Lawrence Grandpre is also the Director of Research for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle wherein he provides the research needed to facilitate effective political awareness campaigns, organized civil demonstrations, community education events and legislative advocacy efforts for policy reforms that impact Black people in Baltimore. Lawrence was a Maxy award recipient at Whitman College, where he competed on the school’s debate team. Thereafter, he coached college debate national champions as a Research Assistant at Towson University and high school debate national champions as a Debate Coach at his alma mater, Baltimore City College High School.
Spoken Word Intro Korryn Gaines Intro
Our blood reeks of royalty; they can smell it in the air
We’re so used to our own scent we cannot fathom what we bare
They know of our greatness, I’m just tryin’ to taste it while others are trying to waste it
And the white man is trying to trace it
But, even in trying to find what is truly beyond divine
They can never go back far enough
We’re way beyond their time
Therefore, in the meantime, they hunt the queens and kings with crime
Used to hang us up with strings from trees and other things
Now they tote guns and beams with wrist rings and …same…others things???? Chains???
Ain’t nothin’ changed
Except now they’re trying to survive
Can’t find any use for us alive
Not knowing we can’t die
So, while they’re chasing blood, snatching bodies, eating babies and raping our minds while having sex with out kind
They can only become us, with every thrust, I trust, they only raise our army and we are righteous
Intro – Lawrence Grandpre and Lady Brion
Hello, you’re listening to In Search of Black Power. I’m Lawrence Grandpre and I’m Lady Brion
In Search of Black Power is a podcast which challenges conventional narratives around black policy, black movements, and black life.
We are coming to you from Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS). A grassroots think tank in Baltimore Maryland, with an extended platform, New Timbuktu. I’m the Director of Research here at LBS. So, I use research to create an intellectual foundation for the activism, policy advocacy and youth work we do here in Baltimore.
And, I’m the Cultural Curator here at LBS. So, I use the arts and culture to mobilize on behalf of Baltimore’s art community. In addition to producing creative content, making our ideas more accessible to a wider audience.
The New Timbuktu Project is an attempt to use the advocacy, teaching and research work of LBS to create a learning community which centers on reinvigorating the black radical tradition through autonomous intellectual innovations.
You can find out more at www.newtimbuktu.com
Was just a few miles from our office in downtown Baltimore City. This was in Baltimore Country where a young woman named Korryn Gaines from whose poetry you just heard lived and unfortunately died.
New videos released tonight in the fatal shooting of an armed Baltimore County woman killed during a six-hour standoff with police.
Baltimore County police will not release the name of the officer who shot Korryn Gaines.
They’ve cited an unprecedented amount of threats against their officers.
This is for anybody who wants to know what I’m doing (voice trails)
Videotaping with an apparent shotgun in her hands, Korryn Gaines records herself held up in her apartment.
Police officers mention the 23-year old anti-government sentiment as a concern that they have (voice trails off…)
This new video shows the intense moments leading up to the deadly encounter.
Her 5-year-old son was hurt in that standoff. Now police are investigating Gaines or whether one of the officers actually shot
Today we heard from the medical examiners who say Gaines was shot a total of five times.
Later exchanged gunfire with officers who shot her to death
We didn’t know Korryn, but it feels like we did. She went to the same high school I went to and we have a few mutual friends in common. But beyond a personal connection, I think there’s an ideological connection between Korryn Gaines and the work we do here at LBS.
Right, I think that’s true. There is certainly an ideological connection between our beliefs and while I didn’t know Korryn either, we know that she was a follower of Moorish Science. Which is an American national and religious organization founded in 1913, by Noble Drew Ali.
Moorish Science seek to unify what many would call diaspora African peoples politically, socially, but also racially. By creating a term or racial designation with followers stating that
they are all Moors who descended from Africa, primarily the country of Morocco.
Many followers adopt the last name Bey to politically express their commitment to Moorish Science and to show that they have been severed from their ancestral genealogy thus using the name Bey stands in the place of their tribal and familial name they would have had.
Ultimately, there aim is to exist in the United States as free, righteous, recognized and politically savvy citizens in accordance with their religious doctrine. In many ways Korryn’s videos also describe her as a sovereign citizen. The Sovereign Citizens Movement consists of individuals that believe they are only beholden to the rules of common law.
They are wholly skeptical of the systems of government and reject many statues, proceedings and taxation as illegitimate. Through a process known as expetriciation, sovereign citizens relinquish themselves from from federal jurisdiction by renouncing themselves from things like a social security number driver’s license, car registration, use of zip codes, and marriage licenses, voter registration, and even birth certificates. It should also be noted that the sovereign citizen movement is listed as an extremist group under the FBI domestic terrorism umbrella.
Which is interesting, because the FBI, under the counter intelligence program, also known as CO and Tell Pro , which was designed to surveille, infiltrate, disrupt, domestic political organizations, listed, many notable organizations as extremist groups, including: The Black Panther Party, The Nation of Islam, Snick, nearly every black student union, the NAACP, and even, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
So, the beloved, beautiful, Dr. Martin Luther King was seen and listed as a threat to national security. So, to be clear, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, does not profess to be Moorish Scientist, nor a part of the Soverign Citizens movement. But, we do actively seek to better the material conditions of Black people, particular in Baltimore and advocate for autonomy in the black community via black led and run institutions in addition to creating a strong base to provide political power and influence to serve the community agenda. So, the idea of sovereignty resonates with us heavily as we recognize the way racism, white supremacy has crippled black communities and the necessity to liberate ourselves from the weight of it’s obsessive force.
Moreover, LBS, shares a certain level of skepticism surrounding governmental agencies. Let us take the Baltimore police department as an example. The story that surroundings Korryn Gains unnatural death, alongside the negligence of that led to the death of Freddie Gray and the countless other instances of police brutality is proof positive that the department is in need of dire reform.
And news around the rouge trace task force, provides evidence that there needs to be more oversight, training and accountability to community. So, in the end, we understand why a woman like Korryn Gaines would feel the need to buy a gun. Why she might attempt to stand her ground which led to a standoff at her Baltimore County apartment. Why she might feel so free, so liberated, self-determined that she would be seen as a threat to the state.
We see her as less of an anomaly, but more as a product of a disconnect between the imagined version of the police force, that is so different from the lived experience of Black Folks, of Korryn of her toddler-aged son, who was shot by police officers, which folks love to praise.
So, on our last episode, we used the television show, The Wire, as a frame, for us to talk about the real-life problems of drugs and violence, here in Baltimore and challenge the Wire of realism, in its portrayal of street life.
Right and we’ve come to discuss the narrow lens The Wire uses to why folks to sale drugs and why violence prevails and thus shall be dealt with in Black communities, which included the relationship the community has with the police force and how we view them overall.
Exactly, we want to focus on a lot of topics in this podcast. But, before we left The Wire behind. But first, we want to address its portrayal of policing and how it matches up to the reality of policing in Baltimore
And this year just happens to be and this year, happens to be The Wire’s tenth anniversary, where many fans will celebrate what they believe is the genius behind, television-level street crime. Which we proved before, couldn’t be further from the truth, in our opinion.
