Police brutality has long been an issue plaguing the Black community and the most recent officer-involved killings have proven that the epidemic knows no age, class or gender limits.
As communities across the country continue to unite in the fight against injustice, Black Hollywood has teamed up to take a stand through a new campaign called #SomedayIsToday. Among the many familiar faces involved with the movement are actresses Meagan Good, Nicole Ari Parker and Kimberly Elise.
As wives, mothers and daughters of Black men and boys, each of these women have had to confront the issue of growing tensions between the police and people of color through discussions with their own families. For Parker, the conversation has been a difficult one to have with her 9-year-old son.
"I really love that I've instilled in my children this kind of sole right to be here, to take up the space that they're born with, to love people unconditionally and to accept them and respect them," the wife and mother of two told ESSENCE. "Every mother has to teach their child about stranger danger, Black or white. Everybody has to have that conversation. Don't go over to a car if somebody asks you for directions, don't take candy from a stranger. But it's another thing to have to find the words to explain to them that a cop might make a mistake. It's unfortunate to have to put that burden on them and I'm struggling with it. My son, he can't play with his water gun outside anymore, he just can't," she continued. "And it's not even my imagination, I'm not being hysterical. We have seen what happens with Black boys playing with a toy gun in the park. I don't want all this fear imparted into him but, it's there."
Good admitted that having a similar conversation with husband DeVon Franklin wasn't something she openly embraced at first.
"A few years back with Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell, me and DeVon had had a conversation about how presenting ourselves in a certain way would, in essence, give us a better chance at survival and I was so appalled by the conversation. I was just like, 'that's just ridiculous and this is unacceptable.' And he was like, I get that and that's true but, at the end of the day, this is just about survival. At the time, I didn't really process it with my pride and you know I was still angry but, overtime, I've come to realize how important it really is."
The actresses also dispelled the notion that Black celebrities are somehow less likely to relate to the pain, frustration and sense of urgency to find a solution as fatal police encounters continue to increase at an alarming rate.
"At the end of the day, regardless of who you are, you have family in the community," Elise says. "So, even though one may be a celebrity themselves, they have a son who's not or a dad who's not and anything happening to anybody like that is just as painful. It doesn't have to be just you for you to care and to want to participate in change."
Good points out that uniting as a community to support one another regardless of social status or background should be the main goal above all else.
"You can ask anyone from Marlon Wayans to Boris Kodjoe and they can tell you that their experiences with being pulled over were similar to what [every other Black man] experiences. I think people are quick to look at certain celebrities and say 'well, they can do this or that.' Yes, they have the platform and they have some of the reach, but in order for them to do that successfully, they really need more people supporting them and less people pointing the finger. It's all of our responsibility and we really can't be effective until we all come together to take on leadership roles and support each other no matter who we are."
A video posted by STEVE JONES ||BRAND STRATEGIST (@iamstevejones) on Aug 8, 2016 at 10:29am PDT
Common themes heard throughout the #SomedayIsToday campaign video are those of forward progress, action and self-education within the Black community. Steve Jones, founder of Brand Maverick Entertainment, says putting the campaign together was a labor of love in the name of justice and change.
"I believe we all have a responsibility to use our platforms to inspire and uplift those in need," Jones told ESSENCE. "It is my honor, and equally my duty, to assemble influencers and change agents within Hollywood, to speak out against systemic racism and the many injustices happening within our nation. This is only the beginning; change doesn't happen overnight. But we're committed to running the course in this marathon to equality and justice for all."
Campaign video director Tommy Oliver says he aimed to spread a message that would empower those watching to reclaim the narratives surrounding change and power within our communities.
"The #SomedayIsToday messaging presents the opportunity for today marking the day we take control of our narrative, take control of our heritage, take control of not only our own lives, but more importantly, the lives of those who look like us," he said.
Good, Parker and Elise all agree that change should begin with plans for solutions rather than simply continuing to discuss the problem. They believe legislation geared towards police reform should be at the top of the priority list.
"It's not just the shooting, it's the getting away with it and that's not our problem," Parker said. "Something is wrong with this system that's supposed to protect your children and my children. I really think we need explanations and reform from these police forces in the way they interact with Black communities. You know, I'm from inner city Baltimore. I've seen cops, with their guns out, male and female, Black and white, talk a suspect down. Talk an uncooperative suspect down. They knew that if he was 12 and he was robbing a store, that he was in a desperate situation. And no one got shot. There's just police protocol that's been lost."
Meagan adds that accountability on the part of "good" police officers and smart decision making on the part of citizens are also both important parts of working towards solutions.
"It's reached a point where people are trying to retaliate and at the end of the day, you can't destroy evil with evil. You can only destroy evil with love. But that doesn't mean you aren't supposed to take action and meet God half way and do everything in your power to get involved.Things should be different but, they're not. It's not just about how you're feeling in that moment, it's also has to be about you having a little girl at home or a wife at home or a mother at home or a sibling that adores you and you wanting to get home to them. So you have to make an executive decision in that moment to decide what is most important to you."
"Showing up a cop who has a gun and you don't, going to battle with someone who already has the upper hand, which is not using wisdom at all, or choosing to say, 'you know what, my strength is in the fact that I'm gonna handle this differently than what they're used to even receiving,'" she said. "You still can't guarantee that nothing will happen, but you have a lot better chance than approaching it the other way. For me, it's really about using our platform to bring awareness to not just the anger and the frustration but, what can we do to really affect the laws and even get on board with other police officers who are willing to hold their own accountable. You know, my father was LAPD for 26 years so, I have to process the fact that that could've been my father who was killed [in Dallas] and not everybody who wears a blue suit is a horrible person."
Keeping energy in a forward-moving space is also an important part of making strides towards change. Elise believes that love is at the root of it all.
"You can't create solutions from the same energies as the problem. So, you have to shift out of that whole mentality. Once you do that, you make the choice to stop participating in anything that doesn't relate to moving forward and evolving. If we just keep reiterating the problem, that keeps us in the problem energy and mentality. So you have to shift in to solutions and collaboration and unity and love, most of all."
Like so many of us doing what we can to join the fight against injustice, Parker makes it plain just how vital it is to keep the value of Black lives at the forefront of the conversation.
"I want to fight and picket for us to accept each other as humans and keep each other safely on the planet and respect each other's space. That's what the whole Black Lives Matter base is: don't assume that I'm invaluable. I'm taking up the same space as you. I came out of my mother just like you came out of your mother. You can't take my space from me."