Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tomlinson Hill: Take Three

Tomlinson Hill (2013), directed by Lisa Kaselak, who is also executive producer along with Chris Tomlinson; the latter's book of the same name will be published in July 2014. This is the third in a series of posts inspired by the documentary.

Agency, personal and social, now and in the future.

In the course of Tomlinson Hill, we are introduced to several people, and some of them are or have been making significant attempts to improve the small city of Marlin, Texas. 

Marlin, located just half an hour by roadway from Waco and Interstate 35 (I-35), has at latest count a population of just under 6,000 souls (down from a peak of 7,100 in 1980). It has diverse demographics. According to census records (and using today's parlance for census classifications), this parses out to approximately 45% black, 38% white, and 23% Hispanic, with some overlap. Most of the Latino population is of Mexican origin, but not all: 7% are of Puerto Rican and other descent. (See online US Census data for more details).
In the film, Chris Tomlinson meets Loreane Tomlinson. Both trace their roots through the area around Marlin, including Tomlinson Hill. Loreane, whose son LaDainian was a professional football player in the NFL, has adopted an uplifting and unifying vision for Marlin. Her first idea was to build a new community center. When that stalled out, her next idea was to create a shared community garden. The idea of building something to bring people together is optimistic and difficult to implement. Why?  

Indeed, what is effective in bringing people together, transcending social entropy and decay? How about sports? 

In general, a local team may draw locally; a college team may have a 250-mile diameter fan base. Professional teams, depending on the sport and gender, may draw from throughout an entire state. (For example, in terms of fans, the Texas Rangers dominate virtually all of Texas. See this link). But if you're a fan of the Texas Rangers, what does that mean for Marlin? 

How about something else to inspire, unify and transcend?  Mineral Wells, Texas -- thanks to those who voted for it -- may become revitalized by bringing its historically famous Baker Hotel back to life. This would be wonderful for Mineral Wells, which is about three times more populous than Marlin. 

Meanwhile, other efforts continue in Marlin. The Coach Carter Impact Academy, for example, featuring its own gardens, started up in 2012. From the school website:

'The Garden of the Coach Carter Impact Academy is the heart of the school. Acres of Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Watermelons, Peas, Cucumbers, Greens, Okra, Peanuts, and other fruits and vegetables, all grown fresh for the students and the community, by the students. Coach Carter shares his love for healthy food and teaches the students how to grow food. The Garden feeds the school and community in countless ways.' 

Also, a former mayor has been trying a community cleanup detail, with mixed results. She reminds me a little of the character Carol Milford Kennicott in Sinclair Lewis' 1920 novel Main Street -- trying to better Marlin just as Carol tries to lift up Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. 

In Tomlinson Hill, it's noted that there are more than forty churches in Marlin. Do they work together in any way, or is Marlin "Balkanized" (fragmented and at odds) when it comes to religion and related social groups? How active are outreach programs between religious sects and other congregations? Do they work on projects together? How do, for example, Protestants and Catholics get along? How does the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints fare? And so on.

For more about Marlin, here's a link to the city government. City Hall will be closed for Juneteenth celebrations. The dinner theatre production of Nothing Like a Naughty Nun by Robert Brown has just run its course. 

For all those living in villages, towns or cities: what is being (or could be) done in your geographical "zone" to make things better across socio-economic lines? That is, what can be done to lift the whole community in some way?

Today's Rune: Flow. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I remember your previous posts about this. Certainly sounds like a very interesting subject.

jodi said...

Erik-I wonder if Jim can be traced to Tomlinson Hill? And I know two cool chickies from Mineral Wells!