Here’s the argument:
Through The Wire posits t??o be a realistic depiction of street life in Baltimore. It lacks the greater context, cultural sensibilities, and internal understanding, rendering it a holst of stereotypes that misses the nuances and particularly important aspects of black life to be deemed accurate. It lack the complex analysis of the strata of the black community that includes folks like us and fails to represent the collectivity to that drive the black community.
It also presents ambivalent notions about the police force. Sometimes, making them out to be saviors without depicting the vast majority of issues and misconduct that are in the force.
That’s a great point Brion, and kinda linking this episode to the last episode. The representations of the type of people that you would think would get in a shootout with the police, with the Wire, don’t match up to Korryn Gaines. The Wire would make you think that these folks come from destitute families who may be drug-addicted, and simply have no alternatives but to be out on the corner. That wasn’t Korryn’s story.
The high school we went to, we share an alma mater, is a local, college prep high school. She came from a family that cared a lot education and gave her a lot of social consciousness. And,when you kind of look at the incident, it’s an incident that kinda shows you how complex these realities are when you have black agency coming in contact with the state.
So, just to do a quick thumbnail, a brief sketch of the incident. Korren is living in a house, in Baltimore county with her boyfriend. Now, she has warrants for traffic violation, police show up to serve this warrant and as a woman, who has a young child, she doesn’t know what the context of the incidence are.
When police have a warrant, they can enter your come. For regular people that’s a problem, much less, someone who describes themselves as a sovereign citizen. So, a standoff ensues, she’s in a house with her child, hours pass, They call, I believe they don’t actually call the crisis intervention unit. And they definitely don’t call in crisis intervention, they call in the swat team.
And while they have a negotiator there, they are not engaging it in the framework
many people say a de escalating incident. They have sort of swat team at hand they whole time. And, when you have that type of weaponry, eventually, you feel an urge to use it. So, after having a back and forth which was broadcast on facebook live with Korren saying, “You will not enter my home.” Having a conversation, essentially, with the police. Which was very emotionally evocative. So they are talking about the right for her to defend her child.
Facebook live actually cut off her stream, preventing her from actually broadcasting her story to the community. Eventually, the SWAT raid comes in, Korryn Gaines is killed, and her child is shot
And, this incident was, of course, tragic. But, of what at the LBS of were try to do
Is an an overfocus on these incidences of spectacular violence that go viral l and turns the gaze towards the audience.How their beliefs create cope ability and potentially complacency,
With this system with void the agency of the victim. It sort of, so much, focuses on the emotional frame of these instances. That sometimes, it makes it hard for us, as a community to think through these things systematically. And to sort of glean the examples that are so valuable from these instances. So, one thing, for example, that we made a decision on, we didn’t want to play the actual, facebook live video, of the fetal incident.
I think there’s a lot of conversation about questioning the recirculation of these images, not just because they may retraumatize people, but because seeing the over and over and over might normalize the grotesque images of violence on black bodies, creating somewhat of a political spectacle, which again, creates so much emotion that it makes it hard for us to see the political landscape which creates these instances in the first place.
So, this is part of the reasons where we started off this program with a poem, from Korryn Gaines to forecast and agency and not just limit her to the spectacle of her death, so in that vein, for this episode, we want to try to weave together some things that show the interconnections between the representation of police and popular culture and how these representations impact how we perceive reality.
Ann Part of that perception is that Korryn may have done something wrong, just by having a gun. In this society, and I’ll say particularly, in the state of Maryland and I’ll say, the city of Baltimore, conception that all gun owners are suspect and if you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you need a gun for? You might be inviting, some sort of trouble, just by owning one.
And, I think that’s so interesting. Because it’s not like Korryn in the only one who has that type of story. It makes me think about Terrika Wilson who was also killed in a raid where police officers were coming to look for her boyfriend and her child was injured during that shoot out. And, I imagine, if someone like Terrika Wilson, had a gun, to protect herself from a raid that was not for her, would the situation have turned out to be different?
And, we can also, look at the national conversation around gun control, having a conversation w here we’re questioning the very basis of gun ownership, all across the nation even in our schools.
And it’s voices like Korryn’s, that I fear are being I fear ar being left out of that debate about gun control. So, if we think of Korryn almost as alike a thinker, and almost as a theorist, not just as a victim. I think that we can see deeper lessons about how we understand as black people, how, we, collectively are maybe forced to think differently about these concepts of threats and self-defense
Like, for black people when, despite what shows like Law and Order, might have you think. What happens when you not protected by the police, but need protection from the police. This is what Korren clearly felt and I was to step back and ponder, just why she may have come to this conclusion and why it make feels so counterintuitive for so many people on the left today
Well maybe, can you point out something, specific an example that some people can gravitate on.
Absolutely, so I think many folks on the left today might think they know how bad cops and act. And they think they know, why In theory, someone might fear the cops. But, what happens when, in fact, you’re being targeted by police units, literally functioning like a criminal gang. A group of police using all of the cunning, and precision and persistence, ingenuity..so often praised when cops are shown on shows like The Wire.like this on the wire. And their using all that to target you as a black person.
How does that the depths of this depravity possible with even real police compare, to the most quote, unquote, critical, depictions of policing in popular cultures, let’s say…in The Wire
[Background Music – Drums ]
In search of black powers is made possible by LBS sustainers. If you want to support this effort, become a community sustainer by investing anywhere from 2 dollars to 50 dollars each month. Simply visit, LBSbaltmore.com/sustain to sign up.
So when I think about The Wire and Korryn Gaines. I really want to take a step back. A giant step back. That we don’t often take; we’re so rushed and often having this conversation, to even thinking about policing in a broader context, like what are police. Like what do they do. What role do they play in society? I want to go back to Europe and think about political legitimacy.
So, some of you may have seen this picture before. It’s the picture of a king and his body is made of little dots. But, if you zoom in on the king you can see this body with this suptor (sp?), he’s actually made up of tiny little people and the idea there is to communicate a philosophical idea, that the power of the state, the power of the sovereign is only given by the people themselves and that image is called the leviathan.
It’s an image associated with the philosopher Thomas Hobbes. .And, I want to talk about this. This philosopher, Thomas Hobbes is evoked, in political theory, as the reason why we have police. The very reason they exists. And, if we understand, this traditional theory, as to why they exist, maybe we can critique them in a stronger way.
So the idea is that, before the state, before police, we were in what’s called a state of nature. It’s anarchy, everybody wallin’, everybody shooting, robbing, stealing each other’s stuff. And this was bad, the famous line, “If life in the state of nature is poor, nasty brutish and short.”
So we as human beings saw this and were like, “This sucks. We need some type of contact.That we can live by, so we can have rules.”
This is called The Social Contract, if you’ve ever heard that term. The idea is just like that of the picture of the king, with his crown and his septor sp????, but, he’s actually made up of little people. The people of the world, basically grant their sovereignty, free individual human beings, to the state, in order to create order out of chaos.
So here, we have this theory of a benevolent state, a benevolent ruler, taking care of his people who have willfully given their sovereignty to him.
