Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series aimed at continuing a conversation about the pursuit of racial justice in Asheville. Through the song “Struggles,” written by Asheville resident Dianne Gambrell, local singer-songwriter Anya Hinkle, videographer Gen Kogure and Ashvegas plan to dig deeper into Gambrell’s stories through a series of monthly vignette documentaries and articles. See the music video and read the first story here.

When Dianne Gambrell witnessed the final moments of the life of George Floyd, a painful memory resurfaced. It was a story her mother told about the death of Dianne’s uncle on an Asheville street many years earlier.

Floyd’s death and that powerful memory spurred Dianne to write a song called “Struggles.” The song, an accompanying music video and a new documentary series all seek to shine a light on Dianne’s experiences living through segregation, dealing with the displacement of “urban renewal” and resettlement in Asheville’s various government-subsidized housing projects, and the struggle to survive as young Black mother in Asheville.

Dianne collaborated with her neighbor, award-winning singer-songwriter and music artist Anya Hinkle, to record the song. They also worked with videographer Gen Kogure to film a music video, taking them to significant locations from her experiences growing up in Asheville. The first vignette in the documentary series digs deeper into her memory, recalling the story her mother told her that she had all but forgotten.

As Dianne recalls: sometime in the 1930s, a drunk driver lost control of his car along Livingston Street and drove up onto the sidewalk where children were playing. The children all scattered, except for Dianne’s uncle, who was struck. The 5-year old cried out for his mother, who came with a glass of water for the child, who died shortly after, there on the sidewalk. When the police arrived, the driver claimed that he wasn’t at fault because the children were playing in the street. The officer let the driver, who was white, go without any further investigation. For many years, a crack in the sidewalk marked the spot where the car had driven off the road and the little boy died; in recent years, the City of Asheville repaired the sidewalk.

Hearing George Floyd call out for his mama echoed through Dianne’s mind as she connected the pain and trauma of the two senseless deaths, the pain of breaking that bond between a mother and child. It is something universal, anyone can feel it, “no matter who you are, or where you come from,” says Dianne.

Links for more:

Asheville Struggles music video and story

Follow #avlstrugges on social media

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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