“Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer” looks at police racial profiling

Walking While Black: L. O. V. E. Is the Answer”, (2017) directed by A. J. Ali, is a documentary film intended to increase public awareness of racial profiling, especially by police. As the title suggests, many people of color have been harassed merely when walking alone as well as when driving.  The film name is based on the community organization Walking While Black, Facebook page.

The film does show footage of a number of major police incidents. It skips Ferguson, but does spend a lot of space on Baltimore Sandtown in 2015. It does cover the “police ambush” in downtown Dallas in July 2016.  It also covers Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida.

Much of the 93-minute film consists of speaking clips by community leaders and police, with relatively little direct interviewing. There is a great deal of emphasis on community solidarity, volunteering, and personal involvement, and mentoring.

A couple of other major cases get explored toward the end.  In Benton Harbor MI, a black man Jameel McGee was arrested by a white cop on a phony drug charge. He spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  But eventually the police officer Andrew Collins was caught and spent 18 months in jail himself.  McGee forgave him and they became friends.

Then in Garden City GA  white police officer Tim McMillan found a terrified black driver when he stopped him while texting, story.

In a number of cases, police officers accused of misconduct were “of color” (incl. Latino) themselves.

The film right now is viewable for $9.99 credit or Paypal on their site, but not on Amazon or Netflix.  This is rather unusual, but maybe an interesting idea for self-distribution.

Name:  “Walking While Black: L. O. V. E. Is the Answer
Director, writer:  A. J. Ali
Released:  2017
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Vimeo rented $9.99 from their site
Length:  93
Rating:  NA
Companies:  totally independent, community group
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 at 10:45 PM EDT)

Hillary Rodham Clinton tells “What Happened”

I can remember when reading the little stories in “Fun with Dick and Jane” in grade school, we waited to read “What Happened”.  So I chuckled just a little that Hillary Clinton named her autobiographical analysis of the 2016 election that.

The book does pay heed to women in politics, but the elements of the 2016 election leading to her defeat do lead themselves to functional decomposition, the way a systems analyst would see things. These components include Trump’s own behavior during the campaign and debates (including the second debate where she wanted to yell “You creep”), Russian hacking and disinformation with fake news, and most of all “those damn emails” leading to the notorious Oct. 28 Comey Letter, as well as the painful Election Night with the slow motion acceptance of electoral college defeat.

Clinton’s perceptions should indeed alarm us.  The idea of blatant racism and “whitelash” played a much bigger role in the behavior of the electorate than many of us could have expected (although Michael Moore had been warning about it). Clinton often mentions the “zero sum game” thinking of the alt right, where the economic losses of less educated working class heterosexual whites are seen as the result of gains by “others” (blacks, gays, and especially immigrants).

Russian meddling, leading to the fake news manipulation of social media (and the ultimate “Comet Pinc Pong” incident) shows a serious social problem among the nation’s professional “elite” class (including black and gay professionals).  I saw relatively little of the “fake news” in my own social media feeds because my online behavior normally connects me with people in a more intellectual mainstream.  I have contact with Hollywood, with the book world, academics, and with some pundits on both right and left, and including some doomsday preppers (normally on the right).  So I see some material at the margins (Breitbart on the right, and Truthout on the Left), I see very little material that is patently outrageous.  But it seems like a lot of people did.  It is rather scary that Putin saw the insularity of America’s privileged intellectual class and realized that a campaign of disinformation leveraging resentment and fear could really work.

I’m a bit perturbed to see her name Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore as one of the participants in his whole mess (p. 361).  Sinclair owns WJLA7 in Washington, and tried to bring to light the threats to the power grid in some reports in the summer of 2016 that got suppressed.

Clinton talks about Putin’s macho values (I think its ironic that he likes to bare a completely hairless chest when riding horseback) and the way they put individuals in their “rightful” place in a system where fascism is returning to replace communism.

The Russian hacking also connected to various schemes to make it harder for certain minorities to vote.  Black and Latino turnout in key states was considerably less than had been expected.

On the email scandal, Clinton pleads that she did not starting using computers at work herself until the middle 2000’s, and that she started in a world where it was still normal to use one’s own personal computers and servers even for sensitive work.