So now, we can look at The Wire. The Wire calls itself a critical text, critically of the way the world portrays police in the worlds. But, I think if we look at it from what I just laid out, what I think they’re actually critical of
.…they’re critical of the fact that police cannot do their natural given job of restoring social order. And that many not actually be, being critical of police. That’s being critical of the police of so called not doing their natural job of enforcing the rule of the sovereign.
So think about, the very first thing you see in the first episode of the wire. You see this detective Montle ??being really upset, because basically, a witness who reported a drug deal, a shooting of a suvillian, that witness got killed. So, Notely??? goes…and says, “This is chaos, we can’t have this” And, he basically, gets the power to get the first wire tap in the wire.
(Conversation from the scene in The Wire)
I shouldn’t be here
Then you shouldn’t
They killed a fuckin’ witness, on your court
Yeah, you told me; you did your civic duty
Under the power vested in me, by the circuit court of Baltimore City, I absolve you of your sins detective Mcnotely??
You are my sin,you know that? I’m talking to you. Mike Major is ready to cut my throat.
Jimmy, you knew I was going to make that call, admit it.
I didn’t think you were just gonna hang me out on a shit storm.
Look , it’s not like what is was when I was a prosecutor, I’m a judge now, the rules different
You missed a spot
Yeah, now….what’s done is done.
Question is what do you want me to do now
I think you can leverage the deputy ops with a phone call
Some detail, asshole Lieutenant thinks he can bribe us his way on Barksdale
You want leverage, we give the dead witness angles to the newspapers, stir some real shit
Na, that tips Barksdale.working him, we don’t want to go public
Just put it to the deputy ops, who lost a witness to testify in your court, that forces the department to commit to the investigation
And, when you call Baralle??? this time, please forget my name
So this is really important because this is what The Wire really tells you about Baltimore.
Seen from show, The Wire, Man Talking
All of us her, in Baltimore, working. Sharing the dark corner of an American experiment.
It tells you that Baltimore is basically a failed state. The social contract, remember that? Broken down and we need the police the social contact great again. To make the state great again. To make the state legitimate again. And, that’s where you have the most terrifying lines of The Wire, when one of the characters calls it, ”The Dark Corner of the American Experiment.”
And so, we need, The Wire. We need the police who are just and powerful, to restore order. And this, essentially, is the genesis of the point, this idea of the “good police.” The Wire sses this phrase over and over again, we need “good police”. And that’s what The Wire is trying to give us.
What I think is so interesting about that analysis, is that, when I think about police or where the police force started, I think about slavery in America. Where the police force was used after the abolition of slavery or even during slavery, to keep slaves in check. So, when a slave ran away from a slave master or during the sharecropping times where there were ex-slaves were free and roaming the streets and seen as vagrants. This police force, if you will, was used to either take a slave back to it’s plantation or take freed people and continue to lock them up, so that they can continue to be slaves under an unjust system.
And so, when I think of black people and how we’ve engaged with police officers, from the time that we entered into this country, it is from unjust rules and it helps to uphold an unjust system and so, I just know what the term, “good police” means.when it comes to black people because the system has never been good for black people.
Absolutely, and if you look at The Wire, good police is completely outside of everything you just said, right. The character McNotely, This Irish cop is a good police because he walks the beat and says hello to the black grandmothers..The character Kay Mcgregor, is a good police because she is so dedicated to locking people up, pursuing her cases. And, you see that the idea of good police are about following the rules, but it never questions the basic authority the cops have to take your life.
It doesn’t question the basic authority of what created the American state. And that important because when you think about police brutality, because remember, when they shoot someone, their exercising OUR authority as citizens, remember the Leviathan? They’re exercising our authority that we have given to them temporarily to protect us.
Just think about how The Wire would portray the cops in The Wire going after the bad guy. Has the Lieutenant in front of the chalkboard and you’d have all these other cops sitting around him.
And the Lieutenant would be like “The talk of today on Barksdale, he’s the leader of a drug crew. Which has killed multiple witnesses; we have to restablish order.”
And, you’d have other cops talking about how important it is to reestablish that order.
And you’d have another cop saying, “We have all this great community intelligence and they’re telling us they have three stash houses where they keep guns and drugs.”
And you have another cops saying, “Let’s just kick in the door, crack some heads, western-district style.”
And of course the Lieutenant, being a good police would say, You want to keep in ties in th community??That’s not how it’s done…..warzone. Besides, this case can’t stand up in court…you have to do this right.
So, that’s the theory of what policing The Wire gives us.They have this authority and when they use guns, it’s because they’re protecting the people. And, The Wire, no matter how it tries to be critical of the police, it can never escape this good police mythology.
You want to give them more support. You want to them more and and what you are creating is the people are so valuable, they go beyond other individual people. They’re not just one little piece of that giant Lavaician. They’re so important because they protect everyone else, and so, they are above everybody. They’re not just regular citizens; they’re super-citizens
So two things come to mind. First, we’re talking about this Leviathan or the sovereign. I feel like, if all of the citizens are not represented by this sovereign, it doesn’t actually work. So, when you have a police force that is predominately male-driven. Or a police force that is predominantly white or a police force that doesn’t accurately reflect the community that it serves, then the
model of sovereign or Leviathan, automatically goes out the window. Because how can I put my place in a system that doesn’t actually reflect me and what I think.
The second thing, is that I’ve always been troubled by the lenancy that’s been given to police officers, it’s absolutely baffling how the purveyors of the law are not held to its fullest extent. They become non-citizens, in a category of their own, with superpowers that are just, the ability to evade the law itself. The phrase super-citizen sounds silly, but it makes perfect sense in this example.
Yeah, the title is a little bit weird. It sounds like something that came out of Dragon Ball Z. Like the cousin of a super san, or something like that?? But, if you just look at how cops are treated, in society, the term makes sense
The Supreme Court gave police what is called Qualified Immunity. Basically, saying, for them to do their job as protectors of the social order. They get immunity from prosecutions from what others would get prosecuted for. So, when they beat someone up, when they put cuffs on them, that would be kidnapping for a regular human being. But because they can do it because when you accuse them of going overboard, they have, essentially shifted the burden of proof on the victim on police brutality, to show, what a reasonable offer deems??? What is necessary for them to do their job. And that gives them incredible power. They also have unions for employees. But these police unions collect millions of dollars from police officers and they lobby on their behalf so vigorously that it is almost impossible for most mayors and city officers to pass laws which undermine the powers of the police, no matter how reasonable they might be.
So, when you have this much power and you have the respect of the community, think of shows likes Cops, where they’re seen looking up these almost deshviled, often shirtless bad guys.
Cops get free coffee. Cops get free sandwiches from Whole Foods. You have to ask the question, what happens when the Lavician? The protectors with the Leviathan, the police, turn from benevolent force to the aggressors.
Call to officer noise-Sirens
In Baltimore, we have what we call the Gun Trace Task Force, it’s created in 2009. Started off, essentially, as a paperwork unit. WIf that they call House Cats, folks who are in the office, tracing serial numbers related to different guns, so Baltimore, brought in a Consultant…a guy named Bill Brad who was a former police Chief from New York, who is notorious for doing Stop and Frisk their and he basically recommended that, these House Cats, these gun trace task force folks , you have to put them on the street. You can’t have cops getting paid without them getting on the street getting dirty.
