(AllHipHop Features) Mike Brown's murder sparked a full-fledged insurrection in America. And America went to war against its own citizens in Ferguson, Missouri. At that time, on August 9, 2014, Micheal Brown was shot in the street by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer. The media all but justified the killing, even though witnesses counter Officer Wilson's assertion that he acted in self-defense. Black people yelled, "Hands up, don't shoot" and received little justice for the death that left a body in the sweltering summer heat for hours.
After 3.5 years of work in Ferguson, in conjunction with the family of Mike Brown, Jason Pollock has released "Stranger Fruit," a new feature documentary. The film stomps gigantic mudholes in popular notions with facts. The documentary even calls Mike's murder a "cover-up" in its research. Pollock explains why he made the film and what he unearthed as well, which may sway views that 18-year old Mike Brown deserved to die. Ultimately, The Brown family and Pollock hope to get the case re-opened to get justice for the teenager.
"Stranger Fruit" is out on all platforms, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, Vimeo and Video on Demand on every cable box to rent the film. On top of it all, it is number 9 in the most watched movies on the Starz Network, which premiered the movie last month. Most of the movie profits go to the Brown family foundations.
AllHipHop: Talk about the general reason to making this documentary? How did you get the family on board?
I was deeply moved when Mike died and Ferguson exploded back in 2014. I felt in my heart I needed to be there to support the movement that was growing so I put my stuff in storage in LA, and drove to Ferguson. I was there on and off protesting for several months. We didn’t want to start a competing project with someone else down there, so we waited to see which lanes everyone took. As a white filmmaker I didn’t go to Ferguson as Christopher Columbus. I wanted to help and support and that’s why we didn’t just go down there to make something without good intention. After the DOJ Reports came out in March of 2015, I pretty much knew what we had to do. Everyone in the media was focusing on the Ferguson report, and no one was talking about the Mike Brown report. Mike’s death is why I originally went to Ferguson to protest, and I felt his covered up story was getting lost in the mix. My team and I put together a proposal and trailer focusing on the cover-up of Mike’s killing. We pitched it the Brown family lawyers in May of 2015, and that’s when everyone signed on and gave us permission. Our focus was and always has been unraveling the true facts around Mike’s death. This was the impetus moment that created so much, but the facts of what really happened to him that day had been covered up.... until now.
AllHipHop: What would you say the goal is?
The goal of the film is to re-open Mike Brown’s case and push to take another look at this killing. The facts were covered up, but now that they are out it’s our responsibility as citizens of this nation to push for justice. We also want to change hearts and minds about Mike Brown’s character. Mike was truly a victim of the right wing fake news machine even before Trump started using that term. The media and our government has destroyed Mike’s character and his family’s character. They did all of this to protect an officer who did not deserve to be protected. The media and government always work together to cover-up these cop killings and it needs to stop. We wanted to show the world that Mike Brown was a beautiful person with a loving family. This is the exact opposite of the picture that was painted in 2014, and that’s why it’s so important we uncover this truth. The defamation of the Brown family is one of the most heinous acts perpetrated upon them in the wake of their child’s killing. ‘Stranger Fruit’ is the antidote to all of this fake news against Mike Brown and his amazing family.
AllHipHop: What have you unearthed that we didn’t know, if you can say without spoiling the movie?
We have unearthed quite a bit. Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say this. Every line they used against Mike, has physical evidence at the scene to disprove their statements. The most talked about new piece of evidence we put out thus far is the fact that it appears Mike didn’t rob the store. We found a second piece of video tape that shows an apparent trade between Mike and the store the night before he died. This piece of evidence had been suppressed by the STL Prosecutor’s office until we put it out. This new evidence clearly shows there’s more to the story, and we now know it was never shown to the grand jury during their proceedings. If this wasn’t shown to them, I wonder what I else wasn’t. This new piece of tape clearly shows that the case should be re-opened. The prosecutors office is obviously withholding key evidence. We also show evidence supports the fact that Mike didn’t try to attack the officer, he never went for any gun, he was shot while running away, and he didn’t charge the officer either. Physical evidence at the scene literally shows a completely different story than the police version of events.
AllHipHop: Why the title, Stranger Fruit?