Indeed, in the 1990s in the mainframe computer world in which I worked, it was normal and acceptable to use personal laptops in fixing production problems, which could lead to exposure of consumer PII, but at the time (pre Y2K and just as the Internet was heating up) it was seen as much less of a risk than it would be now.  It was also acceptable to take listings home that had production consumer data printed.

Clinton does think that the Comey letter did provide Trump with his ninth inning rally, and maybe a couple of unearned runs, by baseball analogy.  Remember, the whole incident could not have happened if Anthony Weiner had not committed a sex offense, an observation that provides an ironic comparison to a bizarre incident that happened in 2005 when I was substitute teaching that I have discussed here before – apparently I had not seen the end of it, but I never thought this sort of thing could throw and election. Also ironic were Trump’s self-incriminating comments overheard on Access Hollywood.

On p. 465, the last chapter “Onward Together”, one of her supporters, a history teacher, offers some partisan moralizing.  “Privilege” alone makes that teacher’s students responsible for others.  It doesn’t wait for marriage and having babies.

Author: Hillary Clinton
Title, Subtitle: What Happened
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7556-5
Publication: New York, Simon and Schuster, 18 chapters unnumbered. 494 pages, hardcover, e-book
Link: publisher

(Posted: Friday, September 15, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

“Raising Bertie” examines education of three underprivileged African-American teens in coastal North Carolina

On Monday, August 28, 2017. PBS POV aired “Raising Bertie” (2016), a documentary by Margaret Byrne, about three underprivileged African American boys being educated in an alternative school called the Hive House, in Bertie County, North Carolina, near the Tarboro and the area that was flooded by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

The three young men include “Junior” Askew, whose father and brother are incarcerated, Dada Harrell, the quiet teen, and Bud, who is on parole.  The boys are raised by single moms.

When the Hive House closes (or is threatened with shutdown), the boys face going back to inferior public schools, with perhaps limited prospects of getting the attention they would need to succeed.  Junior has to repeat his junior year, which (according to the show “Everwood”) is the toughest year. But the seems to be developing the possibility of becoming a landscape architect.

Junior finally gets a regimented factory job, Bud graduates from high school before “aging out”, and Dada prepares to become a barber.

The film includes a speech to youth by Barack Obama.

There’s a great line, “You can’t live with mama all your life.”  A fight breaks out near the end of the film.

Finally the Hive House gets reborn.

The film was produced by the National Black Programming Consortium )NBPC).

There is a brief interview with the filmmaker, who is white. She says she was asked why she didn’t film “role model” star people in high school instead.  She says people need to think others matter besides the obvious achievers. But she really didn’t use race in her answer.

Name:  “Raising Bertie”
Director, writer:  Margaret Byrne
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2017/8/28
Length:  84
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS POV, Filmbuff, Kartemquin Films
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

“Tribal Justice”: how juvenile justice works in the sovereign native American system

Tribal Justice” by Anne Makespeace, looks at how juvenile justice works on two Native American reservations in California:  the Yorok, on the Pacific Coast near Eureka,  and Quechan, in thedesert.

Specifically, it presents two female judges, Abbie and Claudette, who deal with troubled youths (like Isaac) in their system.  They are confronted with the possibility that the state of California may take custody of them.

The independent tribal justice system tries to apply healing and resolution rather than punishment and justice.  The film makes the point that “restorative justice” could set a good example for mainstream courts.   The judges say they are well aware of the “devastation of history”.

The film presents life inside both communities.  I noticed that most of the young men seemed obese, from their natural reaction to western diets with processed foods.

The film appeared on PBS POV Monday night Aug. 21, 2017, late (10:30) after the PBS Nova coverage of the eclipse.  The film was followed by a brief director interview.

Wikipedia tribal art for Quechan.

Name:  “Tribal Justice”
Director, writer: Anne Makespeace
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2017/8/21
Length:  87
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS POV
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 at 1o AM EDT)

“Wind River”: intense “modern western” crime drama about native American politics

Back in 1997, a jogger “went up” near Lander, Wyoming and disappeared without tracks.  Some people think that’s evidence of UFO’s.  But the current “modern western” directed and written by Taylor Sheridan “Wind River” starts with a disappearance and then the discovery of the body of a teenage native American woman (Kelsey Asbille) deep on the reservation, and the uncovering of the dirty behavior behind it. The film reminds me of Coen Brothers material, with less dark humor,, and a  plot that reminds you of Cormac McCarthy.