And what happened was, when the got on the street, they used the knowledge they got, from having all this data on guns, to be really effective at finding guns and bringing them in. And, what they realized was that guns are politically currency in the policing world. If they got a gun, they realized that no one really cared how they got that gun off the street. They just put in on the table and they got all the praise. They started to get perks, like they They got perks ke, they had ‘G Days’, where if they found a gun, they would start to get the day off because that was their reward for finding a gun.
And so, we have, these people who see themselves, as the protectors of the social order. So, what happens when they get all this juice and all this praise? Eventually, they start to say, “Look, I’m going to use this for my own personal enhancement. These bad guys don’t deserve these cars and money. What happens when, I might take a little bit for myself? I’ve earned it, I’m protecting the social order.”
And so you have this same level of sophistication, that cops use, supposedly to protect
Now these guys were using to target the community. And you have the exact opposite, of what you got with the idealized version of the police. You have them strategically workshopping on how to target people. Just think about how a meeting could have gone with the Gun Track Task Force with them?
The Lieutenant would come in and say, “The target is the rapper, Young Moose. He’s known to have two dough body cars, three chains ad 50,000 thousand in cash.”
And the other cop was like, “Yeah, we rolled up on his boy and were able to get information about where the stash house is.”
That same cop from the first sketch would say, “Why don’t we just kick in the door? Crack heads; collect bodies.”
And the Lieutenant might say, “You want to keep getting overtime? We gotta make this look like a cop raid, not a gang beef. No, we got to do this right, no witnesses.”
So, doing this right is doing it like a gang, Doing it ??? and strategically. And we have just a bevy of evidence of what this taskforce just did. This is just so intense, it’s so terrifying.
So, they would use GPSs to put on the cars of their targets and follow them around. The way cops would roll up on low-level people, to address the kingpin. They would roll up on low-level dealers and then rob whoever the kingpin was, instead of just taking them to jail.
It’s brilliant, because, if you just look at their model,they’re robbing drug dealers. Who are they going to go to? Who’s going to believe them? So here, we have, proof-positive of the concept .that Korryn Gaines’ political theory was based upon.
Society invest all of this sovereignty in the police and rather than enforce the fictional social contract, they become threats to the very people that gave them power.
But, this action did not go unnoticed by the people on the ground. People were talking about the individual members of the untraced gun task force since the early 2000s.
So, the question really is: Why couldn’t people really see right was in front of their eyes?
So, this is what I want to focus on.And here, I think we can begin to see why the representations of police that we get in popular culture, make it hard for us to hold the police accountable when they step out of line. Like, think about, for example, what The Wire gives us, with police as community builders and what the Gun Trace Task Force did as community exploiters.
So, let’s just take this one clip from The Wire. This cop, bunk morland, he is basically yelling at this drug dealing about how back in the day, we just used to have a community.
(Scene from The Wire)
Cop: Bullshit boy. No, victim. I just came from Tasha’s people remember? All this death, you don’t think that ripples out? You don’t even know what the fuck I’m talking about.
I was a few years ahead of you and Edmondson, I know you remember the neighborhood, how it was? We had some bad boys for real. It wasn’t about guns, so much as knowing what to do with your hands. Those boys could really rack? sp
My father, had me on the straight. But, like any young man, I wanted to be hard too. So, I would turn up at all of the house parties where the tough boys hung. Shit, they knew I wasn’t one of them. Those hard cases would come up to me and say, “Go home school boy, you don’t belong here. Didn’t realize it, at the time, what they were doing for me. As rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Nobody? No victim who didn’t matter and now all we got is bodies and predatory motherfucker’s like you. Where that girl fell, I saw kids….like Omar, calling you by name, glorying your ass. Makes me sick motherfuckers how far we done fell.
And again, the Lavician is at play. The Wire here is telling us that cops here deserve their status as good police because they actually care about the community. They was to revive their community to its previous greatness. This is problematic, because first, many baltimore police, in real life, are not from Baltimore. They don’t share this mythical conception of making this community great again.
But secondly, this is ignoring, how in reality instead of using their authority to develop the community, in reality, the cops are using it to tear it apart. The Gun Trace Task Force had many members, but one of them was notorious. Their name was Daniel Hersl; ….and of the many things that Hersl has been accused of, one of the most egregious, was actually planting guns and plating drugs, in the office off, a community organization that was planned and designed to prevent violence in the community
The theory is that Daniel Hersl, felt that this organization, which was staffed with former gang members who were trying to turn their lives around, was either a front for people who were continuing to live the street life, or a threat to police themselves because, if this program, called Safe Streets, works, maybe we don’t need to give the police 500 million bucks per year, which is what they get, in public funding, here in Baltimore. So, while The Wire tells us that good police protect the community, the reality is, the Gun Trace Task Force was destroying it.
And, if you keep looking at what The Wire tells us, you see more and more flagrante contradictions in The Wire and the Gun Trace Task Force.
So, for example, The Wire is constantly talking about this idea of dope on the table, how, the real problem is that good police are being hurt by the bureaucracy, which literally wants to do these public relation spectacles and put big amounts of dope on the table and how that is hurting police work.
(Scene from The Wire)
Commissioners wants raids city-wide.
Every door we can take every address we can take.
Anything that we can write ….connected to a narcotics case, anything…CID tactical..the DEUs?
And tomorrow, on the six o’clock news, we put a lot of fucking dope on the table. A lot of it.
Dope on the table; it’s a photo opt about Keem Mcgregs catching a bullet or two.
We need you to rip them a new one, your honor.
I don’t know Chief…
You back on the ticket, hun?
In real life, the Gun Trace Task Force was actually creating a mythology. Not about actually dope on the table. But about dope on the streets. Where they are actually selling the drugs that they confiscated from drug dealers to people on the streets. There’s an actual story of them taking a bails bondsman, from pharmacies, during the Baltimore Uprising and selling these prescription drugs, not only back on to the streets, but then blaming the gang members for putting these very same drugs back on the streets. Justifying more money for policing.
So, we have The Wire telling us that the cops really carry about the community and hate the burracy, and hates the perception of public relations. When in reality, The Guns Trace Task Force was creating the exact same public relations narrative demonized in communities while they profited off of them.
Finally, of course, you got to look at the use of force and the mythology of restraint, in The Wire, vs. the reality of the Baltimore Police force. There are many examples of police beating people up, but there are also examples of irrational unrealistic restraint. There is one sense where, they go and try to take in a notorious murder from the Barksdale crime organization.
And, despite the fact that he, is portrayed as, the most dangerous person in the whole show. They take him in. No shots fired and barely even a physical struggle.
The reality is, all you have to do is look at the Baltimore Justice report, on the Baltimore Police. And you see incident after incident, on a pattern of practice, not just what’s in the Gun Trace Task Force, but what is in the whole force. Of excessive force, lack of accountability, and mistrust in community.
And, I think, this all leads to, this really, really, really dangerous narrative. Where the cops in The Wire are actually seen as being the way to enhance society, even bringing people back, from the socially dead, from the corner and bringing them back into the social contact. There’s a really, really poignant scene. That, I think had aged really poorly. I think, where the police are interviewing, a member of the Barksdale Organization who wants t o change his ways.
