‘Before the Trees Was Strange,’ an Exploration of Race and Identity

In a first-time collaboration, the South Orange/Maplewood School District and The Parenting Center have partnered with SOPAC, the MAC Scholars and the Community Coalition on Race to bring a new and important film to the community.

Before the Trees Was Strange is a film about one man’s journey from growing up “white” in his native home in The Bahamas, to Boston where he was assumed to be “black”. It is an intimate and complex exploration of identity, love, racism and forgiveness within one family.  Gerald Peary, film critic for The Arts Fuse writes that “Derek Burrows’ autobiographical documentary, “Before the Trees Was Strange” is both a courageous probe of racism where it is unexpected and a sweet, affecting homage to the filmmaker’s remarkable Bahamian family.”

Filmmaker Derek Burrows is a master storyteller, musician and preserver of his native Bahamian culture.  He explains, “I had been telling the stories featured in this film for many years but needed to find out more about my own family’s history, especially my mother’s. All her life she insisted on seeing herself and her children as white, although she, and we are varying shades of brown.  I left The Bahamas in 1974 White only to arrive in the States to be accepted as Black. I spent the next 30 years wondering about my true identity. After my mother died I felt free to explore this question in the Bahamas National Archives, through interviews of relatives and finally though DNA testing to discover a shocking truth.”

Before the Trees Was Strange will be shown, free of charge, on Tuesday evening, May 30th from 7pm – 9:30pm at Columbia High School, 17 Parker Ave. Maplewood, NJ.  The film will be introduced by Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos and will be followed by a community discussion with filmmaker Derek Burrows and historian Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad (professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies). The evening will be hosted by Budd Mishkin (formerly of NY1-TV)Suggested audience 12 and older.

For more information go to:  www.beforethetreeswasstrange.com; www.sopacnow.org; www.twotowns.orghttps://theparentingcenter.info/

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