllitaLee.com and her Apple’s Haberdashery wardrobe collection.) The soundtrack includes music by international recording artists Chor Leoni of Vancouver, British Columbia and national recording group D.E.M. of Silver Springs, Maryland.
Financial and in-kind support were provided by the following collaborating groups, institutions, and individuals: Buffalo State, Museum Studies Program, the Graduate School and Graduate Student Association, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo History Museum, Mayor’s Office of the City of Buffalo, and local educators and historians under the direction of executive producer Parker.
In 2013, the Buffalo Zoo’s Entrance Gates 3 and 4 were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was “through these gates” that Brent’s professional contributions, social advocacy, and distinguished life of service as a leader in the African American community would become reintroduced to a new generation. This documentary tells his story.
This is a free event.
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