The media’s representation of Baltimore in 2015 hasn’t been the kindest—well, aside from that time President Obama praised HBO’s The Wire. The sad fact is, the media would’ve continued to ignore the crime-ridden city’s residents’ needs and discontent had it not been for the tragic death of Freddie Gray, the 20-year-old black man who died while in police custody in early April.
Rightfully angered, many of Baltimore’s citizens let their frustrations be seen and heard via riots and protests. And since nationwide news outlets were there on the scene for every broken window and raised-in-solidarity fist, much of the viewing public saw Baltimore’s post-Gray events and formed opinions based on those acts.
Instead of spending so much time focusing on the city’s angriest moment, however, media outlets should be paying more attention to the young men and women who are busting their humps to uplift Baltimore both emotionally and financially.
In the new documentary short A Dream Preferred, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) have done just that. Co-produced by Tribeca Digital Studios and American Express, the film—which is currently available on various cable on-demand platforms—follows the efforts of six young black men in Baltimore, led by an outspoken go-getter named Devon Brown, who’ve started their own dessert company, Taharka Bros. Ice Cream. (The name is a tribute to Taharka McCoy, a 25-year-old local mentor who was senselessly gunned down in January 2002.)
The company’s goal is, naturally, partly to use their handmade frozen treats to turn profits, but ultimately the Taharka Bros. are aiming to inspire other young entrepreneurs—they’re proof that inner-city minorities don’t need to play sports and make rap music to be successful.
A Dream Preferred, shot throughout the summer of 2013, captures their efforts to raise $28,000 in 29 days through the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. Dubbed “Vehicle for Change,” their Kickstarter plan was crucial to allow the brothers (in the figurative sense, not literally blood-connected siblings) elevate their business above using a rinky-dink ice cream truck.
With charisma to spare, the Taharka crew—especially Devon Brown, who’s the film’s de facto star—give A Dream Preferred a lightheartedness that offsets its heavier underlying themes, mainly the racial discrimination they experience everyday as young black men. In one scene, their efforts to solicit Kickstarter contributions from white folks is mostly a cold-shoulder struggle, and the Taharka brothers’ frustrations are visible.
That scene has struck a lot of people who’ve seen the film,” says Taharka Bros. creative director Darius Wilmore, 42. “It’s interesting, because that scene is part of the challenge of something like this. You have the softest product on the face of the Earth, which is ice cream, that’s made and sold by people who’ve been deemed to be the hardest, and that’s an interesting juxtaposition. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid the issue of race. It’s always gonna be there. Some people will be open to it and others aren’t, but you can’t let that stop you from doing what you’re trying to do.”