(Scene From the Wire)
Woman: What are you looking for?
Man: I wanted to go away; I want what Wallace wanted. I want to start over, that’s what I want.
I don’t care where. Anywhere. I don’t give a fuck. I just want to go somewhere where I can breathe like regular folk.
(End of Scene)
And, I think that this clip says it all because we all know. That, while D’angleo Barskdale says that he just wants to breathe. That he just wants fresh air. The cops don’t give you that. His dream of getting into witness protection, moving away from Baltimore. Is that, sort of dangerous escapism, The Wire teaches that the police can give you – a good life away from the corner.
But, we all know the reality, the cops don’t give you life, they don’t give you breath. They take it away.
Man: I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
People marching and shouting repeatedly: “I can’t breathe.”
The New York City grand jury, cleared a white police in the choke-hold death of an unarmed black man. The protests are growing larger and larger and spreading across the country. Including Boston and Chicago.
But doesn’t The Wire show cops stealing and beating people up? There’s even an example of intra force violence where the white cop accidentally shoots and undercover black cop. Doesn’t that help prove The Wire’s claim, that it can be seen as an anti cop show?
I’m glad you said that, because a lot of people, even forget that that them even exists in The Wire. It’s there. But, it’s an accident. It’s not systemic. It’s not a focus. What The Wire also shows is Leutients coaching, individual police officers, about how to lie to internal affairs, when they beat people up. And, that’s not an isolated incident produced for dramatic effect. That’s a reality everyday, with the Baltimore Police Department. So, The Wire, though it tries to give balance. I think, gets it wrong. Because, it juxtaposes the good police, with a few bad cops. The problem is that when the police, are in the definition of a department with good police.
Daniel Hersl was played as hero for the Baltimore Uprising standing up to the so-called thugs??
The Wire isn’t quite praising cops, but it is still justifying their role as super-citizens in our society. You see cops suffering. Mental illness. It’s a logical solution for what The Wire tells you. Give the cops better health care. Give them more time off. Give them more overtime so that they can make more money. This is actually, the political logical, of no other than, the fraternal order police. The police union. An entity that rips up the social contract, in the name of protecting police. So, I think all of this lets us know, that when you think about the role policing plays. You think about, the hurt they bring the community. We don’t really have a social contract here in America, for the cops to protect and enforce. We have what I think, what Northwestern University, Charles Mills would call, a racial contact.
A racial contract?
Yeah, his whole argument, that as a philosopher, that this whole story, the sovereign, who is given authority by the people, is basically a lie when it comes to America.
And, I think this reality, that Korryn Gaines is asking us to wrestle with. I mean, just think about this idea of the thin blue line. If you look around, you’ll see bumper stickers, where there is a black square and the symo in the middle. The symbol for the fraternal order of the police.
The argument is, that the world is chaos, i.e. state of nature. And there is this thin blue link of cops, protecting the good people, civilization, from the predators and that’s the contract, that’s what cops do. But in America, that thin blue line, is drawn, right over black and brown bodies. It is a racialized conception, that brown bodies, in their very being, are threats to the social order. And just look at the history of policing. This history of gun ownerships relates to, this idea of a racial contract. Part of the reason why we had a second amendment, is because we had the possibility of slave revolts. And every able-bodied white person, was expected to be able to wield a gun, if needed.
Think about Trevon Martin and George Zimmerman, where we have Zimmeron, not as a cop, but as a community white person, basically deputizing himself to be law enforcement.
You have this agreement that white bodies are able to police black bodies, gentrifiers, calling the police for noise complaints, or George Zimmerman , roams the streets of Florida.
So, if you’re looking at this reality and you’re some like Korryn Gaines
And, you see, not just the cops just as super-citizens, but white people in general as super citizens that have the ability to arm themselves, not just with guns, but with extra rights.
With the stand your ground law maybe, the only way to protect your rights from a super citizen is to become a sovereign citizen and claim your own right to self defense.
It’s frustrating to think, the number of people, that simply wrote Korryn off as a conspiracy theorist. Who said she is the reason that her son was nearly killed. The notion is so unfounded, and dismissive, because although it may be true, that she could have made different decisions, it’s also true that the police are known to make black folks more unsafe than protected.
I think the notion of conspiracy theorist is really important because Black Baltimore knew, the Gun Trace Task Force, was a gang, run amuck within the police. There is actually an entire rap song…dedicated to dissing Daniel Hersl on his illegal activities..
And, there are community activist, one guy named Ray Kelly, who works with Community United, who was actually telling people, that the cops were selling drugs two or three years ago and he was dismissed as a conspiracy theorist.
And, I think we could flip it. Think about the other’s perspective. Imagine you had a group of people who were able to con, an entire society, that they were the only thing stopping them. From a horde of demons destroying their civilization and convince a society to give them unlimited money, unlimited benefits and no accountability, that’s what we have with the police in America here today and that sounds an awful lot like a conspiracy theory.
Song Verse by Young Moose
Fuck the cops and the state, they say I’m a crook
Fuck the judge, I don’t like him, he don’t go by the book
I ain’t have my hair cut when I walked into court
I don’t like dressin’ up, he goin’ off how I look
That nigga white, so I’m guessin’ he ain’t likin’ my skin
They had me sittin’ for a house raid I wasn’t even in
Detective Hersl, he a bitch, I swear to god he ain’t right
Heard about my rap career, he tryna fuck up my life
That nigga fucked me over once, he ain’t gettin’ another
That racist bitch had the nerve to put the cuffs on my mother
Put the cuffs on my father, then put the cuffs on my brother
He think about me everyday, that nigga mind in the gutter
Lookin’ for some information, bitch, that ain’t how I rock
Throwin’ dirt on my name because I’m goin’ to the top
The warrant wasn’t even right when they ran in my spot
They get away with everythang, when the fuck this gon’ stop?
I’m tired of being locked in (I’m tired)
Workin’ out this shit
I’m tired of being locked in (I’m tired)
Let me out this bitch!
I’m tired of being locked in (I’m tired)
Workin’ out this shit
I’m tired of being locked in (I’m tired)
Let me out this bitch!
(Rap Music Ends)
Hello Lawrence here to talk about LBS sustainers.
There’s a critical question in movement circles, but how to we fund movements?
Fortunately we have some guidance from elders.
In 2007 a group Insight Woman of Color,
The revolution will not be funded beyond the non profit industrial complex.many women who work in nonprofits, and some who don’t
Explain their theory on the limits of the traditional nonprofits. Many already knew from in the 60s and 70s the radical fervor that was in the streets, got sucked into the office spaces and into city governments. A while that yielded benefits, as a non profit, folks couldn’t directly lobby and some of that Cause energy was used to sustain their organization funded by grants as opposed to funding the movement on the streets???
