In making “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer,” director Dawn Porter didn’t want to just present a history lesson.

“I wanted to emphasize in as many layers as possible that there are still descendants of survivors and survivors of this time period,” Porter told executive editor Brent Lang in an episode of Variety‘s “Doc Dreams.”

Her way into the story became through “Washington Post” journalist DeNeen Brown, who originally was just going to serve as a consultant.

“When I started speaking with her, I thought what an opportunity to have a Black, female reporter who’s from Oklahoma lead us through this story,” Porter explained. “Tulsa was going to dig and find the bodies of massacre victims, so, pandemic be damned, DeNeen was determined to go and be a witness.”

“You literally see the unearthing of this story in real time,” Porter added.

In telling the comprehensive story of the Red Summer, Porter knew it was essential that audiences understood that the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 was not an anomaly, especially at a moment in time when truth denial is rampant. The documentary describes the full events of the Red Summer by diving into the dozens of other massacres that took place during that period. What’s more, Porter wants audiences to know that this history and its repercussions are not a Southern problem, but an American problem.

“If we do not study this, we are in danger of allowing it to be repeated,” she said.

In the documentary, Brown echoes the fact that the Tulsa massacre is a significant moment in the history of the city and the country.

“The United States has been the landscape for dozens of massacres that many people don’t know about,” she says.

In the interview, Porter explained that there have been “whispers of atrocities in Black communities” for decades. By presenting “Rise Again” to the world, she is adding another certified layer in the historical truth of the U.S.’s racist, violent timeline. What’s more, it allows victimized communities and descendants to heal.

“You grow up hearing your grandmother say, ‘They bombed us.’ And then that is not recognized by larger society, that leaves a deep mistrust,” Porter said. “[It’s] very difficult for people to heal if their claims and their stories are ignored or doubted.”

This period of violent assaults against Black communities came after World War I. As Porter explained, Black soldiers came back from the war expecting to be celebrated, but instead were discriminated against. Still propelled by their soldier duty to preserve freedom, they continued to advocate for their rights. Thriving communities blossomed.

“They were targeted because they were successful,” Porter said. “A thriving community doesn’t mean they were wealthy… They were just living the American Dream, which is a calm life with decent jobs and community support. And that, just the fact of living a calm life, that was a threat.”

Porter wants Americans to consider why a Black, self-sustaining community is a threat to so many white people. The film is a reframing of how the massacre has been presented as “this group of people is dangerous and so we need to control them,” as Porter puts it, which mirrors how Black neighborhoods in the present are often over-policed. Despite the traumatic, heavy nature of “Rise Again,” Porter assured the documentary was an act of fulfillment.

“I emerged from this project with such a sense of pride that these people were able to, just a few decades out of slavery, where most people couldn’t read or write, form these thriving communities,” Porter said.

Watch the full interview above.