When he was 14 years old, Lavel D. White was just another angry young man from the projects. When a white Louisville police officer was acquitted in 2004 for shooting a black man in the West End, White was ready to join the protests, more than willing to participate in violence.
But instead, and with some help from activist Christopher 2X and other mentors, White chose not to act on his anger and rage. Instead, he began taking steps to make something of himself.
Today, armed with a degree from U of L and a string of successful video documentary projects on his demo reel, White is working on his biggest project to date — chronicling the lives and history of the people who lived in Beecher Terrace’s 738 units during the last seven decades.
White, 31, has spent the last several years creating a history of places he’s lived. “More than Bricks and Mortar: The Sheppard Square Story,” and “More than Bricks and Mortar Part II: Smoketown, A New Beginning” helped spark community conversations and serve as a history of those places.
“I’m a guy who came from these projects,” he says. “I’m not a big firm or anything. These stories wouldn’t even be told if I hadn’t thought about it.”
To tell the stories, White is interviewing residents, even as the last ones moved out ahead of the demolition. He expects to debut the documentary in 2019.
“I’ve talked to around 30 so far,” he said earlier this summer. “I talked to a 90-year-old man named Radio. There are young persons, African immigrants who escaped war-torn countries to find new life here. It’s all about to go away. It’s a big responsibility, dealing with people’s lives, a whole culture of people.”
White says he’s self-taught on the art of video production. After graduating from Ballard High School, he enrolled at Western Kentucky University, then transferred to U of L, and earned his degree in 2010. Then he spent a year on the West Coast, scraping by sleeping on friends’ couches and finding work with an Internet company in the days before the social media explosion.
When he moved home in 2011, he found work at a law firm. The attorneys there helped him form his own company, Blue Boi Entertainment LCC, the name under which he’s produced dozens of documentaries.
From the time he befriended Christopher 2x in 2004, White has demonstrated an interest in his community, fighting against the demons he’s seen in the projects – drugs and violence. He was introduced to the rapper Master P, and produced a documentary with 2X about violence and incarceration among young black people.
White is passionate about his work in film and in improving the lives of people in the communities he knows so well. He recently became a husband and father, and started a job in local government, working with Louisville Metro’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods.