At the "Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer" documentary viewing on Oct. 29 at El Centro, Producer/Director A.J. Ali did a Q&A session but wasn't able to answer all the questions. He graciously agreed to answer them in writing for us.
See the questions and answers below:
Who Is the Intended Audience for the Documentary?
This doesn't seem to be aimed at an audience who may have experienced "walking while black." It seems to focus more on law enforcement. Was that your intent?
It was created by someone who has experienced WWB (me) and the focus of the film is to bring people to a place of common ground so that healing can take place. I didn't want to do another in a long line of films about the problem. I wanted to make a film that focused on solutions. In order to do that, I had to make a film that people on all sides could relate to. The overwhelming feedback we've received has been that we have hit the mark and accomppshed our goal.
Who is this documentary intended for?
What was you intended audience when you made the film? Mostly law enforcement?
Anyone and everyone.
If I were a student watching this film on one of our campuses, I don't know that I would feel this speaks to me. How would you address that criticism?
I appreciate the criticism. We worked very hard to provide a broad perspective of the problem and also offer solutions, which really aren't found anywhere else. In an environment like Dallas College, students are learning about a wide variety of things that may or may not speak to them directly, but that doesn't necessarily devalue the content. In fact, it may make it more valuable by broadening the perspective of the student so that they can learn about things that may "speak" to other people. The value in that is that the student may develop empathy towards others and see things from a different perspective. That's healing.
I have personally experienced police brutality. Was this film viewed by police other than police of color? If so, what was their response to the film?
Yes, by many and the vast majority of them have responded favorably and powerfully. Many of them had apprehension at first, but the film transforms hearts.
Reality vs. Theory Questions
What happens when police don't speak out against the bad officers?
Bad things happen. Bad behavior continues unchecked. This film has helped us have the discussion with popce about the importance of them speaking out.
Is this an oversimplification? Will marginalized communities survive the transformative process that LOVE promises to deliver?
Will marginalized communities survive the alternative? These principles of L.O.V.E. are not soft. They require hard work and commitment. It's not oversimppfied, it's a process that has been proven to work. The secret is that the work has to be put in. You can't just say the words and not do the work. Making a bed is simple, but if you don't do the steps, the bed doesn't get made.
Can we help create a generation that is not racist or prejudice? Or is prejudice part of human nature?
I believe that just has hatred, racism and prejudice is taught/learned, love and acceptance can be taught/learned as well. Human nature is to lean towards the good. If that weren't the case, we would have all killed each other a long time ago. So, we have to protect that, nurture that and grow that which is good. We all have a responsibility to do that. And yes, I believe we can help future generations in that regard if we put the work in now.
What if the police leadership on your own campus are not nice or approachable?
Speak out. Let them and those above them know about your concerns. Report everything. Also, reward good behavior. pve out the L.O.V.E. Is The Answer principles with them as well. See if that helps change things. It's possible to turn someone around.
What Can I/We/Dallas College Do?
How do you get started? Who do you reach out to?
Be the change you wish to see. I suggest having "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner & A Movie" events. Gather some folks who don't know each other, from different cultures, and include members of law enforcement. Have dinner together, then watch the film and then have a discussion over coffee and desserts. You can do that on campus using the school's film license or do that at home by going to WalkingWhileBlack.com and renting the film for $9.99 (you can hook up a laptop to a TV using an HDMI cable and watch it on the big screen).
How can the love be embraced and dispersed when our societal programming is in opposition to that love?
Be a hero! Stand up to negative programming and make things better. Don't be a sheeple.
What is one or two recommendations you would give to people in the audience who want to help spread "L.O.V.E." in their communities?
See above comment on "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner & A Movie" events. Also, be intentional about creating events and experiences that bring people together who don't see eye to eye. Find some area of common ground, such as a softball or basketball game, or perhaps creating a youth organic garden and art installation together. These activities build relationships and break down the walls that separate us. You can go to TryLOVENow.com for more ideas.
AJ you said that LOVE is action, what can we do to help our Dallas community heal? What are the next steps? What is our role as Dallas College employees?
