Episode #228: Demetrius Matthews & Thomas Kling

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

Demetrius Matthews is the founder of Legacy Media, LLC. had the vision to create something much bigger than himself. With one goal in mind, he developed Legacy Media, LLC, platform that would allow him to create his own narrative and leave something behind that would withstand the test of time. Demetrius is a living example of how humble beginnings and rough adolescent years can transform into success and prosperity by being dedicated and working hard. His desire was to leave his mark on the world, and by creating award winning documentaries that touch the minds and hearts of many, he is accomplishing just that.

On the West Side of Chicago in the mid-80s, 33-year-old Thomas Kling vowed to transform the lives of dozens of students lost in the pressure cooker of drugs and racism. His profound and lasting impact now shines in a documentary created by the very lives he saved. In the documentary, We also feel his pain as a white teacher ashamed of how the affluent have mentally, financially, and emotionally suppressed people of color in order to make themselves feel entitled.

Demetrius describes his documentary as a love story between a teacher and his students. In watching it, I understand why he felt the need to make it.

Tell me the story behind “Kling: The Teacher Who Defied The System”. The documentary celebrates a remarkable educator who changed the lives of students in Chicago’s West Side during the 1980s. Demetrius can speak about his experience with Mr. Kling and how education and the right teacher can change your life. He is also able to speak about his filmmaking and the experience making documentaries. Can you tell us a bit about what it was like growing up on the rough side of Chicago in the 1980’s?

Trenches story: Thomas: It was when his father died, he wanted to keep Thomas’ mom out of an institution. When they kept her at home w/ dementia, they ran out of $. 1 day stands out. He made a sign about helping keep his mom at home. Needed funds for his mom’s care. A car stopped where he was on the highway off ramp. Someone fiercely spat at him. Stands out to him. His mom stayed the rest of her life at home. Died Mar. 2020 of covid-related pneumonia. It was a crusade to keep her at home. His mom was a stern German, great caretaker. He did what he had to do. 1st cousin, mentally ill, passed as well from Covid 7 wks later. Doesn’t know the trenches too well. He’s known Demetruis since ‘85.

Demetruis- low that went to a teaching moment. Junior year of HS. Was beaten by school police. He had $100 and they accused him of being a drug dealer. His mom had given him $ to get his brakes fixed. Took test for a GED. He passed but wasn’t 17 yet. He didn’t go to school during junior year- was on streets on West Side of Chicago. He knew he was really at low point. During classes w/ Mr. Kling, they did debates. Learned about crack, Iran contra affairs. Was pulled over because he had music playing too loud. His uncles, mom told him he’d be a statistic. Finished HS senior year in L.A. The admin wanted to sponsor him for a scholarship. He made it out of Chicago because of the lessons he learned from Mr. Kling.

What made you want to make a movie about Mr Kling? It wasn’t going to be a movie. His dream was going to write a book. About 6-7 yrs ago, they invited Mr. Kling out to pizza. Mr. Kling said “it has to be you”. He wasn’t a filmmaker until he made this film. Had cinematography experience. Had started video recording studios @ malls for kids to stay out of trouble. Nephew was killed from gun violence. It changed him. So much talent went away.

Can you tell us about the making of Kling? put an ad out on Craigslist for videographers, filmed Mr. Kling for 3 days. His class meets up often for reunions. Was going to put it on YouTube only. Recruited assistant Jerome out of college. Edited for 6-8 mos. Passed Twin Cities film festival office. Went in & said he had a movie. A director there was pulled into wanting more info about the film. He sent the link, they got him in for the festival. He comes from business world, so he became a film

How did they connect many years later and how has your relationship grown? there was a continuous connection. The 3 years in the classroom seemed like 10 yrs. Demetrius & Elroy, others would always talk to Mr. Kling. Maybe for a few yrs in colleague.

How important is education in the upbringing of our children? Thomas Kling- we’re in a state of trauma. Not just now, but when Demetrius was growing up. He wants a good school environment w/ t’s who can help ppl understand why things are the way they are today. WE need to be rescued. He became sensitized to disequilibrium. His teachers pushed fairness, equality, beyond Jewish culture. White privilege- travel. He wants to die knowing there are better times ahead. Demetrius-tough ? but he thinks it’s a simple solution. He’s seen wealthy neighborhoods w/ very sophisticated schools, Difference is demographics. Streamline education so all schools should have the same resources. Same opportunities. We can fix poverty that way. Children need so much more than education. Click To Tweet. We’re only choosing to educate a certain portion of our population. We fund the military despite the color of their skin.

Where can people stream the film? Avail. on Amazon Prime & Tubi.

Is this something appropriate to show to HS/MS in classes? yes, it’s a love story between teacher & students. It shows how t’s connect with students. Shows it’s ok to be smart. They were teased for being smart. Mr. Kling came to speak to a classmate’s school. Encourages every t in country to watch this.

Out of everything? Mr. Kling- we have a dichotomy in U.S. more than any other country. 5% of country controls the wealth. All things that come from it, criminal activity, mental illness. Forgetting about academics. The problems have been here since nation was created. Need understanding of what we’ve been through as a country. When he needs to elevate his mood, he thinks about what Demetruis’ group gave him. He worked on Obama’s campaign- juxtapose what was incredible to him was when Obama addressed the crowd in ‘08 in Chicago. We have to move away from the endemic racism. BLM- 15 y.o. said “all we want to do is be valued”. Put high value on each member of society. We need parity in terms of valuing people. Demetrius- this whole film has been divinely guided. Satisfaction from producing the film. They’re writing a book, perhaps turning it into a drama series. Making Kling Part 2 about his life after the time they were in class. He was blackballed from getting another job. He then worked in a library program.

Where can ppl find you online? https://legacymediallc.com/ Twitter/IG: @legacymedia

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/bvzRGqUuQnE


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