Recently, two Black men were arrested for trespassing in a Starbucks in Philadelphia because they hadn’t made a purchase. The men were just waiting for a friend. Days after Starbucks apologized for the incident, a video has gone viral of a Black man being denied bathroom privileges and forced to leave a Torrance store because he didn’t make a purchase.
Some 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked America to judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin, minority communities regularly face racial profiling.
On April 25, the Coalition of 100 Black Women-Los Angeles, in partnership with the West Los Angeles College’s Black Student Union and Black Scholars A Project Learn Community, will present two screenings of “Walking While Black, L.O.V.E. is the Answer.” Screening times are 11:30 a.m and 6 p.m. in Room GC 160 at West Los Angeles College, 9000 Overland Ave. in Culver City. Admission is free. Parking is $2.
The film will end with a panel discussion by local official and community leaders who are involved in improving race relations.
“I was approached by one on the National Board members from the Oakland Chapter along with the authors of the documentary, A.J. Ali and Errol Weber, about the possibility of hosting the film in Los Angeles,” said Gwenette Jolene Parker Ed.D, president of 100 Black Women. “I felt that the subject offered a learning opportunity for our community,” added Parker.
Ali said he was motivated to make the documentary when he had a potentially dangerous interaction with Marilyn’s Howard County Police in 2012. Ali said he was just walking when a police officer pulled over and basically accused him of casing the neighborhood. Although he was well within his rights to go for a walk, the situation still escalated with a few police cars surrounding him.
Ali’s award-winning documentary is an attempt to bridge the gap between the minority community and law enforcement using the tactics he describes as L.O.V.E., an acronym that stands for: Learn about the community, Volunteer yourself to be a part of the solution, and Empower others to do the same.
“There have been great strides with the Howard County,” said Ali, testifying that the department has used it for training and often pays for other agencies to screen it.
The timing of the screening couldn’t be more important as Starbucks faces racial tension and customers calling for a boycott.
“The Starbucks’ CEO owned the mistake,” said Ali. “He admitted that it was reprehensible. People are calling for a boycott of Starbucks. That’s the wrong thing to do. We need to go in, take up that space, and have a conversation with them. Let’s give them a chance to make things right and train their staff.”
Ali said that the Black men in Philadelphia and here in Southern California “did everything right. Thank God the police didn’t have to drag them out.”
Promoting the film “Walking While Black” is part of the 100 Black Women’s blueprint for staying relevant.
“We advocate for issues such as police relations which are relevant to the needs of Black women and girls,” said Parker.