Sunday, November 18, 2018 || By Shanel Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Azariah Evans and Breanne Escamilla, two of the local students in Proviso Township who were treated to a free movie and novel on Saturday. | Shanel Romain
On Nov. 18, the nonprofit Best of Proviso Township, along with many local co-sponsors, hosted a free screening of the The Hate U Give — a movie about a police-involved shooting based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Angie Thomas.
The nonprofit had allocated roughly 300 free tickets for students from schools across the township to see the film.
Before at least 100 people, student and adults, watched the movie, Best of Proviso convened a brief panel discussion about policing and social justice that was moderated by Rev. Teddy Matthews, the pastor of Empowerment Church, which has services in the Melrose Park Cinemark where the event was held.
The panel discussion included Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, Bellwood Police Chief Jimenez Allen, retired Maywood Police officer Chris Brown and former Judge Gay Chase.
“When I was 14, I got arrested in Bellwood, because I was out on the street, on the corner, dancing,” said Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey. “I got arrested, taken to the police department, handcuffed, taken in, called the n— word … this happened for dancing.”
Harvey said that at the time, his parents really did not have a voice in the village back then. But the mayor took the long view and used the injustice “as a learning experience.” Eventually, he would go on to work in the village as its first African American fireman. Last April, after a lengthy career saving lives, Harvey was elected Bellwood’s first black mayor.
“The tables turned,” he said. “Some of the same people who arrested me and called me the n— word, I became their boss. I stayed the course, because I felt if I do the right things and get educated, it would work out for me.”
The film was particularly resonant for Brown, the former Maywood officer whose son — Proviso Math and Science Academy graduate, Proviso East basketball standout and Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown — was arrested in January by eight Milwaukee police officers for a minor parking violation. Video of the arrest, which included police using a Taser on Brown, made national news.
The incident prompted Milwaukee’s police chief to apologize for the officers’ “inappropriate” behavior and Milwaukee’s mayor to criticize the officers, saying that no “citizen should be treated this way,” according to a CNN report.
Rev. Teddy Matthews, Mayor Andre Harvey, Chris Brown and Chief Jimenez Allen during Saturday’s panel discussion. The discussion also featured former judge Gay Chase. | Shanel Romain
Brown has since filed a lawsuit alleging that the arrest was unlawful and that the police violated his Constitutional rights.
“My son was a victim of a similar situation like this,” Chris Brown, referencing the movie’s main plot line, told the crowd of area students Saturday.
The Hate U Give follows the story of 16-year-old protagonist, Starr Carter, whose best friend, Khalil, who is black, is fatally shot by a white police officer after the officer mistakes the brush for a gun. The incident becomes national news, thrusting Carter into the spotlight.
“I was a police officer for 30-something years and I would tell you to obey the police, listen, make sure that you do the right things,” Brown said. “It can easily turn. When I saw my son laying on the ground when he got tased, and I saw the police pull his gun out — that gun could have accidentally fired.”
But Brown added that “all police are not bad, just obey them if you get pulled over and do the right thing.” Brown also told the audience that its “OK to be you and remember to have the right attitude, because your attitude will determine your altitude.”
Bellwood Police Chief Jimenez Allen advised young people to “get a good mentor, stay in school and be respectful of the police. Remember, [the officer] is just as afraid as you are. Always listen to what he tells you to do and you’ll get through [a stop].”
When encountering police, Chase advised young people to “stop, stay calm and think before you do anything,” and told them to “be really careful about pulling out a phone.” The former federal judge also told students that if they’re detained by police to wait for a lawyer before answering questions and “if you have to go to court, be respectful to the judge.”
Chase, echoing Harvey, told students to take the long view of justice, urging them to “embrace your educations, because you’re the future of this country. Take school seriously and always be respectful of any adults you encounter. Aim for honors classes and academic excellence.”
For young people in attendance, the event was an opportunity to see a movie that has touched a nerve among people of all ages and ethnicities.
The audience listens to panelists before watching the The Hate U Give. | Shanel Romain
“I’ve been wanting to see this movie since it came out,” said Azariah Evans. “I finally get to see a movie that is more about the culture and learning about how they treat us and how we can change that.”
“I was so excited to get these free tickets because they are expensive,” said Breanne Escamilla.
Randall McFarland, the founder of Best of Proviso Township, said that the students also got free books of the novel the movie is based on. He said that the event was the result of a collective effort among leaders across Proviso Township.
“When this movie came out, we felt compelled to bring students,” McFarland said. “This event was led by residents across the township who volunteered and donated funds … It was a collective effort and everybody got on board for the youth. That’s what this is about.” VFP
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