FBI agent Jane Banner (Elisabeth Olsen) arrives and find she is in over her head, both with dealing with the oncoming early mountain winter (no global warming here) and the legal maze of tribal, state and federal law.  (I remember a little of this from living in Minnesota and visiting Red Lake once.)  Cory (Jeremy Renner), a US game tracker, will help her with the snowplow journeys into the wilderness, where they encounter some very bad behavior indeed by both natives and white oil field workers.  There is an impressive sequence filmed around a worker’s “dormitory” trailer complex (that’s how movie stars live for months on wilderness sets), that gets violent indeed.  There’s one particularly captivating shot of a mountain lion family in a den; the cats are left alone.

The film was actually shot in the Wasatch Range of Utah.  I did travel through the Lander and Wind River area in August 1994.

But I think I saw Square Top Mountain in the film.

Hollywood Reporter has a curious story about the distribution of the film.

Recently, NBC Dateline did a story about a good Samaritan rescue of a teenager who crashed a plane in the Big Horn Mountains, to the Northeast.

The end credit roll of the film points out that disappearances of young native-American women are all too common.

Name: Wind River
Director, writer:  Taylor Sheridan
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  R
Length:  Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax VA, large audience, 2017/8/12, afternoon
Rating:  R
Companies:  The Weinstein Company TWC
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, August 12, 2017, at 7:30 PM EDT)

 

Peter Temin’s “The Vanishing Middle Class”: heavy emphasis on political engineering by race

The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy”, by MIT Economics professor Peter Temin, is another recent controversial tome on inequality. But unlike “Dream Hoarders” (July 7), this book talks about inequality in terms of collective political forces involving class, money, and especially race, with little direct attention to how individuals should be expected to behave, which was the point of my own “DADT III” book in 2014.

The parts of the book (from the TOC) give a sense of its message:  (I) is “An American Dual Economy”; (ii) “Politics in a Dual Economy”; (III) “Government in a Dual Economy”; (IV) “Comparisons and Conclusions”.   The book is relatively brief; the core parts comprise 160 pages, along with 17 pages of roman-number introduction. (By the way, I think that introductions should always be numbered in the main sequence of the book and show in the page count.)

Temin starts out by showing how capitalism alone tends to generate self-reinforcing inequality.  He calls the upper crust of society the “FTE Sector” (finance, technology and electronics).  Low-wage people doing manual labor or service jobs (or selling on commissions, for example) tend to aspire to enter the FTE but face serious self-perpetuating barriers.  Richer people can save money and owe less, can give their own children more advantages, and are more likely to have kids with “better” genes (the inconvenient truth of “A Troublesome Inheritance”, June 24, going back to ideas like those of Charles Murray), as well (particularly) of more access to “social capital” – informal interdependence with extended family and friends (the “Lotsa Helping Hands” idea in churches).  The economic system has burdened low-income people with student debt (especially with the rise of for-profit universities), upsidedown housing (the 2008 subprime crisis) and medical bills (even with Obamacare – and the GOP is partly right about this in my estimation).  You need to be able to save money to get any traction and move up.  I’ve worked as a debt collector before.  I’ve heard plenty of stories of how this works.

