Testimony 52nd St.: The Invisible Violence of UPENN
About the Project
On May 31, 2020, residents of 52nd Street, in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Cobbs Creek, were attacked by the Philadelphia Police Department in response to unrest over the murder of George Floyd. Private university police forces from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Drexel University and other organizations also participated in the crackdown. “Testimony 52nd St.: The Invisible Violence of UPenn” is a short stop-motion animation film, produced by Penn Community for Justice, based on the experience of 52nd St. resident and UPenn employee, Amelia Carter.
Through her testimony, Amelia explores the white supremacy that led to UPenn’s participation in the attack and attempts to disrupt the normalization of everyday acts of institutional violence perpetrated by the university. Through her own self-reflection, Amelia invites the audience to question the societal conditioning that leads to complicity in the face of this violence and imagines a world where community care is prioritized over policing.
About the Creators Amelia Carter & Krishnapriya C.P.
Amelia Carter is a Black mixed queer woman from Philadelphia (USA) and works in global education at the University of Pennsylvania’s South Asia Center. She is a self-taught film maker who previously directed and produced the film, “Until and Unless: Decriminalizing Queer India”. The short documentary explores the impact of India’s Anti-Sodomy Law, Penal Code 377, on the lives of four transgender activists from West Bengal's red-light districts. Amelia facilitated a community-led approach to storytelling enabling the activists featured in the film to co-direct the project.
Krishnapriya C P is a practicing visual artist, educator and cultural producer from Chennai (India). She completed her Masters of Fine Arts from the Govt. College of Fine Arts, Chennai. Her work is multidisciplinary in nature, using painting, drawing, text and digital mediums to engage themes related to gender, sexuality, culture, history and society. Krishnapriya was a curator for the Students’ Biennale, Kochi (2016-17 and 2018-19) and was a Teaching Artist in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania South Asia Center (Fall, 2017 and Summer, 2019).
Director Statement From Amelia Carter
I was inspired to create this film after experiencing the police attack on 52nd St. on May 31st. Although I was able to work with the NAACP, the ACLU, the Controller’s Office of Philadelphia and the United Nations in an attempt to hold the Philadelphia Police accountable, I soon realized there were few ways to confront the private police forces present that day. This is why I founded Penn Community for Justice (PCJ), a grassroots organization working to confront Penn for their exploitative and violent behavior in Philadelphia. This film was made possible because of my advocacy and organizing work with PCJ. The film was based on the first speech I gave outside of Penn President Amy Gutman’s house at the first protest I ever helped to organize on July 24, 2020. I would later give an extended version of the speech as testimony at the University of Pennsylvania Public Safety Review and Outreach Initiative on August 18, 2020. The film encapsulates my first steps in pushing past the fear and discomfort that comes from disrupting complacency. These words were the beginning of my process in finding and wielding my unique voice in the movement to #fundcommunitiessnotcops.
Krishnapriya is a brilliant artist and good friend. We have known each other for more than 10 years and have a deep sense of trust in each other’s artistic perspective and work ethic. Although neither of us had experience in stop-motion animation, Krishnapriya directed a team of talented emerging artists based in Chennai to develop a plan of action. We are so grateful to every person who contributed their talent to the film, including countless friends, family members, PCJ members and professionals who helped with recording sound, making edits or offering helpful advice. Without our incredible community this film would have not come to fruition.
Through this film, we hope to spark the curiosity of the viewer to interrogate intuitional policies steeped in white-supremacy and exploitation. We hope to inspire people to learn more about how university driven gentrification is linked to the over policing and underfunding of Black communities. In being vulnerable with the story of how I found and developed my voice, I hope to inspire more people to find theirs.