C. Smith is a “Visual Historian.” He devoted his career to capturing the images of the people of Cincinnati. He has captured the commonplace, the celebration of those unrecognized. C. was there when James Brown shouted, “Say it Loud! I’m Black and I’m proud,” he was there shooting the riots as the City burned, the swearing-in of Black Judges and the crowning of Beauty Queens. C. was there. Smith’s magazine the “Ghetto” told of more personal secrets and concerns of the Black community. C. became known as “Your Personal Photographer.”
Smith‘s images span seven decades of Black Cincinnati.
However, what happens when you combine the Eye of C Smith, Cincinnati’s prominent Black photographer with the Eye of Cincinnati’s rich Black history? A free state, the roadway to Canada, the promised land – the Black laws, lawsuits, and riots before the end of slavery, help give the city her signature name. Queen. Cincinnati was known, as the land of opportunity, many thought that it was its own country, where Blacks were free.
For those Blacks looking for economic opportunities as well as escape from the rigors and racism of the South, Cincinnati was the first taste of freedom. It was the first step to be taken toward freedom both in the United States and the door to Canada.
Ohio as the beginning of the freedom march to places of the West, North, and East. In a sense the air in Cincinnati was the first “free” air breathed by Blacks escaping the rigors of slavery. But only to have Black laws initiated when there were only 200 Blacks in the entire state. At the end of slavery, Cincinnati held the promise of decent jobs, housing and a hope for a better life without the fear of being returned to the South. And during the great migration, getting off at Union Terminal was considered a new start.
Cincinnati, a city so natty it was called “the Nasti Natti” as the music of the ‘70s rocked her streets. The Queen City, with a thriving Black business community, Black Millionaires, and the 1st city to be in, “if you were Black.”
Now, this city holds a different title, “Cinapathy.” Where it is street common to refer, “Cincinnati, go on vacation leave on probation.” And to raise a Black child in the city is to always be aware of the pipeline, “elementary to penitentiary.” Black People have lost interest, apathetic. “Cinapathy” is what develops when you combine, Black Cincinnati + Apathy = Cinapathy.
“When the Queen City makes up her royal mind she reigns.”
Cincinnati has a dirty elegant past and unlike the Queen of England, whose nails only sport classic pale pink, the city was forced to acknowledge the rights of Colored People.
How did the Blacks rebuild itself from the destruction of communities? The wiping out of Kenyon Barr, The West end, Little Africa and Buck town? Survive the removal of homes for a Subway that never opened, Expressways that cut up the neighborhoods, and now the Banks Project? Where did the Black business corridor go? Can the Queen regain her crown?
Legendary C. Smith, who began shooting photos at 14 years old, has documented the community. In this film, we learn about the People of Cincinnati through the images of C. Smith, the knowledge of Historians, and the proof with archival footage.
This film converses with Celebrities that had to leave Cincinnati to become successful. People who came back in hope of rebuilding and those that feel they should leave. We interview Celebrities, Diplomats, Ministers, Politicians, Business Owners, and Regular folks.
With the power of VR/AR, we are given the power to experience, observe, and interact within the history of Black Cincinnati.
We experience C.’s images through this ecosystem by stepping “into” the images, as well as, a 2D 4k format. Eye of C is a fully immersive human experience feeling the joys and pains of a people.
We aim to educate and entertain by facilitating history through this virtual platform. The music, the people, and the “feel” of Cincinnati.