“A story about those who have refused to be beaten down by poverty and crime and who have fought against all odds to better their lives and give their children the opportunity to succeed.” - The Democratic View
“Captures a Camden neighborhood during a time of transition, as the Camden County police force took form.” - The Philadelphia Inquirer
This hopeful documentary focuses on successful community building in Camden, New Jersey in the form of a grassroots little league, park rehabilitation project, and different approach to policing.
Camden, New Jersey remains one the poorest cities in America, and not long ago was considered the single most dangerous, based on its rate of violent crime. Compounded by generations of postindustrial decay, the toxic stress and adversity of living this reality in childhood or over long periods amounts to an experience of “collective trauma”, according to psychiatrist Dr. Sandra Bloom of Drexel University. Sociologist Kai Erickson defined collective trauma as “a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality.”
North Camden Little League president Bryan Morton, a reformed ex-convict, has been battling these forces in a grassroots effort to rebuild the community where he was raised. The league’s home is Pyne Poynt Park, straddled by the 6th and 7th street corridors known as Heroin Highway. Morton's founding of the league happened to coincide with the lay off of the city’s entire police force in 2012 due to financial distress, and the subsequent handover to a new reform-oriented Camden County police force. Although Camden broke its homicide record in 2012 amidst the turmoil, the reforms seem to be working, with crime rates dropping steadily in subsequent years.
With the completion of the $4 million Pyne Point Park Rehabilitation Project in 2014, which Morton had lobbied heavily for, everything began to change. Morton’s original goal was to have 60 kids sign up for the league. But in just a few years, over ten times that amount, both boys and girls, were in uniform on opening day. These youth, long neglected by society and mostly from single-parent homes, now have a safe place to play, teams that care about them, father-figure coaches, and a community space to take pride in. In the game, they also now have the serenity of baseball, and moments of the week with nothing else on their minds.
Pyne Point presents this case study of local community building, and shows some of the on-the-ground efforts that led to President Obama holding Camden up “as a symbol of promise for the nation.”
77 minutes - English