A documentary film series designed to spark conversation about race in America presented by The Nantucket Project.
In the summer of 2020, weeks after George Floyd’s murder, The Nantucket Project assembled a diverse team of Americans who traveled the length of the Mississippi River by car stopping in small towns and big cities to host public conversations about race in America. From Minneapolis to New Orleans, locals from all walks of life came out to join the conversation—young and old, from diverse racial, political, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. The sessions weren’t scripted or staged; participants shared their unvarnished stories of challenge, pain, division and opportunity set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and a re-ignited racial reckoning in America.
Join the journey by watching the five American Neighbor documentary films.
In case we’ve forgotten, the summer of 2020 was, to say the least, a volatile and uncertain time in the United States. We were still in the early months of the global coronavirus pandemic and understood very little about how the disease functioned. We left groceries outside to decontaminate for 24 hours and then wiped them down after bringing them in. Long before vaccines and treatments to mitigate the impacts of the virus, people were dying by the tens of thousands, isolated from loved ones. Images of bodies piled up around hospitals and totally abandoned city streets flooded the news. We locked down, postponed family events, and stopped public meetings, gatherings, and celebrations. Virtual meetings became the norm.
On May 25, 2020, a cell phone video went viral of the 9.5 minutes that a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck until he suffocated to death. People across the country were horrified by the callous brutality and lack of respect for Black life on display. The footage triggered nation-wide protests, and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement demanding broad criminal justice reform and putting a spotlight on the unjust treatment of Black Americans today.
While many things about daily life changed during the pandemic, others stayed the same. America’s particular brand of racism, present in our national DNA since before the ink of the constitution dried, reared its ugly head in ways that were new to some while familiar to others.
Letter from Simon and Neil
American Neighbor facilitators Simon Greer and Neil Phillips set the stage for the American Neighbor journey.
And we did it, night after night, we talked. Day after day we drove. We met angry, loving, defensive, hospitable Americans. They surprised us and opened our hearts.
— Simon Greer and Neil Phillips
American Neighbor Film Series
American Neighbor Episode #1 tells the story of a 15-member team that ventured down the length of the Mississippi River to have courageous conversations on race in America. The team hosted 11 events in 9 cities during the summer of 2020, only weeks after George Floyd’s murder, while America was in the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic and the most polarizing presidential election campaign since the 1800s was heating up. From cities like Minneapolis, Memphis, and St Louis, to more rural areas like Hannibal and Dubuque, to southern communities like Vicksburg, MS, and Port Allen, LA, the film captures a range of voices rarely seen in one place. By also revealing the internal conversations of the team that undertook the many thousand-mile journey, the depth, pain, and power of our nation’s racial reckoning is accessible to any audience.
American Neighbor Episode #2 lifts-up a powerful range of African American voices responding to the question, “When was the first time, an important time, or a recent time when you came to know that race was a big thing in America?” The shared personal experiences, and the diversity and consistency of the responses, invite the audience to grapple with how racism is so pervasive that it must be structural and so personal that it must reside in the individual human heart. As America continues to reckon with racism, these voices invite a deep look at the issues we face and the road ahead.
American Neighbor Episode #3 showcases the perspectives of 11 white Americans on issues of race in America. From the cornfields of Iowa to Port Allen, LA, from a flower shop owner in Minneapolis to the great grandson of Jefferson Davis, the film shows white people at different stages of their journey to address racism. The film also reminds white America that racism is not an issue for People of Color to address alone. All Americans have an obligation to face the evil of racism in our society, and white people have a crucial role to play.
American Neighbor Episode #4 is a deep dive into the courageous conversation hosted in St Louis. The heated exchange between two participants in St. Louis is a central element of the original film (episode #1). Episode 4 not only gives more context and introduces several other characters but also allows the audience to further explore themes like love, anger, and power. The episode demonstrates the possibility of relationship-building and deep connections over time by including follow-up conversations from the months following the trip. For further debrief and reflection on the night in St. Louis, watch “The Journey Continues” under Additional Films and Resources below.
American Neighbor Episode #5 focuses on Elizabeth Stewart’s journey. The episode follows Elizabeth as she reflects in real time on her experience traveling down the Mississippi as part of the American Neighbor film team and her encounters with participants and her fellow teammates along the journey. She shares her own pain, anger and hope for the future with power and vulnerability. The episode pulls together footage seen in early episodes and introduces new clips and segments. Viewers are invited to reflect on the totality of the American Neighbor series and to consider how they can step forward and take action so that they too can commit to “not leave it in New Orleans.”
Additional Films and Resources
Why and How to Use American Neighbor
Kevin Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at Spring Arbor University, shares his powerful experience bringing the American Neighbor films to his students.
The Journey Continues
A conversation with the cast and crew of American Neighbor two years later.
Emails from the Road
Follow along with the film team’s experience in real time by reading Simon’s daily journals he sent to family and friends back home.
Tips, techniques and advice for facilitating a group discussion about the American Neighbor films for experienced facilitators.
A step-by-step guide for hosting an American Neighbor screening and group discussion for experienced facilitators.
Discussion Guide Slides
PowerPoint slides to help guide your group discussion of American Neighbor.
Photographs from the Road
American Neighbor Team
The Nantucket Project
The Nantucket Project (TNP) is a next generation media company focused on creating a better world by (re)imagining solutions to pressing challenges through live gatherings, unconventional collaborations, and films. We drive impact through our unique approach to storytelling. TNP believes in the power of conversation. It’s through conversation that we learn, develop understanding, heal divides and effect change. It is why we decided to travel down the Mississippi to have over 300 conversations on race in America.
Please contact us with any questions about American Neighbor.