So, we at LBS are trying to do something different. Influenced by this book, we’re trying to build an alternative model to fund our movement. Community sustainment means, you as a listener agree, to give us just a small amount of money so that we can fund, not just the podcast, but the different work we do politically, throughout the state, and different artistic endeavors and different opportunities we offer to you. Think of it as patron before pateron. This gives us the freedom to pursue radically different forms of organizing since we’re not a nonprofit. Politicians known that we can actively work against them. Which actually gives us added leverage,which compared to non profits who’s lobbying who they know, cannot actively engage in election, so…
So for us to continue to support our political work and for us to continue to support this podcast, we really need you to go to LBS support/com/sustain and become a sustainer today.
Song, Nas, Got Yourself a Gun
Song, Lyrics that’s the sound of the police..
Up until this point, we’ve presented a number of critiques about officers, but i think that there is one glaring critique that is still missing
We have glossed over the role that gender plays in policing. I think this issue is multilayered and complex. Let’s take for the way the police force is overpopulated with men. In fact, statistics from 2013 suggest that only 13% of police force is actually female. Which means that, a woman, at 1am in the morning who is pulled over by a cop is likely to be surrounded by men with bright, flashing lights, asking for her license or registration. Or a woman who calls the police, because an abusive boyfriend. Will be met my more mocho brute men already traumatizing situation caused by the man in her life. And, finally because women officers, quite frankly man not be available. It is also reported that women are more likely to experience harassment…intimidation tactics by officers which may be a product of misogyny …in the police department. Which is may even more shocking is that law enforcement. Officers are likely to commit domestic assault 2 – 4 four times higher than the general public. And, while we have all heard the story of Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious in an elevator, i have never seen a story of a police officer, abusing his wife and losing his position on the force as a result. It is baffling to the think, that so many officers can commit domestic violence, which is illegal and yet, remain responsible for enforcing the law. And yet ,it is plausible, that those officers who commit domestic violence are likely, to view, female body constituents with the same disdain
The last and most egregious example, efficiency due to gender might be best exemplified thought this clip of The Wire where Officer McNotely–sp…goes undercover at a brothel
(Scene from The Wire)
Come one ladies..(heavy breathing)
And i want to talk about this real quick because, i think this is insane. First of all, the sting itself is pretty problematic with criminalizing the sex works and the so-called ‘johns’ the patrons of sex workers.
But morethat. How can you ever have concept. She’s fundamentally put at a huge power disadvantage in this whole affair. And, the way The Wire talks about it, McNotely is attacked for this, he is praised and i know the wire is going to say McNotely is in despair, he’s a sex addict, buti think that’s a cop out, no pun intended. I think that literally, just doing things that show these characters and not taking any understanding of gender dynamics, in real-life policing,
Where, in thirty-five, it’s legal for cops to have sex with women they’ve, had in their custody and they’ve arrested.
So, sagain, in this clip, McNotely goes undercover, in a brothel and subsequently has a threesome with two sex workers. The lighthearted nature of this seen is indicative of
the way the police force, at large, treats incidents of sexual misconduct.
In fact, in a national study reveals, that most police departments, lack a comprehensive policy or program regarding sexual misconduct within the force. And, this is strange..seeming that there are large and exhaustive programs regarding just about every disciplinary issue. It is as if police don’t see sexual assault as a crime at all. The DOJ report on the Baltimore Police Department revealed that 100s of untested rape kits will likely expire before any investigation ven ensues.
The best instance of police officers…involved in an instance of sexual misconduct is happens in Oklahoma with an officer name with an officer ..in oklahoma…named Daniel holdsclaw
Holdcslaw is serving a 220-year prison sentence after being convicted of raping and sexually assaulting several black women after serving as an Oklahoma Police Officer from 23 – 2014. It is said that Holdsclaw preyed on women who were poor, with a record, using warrants to find incremedateing evidence and then blackmailed those women and/or arrested them to perform sexual acts on them.
He was eventually caught when he documented an unauthorized trafficestop of a 57-year-old black woman after his shit had ended.
He assumed she was poor, he assumed she had a criminal record, so her ran a warrant check which ultimately yielding no results. Still, he sexuallly assulted her, which led for her to file a complaint.
The sexual crime unit integrated Holdsclaw and completed a subsequent investigation that turned-up 36 others. The sexual crime unit, interrogated holdsclaw and completed a subsequent indictment and completed an investigation that turned up 36-like incidents of sexual misconduct. 16 of which he was charged with and 13 that he is actively convicted of.
What is baffling, about this case, is that an officer who is convicted of 36 sexual and molestation
charges, ca go undetected. It begs the question, what happens to our complaints when we report police misconduct? And what safeguards exists that track the pattern of repeat offending officers.The laws should not be this lenient with those responsive for enforcing it.
The justice system imposes a three strick, you’re out policy for repeat sullivan
offenders, while leaving monsters like Holdsclaw, 36 times, willfully unchecked.
Here in my hand are documents that were kept a secret.
A secret that hearing was held where Judge, Timothy Henderson’s courtroom. Surveillance shows who attended but all the details were sealed.
The public wants to know, what were the findings of this judge and we have yet to find that out.
We only know that it was regarding Daniel Holdsclaw’s appeal and that leaders department foreseince labs were there. Today though, new documents show, that hearing was regarding a personel l investigation.Which by Oklahoma law..can be kept confidential.
Still his counsel is worried that additionally evidence may be destroyed if swift counsel isn’t taken.
Sirens and inaudible call
Spoken Word Poem
Cops are the gods made out of men.
I guess that’s why they always try to leave us holy
Baptize us in bullets and lift our hands up as if to say hallelujah
Take money like tithes and offerings whether it’s through tactics or a sting
The badge become collection plate
But, T.V. shows perfect cops on foot patrol
Make crooked cops look admirable
Make good intentions
Made satan less demon
More angels on vacation
A DYI deity
Defying all logic while walking on water or standing over his welcome mat wife while pulling her blood before the next shift
Then turning the red body sea of his body into wine after right after it
And ain’t it like a Moses to part things, like legs?
These officers are patrichary put into uniform
Daddy wears the pants
And we stroke it’s ego
Enlarges it’s penis with billy clubs
Bully thugs on Viagra
Aroused by arrest
Handcuffs used to kinkey until you find the trail of women bagged in bondage, after being blackmailed
Poverty stricken with two strikes already against them
So, sex trade becomes survival
Bartering the body with the boys in blue
Hoping the drop the charges against you
And, the public will praise these gods, hoping for a miracle
Something supernatural like loose cigarettes, turned tighten grip
Black skin on pavement made stop and frisk
Running legs into severed spine, Ayianna dreams until mama screams
Traffic stops, toddlers shot in Korryn Gianes wings
All this death, must be divine
Because what’s a savior you ain’t willing to die for?
First world country secretly at war
Feeling less like Baltimore and more like Darfur
Police states with militarized streets
Hand packed cells and sirens on repeat
Feels like I need tech against those those sworn to protect me
They all foul, somebody call the ref
Cause if the system is run a muck with
Then they all dirty
A big difference between a shiny badge
And actuality, don’t make a religion out these dudes
Ain’t nothing dogmatic but the K9 unit
Don’t get caught up in the choke of officer-friendly
Of officer friendly
When backstabbing is more like reality
Brion i think your story, really made me think of the predicament that Korryn Gaines was in, at that moment, at her house.
