While the main screenings of Location:MN wrapped up last month, one key historical work continues to
play for free in the Walker’s Lecture Room through this weekend. Hampton Alexander was shot around
the former Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul and grew out of the work of the Inner City Youth League.
Bobby Hickman, a leader of the Inner City Youth League, was inspired by the lessons spelled out by his
uncle Gordon Parks in his book A Choice of Weapons. Parks challenged his readers to pick up pens,
paintbrushes and cameras instead of guns and knives to fight oppression and injustice. Hickman took
this to heart and worked tirelessly to inspire young people in the community by providing opportunities
for them to realize their ambitions.
Hickman had travelled to New York to visit the set of Shaft which was directed by Parks. The director
had paired most of the crew with interns to shadow the technicians and this was a revelation to
Hickman. He was moved that every opportunity to mentor young people was adopted, and this could
be extended into his work at the Inner City Youth League.
Upon returning to Saint Paul, it didn’t take long for that work to begin. Timothy McKinney, a budding
writer who had written a play about the Chicago 7 and the musical Life is TCB had prepared the script of
Hampton Alexander, but didn’t have the resources to produce the film on his own.
Hickman wrangled help from institutions and locations throughout Saint Paul. Film in the Cities
provided the 16mm camera. Shooting was difficult as they were working with non-professional actors
whose schedules were difficult to coordinate, but the determination was there. There was no light kit,
so natural light had to suffice. Hickman noted that there was a change in the tenor in the community
as the excitement for the project grew. People gathered around to watch the filming that lasted over
8 months and was shot around the Green Felt Pool Room around Selby and Dale, the Melvin Goss
Building at 1039 Selby and the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue and the Inner City Youth League
Their tenacity paid off as the 56-minute film was finished providing rich experiences for the cast and
crew. Timothy McKinney stayed active in local filmmaking helping with projects for Film in the Cities.
The film’s cinematographer Kokaya Ampah later moved to Los Angeles where he worked as Associate
Producer of The Five Heartbeats and location manager for many films such as The Soloist, Million Dollar
Baby, The Color Purple and Mystic River.
Hickman is proud of this film that is such a vital document of the area of St. Paul in the aftermath of the
destruction of the Rondo neighborhood and hopes to initiate some screenings of the film in the area in