Life in 70805, a documentary - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Life in 70805, a documentary

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

A neighborhood riddled with crime and poverty is under the spotlight again.

A young man who grew up in north Baton Rouge has rediscovered his roots through a documentary focusing on life in the 70805 zip code.

Equipped with a camera, small bag and a voice recorder in his back pocket, Jewell Simon walked what has been recognized as one of the most dangerous zip codes in the metropolitan area.

"I just look for somebody who would be open to talk to me. I get ‘no' 200 to 300 times a day. I just look for that one ‘yes'," Simon said.

The Southern University senior said he has walked every street in the 70805 neighborhood. Simon grew up there but has since moved away. He has spent the last few months getting reacquainted with the people who live there.

"I've met people from lawyers to doctors to a single mother that's raising her daughter and her sister," Simon said.

Simon wanted to help others understand what life is like there, through the lens of his camera.

"When I'm taking pictures, I look for interesting and mundane and capture flowers here, just to see them growing here. It's like a metaphor for what's happening in this community," Simon explained.

Simon believes there are good things happening here. He said it's clear people who live there see it too.

"One of the questions I've been asking as I've been walking around taking pictures and filming was, ‘What's one thing, one word you can use to describe 70805?' You'd be surprised how many people have said ‘family' and ‘home'," Simon said.

It's not the response you'd expect from a community living under the umbrella of violent crime.

"There are a lot of bad things that go on but there are a lot of good things and good people here that are sometimes overshadowed by all the negativity that happens," Simon said.

For that reason Simon came up with the idea of a documentary focusing on the people who live, work and play in the 70805 zip code. It's a story told by the people who live there. Simon's business partner, Ken Moore, explained.

"We didn't want to make it a propaganda piece. We really wanted it to be authentic, genuine, showing people's lives as they are," Moore said.

It's a community where you see and hear children playing, father's mentoring their young, peace and quiet. But when the sun sets a different picture comes into frame, one crippled by crime.

No one, perhaps, knows that better than Brishon Kensey, a 17 year old senior in high school, who moved there from New Orleans East after Hurricane Katrina.

"We had to start over, start a new life from scratch, build, get a new home, go to new schools and meet new people," Kensey said.

Kensey said adjusting to life in 70805 was tough.

"They have people outside dealing drugs, fights everywhere," Kensey explained.

While several organizations including law enforcement, are trying to change the dynamic on the streets not everyone is willing to stay long enough to watch their neighborhood transform.

"In my mind, it's just a place I want to get out of, not where I want to be," Kensey said.

Kensey is one of seven people who have shared their stories with Simon. He has also talked to prominent pastors in the area and people who take the bus to and from work every day. Simon said he has noticed, something is missing.

"There are a lot of things that lead to the problems going on here, but one of the main things is the close knit community not being here anymore," Simon said.

But for the young children who are not familiar with the difficulties of living there 70805 is simply home, a place they feel safe.

"The kids here still have big dreams to become an astronaut and cowboys and even the younger ones they want to be dinosaurs when they grow up. It's life. It's home. It's dreams. It's hope. That's the main thing I want people to get from this," Simon said.

The third installment of "70805" airs on www.soulandlegacy.com on Sunday.

You can also watch the previous episodes on there.

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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