‘Locked Out’ documentary is triggering for Detroiters who’ve experienced eviction

The Detroit-based documentary shines necessary light on housing injustice, but is heavy to watch

click to enlarge Geraldine Smith-Bey’s five-year fight to regain ownership of her East Village home is one of the stories featured in the film. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Geraldine Smith-Bey’s five-year fight to regain ownership of her East Village home is one of the stories featured in the film.

My heart sank when a woman onscreen said “Black men are locked up and Black women are locked out.”

This moment in the Detroit-made documentary Locked Out was met by vocal responses like “mmm, mmm, mmm” from the audience and head shakes that say “that’s a damn shame” on the surface while masking the pain that lies beneath.

Locked Out chronicles the stories of several Black women and their fight against housing injustice on the road to homeownership in Detroit. The documentary had its world premiere on Saturday night at the Freep Film Festival and explores modern-day redlining, Detroit Land Bank Authority woes, unjust evictions, and racial disparities in homeownership.

Geraldine Smith-Bey’s five-year fight to regain ownership of her East Village home is one of the stories featured in the film.

Her home, which had been in her family for generations, went into foreclosure in 2015 and was soon purchased by the non-profit Storehouse of Hope. The organization created a land trust that was supposed to return ownership to Smith-Bey and others whose homes they had “saved” but the nonprofit neglected to do repairs on the house, leaving it in uninhabitable conditions.

Smith-Bey fights back tears as she tells the camera that she lost herself in the process of buying her house back from Storehouse of Hope. The house doesn’t feel like hers anymore, and we watch as she begins packing her things.

We also meet housing activist Soummer Crawford, who’s been fighting against evictions and predatory land contracts following her experience with a rent-to-own housing development in Brightmoor.

Many viewers will probably forget about Crawford and Smith-Bey as we funnel into our weekend plans and return to our jobs on Monday. Two of my colleagues, who were also at the film screening, planned to go to the bar afterward. I agreed to meet them there, but I wasn’t in the mood to be social and headed home to sort through my confusing emotions instead.

My mother purchased her first, and last, house in Detroit’s University District in the early 2000s. The possibilities seemed endless as we cleaned it out and painted the walls.

Then water from a busted kitchen pipe created a swamp in the basement as water poured through the floor. The furnace blew and the hot water tank followed. The property taxes seemed to double every year and it became unsustainable.

I had moved from Detroit to attend the University of Toledo when my mom called asking me to return home and help her pack up the house because it had gone into foreclosure.

That was in 2010. We would find out in 2020 that the city of Detroit illegally overtaxed homeowners $600 million. Both my mother and I had become serial renters by then — just another anecdote on Detroit’s foreclosure crisis dismantling the pathway for legacy Detroiters’ to build equity.

I’ve been staring at this screen for the past few hours trying to put my rage into words that adequately describe what I’m feeling. I stared into space and watched foraging videos on Instagram to distract myself from the seething urge to scream and weep instead of write.

I saw my mother in the face of every Black woman on screen in Locked Out. I saw every other Black Detroit family whose dreams of homeownership have been crushed.

The documentary didn’t just pull at my heartstrings, it snatched them from my chest. These aren’t characters in a movie, they’re real people, and there are thousands more like them in Detroit with the same lived experience.

Locked Out delves into the necessary story of modern-day redlining in majority Black cities like Detroit, but isn’t news to anyone who has lived it.

Coming soon: Metro Times Daily newsletter. We’ll send you a handful of interesting Detroit stories every morning. Subscribe now to not miss a thing.

Follow us: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About The Author

Randiah Camille Green

After living in Japan and traveling across Asia, Randiah Camille Green realized Detroit will always be home. And when she says Detroit, she's talking about the hood, not the suburbs. She has bylines in Planet Detroit News , Bridge Detroit , BLAC magazine, and Model D .Her favorite pastimes are meditating on...
Scroll to read more Movies articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.