Don Brady: A Biography

My job title of documentary filmmaker is multifaceted, all at once I am engaged as a journalist, story-teller, archivist, historian, anthropologist, and ethnographer. I started this documentary biz endeavor seeking to tell the stories of underrepresented peoples. I always noticed the lack¬†of Chicano voices in documentary either behind camera or in front of it. Because of this viewpoint I never turned down the opportunity to interview someone that had a history to tell. While performing initial production for The Unique Ladies in April 2009, I was told about Don Brady, father to Ronnie, the partner of main character Sherry in TUL. Ronnie told me his father was a member of the Chicano Federation (that already picked up my ears) and he and Ronnie’s mother would make and serve food to the protestors sitting in at the site that would become Chicano Park. I wanted to interview him, I wanted to have something permanent to add to the archive of rich histories of Chicano communities. Because I already had my camera gear rented I double booked myself and spent a day with Don, conducting a master interview, and an interview in Chicano park.

Don met me in his suit and tie Sunday best, which I learned that is how he always dresses, even to the grocery store. Don didn’t miss a moment to get the interview started and to tell me about his fascinating life. Originally from New Mexico (Roswell and Las Cruces) he was conscious of his positionality because of his race early on. While in the Marine Core he noted that “he was lucky” because he was the only Mexican with a high school education so he was placed in Special Services. This experience opened him to work in the aviation field in California, making roots in San Diego. He became an activist as he was tired of the mistreatment of Mexican-Americans in the city and began working with the Chicano Federation to establish social and advocacy services for the Chicano community. Later in life he became the first Chicano to serve on the San Diego Grand Jury in 1970, chosen because of his anglo sounding last name of Brady. That grand jury later indicted the mayor and several other key city officials of San Diego of bribery.

While it is easy to gather all the footage, the hard part comes in editing and spending time to edit. I’ve never had this for my interview with Don, I was able to send him a 7 minute short, but because of graduate school, health problems, and no funding, I was never able to make something longer.

Yesterday, I found out that Don passed away, with his family by his side. After spending the day digging around I finally found the video I had created, it was still rough so I cleaned it as much as I could with a baby throwing spinach at me, but I am happy I can share a small peek into the story of a truly extraordinary individual.