Put the four L.O.V.E. Is The Answer steps into action on a daily basis. Pick one or more people in your life that you'll focus on and love will spread. L.O.V.E. is an acronym for LEARN about the people around you (even your enemies), OPEN your heart to their needs (what will make them whole), VOLUNTEER yourself to be part of the solution in their life (because if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem), and EMPOWER others to do the same (pay it forward, keep it growing, don't keep all that positive energy to yourself).
Is there a national movement within police departments across America to transform mindsets of officers relative to their law enforcement practices?
That's a great question. We're starting it! We're encouraging popce departments to serve with L.O.V.E. I'm also starting to see a willingness by police to listen to more relationship-forward (guardian) ideas vs warrior based hard-nosed policing. We have to encourage them to do that by interacting with them as much as possible.
How would you suggest integrating students in a program focused on this film when it is geared towards increasing cultural competence of police officers?
That's easy. Let students know that they are needed to be part of the solution. Empower them. Ask them for ideas about how they think L.O.V.E. can work between students and police. Ask them to create programs that invite the police to participate in activities with them. We have created a L.O.V.E. Is The Answer five-minute film contest at TryLOVENow.com, which would be an excellent way to get students to lead the way in improving police-community relations.
With such a complex issue, what communities do the panelists think have done a good job creating communication and building strategy that Dallas could model?
Santa Monica PD has an excellent rapport with the community. I live there and my wife and I are very active with the SMPD. We do something with them every week, nearly every day, and we encourage our neighbors and others in the community to participate. Many people are surprised when I tell them they can actually do things with the police, like they are an occupying force from another country. After they participate in an activity, their perspective totally changes — and the officers are also affected in a positive way. Everyone benefits from engaging. Come to Santa Monica to see and experience what's happening here. It would be a great place to spend a weekend and perhaps go through a daylong L.O.V.E. Is The Answer workshop while you are here!
How do we communicate this to our 16 and 17 year old youths? Male and female.
We've had great success with screenings, discussions and workshops at high schools. Check this out… SEE this article about the powerful impact of screening, Q&A and workshop events at two Bridgeport, CT high schools May 31, 2018.
How do we move from dialogue to action? We talk about the issue that minorities face but it seems if that is far as the conversation goes.
Just like Nike says, "JUST DO IT." We can't wait for "leaders" to solve our problems We truly have to be the change we wish to see in the world. I did. You can too. That means putting L.O.V.E. Is The Answer into action every day with every person you come across. Actions speak louder than words.
What needs to take place to educate Americans about our shared humanity over and above any differences we have?
More bridges and fewer walls. It comes down to people who want things to change to be the change. All you can control is the space immediately around you. So start there, with the people in your life. Say hello to someone you see every day, but have never spoken to.
Are You Going To Do a Follow-Up Film?
Are you going to do a follow-up or additional film?
Yes. We have two more in development right now. One is a romantic comedy and the other is a drama. We are also developing a TV series. AND, our five-minute film contest is something YOU can do today. Learn about it at
In Your Opinion ...
After filming and viewing, do you think times have gotten better or worse?
It's getting better. It may not seem like it but we are at the beginning stages of a wound healing. It's a painful time, but it's a start. People are talking about the issues, some for the very first time. We must keep the conversations going.
Do you believe the political climate is causing this hate and what ways can we best effectively educate the importance of love and learn from each other overall?
Yes and no. Hateful political climates aren't new, especially in the U.S. Reinforce the good — the L.O.V.E. — and work through the tough issues together, just like a family does (or should do).
Healing from trauma is a multi-step and time is a variable factor in that process, yet anger is seen as unjustified and racially codified. What do you think?
The bible says "in your anger, do not sin." I don't think anger in itself is necessarily a bad thing. I think it is a necessary and healthy thing sometimes. What we do with that anger is what counts. Let's not dwell in anger. Let's use it to alert us to make things better.
What are your thoughts on black men and women dying in police custody, while white male counterpart that knowingly commits domestic terrorism are taken into custody?
It's wrong. Personally, I hope to raise up a generation of people who graduate from colleges where they are taught L.O.V.E. Is The Answer principles and then go into law enforcement and treat people right — all people.
What is the incentive for change among offending police officers when there are no concrete consequences for their practices?
There's very little incentive when that's the case, which is why we and others are working hard to make sure that changes.