Temin then moves into race – and I’ll add here that in his conclusions he calls for a “Second Reconstruction”.  I wondered if he has sat through “Gone with the Wind”.  He connects race and the history of slavery (versus other, white immigration from Europe) and later segregation to the evolution of American democracy, an unprecedented political innovation at the time of the American Revolution. He traces particularly efforts to suppress blacks from voting (as with the 1964 murders in Mississippi) but he might have paid more attention to recent gerrymandering.  He also discusses incarceration and “war on drugs” policies as racially motivated, as well as attempts to privatize schools and lack of sufficient attention to urban infrastructure (he mentions the politics of constructing a third tunnel under the Hudson to New York, as well as Washington DC’s problems with Metro, leading to reduced hours and the Safe Track surges.  He does talk about the inability of school systems to properly pay teachers, But he could talk about the challenge for teachers from more privileged backgrounds to communicate with students in disadvantaged homes – something I encountered big time as a substitute teacher in the mid 2000’s.  On race and police, he mentions Ferguson (Michael Brown – see “Whose Streets”, May 8) and Florida (Trayvon Martin) without objective attention to the deeper facts behind these particular cases.   In the government area, he makes an interesting comparison of democracy, autocracy, and oligarchy (and rails against the Koch empire, which libertarians usually like; he regards Dallas as a cultural sub-capital for US business). He goes links personal debt to national debt and gets into a discussion about Social Security, denying that it is an earned annuity and implying it could be taken way from rich retired people who are otherwise coasting in neutral, like in the next debt ceiling crisis (which will happen Sept. 29, 2017).  He does present social insurance as needing government and federal oversight, and seems to think that sometimes lenders need to be ready for debt forgiveness (after a discussion of bankruptcy).

On race, I think Temin does not pay enough heed to the fact that economic and social problems of Trump’s rural base (white non-college-educated) are really similar to those of inner city blacks;  opioid has a similar dynamic as crack cocaine, and low-wage and resentment of elitism is pretty much the same.  Furthermore there are plenty of blacks in rural Trump country with the same problems as inner-city blacks and rural whites,

Temin refers to philosopher John Rawls and the 1971 opus “A Theory of Justice”, with his theory of distributive justice.  But it seems to me that such a tome would drill down to a discussion of the moral obligations of every person who finds the self in a more privileged system than others.  It goes beyond the idea of “giving back” or “paying it forward” to the idea of accepting personal interdependence with people in other social classes – a kind of resilience necessary to deal with common external threats (like what we have now).  Unearned wealth, if not widely used, can eventually lead to ugly ends, including shame and expropriation.  Coercion and revolutions do happen.  This is even a little more than my old 2004 essay “Pay your bills, pay your dues”.

Author: Peter Temin
Title, Subtitle: The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy” The book cover hides the word “Middle” in black and that fooled me!
publication date 2017
ISBN 9780262036160
Publication: 2017, MIT Press, 234 pages with appendix and index, 4 parts, 14 chapters + Introduction
Link: official

(Posted: Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at 2:30 PM)

“Detroit”: We almost lost it once, and then did lose it

Kathryn Bigelow can be counted on for intensity, and her new dramatic reconstruction of the “Detroit” Rebellion (screenwritten by Marl Boal) and the Algiers Motel murders by police is definitely “in your face” but in the end morbidly fascinating.

I remember that period in my life. July 1967, I had one more semester at KU to get my M.A., before getting drafted and doing Basic at Fort Jackson in the early part of 1968. Once in the Army, I found that many NCO;s and drill sergeants were African American, and one of the squad leaders was an African American pre-med student who was good at absolutely everything. (I would take the physical draft physical in August 1967 in Richmond.)

I last visited the city in August 2012, visited the downtown and one of the gay bars, but noticed the vacant spaces. Anthony Bourdain did a “Parts Unknown” episode in this new Rome, and asked, “what the hell happened here?”

The new film starts out with some Civil Rights history in animation. Detroit, it says, was the most deliberately segregated of all the cities. A couple years before there had been an incident at a nuclear power plant in Michigan that led rags to say “We almost lost Detroit”.

Will Pouter is chilling as the Nazi-like Krauss, all the more chilling with his baby face. He shoots a fleeing looter in the back, and told he will be prosecuted but stays on the force. He “manages” the entire interrogation sequence, the middle section of the movie itself lasting more than an hour, at the motel, started apparently by a toy gun which the cops thought was real.

There follows some courtroom drama, and the scene about how one of the victims of the interrogation becomes a gospel singer.

The film shows the Detroit police as the most bigoted (“Negroes”), alongside Michigan State Police, National Guard, and even the regular Army. During the Vietnam era draft, people would find slots to join the Guard, and escape Vietnam, for this.  The obvious message is that BLM has a long “past is prologue”.

