Following the police killings and shootings of Black Americans including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and, most recently, Jacob Blake, talent and executives from streamer Urban Movie Channel (UMC) are sharing stories of their first encounters with law enforcement to raise awareness about police brutality.
In a haunting six-minute PSA, stars of the AMC SVOD Group subsidiary’s shows discuss the first time police pointed a gun at them or racially profiled them, and how old they were when it happened. Participants include actors from UMC originals, including Tammy Townsend and Blue Kimble, as well as UMC chief content officer Brett Dismuke.
“The crazy thing to me is that this question is not if you’ve ever had a gun pulled on you by a police officer, but when,” said actor Jeff Logan, from the UMC thriller Double Cross.
The spot encourages viewers to join forces with organizations dedicated to racial justice, such as the Equal Justice Initiative, Color of Change and Know Your Rights Camp.
Farah Noel, associate director of publicity and marketing at UMC, told Adweek the streaming service thought it was important to expose to mainstream America the typical experiences Black people have with police.
“As a streamer that caters to Black audiences, we noticed that it’s rare to see and hear stories of our police interactions on a national scale unless someone has endured severe physical harm or been killed altogether,” Noel said. “And yet many of us have horror stories that could have shared fates [with] those we’ve seen on the news.”
UMC’s six-person core internal marketing team developed the idea for the PSA after emotions were running high in the midst of a global pandemic and the surge of protests and outcries in June after the killings of Floyd and Taylor. Noel, Dismuke and their four teammates came together to discuss how they were feeling, after taking a day or two off to engage in activism and to protect their overall mental health.
Noel had been scrolling through her own Facebook timeline and came across her college acquaintance, Stanley Fritz, a political and campaigns director at Citizen Action New York. Fritz had posed a question to his friends and followers on the platform, asking how old they were the first time they had a gun pulled on them by police. After Noel showed the team the post, they decided to reach out to talent from UMC’s film and TV series, and to people they knew who would be willing to share their stories on camera. (Fritz is also featured in the video.)
“The conversation morphed into us discussing some of our own experiences,” Noel said. “As we listened to each other, we realized several among us had stories of our own.”
When it came to rallying participants for such a sensitive undertaking, Noel admitted that the team did meet with some hesitation.
“Not everyone was comfortable sharing such personal and painful experiences on camera, so we did get people who decided not to participate, which of course we understood and respected,” she said.
But many UMC talent were happy to lend their voices to the cause. All participants were asked to self-record and submit 1-2 minute videos of themselves in their best lighting.
Noel is hopeful that the video can spark enough conversation to get people to at least better understand the relationship between the Black community and the police force.