By Tere Figueras Negrete, Director of Communications

How did a young Boston teacher become an unlikely activist fighting to keep developers from bulldozing his ancestral Mississippi community?

Join us for Sunday Night at the Movies as we kick off TFN’s 2018 Annual Conference in Houston with a special screening of the gripping documentary Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, which chronicles the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport.

Derrick Evans outside his great grandfather’s house in Turkey Creek after Hurricane Katrina, leaning on a sign he built before the storm. Photo by Spencer Weiner /

The screening, produced in partnership with the Wyncote Foundation, takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, March 18 at the Hotel Zaza in Houston’s thriving Museum District.

We’ll be joined after the one-hour film by Leah Mahan, the film’s director, and Christopher Hastings, executive producer and editorial manager of content for WORLD Channel and, for a Q&A session moderated by Laura Isensee of Houston Public Media.

Sunday Night at the Movies has become one of the signature events at TFN’s Annual Conference, offering timely and relevant documentaries that help shape our conversations about equity, sustainability and resilience—key issues that we’ll explore throughout the Houston conference.

Come Hell or High Water: The Battle For Turkey Creek is also a notable example of the power of storytelling and the crucial role funders and allies can play in ensuring these important stories are not only told, but heard.

Join us for a movie-friendly dinner of pizza, popcorn and sweet treats, plus wine and beer, during the event.


About the Film


Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek is a film that was more than a decade in the making, said Mahan, who first embarked on the project with Evans in 2001.

Turkey Creek community members gathered outside the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. Photo Chip Bowman for Mississippi Heritage Trust

“This is a community that was very much grounded in the land, and the ecology of place. But they didn’t necessarily see themselves as environmentalists,” said Mahan, who travelled with Evans to Turkey Creek, a Gulf Coast community founded in the 1860’s by former slaves — including Evans’ grandfather’s grandfather. “Derrick recognized that there were all these forces aligned against them, and it became clear that he was going to have to find allies.”

Evans, a sixth-generation native of Turkey Creek who had forged a teaching career in Boston, became consumed with protecting the community and the creek’s rich wetland habitat: He and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians, as well as endure both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, disasters that further imperil this Gulf Coast community.

The award-winning film was first shown nationally on the WORLD’s America ReFramed series and has has been official selections at film festivals across the country, including the American Film Showcase and the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital.


Bridge the Gulf


Derrick Evans on Turkey Creek. Photo by Andrew Whitehurst

The themes explored and illuminated in the film — such as grappling with the thorny issues of history and race, building strategic alliances, and recognizing the powerful role a mobilized community can play in their own preservation — have a resonance far beyond the banks of Turkey Creek.

Mahan and Evans worked with allies to co-found, a strategic partnership between independent media-makers, regional experts, and grassroots community leaders that has shared more than 700 multimedia stories and other content about the places, cultures, histories, and challenges that define the Gulf Coast region.

“The important takeaway is that this is about having a voice, a seat at the table,” said Mahan. “We’re seeing this shift where people tied to the land have a voice, and a recognition of just how powerful those voices can be.”


About Our Panel


Leah Mahan is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work has been nominated by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. She has been a fellow at the Sundance Institute Documentary Editing and Story Lab and the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies. Leah’s films include Sweet Old Song (2002) and Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street (1996), and Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek (2013). Leah’s work has received major funding from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, Independent Television Service, Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation.


Christopher Hastings is executive producer and editorial manager of content for the WORLD Channel, a national multicast channel featuring the best of public television’s signature nonfiction documentary, science and news programming complemented by original stories from filmmakers and journalists from around the world. He is co-curator and co-executive producer of WORLD Channel’s of the award-winning documentary program America ReFramed, as well as Local, USA and Doc World.


Laura Isensee is a Houston native who covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. A former reporter at The Miami Herald, her work has also appeared on national programs such as NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina.



Plan Your Trip

Have you registered yet?

Early bird registration ends this Friday, Feb. 16. Register now!

Have you booked your room?

We’ve extended our booking deadline to Feb. 21!

Call 1.888.880.3244 for reservations and mention the FUNDERS’ NETWORK to receive the conference rate of $229 plus tax per night. You may also book online using the booking code +TFN.

Check out our TFN 2018 Annual Conference page for hotel information, conference highlights and other information.

Download our TFN Annual Conference Schedule for a full list of events, speakers and sessions. Or you can download our one-page Schedule-at-a-Glance to help plan your visit.