“What is justice and how do we find it?”
Educator and journalist Melissa Harris-Perry asked the poignant question moments prior to the Feb. 25 advance screening at Showplace Icon Theater in St. Louis Park of the first episode of the upcoming docuseries, “Finding Justice,” which is set to air on BET. The six-episode series, created by Dream Hampton, the creator of the explosive “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries and executive produced by Dwayne “Rock” Johnson, airs to the public beginning March 10.
“Finding Justice” focuses on six cities dealing with six unique circumstances, but unfortunately, not unique issues affecting Black Americans – so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws, police brutality, bail reform, criminalization of children, voter suppression and the lead paint crisis in urban areas. The cities highlighted are Tampa (stand your ground), St. Louis (bail reform), Baltimore (lead paint crisis), Los Angeles (civilization of children), Atlanta (voter suppression) and here in Minneapolis/St. Paul the spotlight shines on police brutality, chronicling the killings (and aftermath protests) of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile.
Monday’s screening of the debut episode focused on this past August’s killing of Markeis McGlockton, a Black man, killed by Michael Drejka, white, who used Florida’s Stand Your Ground law as his defense even though he initiated a confrontation with McGlockton’s pregnant girlfriend over being parked in a handicap parking spot. Following the viewing, Harris-Perry moderated a panel discussion with Hampton, Marcus Owens, executive director, African American Leadership Forum, Miski Noor, Black Lives Matter and organizer Kandace Montgomery.
Much of the conversation centered on grief and trauma.
“I need Black people to have space to grieve,” said Harris-Perry, noting how many mothers of slain Black children have been thrust in to activist mode.
Noor said not being able to show grief continues to perpetuate a myth that Blacks are without emotion.
“We have this stereotype of a strong Black person and the stereotype is that we don’t grieve.”
Montgomery, who was vigilant in the Justice for Jamar protest that lasted 18 straight days outside of the Minneapolis Police Department Fourth Precinct following the November 2015 killing of Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed Black man killed by two white Minneapolis police officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, said she and other protesters had to deal with the trauma of being on the front lines in the fight for justice.
“As a person who slept in my car for 18 days … we, the homies, struggled,” said Montgomery. “I had to deal with suicidal thoughts; some of us got addicted (to chemical substances). That’s why this fight for justice is so important to me.”
Noor said she is not fighting just for her own justice.
“I don’t know if I’m going to live to see justice, but I know I’m going to be a force to create it,” said Noor.
Hampton said she and BET were intentional in choosing to premiere “Finding Justice” in Minneapolis and to highlight the efforts of area organizers.
“We could have gone to any city to talk about police brutality but the organizers here were such a model for organizing that we wanted to be a part of it,” said Hampton.
“Finding Justice” airs beginning March 10 at 7 p.m. central standard time on BET.