I can recall that in the spring of 1968, after the King assassination, when I was in Tent City or Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, we were on “red alert” after King was assassinated, to make a show of force in downtown Columbia or maybe Orangeburg. It didn’t come off.

This film could be compared to Wexler’s “Medium Cool” (1969, Paramount), about the 1968 Chicago riots, which actually came out with an X rating at first.

Name:  Detroit
Director, writer:  Kathryn Bigelow
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/8/6, small audience
Length:  143
Rating: R
Companies:  Annapurna, (Sony Pictures Classics, MGM)
Link:  official

(Picture: My visit in August 2012. They keep downtown in decent order.)

“A Troublesome Inheritance” still provokes controversy, but over eons environment does affect the genetics of different peoples

Nicholas Wade (science reporter for the New York Times) created controversy and anger with his 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History”.  Right away, I wonder if this is the conservative-to-libertarian answer to Al Gore’s idea of “An Inconvenient Truth” as a book and movie title.

Let’s go over his basic argument.  Mankind originated in Africa (we are all “black”), and a mass migration north split off into two groups:  one group, gradually becoming Caucasian, settled Europe, the Middle East, and India. Another, becoming “oriental” settled East Asia, centered on China.  More recently further splits led to separate groups in Australia (aborigine), and the Americas (across the Bering Strait).

Mankind started out living in tribal groups with very close association with biological kin, as is common among other primates and many social animals.  First in Asia, and later in Europe, as populations increased and faced a “Malthusian trap”, populations had to organize into larger social and political groups (sometimes mediated by religion) to feed themselves.  Gradually, as social structures became more complex, society started to reward deferred gratification and individual problem solving. Families who were good at these skills, compared to using short term use of force and tribal violence, tended to prosper, especially as commerce developed. They had more children.  So in some parts of the world people are better adapted to modern civilized living than in others.

Africa, by comparison, did not have the population growth and geography that favored the growth of modern states, and colonialism intervened before it had time to catch up.  Likewise, smaller populations in the Americas and Australia did not have as much population mass to build modern states, although it seems to me that the Incas and Maya indeed built impressive civilizations.

For other reasons having to do with geography and the relative safety from invaders, Europe went through a second wave of innovation and developed openness to modern science (and balancing the power of the centralized state with other institutions) that led to technological superiority.  This is not always connected to “white people”.  Muslim populations in the Middle East often maintained tribal ways for geographical reasons, and tended support religious fundamentalism in a tribal context.  In China, innovation did not continue as quickly because the state became too centralized and conformist.

Wade has a lot of discussion of genes, alleles, and the statistical nature of how these are distributed.  At an individual level race may mean nothing as to innate capacity.  But in the aggregate, aggregate small differences in some psychological traits associated with genetics can wind up having profound political consequences.

Some reviewers have criticized Wade’s analysis of genetics (like on a final exam in Biology 101).  He gets into the issue of IQ, and notes that by some measures East Asians measure the highest, then Europeans, and then Africans.  But the work of others “A Path Appears” by Nicholas Kirstoff, would claim that the relative intelligence of groups in different parts of the world has a lot to do with child medical care and the availability of early learning. But Wade maintains that it is not easy to teach “western values” to tribal populations.

Wade also goes into detail on the relative success of Jewish populations in intellectual and artistic pursuits, and hints why western classical music sounds richer and more nuances than tribal or folk music of many parts of the world.

I think that Wade’s comments on the values of tribal societies are very interesting. Tribal groups (most of all, hunter-gatherer) are both egalitarian within and authoritarian. The values behind some kinds of religious social conservatism (like “The Natural Family” by Carlson and Mero) reflect extended familial or tribal values.  In tribal culture the nuclear and extended families develop slowly as social constructs, with many rigid rules about gender.  It takes many generations for nuclear families to develop and it may venture toward polygamy, favoring more powerful alpha males; in the beginning, most men interact with women and protect them from rival tribes collectively.  Sexual intercourse is strictly about procreation and, when in marriage, is connected to local privilege over the lives of others in the family.  Family values evolve from a system where most men had to be good at warrior behavior to protect the women and children in the tribe.  The refusal for a man to sacrifice himself when required to do so for the tribe is considered cowardly, and Wade bluntly points this out.  That relates to the practice of military conscription of men by more advanced states. It also helps explain “homophobia” (and now “transphobia”) and why modern gay rights seems so recent and so dependent on modern civilization.  But the practices of some native tribes would refute that claim.  In any case, personal morality is about a lot more than just making wise choices according to consequentialism.

