‘Finding Justice’: BET docuseries examines MN police brutality

Courtesy of BET

BET’s new docuseries is shining a national spotlight on the Twin Cities. The network’s Finding Justice series is set to air a special episode on police brutality featuring commentary from a broadcast on community radio station KMOJ 89.9FM.

Executive produced by Dwayne “The Rock” ‏Johnson and Dream Hampton, the six-part documentary highlights stories of leaders, advocates and change agents in six cities across the country. In addition to police violence, episodes cover such glaring racial issues in Black communities as voter suppression and the school-to-prison pipeline. The other five featured cities include Tampa, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Atlanta.

Last November, BET brought its cameras and crew to KMOJ to document a special broadcast of KMOJ’s Community Values Conversations hosted by veteran activist Al Flowers, Jr. The broadcast featured members of Minneapolis’ Procedural Justice Team, who are part of a program spawned by the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice from President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Among the team’s members are Rev. Jerry McAfee of New Salem Baptist Church, Spike Moss, Diamond Reynolds, and A Mother’s Love founder Lisa Clemons, who all convened with peers last fall for a three-day International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Orlando.

Flowers said his issues-oriented show was a natural fit for the series documenting activism across America. “That’s all we talk about on the show. But, we talk about both sides of it,” Flowers told the MSR after the BET taping. “[BET’s] show was on police in the community. Their focus was on telling the story.”

Flowers, however, noted that the series’ story producer, Maya Lilly, “wanted excitement,” he said. “She wanted to talk about the Philandos, the Jamar Clarks, because the media likes that fight.” Flowers had his own agenda in mind: an intelligent, articulate discussion of problems and solutions.

“I think the program went over strong,” said Clemons, whose A Mother’s Love is a community group that does street outreach focused on strengthening African American families.  

“We had Diamond there to speak about [being] a victim of police trauma,” she said. Reynolds came into the national spotlight after witnessing the murder of her fiancé, Philando Castile, by the police on July 6, 2016. He was killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer, during what should have been a routine traffic stop.

“It was important to hear everyone’s concerns about what’s happening to the community, learning a lot, taking a lot in,” said Reynolds. “It can make a large difference, because so many people aren’t aware of the issues that were discussed. Knowledge is power, and the only way people can get the knowledge is to pay attention to the media.”

Clemons also praised the other team members. “There was McAfee to talk about spirituality. You had Spike Moss talking about the historical piece. You had Al talking about the need for collaboration to have a strong relationship in our community with the police department. The psychologist Dr. Phil was stating how Black communities in our states have the same exact [issues].”

“It was all about mutual respect and really getting down to some kind of solution that’s going to better our community,” said Flowers.

“Most important,” said McAfee, “is that [the program] was a collective of different perspectives, a cross section, represented [in the interest of] impacting our community. My mindset is that all politics are local, each particular issue.”

BET’s presence was important for “the national exposure of some of the stuff that’s been happening in Minnesota,” added McAfee. “…Minnesota is viewed by so many as this extra-progressive kind of deal, but we [as African Americans] know better.

“They like to keep all the dirty secrets hidden as it pertains to people of color, [including] how we’re controlled by Democrats and [are] suffering greatly under that regime.”

Clemons agreed: “I don’t think the problem is with the community. I think the problem is with the City actually listening to the community.”

The series also features voices from such celebrity activists as rapper T.I. and actors Hill Harper, Boris Kodjoe and Naturi Naughton. BET hosted a special screening in Minneapolis last week ahead of its debut episode focused on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and the murder of Markeis McGlockton by a White man after a parking lot confrontation.

Finding Justice premieres March 10 at 7 pm EST on BET. For more info, visit bet.com.