A memorial to Brandon Tate-Brandon and victims of police violence, activist premieres ‘AmeriKKKA Black’ in Philadelphia.
More than a decade ago, in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, Mr. Asa Khalif was handling business at his deli when a young man walked in with only .50 in his pocket.
In a “sh*tty mood,” Mr. Khalif suggested the kid move on to a place where his pocket change could actually purchase something. As the boy turned to leave, Mr. Khalif said he heard a word from The Lord saying: “call the kid back.”
When he turned around, said Mr. Khalif, “you could see that whatever he was good through was resonating all over his face.”
That moment, in Asa’s deli, a mentor/mentee relationship was born, and eight years later, the young man, Mr. Devante Leyeom, now 21 years-old, has his name tagged as the Director on the credits of AmeriKKKa Black, a gritty, short documentary about police brutality and misconduct, executively produced by Mr. Khalif, Founder, Racial Unity USA.
“I’ve never been more proud of you than I am right now,” said Mr. Khalif to Mr. Leyeom, at the film’s premiere in University City.
The image of a creative type, businessman and mentor isn’t commonly associated with Mr. Khalif, 1 of the #Philly10 activists who were arrested in March at a Lawncrest Recreational Center during a tense confrontation with Philadelphia police officers.
“People believe what they read and they hear sound bites… the media has tried to paint me as one-dimensional,” he says, notifying me that he’s mentored five kids who’ve gone on to purse higher education.
The mentor and mentee, during a Q&A session after the screening, clashed in opinions as it related to improving police and community relations.
Mr. Khalif, whose cousin, Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, was killed by a Philadelphia police officer on December 15th, 2014, is ready to fight back against a system that continuously harasses black and brown people.
In contrast, Mr. Leyeom thinks we should extend a hand of kindness, not “fighting fire with fire.”
The perspectives on that particular topic generated quite the conversation and the opinions varied greatly, due to the vast age difference among attendees.
Sitting directly in front of me was Mr. Tate-Brown’s younger sister, who was there with her boyfriend, a teenager named Michael who was pushed into activism after Mr. Tate-Brown’s death. Sitting in front them was an elderly woman who spoke about her experiences in 1937. The entire room was diverse in ethnicity, too.
“The attendees represented groups of people who understand what it’s like to be discriminated against: Mexicans, Blacks, those in the LGBTQ community,” stated Mr. Khalif, who said candidates running for office and those hoping for re-election missed a “tremendous opportunity” to connect with voters who care deeply about a major social issue.
The only candidate in attendance was Mr. Wilson Alexander, who’s running for Philadelphia City Council At-Large. Mr. Khalif told Techbook Online that Mr. Alexander was the only candidate who, since the story broke, expressed condolences to Mr. Tate-Brown’s mother, Mrs. Tanya Brown-Dickerson, who sat in the front row.
“The movie touched her,” said Khalif, who informed me that Ms. Brown-Dickerson, who will serve as interviewer at the April 29th mayoral forum on police and criminal justice reform, is really embracing the grieving process now that the protest and marches are few.
The film, though it touts a memorial to victims of police violence like Mr. Eric Garner, Mr. Tamir Rice and Mr. Michael Brown, Jr., really focuses its lens on what took place behind the Brandon Tate-Brown headlines.
The film opens with Mr. Khalif getting out of bed awoken by an alarm on his phone. It shows – especially in the closing scene, where Mr. Khalif stands alone in front of PPD HQ with his face painted like the American flag shouting “no justice, no peace” – a man’s dedication to social justice.
It’s that dedication to activism, however, that’s has somewhat smothered the creative genius of Mr. Khalif, who, at a much younger age, auditioned for TV shows like “Sister, Sister” and Robert Townsend’s “The Parent Hood.”
“I could write scripts in a heartbeat,” says Mr. Khalif, “I’ve done voiceovers and been in feature films.”
AmeriKKKa Black undoubtedly reopened the valves that allow Mr. Khalif’s creative juice to flow out.
“I felt like I needed to be dedicated to the cause. But now, I don’t feel guilty that I can do more than protest… I’m feeling creative again,” he says.
Mr. Khalif and the nine other activists who make up the #Philly10 will appear in court on April 23rd, 2015, and are expected to plead not guilty.
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Photo: From L to R: Mr. Adan Perez, Cinematographer; Mr. Miguel Torres, Sound Engineer; Mr. Devante Leyeom, Director; and Mr. Asa Khalif, Executive Producer, AmeriKKKa Black at the film’s premiere at the Rotunda in University City. Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2015