Modern neuroscience does support the idea that various personality traits are influenced by genetics (and for sexual orientation and sometimes gender identity, epigenetics — I won’t get into how traits that seem to hinder procreation remain persistent here).  Sometimes these can become pathological or destructive, as in various recent violent events related to mental illness and probably somewhat to genetics.   Indeed, the existential “combativeness” of young men in tribal cultures seems hard-wired to a degree shocking to people who have grown used to openness.  So it seems reasonable that over time, characteristics that promote individual competiveness in an open society, rather than just following the group, could be favored and become more common in an advanced culture.

There’s one other thing to say “in favor” of tribalism, as it occurs in nature.  I think there are reasons that it may connect to “the afterlife” (through genetics) better than a self-directed individual’s own “soul”.  I’ve covered this recently on my News Commentary blog. Ponder again, the big cats: lions are social, tigers are not, and in a pride the alpha male lion guards his own lineage first.

Author: Nicholas Wade
Title, Subtitle: “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History”
publication date 2014, 2015
ISBN 978-0-14-312716-1
Publication: Penguin, 278 page, paper, indexed, 10 chapters
Link: Charles Murray review

(Posted: Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 3:45 PM EDT)

“Hurry Sundown”, Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama, examined race relations and even draft dodging

Having been reminded of this film by yesterday’s movie with an accidentally similar title, I did rent Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama “Hurry Sundown” on Amazon today.

There is something about these older big expansive films in historical settings (the biggest of all is “Giant” in 1954 by George Stevens, which I saw in Dallas in the 1980s at the Inwood) that I miss today.

The film was released in February 1967 when I as starting my third semester of graduate school at the University of Kansas.  I sometimes made it to the Varsity or Granada in downtown Lawrence (Mike Nichols’s and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” in black and white) but I don’t remember seeing this one.

The specific issue that got my attention is that a lead character, Henry Warren (Michael Caine, looking out of his usual character) is described as a draft dodger, as he tries to swing a land deal in post World War II Georgia (the film is said to have been shot near Baton Rouge, LA). His rival is a cousin Rad McDowell (John Phillip Law) who has returned unharmed from WWII combat in Europe.  The script (the movie runs 2-1/2 hours) doesn’t tell us exactly how he got out of the draft (like CO, or a fake medical excuse).  There is an early conversation in a car where Rad says that how one experiences European capital cities (like Paris) depends on one’s point of view.  Later Rad tells his own kids that cousin Henry has no conscience.

Henry has a story marriage with Julie (Jane Fonda), who is more protective of her autistic son. Henry blames the mother’s side of the family for his “defective” kid.  But it was common in earlier generations to look at autism or mental disabilities through a moral lens.

Rad has his sons (who figure in the climax) and wife played by Faye Dunaway. Burgess Meredith plays the bigoted judge, and George Kennedy the corrupt sheriff.

People in this generation indeed had different moral postulates, especially about race.  Rad wants to partner with a black sharecropper family  (Reve and Rose Scott, played by Robert Hooks and Beah Richards) to develop his land and refuses to sell.  Rad would have learned better racial attitudes being in the Army. True, Truman would integrate the military in 1948 (as in the HBO film), but there had been proposals when the war began, in 1941.  All of this is prelude to the debate over “don’t ask don’t tell” to erupt a half century later.  Times do change, and so do moral postulates.

The film foreshadows its tragic conclusion by showing blasting on the land to clear irrigation ditches.

Name: “Hurry Sundown”
Director, writer:  Otto Preminger
Released:  1967/2
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Instant 3.99
Length:  144
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Paramount
Link:  Ebert

(Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT)

“Whose Streets” presents the Ferguson, MO protests from the view of the people

A month after the death of Michael Brown when shot by Darren Wilson in Ferguson MO around noon on  Saturday, August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, MO,  filmmaker Sabaah Folayan left her medical studies in New York to work with the people and document their unrest, along with Damon Davis and photography director Lucas Alvarado-Farrar.  The result is the docudrama “Whose Streets?”  In fact, Farrar hosted the QA at a showing at the Maryland Film Festival today in Baltimore, which is ironic given Baltimore’s own police-related unrest in April 2015.

