On Thursday morning, outside an abandoned building on Federal Street, Nohemi Soria, of the Camden Children’s Garden, danced in a bright peach shirt, flower crown in her hair, toward a camera-man panning with her as she strutted to Pharrell’s hit song.
Some cars slowed, passersby stopped. It’s not every day a mini-film crew descends on the city.
The clip will be one of many upbeat scenes featuring Camden and the nonprofit organizations that serve it, in a music video released April 18 on the website goodnessproject.org. You’ll see chefs dancing in the cafeteria at Cathedral Kitchen, Cramer Hill Little Leaguers breaking it down on the field and ballerinas from Settlement Music School, among others.
“At this point we’re on the happy bandwagon but we’re not just showing people we are happy in Camden but also the goodness that is being done here,” said Lauren White of the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey, who organized the event.
The project website will have mini documentaries on each of the nonprofits involved along with ways people can help.
White and Sonia Mixter Guzman, also of the Ronald McDonald house, had the idea in January to bring together local nonprofits to showcase Camden’s sunnier side.
“Right now, on set there’s so, so, much good energy and we know that but the world doesn’t,” said Mixter Guzman, a lifelong Cramer Hill resident. “We so often focus on poverty and forget about the people who are working hard to make their little nook in the world better. What better way to show how we rise above it?”
Mixter Guzman and White contacted Steve Acito, of Haddon Heights, who agreed to direct and produce the film for free with his company Bluewire Media.
David Schwartz, professor at Drexel, who produced the 2004 feature film The Woodsman, also assisted along with staff and students from Drexel’s Film and Video Department.
Since Pharrell performed his hit song at the Oscars, it’s played on loop on radio stations –this year’s “Get Lucky,” (Daft Punk’s jam from last year). A quick YouTube search shows "Happy" music videos from Vegas performers to a Cleveland High School to tons of colleges, including my alma mater.
Camden's participating nonprofits include: Boys & Girls Club Camden, Cathedral Kitchen, Camden’s Children's Garden, Camden Sophisticated Sisters, Camden CYCLE, Cramer Hill Little League, Guadalupe Family Services, Hopeworks, Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey, The Salvation Army, Settlement Music School, Taps Drumline and Urban Promise.
Outside of Cathedral Kitchen on Thursday, Acito gave Soria some direction, “More energy! Really let loose,” then asked the assembled crew and press standing on the other side of the camera to dance along with her. And everyone did. Because as trends go - selfies, planking, twerking - happy people dancing to a feel-good song is one worth joining.
- Julia Terruso