Healing is a multistep process and anger is a part of that process, yet is so policed and racially coded. What do you think?
We have to be aware of when people are trying to "bait" us into committing enforceable infractions. Officers tried to get me to push or hit them so they could be justified in using force against me. I kept my cool, which kept me from harm. The bible says "in your anger, do not sin." I don't think anger in itself is necessarily a bad thing. I think it is a necessary and healthy thing sometimes. What we do with that anger is what counts. Let's not dwell in anger. Let's use it to alert us to make things better.
As a community we deal with the overt racism through discussions often with no resolve, how can we deal with unconscious biases or covert racism?
Do everything you can to bring the discussion into the community in subtle and not so subtle ways that lead to something — not just talk, but real change. Don't tolerate unconscious biases or racism. Report instances of it. "Make people famous" for it. Most importantly, live out the L.O.V.E. Is The Answer principles and transform hearts and minds. People want a quick fix, but the reality is that it will take decades of work.
How do you raise a minority child to love and respect an officer who may hate and fear them within the current climate?
It starts with you. Do what you can to build bridges and build relationships with officers so that your children get to also build real relationships with officers. That'll give them a personal reference point in humanity, love and respect when they come up against other officers who may not treat them with love and respect. They'll be less inclined to think that "all officers are bad or racist."
With the controversy over the Botham Jean's shooting and the allegations coming out of that lawsuit, this will be an especially hard sell. Thoughts?
Be willing to put the work in. No one said it would be easy.
Do you think the idea of masculinity or trying to prove masculinity is part of the problem, for both police and members of the community?
I think the false narrative that masculinity means being mean or "hard" is more of a problem. A real man has a range of traits that include kindness, empathy, etc. We have to educate our young people that being kind and empathetic are actually signs of strength, not weakness.
Is this a community conversation or a film promo?
Without many young people in the film, or women, I'm not sure this would resonate with our students. Response?
There are several women in the film, including a police chief. There's only one person under the age of 18 in the film. We made an editorial decision to feature a certain age range in order to affect change at a certain level of leadership, and it's working. Students are taught using many resources that feature people who are older in age. When a student is taught government or history or other subjects, most of the people they learn about are older (not in their teens or early 20's), yet they still learn. So, no, from the response we are seeing around the country, I don't think it's a problem. However, we are asking students to engage and tell their own stories along with police through our 5-minute film contest at TryLOVENow.com.
The film spends time discussing why some police behave badly. How does that help people of color interact with officers who do not recognize their humanity?
It's part of the learning process.
This seems to belittle and diminish the experiences of young people. Telling them "love is the answer" without any truth and reconcipation seems irresponsible.
Quite the opposite is true. Truth and reconcipation is what our film is about. The acronym L.O.V.E. in L.O.V.E. Is The Answer literally spells it out. The first letter, L, for Learn, is where the truth needs to be brought out. The second letter, O, for Open your heart, is where the empathy and reconciliation process begins.
Telling students to "love" the police without requiring the police to take any responsibility for their own actions on our campuses will not go over well.
We never said that. If you watch the film, you'll see that we are very heavy on police taking responsibility for their own actions. Our opening segments are all about that. Throughout the film we reference that. Our closing segment with Andrew and Jameel is ALL about that.
Lacking fathers and/or father figures are a huge issue with our youth today. These two topics are inter-related. How do we integrate both topics for change?
Sadly, that is correct. Programs like Big Brothers, Big Sisters are very helpful and need more people to step up to help. We also have to step up in every way we can to help support and strengthen family structure. Our country is not family-friendly and that's not an issue of any one group of people, it's true for everyone. I've personally been affected by that.
Do you think the way we treat and think of ourselves increase the way the world treat and think of us and how do we change that?
Great question. Yes. L.O.V.E. Is The Answer.
Questions For Dallas College To Answer
- What is Dallas College committed to doing to prepare our student body to be positive agents of social justice?
- Is Dallas College committed to estabpshing effective diversity and cultural training for faculty and staff?
Thoughts when the DA (black woman) sides with the bad cop after an innocent black man is killed?
Vote in a new DA.
What are your thoughts about DuVernay's "13th"? How do you see it in juxtaposition to your film?
Great film about the problem. Our film is a great film about the solution. They work well together.