The world has had its attention on Ferguson, Mo., and the shooting death case of Michael Brown, a young, unarmed black man who was killed by police officer Darren Wilson.
Because of the nature of the case, it's only natural that many would think back to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the young black man, also unarmed, who was killed in his father's Sanford, Fla., neighborhood by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. A documentary analyzing the first days of the investigation into Martin's death, 44 Daze, will give those interested in the Martin case and the epidemic of unarmed black men killed in the U.S., more insight when it's screened for attendees at the Miami Jazz and Film Society's Weekly Film Screenings event this September.
44 Daze, directed by Sherry Suttles, takes a closer look at the investigation on a local level, outlining how people of color were at the center of the investigation from the very beginning.
"In Sanford, you have a black city manager [Norton Bonaparte, Jr.], a black man, involved with a black victim, involved in the investigation and justice for [the victim]," Suttles said. "That was something that I think people were not aware of; many people said they were not aware of [this]. When people descended on Sanford, [about] 25,000 people, they thought they were going to rail the white man again and blame him as well as the system. Then they were confronted with a black man sitting up there."
The film also outlines the outrage behind Florida's Stand Your Ground law. "I really hope people learn about the Stand Your Ground law...[Because] of the death of Trayvon, some have viewed [him] as a sacrificial lamb whose death had to occur for the nation to realize that that law had been passed first by Florida, and 30-something states have it out of 50...until Change.org brought it to attention that this law had been brought about by the Koch brothers and gun lobbyists," Suttles said. "...The rapid passage of it has been slowed down if not stopped because of Trayvon Martin's shooting."
Outrage in Sanford took the form of protests and even artwork, such as a painting shown by Cindy Philemon, an assistant for the Goldsboro Museum. But unlike Sanford's protests, Ferguson's protests have been affected by violence either from the police or from agitators amid the protesters. Suttles noted that despite the large amount of protesters that came to Sanford within four days, the protests were held "completely peaceably."
Though there are differences between the Martin and Brown cases, Suttles discussed in a follow-up email the cases' main demands; demands that are simple, but alarmingly hard to achieve.
"Both city protesters demanded justice now -- arrest [the] shooter, try him, etc," she wrote. "Both (protest groups) erupted due to underlying unresolved issues. Both reached out to the clergy for help; interdenominational [clergy] in Sanford, at least."
It could be argued that the issues surrounding the Martin case, such as punishment for shooting an unarmed person, went largely unresolved. Those same tensions, which are now a part of the Brown case, make 44 Daze even more relevant. Keith Clarke, the director of the Miami Jazz and Film Society, discussed the film's importance when it comes to analyzing the Brown case.
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"I believe in the oneness of mankind...[but] if people feel like they've been oppressed for so long and [the situation just explodes, then those things do happen," Clarke said.
44 Daze is currently being distributed to universities, colleges and high schools in the U.S. and Canada by Landmark Media, but you can view the film for free Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center (6161 NW 22nd Ave., Miami). Afterwards, a screening of President Barack Obama's speech on race will take place at 8 p.m.
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