Having grown up in St. Louis most of my life, it was no shock for me to hear about Mike Brown being shot and left in the street for four hours. From where I sit, it was literally just a matter of time before someone would be on the other end of gun belonging to a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Missouri is known as the ‘show me state’ and jokingly referred to by its residents as ‘misery’ or ‘show me some racism’. St. Louis is the type of place that thinks it’s progressive, but still thrives on the the racist ideology from the 50’s and 60’s.
Written and Directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, Whose Streets documents the thoughts and actions of activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice during this unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising.
What we didn’t see on the numerous news reports is that for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri, grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger brought residents together while holding vigils and protesting the wake of this latest tragedy. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from all over the US came together as freedom fighters. We watched as peaceful protests are disrupted by the National Guard and local police officers with rubber bullets, tear gas and non-instigated violence by the residents and activists of Ferguson.
We watched the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter movement and the determination of these young people to stand up for not only their rights, but the rights of those being unjustly arrested, accused and attacked.I recently had the opportunity to speak with the young filmmakers/directors/producers Missouri native Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan. Here’s what they had to say…
We watched as a memorial to Mike Brown is allegedly set on fire at 6am by the police. We watched as a sector of society is labeled as over incarcerated and under-educated. We watched as African-Americans march today for the nearly the same rights we marched for 100 years ago in St. Louis.
How many lives have to be snuffed out, ruined and disrespected before we see real change here in America? Why did I watch Ferguson ex-police chief Tom Jackson, while out promoting his book “Policing Ferguson: Policing America” tell The View Co-Host Whoopi Goldberg that his understanding of ‘hands up – don’t shoot’ meant police brutality. Therein lies the issue. You have police officers all over the country that equate a slogan like “Hands up Don’t Shoot” as some secret code to “take down the police”. You have police officers who believe if you are a black person in America, that your life is meaningless and has no value…so why should they respect it.
On the flip side, you have officers like my Uncles, who abide by the law and enforce it without brutality, violence or disrespect for the individuals they are dealing with. Yes, there are some police that don’t make it a racist encounter and actually do their jobs they way they are trained.
Yet, a change will never come until those issues are viewed through a different lens by the very people who are at the center of the controversy – the police.