Behind the Scenes of Lecrae’s “Welcome to America”
Director Isaac Dietz went above and beyond with his recent video for Lecrae’s “Welcome to America.” Check out the video and amazing stories from some of the people featured in the video, as told by Isaac.
This is Tammy, she is a dear friend with an incredible story.
She is a fighter, she’s had a hard life to start out which eventually made her homeless for a few years. She was telling me that she would try anything she could do to get work, though she couldn’t get a legal job due to her past, she “started seeing a lot of her friends getting into cars with men for some money”, she ended up giving that a try to pay her bills and did for a while. She never gave up trying to make a living doing other things like mow lawns and such. One day, since nobody would hire her (for the things she wanted to do), she woke up early and cleaned the yard of someone she was trying to get a job from. When he woke up, he thought his employees did it, so when he found out that she did it, he hired her. Since then she’s been mowing lawns and doing nails for girls in the neighborhood to pay her bills. That’s how I met Tammy four years ago, I just moved into her neighborhood and I needed my lawn mowed, it wasn’t too long before she found that out and I’ve hired her ever since. And she’s a hard worker, I’ve seen her mowing lawns in the rain, because “you’ve gotta pay your bills on time”.
Because of her work ethic and network, I hired her to be an associate producer on this music video and she was a huge help. When I told her my list of people that I wanted to film she connected me with drug dealers, prostitutes and whoever else. Also, her and I would ride around the city and I’d pull up to a bodega, gas station, butcher shop or a group of people and she’d get out of the car and talk everyone into signing release forms. I’ve never worked with a producer that was that brave when it came to cold calling for release forms.
Since the video release, she’s been calling and texting me every few thousands views, screaming and laughing about how many people are seeing it.
Another shot that seems to hit people, in different ways, is that Tammy is smoking a cigarette while reading the Bible. I love what that shot tells me, especially that I know her so well. That God can redeem us, wherever we’re at and you don’t have to be perfect to come to him. She’s recently found a church and is genuinely learning what it means to follow Jesus. God has done so many things in her life and her journey isn’t over and it’s been so great to get to see it first hand.
This is Maxwell, she currently is a prostitute. I followed her around for a few hours and literally filmed her on the corner until she got picked up and she told me, “well Isaac, I’ve got a date, I’ll see you later”.*
I went to her house, which was about 12×12 room, with couch, tv, bathroom. And as my rule for myself on the filming of this video, I gave her the only direction that I gave anyone “just do what you would do if I wasn’t here”. She then pulled out a faceless VCR and started fixing it, telling me that “it was a birthday present and she wanted to get it up and running again”.
Jesse Howard Fry III. 82 years old. Drafted and served in Korea from 1953-1955
I remember the day that I filmed Mr. Fry. By this time I was about a month into filming Welcome to America and I was collecting poorly hung flags*, which sadly there are more than you’d think once you start looking for them. When I was with him, he looked up at the flag as he was walking out of the grocery store. And said, “I wish they’d fix that”.
“What would you do if you had two arms?”
“You know how people interlock their fingers together and stretch their fingers back? I’d do that.”
He and the rest of the crew pictured are volunteer firefighters. Nick is an all-American hero. This guy rode a bicycle from Portland to San Diego, volunteered a few years at a summer camp for inner-city kids and literally saved a little boy that fell down a well. Which sounds like I’m making that up.
He’s the kind of man that people write fiction novels that end up matching the events of his life.
“When you run into a blazing house it’s the weirdest thing seeing dinner tables with food still on the plates, TVs still on and computers with Facebook left on the screen while it’s melting along with everything else around them. People don’t plan for fires, they are usually going about their normal, everyday lives and the next thing they know they are running out of the house and away from everything they own”.
AALOK & AMERICA
This is Aalok (left) and America (right).
Honestly, the woman’s name is America. She is originally from Nuevo Leon, Mexico. She is the youngest of 6 and used to be a migrant worker. They worked extremely hard to eventually move over here and she became a US citizen back in 2005.
Aalok, her Grandson, is a miracle baby. He was delivered by an emergency C section because there was meconium in the amniotic sac so his heart rate was decreasing which can cause serious repercussions for the baby sometimes even death. He’s fully healthy now and was only crying because he was denied Lucky Charms, because “he only eats the marshmallows”.
You might have recognized him from earlier. This is him running towards his Grandpa Juan to greet him at the airport.
BROOKE & PETER
This is Brooke and her husband Peter.
Peter was deployed on a ship at sea with the Marine Corps for 8 months. They had only been married about a year when he was deployed. When we got home, Brooke traveled 14 hours from Michigan to North Carolina to see him.
Brooke’s Facebook post from that day:
“Got pulled over todayOfficer said: Do you know the speed limit on this freeway?Me: 60mph?Officer: Yes. And you were going 81. Any particular reason why you’d be going so fast?Me: MY HUSBAND IS GETTING HOME FROM DEPLOYMENT, SIR! I GOTS TA GET TO NORTH CARALINA 😉 ”
(She did end up getting a ticket, but admits that she deserved it)
“I remember scanning all of the faces under the covers to find my Peter. It took a few minutes for us to find each other amidst the mob. We embraced and held each other tight. It was all worth it.”
This is my friend and neighbor, Matthew and his dog Domino.
Matthew has three degrees, two associates and one bachelors. He currently is working as a karaoke DJ and is struggling to pay off his student loans. I can attest to this as a neighbor that he works harder than a lot of people that I know. He’ll come home at 4am only to wake up early to start it all over again.
“I just gotta do what I do. I’m too proud to ask anyone for help”.
Matthew just recently moved away after 6 years of living on the street and his contribution to the neighborhood will be missed. He’s organized movie nights on his front lawn, loaned his speakers for dance parties and he was a big part of our community watch.
People like him help change things for the better.