On June 6, 2012, after going for a stroll in his community of Howard County, Md., filmmaker A.J. Ali faced his own heinous experience with the police, one that would serve as a catalyst to a heartfelt documentary.
“Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. is the Answer” is a compelling film that addresses police brutality, while aiming to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.
During a private screening of the film at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church on Nov. 11, community members were given a chance to speak to Ali directly about his personal experiences.
“The experience I had with him and two other officers who joined him shortly thereafter led me to file a formal complaint because I feared for my life,” he said. “The department’s subsequent handling of the complaint, coupled with my wife and I being targeted for harassment by several members of that police department over the course of the next year, drove me to make the film.
“The subtitle of the film is ‘L.O.V.E. is the Answer,’” Ali said. “L.O.V.E. means to learn about the people in your community, open your heart to their needs, volunteer to be part of the solution in their life, and empower others to do the same. We’re teaching people how to love each other. Join us.”
The film, which premiered in early February in Santa Monica, California, to rave reviews, tells the stories and experiences of both White and Black officers alongside some of the people they had arrested.
One particularly gripping scene involved a White former police officer and his encountering of a Black man who he had wrongly caused to go to jail for four years and the long journey that led to the former officer becoming the victim’s mentor.
“It was so interesting to see this component of the film,” said Rodney Jones, a Ward 7 resident in attendance at the screening. “I don’t know if I could have forgiven an officer that purposely caused me to go to jail, but I guess that’s the point of the film…the power of love and building up of the community.”
The Rev. Thomas L. Bowen of Shiloh Baptist Church, director of the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs, gave his reflections on the movie and viable solutions for the Black community in regard to police relations.
“To me it’s about community … being a community … building a community,” Bowen said. “We want community policing to be visible, we want to see them walk the streets, know the community and its people — yet and still, we don’t know our own neighbors.
“We want police to do things that we should be doing already,” he said. “We can no longer afford to just get mad when things happen, we need to be present at our ANC meetings. We have openings on our police complaint boards. Call the Metropolitan Police Department and ask who the officer in charge of the ward you live in is and get to know them.”