In the wake of her son’s murder, Shalon Buskirk assembles intimate memories and intergenerational stories to reframe her loss within her city’s haunting legacy of urban renewal. In this meditative portrait, she resists the erosive forces of time and violence by keeping Parris’ life ever-present.

directors’ statement

Parris Jerome Lane was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania on December 19th, 1997.  He is my first born son, the one who taught me how to be a mother. The nineteen years that I got to be with Parris are here now, in how I move through the world and what I want to do in my city. In his city. These memories are complex, vivid. On the best days they are healing and overwhelming in the joy and closeness I feel to him. On other days, especially as I get closer each year to November, they are a different kind of overwhelming. 

This is my city. I am proud of my home, but I also know that my city didn’t love my son the way I did. That Allentown doesn’t always love me as much as I love my home. And part of that love is the accountability that I need, both in my son’s story and in the city we share. This is a justice. In the same way I don’t want another loved one lost like this, in my city, I also want this film to do my son’s story justice.

I think of the timestamp of grieving. How a film can become a way of loving my son and my city in the ways I need to. A preservation. A shared history. I am imagining a world in which this documentary did not have to be made and does not have to be made by anyone else. A world where my son was able to tell his story, his way, in the same way he used to write the songs that filled up our home. 

As my family continues to live, breathe, and love here, I want our city to love us back.

~

in love, in memory reassembles Parris’ archive, centering the film around his life in the lasting wake of his death. We build this ever-present together, inviting Parris into the film to create a permanence in conversation with the words at the film’s threshold… if you don’t speak the name of a loved one that you lost, you’re killing him over again twice. And the repetitions carry his name. In the routines, the ceremonies, and the city he was born in, that his mother was born in, his memory persists with the storytellers who carry it. 

The words also seep into the city, as Allentown becomes an excavation site for a parallel violence, a relentless urban renewal with a systemic legacy of racism and displacement. We look to the past to understand how our present is shaped, how the landscape of violence that stole Parris’ life is as political as it is deeply personal. The film is a convergence of stories and of storytellers, grounded by love as it exists in the memories shared and the accountability demanded.

In writing this, we are grateful to the filmmakers who have inspired us and the friends who have held us close. This story is one that is painful, as even the most joyful moments are shrouded in absence, but it is told with the hope that this film, a drop in the expansive water, is powerful enough in its wake to hold these memories, to carry Shalon’s dreams for her city, and to keep Parris’ name alive.


Shalon Buskirk & Drew Swedberg