Stan West received his MFA in Creative Writing in May, 2007 from the University of New Orleans. His thesis was on American expatriate writers in Paris and Madrid. West holds a Masters in the Teaching of Writing from DePaul University. A former foreign correspondent for the San Francisco- based Pacific News Service, West remains a working journalist, reporting for WNUA 95.5 FM Chicago, a Clear Channel Broadcast, Inc. radio station. A documenatarian who co-coordinates the Oak Park International Film Festival and the Columbia College Film Series on Poverty and Privilege, West has authored and co-authored several nonfiction books. He also teaches writing, television and first-year seminar at Columbia College Chicago.
A screening of 'This is Our Club:' The History of Montgomery County, Maryland Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. happens at Peter Jones Gallery on October 25. Written, directed and produced by Stan West and Yves Hughes, Jr. Patricia Lee, a former Oak Parker, is the associate producer.
While there are lots of chronicles of the urban and rural experience of Blacks and Biracials, there's very little documentation of their suburban history.until now. This moving short begins with the founder of this African-American parents support group in the northern Washington, DC suburbs discussing how, in 1962 when educator Henrietta Brown Franklin founded this organization, she and other members were denied access to restaurants, amusement parks and other institutions because of segregation. The ailing 93-year-old's comments, often filtered through her fifty- something daughter, whose own teen daughter is graduating out of the organization, help frame a series of upbeat and occasionally controversial comments by female and male members on why the cultural support group is needed now more than ever despite apparent gains made by integration in suburban areas. Franklin died in a Silver Spring nursing home shortly after the interview. Luminaries like Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Lawrence Otis Graham and even the children of Malcolm X were once members of Jack and Jill, Inc.
In full disclosure, one of the filmmakers, Stan West, once had all three of his children in the Oak Park, Illinois Chapter of the group, and yet still asked and helped answer tough questions about whether some members of the group embraced caste and class affectations. There's also footage of the not-so-subtle discrimination that goes on in seemingly liberal suburbs that publicly pat themselves on the back for their "diversity." The smooth jazz-fusion soundtrack is supplied by lawyer- composer and Georgetown University MBA, Marcus Johnson, a former Jack & Jill member from this chapter. Johnson is interviewed at the East Montgomery County Jazz Festival's benefit for a community health cen(ter. He credits the support of over-achieving parents and students in Jack and Jill, Inc. to his success as a top-selling recording artist and CEO of his own label featuring other jazz greats.
Stan West is an author-journalist-filmmaker and Columbia College adjunct English professor.