While at the Sundance Film Festival this past week I had the fortune to to see the premiere of “Whose Streets” by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis – produced by Jennifer MacArthur. It was even more fortunate because I was able to view this powerful film on inauguration day and it provided wonderful counterprogramming. I was struck by a number of things in the film that still resonate with me almost a week later.
1. The film shows how far we still have to go as a nation to confront a legacy of slavery that is still with us. The film wisely starts with a reference to the Dred Scott decision in 1846 and compares it to contemporary St. Louis and Ferguson. (In the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court in one of its most notorious decisions, declared that since Dred Scott was a slave he was not a citizen. As such he did not have a right to sue for his freedom even though he lived in a non-slave state.) This initial juxtaposition, along with the quotes from prominent black leaders that served as chapter breaks, was all the contextualization the audience needs. Very soon we see the largely white police using overwhelming force to intimidate and control the primarily black citizens of Ferguson. The dogs used for “crowd control” is enough to throw you back to the 60s and beyond.