We thought for a long time about he best title. We finally came up with this one because we wanted to convey to the audience what kind of killing this was. The original poem ‘Strange Fruit’ refers to black bodies hanging from the trees. The term is a metaphor for the lynchings happening in the early part of the 1900’s. We added an “r” to the first word to convey that Mike Brown’s death was also a public lynching. They didn’t hang him from a tree, but by leaving his body in the hot street for 4.5 hours that day, Mike was basically a martyr on the cross in front of his whole community. This horrendous day in our country’s history needed a truthful frame. Calling Mike Brown’s killing a lynching may not be what the main stream media wants to do, but it’s the absolute truth and we hope the title is a strong reminder of it.
AllHipHop: How would you say people have changed? There have been a slew of deaths like Mike Brown.
Unfortunately, due to Trump getting elected, I fear things are worse now than they were in 2014. Police act without any consequences and with Trump at the head of the table, cops know they can harass anyone they want right now with no repercussions. That’s why it’s so dangerous when I hear Kanye supporting Trump. This administration is enabling cops to brutalize the black community every night. We must remove this man if we ever want to see real change because the cops are never going to change unless they feel accountability. Cops have zero accountability under Trump, and they know it.
AllHipHop: What is the explanation for the apparent lack of justice in this case and what role did the media play?
The lack of justice in this case and every case where a cop Kills an unarmed black person is a sad window into what this county is really about. The film shows that the history of police is all about killing black people and covering it up. The police began to keep the black community down during slavery, and not much has changed even though it’s been hundreds of years. The media is complicit in these killings because they always take the officer’s side. The police put out their official statement which is normally a lie, then the media reports their lies as truths. This happens every time they kill someone, and the media who support these killer cops have just as much blood on their hands. ‘Stranger Fruit’ really shows the how media works with the cops, and sadly this is the norm not the exception.
AllHipHop: Do you have additional plans for the movie?
We plan to take the film on a national screening tour through the summer and into the fall with a number of non-profit partners. We’re going to keep pushing to re-open the case and begin the public dialogue around the real facts of this case. Everyone talked about Mike back in 2014, but now it’s time that we speak about him with correct information instead of the lies we were fed back then.
AllHipHop: What do you feel can be done to create the necessary change so that there are less “Mike Browns” as we continue on?
The only way to make sure this doesn’t happen again is completely changing the police system in this country. Policing in the U.S. is completely broken and doesn’t serve anyone but white people. Cops break the law everyday and then police themselves. If that’s the case, then we’ve lost our freedoms in this country. If a cop can kill you, then get away with it every time, are any of us really free? I don’t think so. The entire cop system needs to be ripped apart and started over. Until then, we’re going to keep seeing cops murder our kids and get away with it. The cop who killed Antwon Rose this month had been on the force 90 minutes! I’m sorry but if we have system that allows a guy on the job one day to murder a kid and get away with it, that’s a completely broken system.
AllHipHop: What is the legacy of Mike Brown?
Mike Brown woke the whole world up. 2014 was one of the biggest years of my life and it’s because of Ferguson. Mike Brown and Ferguson changed everything, and its important we continue to discuss what happened there. We are living in a post-Ferguson era now, and we need to make sure that the record is correct about what happened there. Mike Brown pulled the curtain back on a corrupt system in 2014 and now he’s doing it again with ‘Stranger Fruit’ in 2018. There’s much we can learn from Mike’s story, and that’s why it’s so vital that we continue to spread his gospel.
AllHipHop: Final words.
As a white man in this country right now, I think it’s more important than ever that more white people speak up against racism. I made ‘Stranger Fruit’ to help wake white people up to the realities of the world. If you’re white in America, you can basically just live in a bubble. We gotta pop that bubble so that our country can evolve. Mike Brown’s story is a way for that bubble to start popping. It’s time we get down to talking about things that makes us feel uncomfortable. Through being uncomfortable, we grow. Watching ‘Stranger Fruit’ may not be a pill you like swallowing, but it’s a pill we all need to swallow so we can change and grow as a nation. I don’t want my children to grow up in a country where what happened to Mike can happen again. We must do better. I truly hope everyone takes 100mins to watch our film, you won’t be sorry.