Visual artist and Baltimore native Carla Brown is busy these days putting the finishing touches on her documentary tribute to her grandparents Frances and Benjamin Graham.
What is helping to inspire her as she toils away is the image of Jennifer Lopez belting out “This Land is Your Land” at the Biden Inauguration ceremony, which Brown says perfectly captures the message that her grandparents were trying to send to African Americans throughout the United States by traveling the country in their trusty RV, oftentimes going to places in the U.S. where African Americans had never been seen before.
Brown says that during their annual trips her grandparents saw themselves as ambassadors from the African American community to people who had not met Black people before.
Says Brown, “I see my documentary ‘Everyone But Two’ as a call to the African American community to put aside the reservations they may have about traveling somewhere in the United States where they don’t see anyone like themselves and recognize that they, too, belong in those spaces. After seeing ‘Everyone But Two,’ I would love for someone to walk away and say I want to go see this place with no reservations about it.”
Brown accompanied her grandparents on some of their annual trips. She said she learned what it meant to be Black in America while traveling via the trailer.
The documentary “Everyone But Two,” currently in the final stages of production, tells the personal story of filmmaker Carla Brown’s African American grandparents – Frances and Benjamin Graham – who began a 35-year journey traveling around the 48 contiguous United States in their travel trailer the same week that Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
Brown believes her grandparents were Civil Rights pioneers in their own right, who let their journey across America as Black RVers make their silent statement for them. She says that given the current climate it’s very important for people in the United States to see people who don’t look like them.
BENJAMIN GRAHAM IS STILL ALIVE at age 94. The one-time postal carrier integrated a neighborhood in Baltimore in his role as a postal carrier and still lives there. He kept a meticulous, handwritten log of his annual RV travels until they ended in 2003. Frances Graham passed away in 2016.
The Grahams were guided in their annual journeys by “The Green Book,” the subject of the recent Academy Award-winning movie, written by a postal carrier like Benjamin Graham, that laid out in detail “safe” restaurants to eat in and hotels to stay in for people of color, assisting the Grahams in obtaining safe passage throughout the United States.
In certain parts of the United States Brown’s grandparents were the first African Americans that local residents had ever seen. Benjamin Graham felt that once the initially curious people got to know them and visited them at their trailer – where Brown’s grandmother Frances paid particular attention to her curtains and doilies – that a warm, cordial feeling would replace the initial curiosity.
Brown says that her grandparents’ overall feeling was that the United States was just as much their country as anyone else’s and that they had a right to see it and savor it.
Visit everyonebuttwo.com for more information.