The more and more I sit down with artists for my weekly indie filmmaker chat (eh-hmm, which is currently behind a couple of weeks, a few setbacks but I’m pushing through) the more I truly see how vital it is for us as humans to be seen, respected, and heard. And not just for making movies. There’s something about being able to speak from your heart, have those words and your non-verbal communication fall on open ears and eyes, be received and the person you’re speaking to in turn take the time to ingest, process, and offer understanding, agreement, disagreement, question, or whatever the exchange may be. But you in speaking have put out into the world your heart matters. I believe that’s why arguing is so powerful. Follow me here, I’m not talking about the exchange of hurting or damaging words all in the name of proving I’m right and you’re wrong. I mean two people having a heated exchange because the other person isn’t receiving what is on their heart and it hurts. The hurt isn’t released until you feel that what you have to say matters and is truly heard.
I’m taking this far left turn to say things are happening that are causing me to see that I’m truly on my path of putting more of our voices out into the universe to be seen and heard. These are horrendous times for us as Black people and it’s being broadcast daily in media. Everyday we’re watching people that look like us: brother, sister, cousin, nephew, niece, or child having their lives taken by those that vowed to protect and serve us. I personally feel these losses tearing away at me. We are not being heard and the images coming across our screens clearly aren’t being seen through honest hearts, otherwise there would be far more convictions and sentences that fit those crimes.
I sat down with someone that I work with yesterday who spoke of an incident at a gas station. A black woman was resisting arrest for something that happened before my co-worker got there. A bystander told my co-worker, who’s an older white male, to pull out his cell phone; he refused (that’s his right). The bystander cursed him and called him racist which incited young black male bystanders to disrespect his wife. Now, I’m giving you this backstory not because anything happened between him and the males, he complained to the cops that one of the males said an obscenity about his wife, the cop made the kid apologize (sidebar: what the hell for I don’t know, I can say anything I want doesn’t matter how old I am), I’m bringing up the backstory because this was my co-workers sedge way to bring up people not obeying police orders. “If you’re handcuffed it doesn’t mean you’re arrested, it means you’re being restrained so that things don’t escalate where either party would get hurt. If you’re put into a police car doesn’t mean that when you get to the station you’re going to be charged”, he said. “It’s terrible that that guy in Tulsa died, but…” I wanted to SCREAM. He then went on to recall a time he got pissy drunk, belligerent, and broke a bar window, the cops cuffed him and that sobered him. The officer asked what happened that made him calm down. His told him that he knew that if he didn’t calm down he’d be charged with resisting arrest. Was he ever charged? He didn’t say, my guess is no. He probably was allowed to pay for the window. Every thought in my mind as I sat and listened to him had the same theme, “are you fucking blind, you’re shitting me, right?, you can’t ever be serious in thinking that if only all of these people would have followed police orders they’d be alive today!” What was I going to do, speak my mind or from my heart. I went with my heart, and trust me as I type this I’m wishing I went with my mind and let him have it! I told him a story of what happened to me back in the 90’s, I was driving my sister’s new sports car, new license, going for a joy ride. I noticed a police car behind me, and then noticed he’d been following me for several turns. He, of course, pulled me over. I to this day remember the look of surprise on his face that a scrawny, geeky teenage girl was behind the wheel. He looked at my license and proof of insurance, never gave a reason as to why he pulled me over and let me go. I knew from the age of 16 that if I’d been a black man that scenario could have been very different. I knew law abiding citizens who were harassed and arrested. I spoke slowly and clearly with emphasis to my co-worker “it’s not guaranteed that following orders means you’ll make it home” I went on to tell him this is a conversation I have to have with my sons because they see people that look like them being killed and nothing is being done about it. “Do you see how that negatively impacts people, that they would be afraid for themselves, and their families, and that would then make young black men angry when you don’t want to record someone being arrested. That woman has a chance of not making it home.” His response, very vanilla, “I understand it’s terrible this is happening; this feels like the 60’s.” Wait, what? If this is how he feels now, I cringe at what he felt like during the civil rights era.
My point in this post is not solely to vent on what happened yesterday. It is that in our own ways we must fight to right the wrongs of how we are being viewed sadly even in the year 2016. I sit down and speak to black filmmakers because how we are viewed and heard in media is screwed up. What we’re being fed from a young age plants seeds of inferiority and fear that our lives are not valued, that we are not beautiful, I could go on and on. We as writers, directors, and editors can paint a better picture.
Off my soap box at least for the next hour or so : )