One River, One Boat examines a two-year campaign by the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM), initiated in response to the shootings of Walter Scott and nine members of the Emanuel AME church, to address the issue of racial profiling in an area where traffic stops are more than double the rest of the state and are disproportionally directed to people of color. CAJM is a coalition of 30 faith based organizations that each year plan an intervention, the Nehemiah Action, to identify critical problems in the community and to provide clear and immediate policy remedies for civic leaders to implement. However, the issue taken up in the wake of the Walter Scott and Emanuel AME shootings in 2015 – racial discrimination in policing – has proven to be an intractable one and is now in its second year as local city leaders and CAJM have been in an increasingly heated conflict over how best to address the problem. The film explores the complex grassroots efforts by CAJM to address racial injustice in a city still in mourning and dealing with the trials and sentencing of Michael Slager and Dylann Roof. The context of CAJM’s activism and the city’s response is complicated by a long history of “polite segregation” that serves the powerful tourist industry and gentrification efforts and contributes to the genteel façade of racial harmony, city unity, and reconciliation.
One River, One Boat is the title of a poem by Marjory Wentworth, the Poet Laureate of South Carolina, on the costs of unacknowledged racism at the center of Southern history. Originally written as a poem for the inauguration ceremony of Nikki Haley as governor in January 2015, it was cut from the program. Used with permission of the author.