A movie screening at Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis on Monday brought out numerous political figures for a discussion about how to move the city forward on issues of race, inequality, and crime in Annapolis.
Pip and Zastrow: An American Friendship, directed by Vicky Bruce and Karin Hayes, tells the fascinating story of the deep friendship between an African-American and a white man: community leader Zastrow Simms and former Mayor of Annapolis Pip Moyer.
The movie uses the two men’s stories to paint a picture of race in America from the segregation era to the 21st century. Pip and Zastrow met as teenagers on the basketball court and began a friendship that lasted their entire lives. Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer was Mayor of Annapolis from 1965-1973; Joseph ‘Zastrow’ Simms drew on his community relationships to get out the African American vote for Pip. Three years into Pip’s term, the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination brought riots to cities across the country, including Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Zastrow, in prison when the riots struck, strategized over the telephone with Pip, telling him who to see and what to do to avoid similar violence in Annapolis. Pip used his political connections to have Zastrow released, and the two men walked the streets together and organized concerts to maintain peace and unity in Annapolis.
After the movie Mayoral Candidate Gavin Buckley led a panel discussion with community leaders on how to work to repair a still racially and economically divided Annapolis. Buckley called Annapolis a city that was once at the forefront of civil rights activism, a history just as important as the colonial history the tourists come to see.
Robert Eades, an Annapolis native who appears in the film, said Zastrow, who died in 2013, was his idol and inspired him with hope as a child. Eades told the story of Zastrow taking 300 kids to see the Jackson Five with only 50 tickets. When security told them to leave, Zastrow said he would leave but asked the security guard to tell the kids they couldn’t see the concert. The guard relented and ushered Zastrow’s charges into the event. Eades, who works with kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis, said that youth today need places to learn and places to play. “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he said. Eades said he teaches team-building to children who are perceived as troublemakers and takes young people to the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore to teach them black history.
Annapolis historian Janice Hayes-Williams talked of the history of civic engagement in Annapolis, the challenges of the King assassination and the wave of urban renewal projects that followed.
Bumper Moyer, the son of Pip Moyer who died in 2015 and former Annapolis mayor Ellen Moyer, said that the murder rate in Annapolis on a per capita basis is almost the same as Chicago. He said that crime doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it is often centered on public housing projects. He called for public-private partnerships to invest in rebuilding public housing and to encourage integration between government-funded housing and privately-funded housing.
Long-time Annapolis civil rights leader Carl Snowden talked about the importance of remembering history. It was Asbury United Methodist Church, he said, where Governor Glendenning came to pardon an innocent man who was executed 80 years previously. Snowden called Pip Moyer a mayor who knew the city and cared about the people, a standard that should be followed by anyone running for office in the city.
Rev. Dr. Carletta Allen spoke about the deliberate bifurcation in the city between races. Allen mentioned her grandmother, the first woman president of the NAACP. She said that her grandmother’s biggest regrets were the separation of groups into public housing and that most people no longer know their neighbors. Still, Allen said that she believed “America’s greatness is before her.”
A question was posed to the panelists about how to make Annapolis a more integrated city. Carl Snowden said that people living in public housing should be encouraged to have a plan to get out of public housing. Snowden also talked about people who have lived in Annapolis all their lives and have never been to the Naval Academy, the Paca House, or the governor’s mansion, and the tragedy of their belief that these places are not for them. It is equally tragic, Snowden said, that people who have lived in Annapolis all their lives have never been inside homes in public housing developments. He said people would be stunned by the sense of community they can find.
Hayes-Williams said that at one time, Annapolis was integrated, then become racially separated, and now needed to be reunited. She told of Snowden being expelled from Annapolis High School in the 1970s for demanding that black history be included in the curriculum. Hayes-Williams described a successful program run by the National Sailing Hall of Fame to teach sailing to young people.
Snowden said that as a result of the civil rights movement, the black middle class had grown. Now, however, property ownership in the black community is decreasing. Snowden said that when he was on the Annapolis City Council, one in four African-Americans were homeowners. Now, the statistic is 17 percent. Snowden said that it was important to teach people how to reinvest in the community and the importance of property.
The final question was about educational inequality. Moyer said that the Pip Moyer Rec Center and Stanton Rec Center should be open at all hours instead of closing on Friday and Saturday evenings. Moyer wants to use the centers to encourage different parts of the city to play sports together. Hayes-Williams said that education was a county issue and that when the county budget came out on May 1, it is important to put pressure on County Executive Steve Schuh to ensure adequate education funding.
A video of the panel discussion is available on the Arundel Patriot’s Facebook page.
Full disclosure: Vicky Bruce is one of Pip and Zastrow’s filmmakers and is also an editor of The Arundel Patriot.
Comments? Please go to this story’s post on our Facebook Page.