Who’ll Stand With the Fourth Ward?


Almost a decade after making Who Killed Fourth Ward? BH Productions are invited by Houston’s PBS affiliate, KUHT-TV to update the story. The city and big business working together had plans to demolish and rebuild the area. The man we were directed to in our filming was Lynwood Johnson. Once a member of the middle class, he had lost his job due to illness and eventually had fallen through all the democratic safety nets, ending up in public housing.

Living in Allen Parkway Village (a run down public housing project in Houston’s Fourth Ward) Johnson determined to fight the forces of exploitation disguised as progress, even if it meant fighting the battle alone.

Behind the scenes:

During the editing of this film, Sam Peckinpah the Hollywood action director stopped by. Peckinpah was unimpressed by Lynwood Johnson, ‘This is your hero?’ he said with some irony intended.  I explained to him that Lynwood was taking a stand where eight years before no one had had the courage to do so. Peckinpah look on Johnson with new eyes…those of the tried gunfighter who can still admire the courage of a fellow warrior.

“There’s a heroic quality to this lone figure battling the forces of big business and city hall.  At the time, Allen Parkway village was inhabited predominantly by Indo-Chinese people who spoke five different languages. Can you imagine what it’s like to hold a meeting with that constituency?

“The town-hall meetings we revere when we think of the foundations of democracy were exclusively attended by well-educated white men. …There is a great moment where the tenants of Allen Parkway Village have got to take a vote on whether or not they are going to take a stand. They have to vote. But how can they communicate? Finally they find somebody to bridge the language gap: a teenage girl. But all these patriarchal cultures have a problem accepting the information from her.

“The final scene with city officials is a terrible tragedy because Lynwood—in the final hearing—doesn’t have all the necessary paper work. The city publicly humiliates him. He loses—but we all lose in that moment. There’s only so much an individual can be expected to do.” –B.H.

Production details:
120 mins. 3/4″ U-matic Video tape
Screenings: Televised on PBS