MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
The current dialogue in our nation (and the world) about systemic racism and white privilege was provoked by the tragic choking death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Many peaceful protests – and some occasions of violence and looting – have followed.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since a similar killing of a black man by the police in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown was shot to death after fleeing from an incident of shoplifting at a convenience store. The event became a media sensation and news reports showed law enforcement taking over the town with armored vehicles and tear gas. Neighborhood businesses were burned to the ground.
Whose Streets? is a 2017 film that I had heard about but had never watched. I knew that it was an account of the events in Ferguson using alternative video footage that didn’t make it onto the network news. What I didn’t expect was such an uplifting and inspirational movie. If by “inspirational” you mean “God-breathed”, Whose Streets? meets that definition.
The people in this movie are the folks who live in the same neighborhood as Michael Brown and they come together after his death to take a stand against the oppressive forces that would not only invade their streets but stoke violence and hatred. In one harrowing sequence, armored vehicles roll down the block and a person with a bullhorn tells the gathered throng to go back to their homes. “This is my home!” is the reply.
We see people gather and organize for peaceful non-violent protest. (There is no narrator and individuals are identified only by first names.) As days turn into weeks and require persistent resistance, we slowly observe leaders being formed out of humble beginnings. Slogans begin to evolve, including “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” (remembered as the last words of Michael Brown) and the call and response “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”
In the aftermath of tragedy, there is the opportunity for prophetic witness that not only calls out the sin of racism but also upholds the power of community. On June 2, 2020, the people of Ferguson elected Ella Jones, a black member of City Council, as their new mayor. (Both Jones and her opponent Heather Robinett supported reforms in law enforcement as well as peaceful protest.)
Every local church has daily opportunities to stand up for people in their neighborhood and do the things that would represent God’s reign breaking into the kingdom of this world. Yes, this is a biased film and we don’t hear too much from people in power; the media will continue to tell their one side of their story. I like the vision offered here – a neighborhood with room for everyone. These streets are our streets.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Five halos: A case is made for the positive power of peaceful resistance and community building as an answer to chaos.
Three pitchforks: Racism; violence and threats of violence; pervasive swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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