Ava DuVernay Talks Childhood LAPD Trauma On Oprah Special On George Floyd Killing; Filmmaker Launches Law Enforcement Accountability Project

“No one’s talking about the economic inequalities that may lead people to want to go through a glass door to get a pair of shoes,” said Ava DuVernay tonight on the Oprah Winfrey hosted special OWN Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here?

“No one’s talking about the systems that encompass all of the actions that we’re seeing,” the When They See Us filmmaker added of the reactions to the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the large protests and unrest that has followed.

“If you’re concern with the murder of black people by police, to be deterred or shifted because someone is taking a pair of jeans from a Target, then you’ve got to look at how much you cared about the murder of the black people by the police to begin with,” DuVernay told fellow Queen Sugar executive producer Winfrey of the quick reaction of some to negate the greater injustice amidst looting that occurred in some cities also – as you can see in the clip below:

I’ve been talking about racism on TV now for over 35 years, but I don’t recall a moment quite like this one. And just like many of you, I’ve been talking with friends and I noticed the same questions kept coming up: Is this the moment that will finally change our country? pic.twitter.com/V2ks01WPwS

— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) June 9, 2020

Filmed remotely because of ongoing coronavirus stay-at-home orders, Where Do We Go From Here? was broadcast on OWN and the 18 other networks co-owner Discovery has.

“It’s not a broken system,” Selma helmer DuVernay declared of America and American justice with blinding clarity on the night that George Floyd was buried in his adopted hometown of Houston “It was built this way,” she said of systemic racism in this country and the forces literal and figurative that protect it. “It was built to function exactly as it is. So, I feel it’s just disingenuous for us as a society to suddenly act as if we’re horrified when everyone has participated in it, benefited from it, not for years. Decades. Centuries.”

The often extremely candid first night first of the two-part Where Do We Go From Here? special also saw the Oscar nominee and activist details a terrifying experience that she and her family were subjected to by the LAPD in DuVernay’s childhood – a situation that is far too common in the family histories of Black America and other communities of color when it comes to the cops.

“Police came into our backyard and -we grew up in the south cities of Los Angeles – police came in and I remember coming out of the house and seeing my father, my proud, beautiful father on the ground in our own backyard wrestled to the ground by police,” a clearly emotional DuVernay told Oprah, explaining in still all too familiar language how the LAPD claimed all those years ago that her at-home farther “fit the description of someone who was running in through the neighborhood.”

“And so, seeing that was traumatizing me as a young person,” the ARRAY founder bluntly said.

“But it fit in with all of the police aggression that I grew up with living in Compton and Long Beach and Lynwood here in L.A.,” DuVernay went on to explain to Winfrey and the viewing audience in the virtual roundtable. “Just a continuous presence always around.”

“So when I see police, I do not think they are here to protect me,” the filmmaker stated towards the end of the one-hour special, echoing a sentiment that has become a loud chorus from many in minority neighborhoods in response to Memorial Day death of Floyd on the street as the much complained about Derek Chauvin sat on the neck of the “I can’t breathe” screaming Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds until the man was dead.

“As I grew up, we did not call the police if there was an issue,” DuVernay said on OWN tonight. “We called each other and we dealt with it. Because the police, calling police is the sure way for something to go wrong more often than not for a lot of black people in this country.”

Filmed on June 7, the Where Do We Go From Here? special also featured appearances and insights from Georgia legislator and potential Vice-Presidential candidate Stacey Abrams, Co-Chair of The Poor People’s Campaign Bishop William J. Barber II, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Biased author Jennifer Eberhardt, journalist and Pulitzer prize-winning founder of the New York Times’ 1619 Project” Nikole Hannah-Jones, How to be an Anti-Racist author Ibram Kendi, Selma actor David Oyelowo, Color of Change president Rashad Robinson and NYT columnist Charles M. Blow.

Mourning the “casualness of the killing” of Floyd by the now fired and second-degree murder facing cop who knew he was being filmed and seemingly didn’t care and three other cops who stood by, Blow told Oprah that body cams on police and other tweaks to the way they do their jobs is not addressing the real issue if systemic racism in America and its law enforcement. “I don’t believe that there’s really necessarily a technological fix to a cultural problem, I do think we have to start looking much bigger than these inflammatory moments and say this is about power … the police are the lowest clog in this machine,” the journalist asserted.

“Racism has always had death in it,” Bishop Barber plainly said also on the special. Racism can’t exist without death in it.”

Tonight’s debut of Where Do We Go From Here? comes as DuVernay on Monday announced The Law Enforcement Accountability Project initiative from her ARRAY Alliance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talkshow. Starting off with a budget of $3 million and aiming to go public later this summer, LEAP intends to put money behind 25 projects from various mediums over the next two years that aim to focus on issues of police violence, misconduct and murder and recalibrate the narrative.

“It bothers me that I can rattle off the names of 30, 40 victims of police abuse and killing, but I can’t say who did it,” DuVernay told the talk show host in a remote interview on June 8, the day that Floyd’s final memorial in Texas began. “We have this kind of social contract, where we don’t speak the names of these people,” the filmmaker added. “And we kind of agree that they won’t be prosecuted, and we won’t say their names. I think it’s a big national blind spot. And it is a storytelling issue … We’re changing the lens of the story.”

Where Do We Go From Here? concludes tomorrow night on OWN and all of Discovery’s other networks.

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