Brockport’s Hidden Figure
By: Joseph Massaro, Alex Ulatowski, Nate Mundt, Paul Elliott and Matt Wilson
Canalside Chronicles Staff
Carvin Eison is a tremendous influence in the Rochester community. Whether it’s making films chronicling the history of Rochester, such as “July ’64: Roots of Urban Unrest,” or working to build a Frederick Douglass statue at The College at Brockport’s campus, Eison has impacted Rochester culture through his efforts. These efforts go largely unnoticed by those who live in the area Eison strives to represent through his work.
Eison works in many different facets of the communication field. He is an associate professor of journalism at the College at Brockport, the general manager of Rochester Community Television and the creative director at ImageWordSound, an independent production company. These different mediums within the communications field allow Eison to connect with the Rochester community. Fellow journalism professor Virginia Orzel shared how Eison has impacted the College at Brockport campus.
“People don’t realize that racism is still an issue today,” Orzel said. “He [Eison] influences this campus by making sure no one forgets and assumes that racism is gone.”
Eison focuses on civil rights in his documentaries “July ’64” and “Shadows of the Lynching Tree.” Eison originally wanted to make the latter documentary after he couldn’t find any films describing the dark past of lynching in America. Eison shared what he found most shocking about old pictures that depicted lynching.
“This is the tragedy of these images,” Eison said. “That a child in his or her innocence is brought to see the killing of another human being with impunity.”
Eison earns grant money that allows him to hire professionals in different aspects of the production business, such as writers and voice actors. Eison’s professionalism excites him when he makes his projects, which influences other filmmakers, such as Orzel.
“He’s inspirational in that he’s excited and enthusiastic,” Orzel said. “That makes me want to be excited and enthusiastic about what I do.”
Christine Christopher, who was the producer on Eison’s film “July ’64,” originally met Eison in 1998 when they collaborated on a Public Access TV show to educate and encourage people to buy homes for the first time. Christopher described personal qualities that make Eison influential in the Rochester community through his works.
“Every good teacher is on there, at their core, someone who is a great student,” Christopher said. “A great student has not just the intellectual capability, but the curiosity to know more.”
Besides his documentaries, Eison influences the Rochester community in other ways. Eison serves as a board member on the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives board of directors, which keeps the legacy of popular abolitionist Frederick Douglass alive through educational initiatives. Eison lead a project this past summer that had 13 more statues of Frederick Douglass erected throughout Rochester as part of a bicentennial celebration of Douglass’ birth.
Through his various projects, Eison has strived to illustrate the value of humanity. He believes that individuals need to start focusing more on the common good and less on their personal needs.
“Humanity is what makes us different from every other living being on this planet,” Eison said. “Your work is just as valid as anybody else’s work.”
To listen to Eison discuss the impact of his documentary “Shadows of the Lynching Tree” here.