The film focuses particularly on seven individuals: Brittany Ferrell, a nurse; David Whitt, who recruits for Cop Watch, Tory Russell, founded of Hands Up United, which would synch with the founding of Black Lives Matter (which had actually started with the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida).

The film, using a lot of raw cell phone video in early sections and later more professionally shot, chronicles the unrest for the rest of the year, giving the spectator-viewer a front row seat to the anger. “Rioting is the language of the unheard.”

Indeed, this is a film about activism, and it does not go out of its way to analyze the fact pattern.  One police officer is quoted as saying that Wilson stopped Brown just because he was walking in the center of the street.  That contradicts accounts as below which maintain Wilson had been radioed about theft at a convenience store.  The film shows a little of the interview of Wilson by George Stephanopoulos, a part that would sound prejudicial.  The film shows the prosecutor’s reporting that the grand jury did not return an indictment against Wilson, who would wind up living in hiding against vigilantism, according to many reports.

There is also some investigation as to whether Brown had been doing barter in the convenience store, not covered in the film. This refers to Jason Pollock, whose film “Stranger Fruit” I have not seen yet (CNN).

The audience, during the QA,seemed quite tuned in to the activism, with one woman questioning whether the government would treat Black Lives Matters the way it had the Black Panthers.  The audience liked the presentation of the children, including one child who makes an activist statement at the end.

The film also shows the blockage of I-70 near St. Louis by protestors, and the arrest of a woman for trying to run over some.   The film also maintains that police in the St. Louis area use police profiling as an excuse to collect fines to enrich themselves.  Activists note that the tear gas or riot gas (which I got to know in Army Basic with the gas chamber in 1968 at Fort Jackson) causes skin burning after the fact, even when water is poured on it.

The world of activism tends to move toward resistance, coercion, and sometimes combativeness, insisting that others who are privileged by the system, even if they didn’t directly cause oppression, are going to have their lives knocked to make things right – call it expropriation.  This is not about questioning every little fact to rationalize someone’s actions.  Call it revolution if you will.  The extra intrusions made by the special demands of “Black Lives Matter”  (relative to “all lives matter”) are supposed to make you uncomfortable.

Journalists seemed welcome to make this film, but sometimes journalists are resented as “spectators” without their own skin in the game, above demonstrating and carrying pickets like “the people”.  But then try combat journalism.

In the fall of 2014, actor-musician Reid Ewing (“Modern Family” and numerous films), going to college in Salt Lake City, wrote some tweets about police treatment of Darrien Hunt (story).

Wikipedia fact page for Michael Brown and Darren Wilson.

Picture: Mine, Washington DC demonstrations, Nov. 2014.

Full George Stephanopoulos interview with Darren Wilson

QA 1

QA 2 – answer to my question about fact finding

QA 3 – comment that police control where media can film

Extra photo from Baltimore (Trey Yingst, 2015).

On Sunday, May 7 W. Kamau Bell covered Chicago’s segregation, police bias, gang violence, and “reparations”, and “Black Lives Matter” on an episode of “United Shades of America: We (are all) The People” on CNN. They talked about “cyberbanging” and Spike Lee’s “Chiraq” (2015).

He also aired a basic episode about immigration in the second hour.

PBS Independent Lens has aired “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes” (abdridged) by Brett Story on 2017/5/8; one of the landscapes is St. Louis County, surrounding Ferguson. The film covered the “garbage jail” problem where low-income residents are ticketed by small police departments and then threatened.  The film also covered a judge’s wall against the media.  See index for location on my legacy blogs.

Name: “Whose Streets?”
Director, writer:  Sabaah Foyolan, Damon Davis
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Baltimore Film Festival, MICA Brown auditorium, full, 2017/5/7
Length:  104
Rating:  NA
Companies: Magnolia Pictures, Chicken and Egg  (Theatrical release in 2017/8)
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, May 7, 2017, 11 PM EDT)