Local woman has flair for telling stories

Thursday, May 4, 2006

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Fort Washington resident Beverly Lindsay Johnson had her most recent documentary, ‘‘Teenarama” (on screen behind her), debut at the D.C. Film Festival. The show will air on WHUT in June.

Beverly Lindsay Johnson thinks that maybe in another life she was a storyteller. The Fort Washington resident’s recently finished a documentary entitled, ‘‘Dance Party: The Teenarama Story.” It will air on Howard University’s television station in June.

The documentary was an eight year long effort by the native New Yorker. ‘‘Dance Party: The Teenarama Story” is the story about a Black teen dance show, which aired on WOOK from 1963 to 1970. Johnson’s documentary uses pictures, interviews and reenactments to tell the story.

‘‘Through the entire eight years I wondered, ‘am I telling the story the right way’,” Johnson said.

Johnson is a producer at WHUT, the Howard University Television Station. She started there as an administrative assistant. She said she used working there as a springboard for her career.

‘‘After six years of learning nuances of television, I decided it was time to make my move,” Johnson said.

The first thing Johnson did was pitch a documentary called ‘‘Swing, Bop and Hand Dance.” The documentary was about partnered dances, like bop in Philadelphia and stepping in Chicago and hand dancing in the District. That documentary received several regional Emmy nominations.

‘‘My artistic mission is to educate the public on the rich culture of African-Americans,” Johnson said.

‘‘Teenarama” is Johnson’s own independent project. She said she kept a lot of the production a secret.

‘‘When you get other people involved in your vision. You lose control,” Johnson said.

Glenn Dixon met Lindsay Johnson when they were working at the Howard Television station more than ten years ago. He said Johnson is willing to take on a goal and stick with it until she has executed it or achieved it. He described her as ‘‘a very upbeat, very positive person.”

‘‘Beverly is a very forward thinking person, she is constantly looking toward the future,” Dixon said.

He said Johnson’s film was an example of telling history against all odds.

‘‘She really has managed to capture the spirit of Washington, D.C. teenage life 40 years ago,” Dixon said.

Dixon said the movie also showed how being on Teenarama molded people and helped to establish their character.

James Preston danced on Teenarama for one year. He was in one of the movie’s vignettes. He said he knew all of the frustrations Johnson went through.

‘‘Lack of funding created a lot of problems for her,” said Preston. ‘‘That woman has scraped, borrowed and wrote grants, that’s why it took her so long.”

Preston said she did an admirable job with the resources she had. He said the unfortunate part was that the original footage of Teenarama was destroyed before Johnson could get to it. Preston remembered that at one event he laid out a salad bowl for people to donate funds to Johnson to finish the documentary.

‘‘That’s the kind of labor of love we’re talking about,” Preston said.

Herb Grimes, co-producer and director of the documentary, said Johnson is very good.

‘‘The thing about Beverly is what she doesn’t know, she is willing to learn,” Grimes said.

He said she was the driving force in coming up with the idea for the project and getting it done.

‘‘She had the vision and the passion to do it,” Grimes said.

Preston said he would love to see a corporate entity give her a grant to do something on black dance, ‘‘I think she deserves it.”

Johnson’s next independent project is a documentary about Edwin B. Henderson, a man known as the ‘‘Father of Black Basketball.”

E-mail Tia Carol Jones at tjones@gazette.net