About a week and a half ago, I had the opportunity to film some of the protests taking place in New York City following the deaths of unarmed men Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of law enforcement. It was a powerful experience and one that will stay with me for a long time.
Thousands of people of various races and nationalities came out to protest the deaths of not just Mike Brown and Eric Garner, but the litany of people of color whom throughout the years have been killed by police. I was honestly surprised by the number of white people I saw out at Washington Square Park for this march as it shows that it’s not just black folks who are fed up with this mess. I’ll be including more videos of interviews and other happenings at the protest in the coming days.
There was an interesting article a couple weeks back by the NY Times talking about the powerful impact that film was having on a group of female students. The twist? All of the students were inmates.
The article profiles one former inmate, 20-year-old Amirah Harris, and the impact that Tribecca Teaches had on her. Tribecca Teaches is a film program run by the Tribecca Film Institute that teaches students in New York City and Los Angeles the craft of filmmaking. The NY Times article speaks with one of the teachers in the program who taught at Rikers Island (a prison facility) and noted the positive impact it had on the women in her class. She also notes that she didn’t fear for her safety at all during the time she was teaching.
I remember hearing of a similar story on NPR radio host Michele Martin’s “Tell Me More” program, where a woman in Indiana who is a public school teacher, volunteers her time teaching inmates Shakespeare. She said that the inmates brought their own experiences into their analysis of the work, raising questions and positions that she as a teacher had never even considered before. She too stated that she had no fear for her own safety in the classroom, and that many of the inmates were just happy that someone was willing to take time out of their day to work with them.
In both these cases we see the power that art can have on a population deemed ‘undesirable’ by society. If art – whether it be film, Shakespeare, or poetry – can have these dramatic effects on prisoners, maybe we ought to rethink about arts being the first thing cut when school budgets get tight. Just a thought.
Earlier this month, a man was pushed down a subway tunnel and could not be saved. But his snapshot was.
That event sparked not only every New Yorker’s most subconscious fear -standing too close to the edge of a platform and being pushed over- but also outrage for the lack of action taken to save a man fighting to get out of the path of an oncoming train. The most glaring outrage was directed at photographer R. Umar Abbasi, for taking a photo of the man just before he was struck by the train. The NY Post would publish the haunting photo the next day.
This isn’t the first instance of video or photos showing a person in danger.
In October, a video went viral of a Cleveland bus driver getting into an argument with a female passenger. The argument escalates and then the uppercut from hell is unleashed.
By videotaping this incident, it went from an outrageous event on a Cleveland bus, to leading newscasts, to trending on Twitter and in the process became one of 2012’s top web sensations. Police were called and the bus driver subsequently lost his job. Violence being filmed and recorded for the pleasure and delight of others is not just limited to Cleveland however.
In January 2011, Allen Haywood was waiting for his train at a metro station in Washington, D.C. As the video shows, two kids come from out of nowhere and begin pummeling the man. Haywood is understandably stunned as to why he is being attacked. He even screams at the girl who is attacking him: “I have done nothing to you!”
Even sadder is the fact there appears to be a group of kids in the background just laughing while filming the incident on their cell phones. Haywood says none of the kids came to his assistance, nobody called for help and that other people on the platform did nothing. A few days later, Haywood returned to that same metro station and held up a sign saying, “I WAS ATTACKED AT L’ENFANT METRO SUNDAY AT 7:15 PM. NO ONE HELPED. PLEASE BE CAREFUL.”
All of these cases leave one wondering when did we become a society more concerned about capturing the next punch or assault on video, as opposed to actually putting down the cell phone and doing something about it? What moral and ethical questions are there as bystanders in these situations? It is one thing to not want to get involved in an altercation for fear you yourself might get injured. It is entirely different however, to do nothing at all. Things to think about…