Pan African Film and Arts Festival joined teams with Independent Lens to host an intense conversation searching for solutions to fight violence in marginalized communities. Inspired by a documentary film based in Baltimore, M.D., Charm City tells a story of various community members who are working to end senseless acts of crime in their own backyard. The film by Marilyn Mess speaks to the truth and pain felt across the country, which led the groups to create a space to discuss violence here in Los Angeles.
Held Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at the Promenade at the Howard Hughes with moderation by CNN correspondent Nick Valencia, and special guest Skip Townsend, Intervention Specialist, 2nd Call, Jasmyne Cannick, Political Commentator and Culture Critic, Melina Abdullah, Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and Co-founder Black Lives Matter Los Angeles Chapter and Candis Glover, Los Angeles County Public Defender. Each with different background, but overall goals of propelling the Black community into power.
Following the plot of the documentary stories of Baltimore residents working to uplift their community was shown throughout the panel, including community elders and leaders and elected officials who use their influence to bring positivity to their surrounding. Clips of Charm City led to conversations about youth leading the change in our communities, which all agreed is on the shoulders of the youth. Glover stated, “government needs to step aside and let the community do what it needs to do.”
The panelist also discussed topics including the relationship marginalized communities have with the police, raising the “village” and the future of Los Angeles. “There is still a role for everyone to play,” says Cannick, “we have our elders and folks that guide us in the work that we do, we have to be that for the generation behind us,” in regards to the village. Townsend also made great points recognizing the push back youth receive rather than support from older generations, stating, “everyone has their turn,” encouraging those older members of the community to allow the youth in making changes how they see fit.
The issue with relationships between government, police and the community also reached a heavy climax, with a member from the audience chiming in to point out the lack of funding to study how to really engage and help marginalized communities. The issue being, lack of diversity within the science field, which then leads to improper funding by the government, over-policing and high arrest rates within the Black community.
“We don’t need the police to police us,” Abdullah said speaking on what the future could be for LA residents, adding, “if we are willing to do the work, then we can have a city that is what we envisioned.”
With gentrification on the forefront of multiple communities, these issues further remove Black people from their homes and create negative spaces amongst groups. The final question from Valencia, “what do you think LA will look like in 5 years?” prompted each panelist into action with words of truth and encouragement to become fully educated in your surroundings and win back the community.
Townsend closing off with a powerful statement inspired by Abdullah’s suggestion to do one thing, every day until a change has come, “Consistency is the true measure of success, so just continue to be consistent at that one thing, whatever it is.”