Last week I was contacted about a new documentary Welcome to Shelbyville, which will air on PBS tomorrow. The documentary is set in Shelbyville, Tennessee during the 2008 Presidential election and the economic turmoil the country was facing at the time. Shelbyville is a small town with changing demographics and is located about an hour from Nashville.
As of the 2000 Census, a little over three quarters of the town population was white, and there were roughly the same percentage of blacks and Latinos. And in recent years, there has been an influx of Somali immigrants, who are primarily Sunni Muslims. Shelbyville also has a Tyson Foods processing plant. For those who have followed immigration issues, you may remember that Tyson Foods was involved in an immigrant smuggling scheme years ago, but the company ended up being acquitted. The Tyson Foods aspect is important because many immigrants come to work in meat processing plants especially in the south.
I spoke with Welcoming America‘s Executive Director David Lubell about his involvement in Welcome to Shelbyville. And he said that Shelbyville was chosen because his organization had witnessed the changing demographics in the town and that they could more closely measure the impact of collaborations and the community building that his organization works on between U.S. born citizens and newly arrived immigrants in a smaller municipality. I asked if there had been any hate crimes or violent incidents that made this particular place ripe for this kind of organizing, and he did mention a mosque burning in nearby Columbia, Tennessee. Lubell explained, “Progress has been made in Shelbyville. This is not a story of complete success, but progress and community building between the ethnic groups is occurring especially when people make a concerted effort to do it. Welcome to Shelbyville is a hopeful film.”
Check out this clip, and do check your local television listings for tomorrow’s PBS premiere:
And if you can’t catch this on television, you will be able to watch the documentary in it’s entirety via this link. Welcome to Shelbyville is a recipient of a Gucci-Tribeca Documentary Fund grant and was a selection of the U.S. State Department’s 2010 American Documentary Showcase.