By Farayi Mungoshi
FREEDOM comes at a price and African-Americans have learnt this the hard way.
One can still argue that black people in the US are yet to taste true freedom.
The hardships of cotton fields, during the days of slavery, have not disappeared.
In present day America, blacks are doing their best to stay out of prison.
The prison system has become another form of slavery.
It is not a hidden secret anymore that the American police is unlawfully arresting black folk in order to put them to work in prison and churn out profits for either state or some rich individuals.
It is one thing to read about it, but quite another to actually see it reenacted on film or a television series.
Through film, one really appreciates the horrors being experienced by our brothers and sisters.
In the television series Shots Fired, this brutality and its effects is brought to the fore.
While most of us, African folk, prefer to ignore these harsh realities because we are in love with what the Americans have sold us through their media and find it difficult to believe that they can do wrong, the world is slowly awakening to their shenanigans and can no longer be fooled.
Blacks in the US have discovered the power of film and television and are increasingly using it to tell their story, thereby opening cans of worms the US Government doesn’t want the world to know about.
The television series, Shots Fired, revolves around one incident in which a white youth, Jesse, gets shot by a black police officer (Beck) in a black ghetto (or the Houses) in North Carolina.
The twist in the story is that Beck happens to be the only blackman in the whole police force in this town.
Unlike most cases in America we are used to, where blacks get shot and killed by white officers, we find ourselves in a reverse situation whereby it is a white youth who gets killed by a black police officer in a black neighbourhood instead.
Knowing that they can never get the black community to testify over the killing of a white youth in their own neighbourhood, Washington DC decides to send a black lawyer (prosecutor) Stephan James and a black female detective, Helen Hunt, to North Carolina to investigate the story and persecute Beck.
They must have been thinking: “Maybe if we send blacks to investigate the case, we stand a better chance of getting something out of the black folk there than if we send in white Investigators since black folk are known for refusing to snitch.”
It proves a difficult case to crack and complete as the duo discover there was more to the shooting than meets the eye. Another youth, a black one, had been killed two weeks prior the killing of the white youth but nobody had ever even bothered to talk about it or publicise it on the national television networks like they were doing for the white kid.
So, while white America was crying for justice over Jesse’s murder, the blacks in the community could only observe bitterly since their own, Mike, had been shot and killed in a similar manner but nobody came out to investigate the killing.
Seeing the kind of television coverage Jesse’s killing was getting, topped with a white Governor fighting very hard to bridge the gap between whites and blacks, a local pastor decides to manipulate the situation, turning the cameras away from Jesse’s death.
She tells the people to stand up, command and demand that Mike’s killer also be brought to justice, just like they were doing for Jesse.
Placards and banners written, ‘What About Mike’ are raised.
And in true style of well-known race related demonstrations seen in America’s history, the demonstrations are soon emotionally charged, resembling those led by human rights icons Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X when they fought for equality.
The writers’ prowess continues in their presentation of the town in question as they show us that even though segregation is supposed to be a thing of the past, it is still very much alive as the whites are shown living in the better parts of town, with blacks living in the ghetto.
The final blow comes when they eventually reveal that the reason behind police’s continued persecution of the black community was to hunt down and imprison black folk lawfully and unlawfully ahead of the construction of a prison that was to be erected in the same black community.
In a twist of events, we also discover that it was actually the ‘Senator’ who killed Mike.
The police’s cover-up of these unlawful happenings are exposed and both the ‘Senator’ and Beck are arrested.
The world needs these kind of educative stories.
It is this kind of creative and ingenious thinking that is lacking in most of our stories here in Zimbabwe and Africa; the inability to script our history in our modern day stories in a manner that is engaging even to the younger generation.
The need to engage and sensitise the youth on self-importance and identity is now vital more than ever, lest we want them to shun our own culture in preference to other cultures they see on TV and in movies.