Because for her you never know if a cop is a Holdsclaw, or by that matter and Mcnotely. And she knows that these cops can say anything and that she is unlikely to be believed. So, when you say don’t enter my house. These feelings are not totally irrational because she’s knows that she’s facing a super citizen, not just as a black person…as a woman a black woman who is also a mother. And i think many in the audience would say, “I follow the law, but I would do anything to protect my child.”j
And, i just want folks to remember that Korryn was in that exact same situation. And the way she chose to do that many people would question. But, hearing the story you just said, I think it harder, for most most people to engage, and have a second-questioning of her actions
So, for the past two episodes, we’ve been talking about The Wire and being pretty critical of The Wire. And, we want to have balance. So, we wanted to bring some body in who would have an inside perspective and we at LBS are fortunate to know one of the actresses who plays one of the detective on The Wire, this is Sonja Sohn who played Lieutenant Kima Greggs on the show for five seasons and we wanted to bring her in to run by some of these criticisms. I don’t want to say to defend the wire, but at least to let us know what folks may have been thinking when they did the show and to reflect on some of the issues that we have been raising?
So, here’s our interview with Sonja Sohn?
Brion and Lawrence: Sonja Sohn, thank you for joining us.
Sonja: Hi, it’s great to be here.
Lawrence: Brion and I have been working on this podcast and we’ve kind of been looking back to The Wire, ten years out now. And, kinda been thinking about the representations of policing and how those look ten years out.
So, maybe it would help to start out of the beginning. When you were doing The Wire. When you were thinking about taking the role. What were you thinking about the show’s representation of policing, specifically around your character?, Detective, Kima Greggs.
Well, at that time, I was not involved in any type of community advocacy work. I was a single mom looking for a job and his one came through. I remember reading for it and for me, the most quality striking thing of the character,and she was a lesbian of color on the show and i don’t think that there was a black lesbian character, at all on television at that time.
I was not clear where the show was going because I barely got a chance to see the pilot and if you know The Wire, it unfolds very slowly. I had questions in my mind, you know, who are these white people writing this slang. You know, i was an employee. I was happy to have a job and a good one. And i wanted to play this role to the best of my ability, which was this cop, which was challenging for me. Because, as a child, I had challenging situations with the police.
Lawrence Could you speak on that?
Yeah, I can speak on one in particular. When i was a very young child…I lived in a home with domestic violence. You know, when you’re little, you think you’re going to die, you know? And, the entire neighborhood can hear it. Nobody’s coming in?
I’m like, I got to call the police, I may lose my mother and I remember. They used to come. I used to secretly call them, so nobody would know. And every time they came. They would come and they would leave. There was one particular time, when two cops came. They were the big/typical you know with the pink face?
This cop, stood in the door jam and I was peering and I saw him.I saw him listening to my father. You know the explanation of what’s going on. I saw him listening to the different versions of the story from my parents and I caught him, rolling his eyes and looking at his partner and like shrugging his shoulders laughing and in that moment. I was devastated because in a child’s mind, I thought, “You’re supposed to help me but in that moment, I thought, Oh shit, I can’t depend on them to help me so i never called them again”
Okay, so I do have a few questions related to my part of the segment. It is true,that police departments in America have very little representation of women in the force. I was wondering what were you thinking about the way The Wire is portrayed your character as a woman on the force. Do you think that was a true representation of how women are really shown up in the police force? What were your thoughts about it.
You know, what I liked about the character, Kima? She was basically the moral center for the police departmentS she was the one incorruptible cop and i’ve met that cop before, so we know that they are out there. What I liked about Kima also was also this very real relationship she had with her wife and her real conflicts about her trying please her wife. She wanted her to go to school as opposed to being a cop and the personal conflicts in the character…not just her personal life, in her work, in the fifth season, when she sees her boy are all going down that road, she finally drops the dime.
I don’t know how true that would be. Cops really stick together and for whatever reasons. I just wonder how real that it. But, then again, I don’t know, because one of the executive producers is a former homicide detective and narcotics detective. So, I know some of the things is completely fictional and some of the stuff is thinly veiled. I had not had that conversation with him, as to whether he knew this cop. I knew she was someone based on this cop. But, I knew that cop was not a lesbian. I remember, i wanted to portray a female cop and they were like, yeah she has these traits of Kima, but she was out at that time, so i couldn’t follow her for research.
Hm, interesting. That was something that I was wondering about Kima’s character on the wire.
And her sexuality and I talk to a lot of folks who are in the LGBTQ community and they talk about the lack of representation, from folks, you know, who are lesbian, gay,same-gender loving, trans and how there isn’t a lot of representation of those folks in the force and how that’s necessary.
Because of the interactions for let’s say with sex workers or trans folks in the way in which they are policed, misgendered, and etc. so, do you think it was perfect, the way Kima was scripted to be a lesbian woman in the force. And, maybe that was any political messaging of that. Did you have any thoughts about that?
You know, i don’t really. When you’re working, I had to just focus on my little job. I hadn’t really thought about that. You know, I like my character. I thought she was one of the, you know. There were a lot of great characters in the show. I enjoyed playing her even though it was challenging. The first year, I was trying to come to terms with my past experiences with cops.
So, that I could actually play this cop and so, that was really what I was focused on. In order to play a cop, i had to be a cop. I couldn’t be carrying all of the resentment from my past. You know that resentment and experience, you know I don’t carry resent anyway, because it’s not healthy. But one can take those experiences and come up with sort of a value system of morality and principles. You know, because those things shape your character and processing that and maturing through that is what shapes part of who you are,
So, i had to go through that process and get very clear and delineation about the difference between me and my experience, and that’s valid and not negated because i am playing a cop, but commit to playing this cop. Once i got that together, and understood that, ultimately she and I share a love for truth and justice, I could come from there.
So, nne of the things, I talk about in the segment was story is the story of Daniel Holdsclaw and how he sexually assaulted a number of women while he was on the force. And, I’m wondering, what are you thought i’m wondering what are your thoughts around, the corruption in the police department and how it relates to sexual assault from polices officers against civilians or even police officers against other police officers or against women, etc. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts around that, because that was a really big case when it came out.
But, is totally glossed over in a number of instances. People really talk about sexual misconduct within the force.
Um hmm, I’m going to be like anyone there, of course it’s horrendous. Police officers in that situation are abusing their power and they should certainly be treated like anyone else who commits a crime, are alleged to commit a crime and goes to trail or anyone else…who gets convicted.
There are a lot of cases like the Holdsclaw case. I know in the Oakland department? There was a big scandal there with another cop. I know, so there are cases like this. But, who’s picking up the mantle and pushing against that agenda. Um, I don’t know.
Cause you’ve been active; you did a documentary called Baltimore Rising, here in Baltimore.I guess I wanted to transition into some conversation about that …I want to frame it.
Part of the reason why I wanted to do this podcast conversation about The Wire is Baltimore City is filled with people who makes decisions about policies in Baltimore. about though it’s a fictional T.V. show, they may have seen The Wire and that colors their thinking about policing in real life.
Where some of the solutions they come up with are, “They are drinking so much, we’ll give thee more counseling or they seemed to be stressed out, let’s get them a new police station”
Some of the humanity that the show portrays is that the police can be more easy, political. To process than the structural power imbalance between police and community.
