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"HEARD" Shares Stories of Surviving and Thriving In America's Public Housing

Gilpin Court
Gilpin Court is located on the other side of highway 95 near Jackson Ward. The highway was part of an "urban renewal" project, which cut directly through a thriving Black neighborhood, further separating Black residents from the city.


HEARD captures the inspiring stories of four people who grew up in “the projects,” surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they've had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.

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News reports of America’s urban housing projects focus on violence, gangs and drugs. To most Americans, public housing and urban poverty are “issues” that remain out of sight and out of mind. HEARD focuses on the people rather than the issues. The film is a collection of captivating stories told by residents of public housing communities in Richmond, Virginia.

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Von Johnson

Von Johnson spent his late teens and 20s in and out of jail on drug distribution convictions. It was in jail he turned his life around. Now a successful barber, he’s living his dream career and trying to give back to his community. 

T. J. Thompson

T. J. Thompson experienced success in football as a youth and in high school. His skill on the field got him into college. But it was short-lived. He found his purpose, though, as a father, a mentor and by writing a book about his life. 

Cotina Brake

Cotina Brake was a mother at age 15. She spent her late teen years and 20s “just living” with no thought of long-term goals. In her 30s she began to take advantage of programs to lift her out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. That led her to a career and homeownership.

Demonte Cosby

Demonte Cosby’s mom worked double shifts for a year to earn enough money to move her family out of the projects. But her long work hours left Monte alone to get into trouble. He was attracted to cycling as a high school student through the work of the Richmond Cycling Corps. He eventually enrolled in the RCC’s Legacy Academy where he graduated high school. His skill as a cyclist earned him a full-ride scholarship at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, where he’s now a member of the nationally ranked cycling team.

The film is produced by Belltower Pictures, a Richmond, Virginia based non-profit focused on producing, promoting and distributing high quality films, television and web projects. Belltower’s priorities are telling great stories that have a positive impact on people's lives; training and encouraging the next generation of filmmakers; and bringing together people from diverse backgrounds, working together and making a positive difference in the world.



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