Bob Marley once sang, “So If you are the Big tree, then we are the small axe “; and the environment that was Oakland, California during the filming of JR
Valrey’s “Operation Small Axe” embodied Marley’s lyrical analogy.
JR Valrey screened his “Operation Small Axe” documentary at Sankofa cafe in Washington D.C. October 14th 2010.
The documentary highlighted incidents of police brutality, namely the Oscar Grant and the Lovelle Mixon cases. Valrey, like many others who are familiar with both Grant’s and Mixon’s cases, held them in comparison. The fact that these incidents of violence between citizens and police happened in the same city, just blocks apart; and in the same year, just months apart makes for an automatic connection.
The documentary delved much further than the surface connection between Mixon and Grant, and touched on the history of police brutality, as well as the history of community activism, and even shed light on what Oakland was doing as a community in the wake of these turbulent times.
JR then spoke about the making of the documentary, his work with the prisoners of conscious committee (POCC), as well as his job as what I would call a “trench journalist”. He is. He is in the battle fields, on the front line, and shaking things up. Maybe not in the most conventional manner, but it will take some unconventional methods to get out us out of this convenient position of fearing police that serve our neighborhoods.
While in DC, he was accompanied by Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X. After Valrey closed his speech about “Operation Small Axe”, Shabazz spoke to the crowd about his life since being released from prison for the arson of his grandmother’s house. He spoke of his current interest and actions; noting that he is sincerely dedicated to learning, and has recently returned from a trip to the Middle East.
The standing room only sized crowd in Sankofa’s book store portion of the quaint cafe received both Valrey and Shabazz with opened arms and and raised hands, as many people (mostly college students) were inspired to get involved after the presenters concluded.
A lingering thought in my mind was the connection between Malcolm Shabazz speaking, and JR connecting Oscar Grant and Lovelle Mixon incidents as a case of “the chickens coming home to roost”, as Malcolm X once said.
JR Valrey is continuing to travel the United States, screening his documentary, and starting up moving conversations along the way. For more information, visit his website http://blockreportradio.com/