So i guess i’m wondering about how the documentary impacts the situation.
And how maybe how you’ve evolved from The Wire and through the documentary process of doing it. ??? I missed some words here.
You know i think, getting back to your earlier question, ten years later, the show. And, like I’m saying I know the minds of the people who created the show. It was not my vision, you know what I mean. But, if I’m am giving you a hypothetical answer, I think ten years later, maybe the (Hercarb or presblusory storyline ???) Storyline, from season one when you see when they were a little bit off the chain would be far up the road (sp?)
What I believe , David and the writers were trying to do, was tell an incredible complicated story. No one has yet to match it, to me.
So The Wire holds a particular place around America’s pop cultural imagery around cops. So, as someone who has played a cop on T.V., what do you see? What do you feel when you see other folks playing cops on T.V.? Sort of law and order style or these portrayals of cops that again can kinda create these sort of these superheros. While, I think The Wire was going more for tragic heros.
You know, what does do to our country’s thinking when we see so many, sort of one-dimensional way protral of cops – always right, always on point, this sort of CSI vision of cops.
You know, let me think about that a little bit. I think a lot of T.V. shows have tired to, um. Imitate Wire cops. Did you have a T.V. show like The Shield? The Shield was giving you all that bad cop, corrupt, the whole thing. I thought The Shield had it’s on point-of-view, even though, i feel as though it came at the heels of the wire.
That’s all i can really say you know. I do think some of the network shows can kinda give you the quick two-dimensional version of cops. But, i cannot say a lot about. T.V. has changed. I cannot keep up with it everyday.
Even someone who’s in T.V. (Laughs)
One of the questions that comes to mind, in this segment and this before. We question the notion if The Wire got us right, got Baltimore right. And, as a person who did a documentary of Baltimore, was in The Wire and very familiar with Baltimore and folks who live here. What would you say, did the wire get it right or was it off?
See Brion, why you gonna put me on the hot seat like that?
I personally think that David nailed the political stuff. Most of the aspects that. I think he nailed a lot of aspects of Baltimore, actually, to be quite honest because there are people from Baltimore who were consultants also.
Like, Fran Boyd, from her life. The Corner is based on her life. She with Andre Willams???(sp) for a long time. They were like two peas in a pod and he nailed that. She took him everywhere, and got him in, connected into that world and I think that he did a brilliant job and should have won an Emmy for it. Because he was…and that’s the about this show too. Because this was quote on quote drug addict, a junkie, with an incredible heart and he in the end, made it. He was the one character that…
You’re talking about the Bubbles character, right?
We didn’t think Bubbles was going to make it and I was like wow David. I was
I was not expecting a cheerful ending for Bubbles.
But, as far as but as far as for getting Baltimore right, There are so many aspects of Baltimore that are not in the show. So, um.and i just don’t know if you can put all of those aspects their
So, when you say that there are some aspects that are missing, what did you see that was missing?
Well, for me. Listen. I can’t…well, one of the things. Here am am, standing here, right? After coming into all ove this advocacy work and non profit work, right.
One of my favorite scenes that never got followed through is that Carketty is running for Mayor and the neighborhood people take him into the ally and say, “Look here at all this junk.”
Just to see those community people, you know, they care about the community. But, I have to give it to David for even putting that scene in there because it showed that the community people cared about their neighborhood, they vote, and they want somebody who is going to take care of it.
So, all of that. the black church seen with the mayoral candidates coming in and all that. You have so many people in Baltimore who were behind the show at the time. I think that, I give it to the producer, they were trying to use as many authentic people from the city in the show.
But, does that answer your question?
Yeah, I’ll try to um..I’ll try to close this out by putting a point on that question and if you can’t answer, that’s fine.
One of the questions I have about watching The Wire, now that i didn’t have watching it originally, was given the way black Baltimore are portrayed. I don’t know if I can envision, black Baltimore having that level of agency and savvy. That is what I see around me every day.
Even Bubbles, he gets saved by a white sponsor at a Narcotics Anonymous program
And the way Baltimoreans are portrayed, Royce dresses himself kente cloth to basically con the black voters into voting for him. I’d actually like to think that folks like LBS to make it to where it would harder for folks to fall for that.
So, I guess my question is, given there is no “Black Lives Matter” type movement in The. Even though there is some depictions of pictures black folks seeing police brutality, what would you say to some who says that, “ Despite his best efforts, David Allen, may truly have an issue even conceiving. Complex black agency. Like could david S. even envision something even like LBS existing?
Oh, i can’t answer that. I ain’t in that man’s head.
Remember, like back in those days. At 2000, where were you. It was the days. It was a different time. We didn’t have this rush of young people who were holding folks accountable. That was not present, so if that’s not present, it’s hard to identify.
So, like I was saying to you. I was not the me i am now…doing that TV show. So, you know. We all are kinda constantly evolving. And waking up
I’m not speaking for david, but hypothetically speaking if the show were made….now, i couldn’t see a show that wouldn’t include some. Of the work that you all do, like blmatter, type..
Or some of the police brutality type thing, you know that’s come…I think ten years late…it would kinda hard not to have that, ya know. I mean, look at the headlines.
And look at all the cop shows coming out…there were a bunch of cop shows
, it’s all about police brutality you know….some more well-executed that others but you know…and that’s because of you all
And folks like you. Doing the documentary. Like you did.i think we’re all trying to engage these questions and….may change the regulations and change the discourse together.
Well, you know. You all have been trained and whatnot
But for me, it’s a very sort of intuitive, kind of feeling my through, learn as go along. Because, you know. I can’t go back to school to get that degree.i I get educated and learn by y’all.
And, I‘ve chosen to, i think the best place for me, the best place to do my work is actually, with my art. Sometimes, talking. For some people, talking doesn’t move them but seeing
Can make an opening, for people like you can come in and take it to the next step, right?
Well, so you know. That’s where I am anyway. Not that you asked that.
That’s where i’m out
Well that’s where you’re at and we’ll leave it there. Sonja….thank you so much.
Thank you Lawrence; thank you Brion.
Thank you for being here.
You know I love y’all; anytime.
So Brion, we’ve been a lot of this information out, about policing, reform. And, I know that you work with your people sometimes and have a lot of conversations with artists folk are not officially policy activist. And, I get concerned sometimes, that the conversations we have, isn’t impacting those communities. They still feel really hopeless about reform, giving all that we see on our social media feeds. Do you have some experience about, how people will feel?
Well, as an artist listening to a lot of young people’s poems and artwork I’ve seen throughout the community, I think that’s true. I think that people have a deep seated mistrust for the police department, that they would rather do away with it entirely rather than trying to work through fixing the police department or creating a new culture within the police department. That they fell is corrupt just through and through.
And, I can’t say that they actually see a future where there is a police department that reflects that notion of the Levithan are the flexed? Or a department that is actually good and is working on the behalf of the community.
That’s definitely what Korryn Gaines would have felt. And I hear this on social media a lot. Abolish the police. And, sometimes, I think it’s designed to be a rallying cry, but, I worry that without a transition plan, about how we get there.