WEST LOOP — A West Loop business owner has launched an online campaign to raise $35,000 to help produce a documentary about the troubling fate of black men in her hometown of Downstate Alton.
So far, Shawn Taylor, president of Treetop Consulting, a media consulting firm, has raised more than $2,400 in online pledges for the documentary, "Gone Too Soon: Alton’s Endangered Black Men." The campaign ends Sept. 22.
She already has spent $1,800 of her own money on the project and said she is prepared to spend more to complete it by 2015.
The documentary will focus on the socio-economic impact that the early deaths of black men are having on Alton, which sits along the Mississippi River on the Illinois-Missouri border, Taylor said.
Alton "was once a manufacturing hub, with its riverfront dotted with steel, oil and gas factories," she said. "Those industries helped to create and sustain a black middle-class."
One of the town's native sons is legendary jazz musician Miles Davis.
The 47-year-old single mother of a 12-year-old son spent her first 18 years in Alton and got the idea for the documentary while visiting family there. On Labor Day weekend, Taylor will attend a black alumni reunion at Alton High School to brainstorm with former classmates.
“In a small community that is still struggling with issues of race and equality, black men that are educated, well-raised and civically engaged are critical to family stability," Taylor said.
She added that many black men in Alton rarely live beyond age 71, often due to vehicle accidents, violence, heart attacks and debilitating strokes.
“There’s too much acceptance, in my view, that black men have the lowest life expectancy, and I’d like to tell a different story about black men who strive and do well by their families and their communities,” said Taylor, a former reporter for the Tribune.
According to the U.S. Census, Alton has a population of 27,415, including 6,725 black residents and 3,492 black men. The total population was more than 43,000 in 1960.
Alton is 17 miles north of Ferguson, Missouri, and Taylor said the recent shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in the neighboring state has angered the black community.
"We get mad when a white police officer shoots one of our boys, but we should also be upset when we shoot one of our boys," she said. "It takes a lot to raise black boys."
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