Dare Not Walk Alone: Dean’s Docu

“Dare Not Walk Alone” is a feature-length documentary created by Jeremy Dean, a twenty something director and former student of Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida.

The process of making the feature is just as interesting as the end result. Dean became interested in the subject of the film after moving to St. Augustine to attend Flagler. Living in the historically black neighborhood of Lincolnville and helping out on various community projects, like the restoration of stained glass windows in an historic black church in St. Johns County, Dean began to hear stories of what had happened in the community in the early sixties.

Dean was stunned by the fact that he had not heard this part of the civil rights story in school–middle or high school. And he was amazed to find that St. Augustine was a major battleground in the struggle for civil rights in 1964. In 2003, there was little evidence in the city of the civil rights chapter in its long and otherwise well-documented past. (St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and ironically the first settlement of free blacks in America is also in St. Augustine, at Fort Mose, pronounced mo-zay, which is a National Historic Landmark.)

When Dean learned that the infamous “swimming pool integration incident” in St. Augustine had played a major role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he began to research his film, aided by several local groups who were preparing to mark the 40th anniversary of that signing.

Dean participated in the 2004 ceremony of apology at a St. Augustine church which, in 1964, had barred blacks from attending and had them arrested.

In the same year, Dean connected with Richard Mergener, a local producer who had been a fund-raiser for Habitat for Humanity in Chicago. Mergener organized a fund raising event for the film at which he and Dean connected with Stephen Cobb, a successful entrepreneur who happened to be living in St. Augustine at the time. Cobb and his wife, Chey, came onboard as executive producers and provided the funds to complete most of the principal photography, which was completed in the Spring of 2005.

Unfortunately, despite Mergener’s efforts, few people in St. Johns County, or anywhere else for that matter, were prepared to fund a film that refused to look a civil rights from a purely historical perspective. The director’s insistence that the film reflect the experience of young African Americans that he had met in the local community made it too edgy for most potential patrons. However, Dean’s amazing ability to persuade friends and family to work for nothing kept the project going through the editing phase; and the Cobbs advanced more funds after seeing the first rough cut of the film, providing input on successive versions through a series of private screenings.

The docu was first shown in public in 2006 and the response was positive. The state senator for the district, a man whose father had been an attorney for the NAACP in 1964, organized a screening tour of Florida’s historically black colleges and a summit on affordable housing in West Augustine.

As a result, the docu both added to and benefited from a subtle shift in the attitudes of St. John’s County residents. In 2005, St. John’s County was one of the fastest growing counties in America and many of the new residents, black and white, wondered, as the Cobbs had done, “Where are the black people”