Ghetto Brothers: The Ghetto as a Badge of Pride

Today the Ghetto Talks production crew interviewed Robert Dominguez, Entertainment Editor for the Daily News and a former member of the Ghetto Brothers, a gang founded in New York City”s South Bronx in the late 1960s.  The group had a positive reputation in the community and tried to use the word ghetto in a positive way.

As we made our way to the Daily News headquarters in the freezing cold we realized that we had been walking in the wrong direction for at least three blocks since getting off the subway.  We had been towing our camera, a tripod and lighting equipment from the Urban Arts offices on Canal Street, so this was no small mistake.


When we finally arrived, we discovered that the interior of the Daily News building was like something out of a futuristic movie.  After the security guard let us pass through the gate, we took the elevator to Robert Dominguez’s office.  Our film crew split into two groups: the first group filmed b-roll footage of Robert watching our original documentary Ghetto Talks; the second group quickly prepared for Robert’s interview.  I was the lead cameraman so I was in Group 2.


In less than fifteen minutes Group 2 had to do a sound check and staging.  We quickly discovered that one of our sound inputs wasn’t working.  Viewers are more forgiving of bad visuals than bad audio, so we had to make it work fast or else.  It turned out that one of the sound inputs on our camera was completely shot, so we were stuck with using just a lavalier.


When Robert came back from the b-roll shoot Group 2 asked him to have a seat in the chair and provided him with some water.  Robert’s views on his life online casino growing up in the South Bronx and on being part of the Ghetto Brothers were different than what we expected them to be.  We learned that Robert wasn’t in the Ghetto Brothers just for protection – along the way he found a family.  He also gave us a fresh perspective on using the word ghetto: he said that people take and use words in whatever way they want – positive or negative – but in the case of growing up in the ghetto, the word should be “worn as a badge of pride.”


After the interview Robert took us on a tour of the Daily News office.  There was a hallway that had countless cover stories from the newspaper dating as far back as the1950’s.  Student Director SoSo Douglas had me shoot lots of establishing and b-roll shots in the newsroom and hallway.  My favorite shot was of Robert walking down the hallway in between two walls of archival cover stories.


This production was an amazing experience!  I”m looking forward to seeing how it turns out in our film.