‘Hate Crimes in the Heartland’

Pi-Isis Ankhra (R) responding to a question from the audience while Dr. Marta Mareno Vege looks on.
Photo by Amun

“Hate Crimes in the Heartland” a film by Rachel Lyon and co-produced by Pi-Isis Ankhra had it’s New York premiere on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Aaron Davis Hall, City College of New York. It is a very important film which examines hate and race prejudice in America by looking at two distinct hate crimes, which took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the genocide, which took place in 1921, when the Black community was attacked by the white population of Tulsa and decimated. The Black community was virtually self-sufficient and thriving to the point of being called, “Black Wall Street.” It was an American Economic success story. The white community invaded the Black community of Tulsa with government assistance, wiping out what had been a thriving economically successful community of Black businesses and families, burning it to the ground and killing thousands of people, and running the survivors out of town. It is reported that the first time any government used aerial bombing as a tactic of war, was in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the United States government used airplanes to drop bombs on the Black community in Tulsa. It is a terrible tragedy of American history, which has been kept hidden and buried in the annals of American history. The other is the Good Friday Murders, which happened in 2012. Two white men shot and killed black residents of Tulsa at random out of hate and race prejudice.

Genocide was employed by the United States government against Native American people to seize and settle the land that is now western United States and the heartland of the country. Lynching was used as a tactic to terrorize and subjugate the Black population of the United States. Hate crimes continue today throughout the United States. The Department of Justice reports that approximately 250,000 hate crimes take place a year with that number doubling since the election of Baraka Obama as President of the United States. We look back at the decimations of Black communities such as Rosewood, Florida and the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the lynching and brutal murders of Emmitt Till, James Byrd, Bobby Clark, William Allen, Trayvon Martin and others, and have no solution in sight.

The efforts of the filmmaker, Rachel Lyon and her co-producer, Pi-Isis Ankhra are not just to expose, but also to heal by opening up the conversation, and moving the agenda towards hope and reconciliation. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with a Q&A with the panel and the audience. The hope is to support a dialogue, which will move the agenda towards peace and the elimination of hatred and these terrible crimes that hatred and fear have wrought.

The panel participants include: Dr. R. L’Heureux-McCoy, associate professor, City College of New York, moderator; Veronica Agard, Collin Powell Center for Civic & Global Leadership, student activist; Rachel Lyon, writer, director, producer, “Hate Crimes in the Heartland;” Michaela Angela Davis, writer, image activist, CNN contributor; Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, founder and president, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and joined by Pi-Isis Ankhra, co-producer of “Hate Crimes in the Heartland.”

Lyon is an Emmy award winning documentary filmmaker. She has created 65 films: documentaries and international series. Her work focuses on global issues, human rights, civil equality, art, archeology, lifestyle and history. “Hate Crimes in the Heartland” is her latest work.

Pi-Isis Ankhra, co-producer of “Hate Crimes in the Heartland” has an extensive background in the philanthropic industry having worked within the industry for 16 years. She secured more than $150,000,000 to support the sustainability and capacity-building efforts of community based organizations, specifically within the field of social justice and advocacy. In addition, over the past five years, she has broadened her professional offerings to include media development — working on both short and long-form content projects. As a film, television and live event producer, Ms Ankhra has focused her work on design and delivery of strategic plans to reach and engage targeted audiences around stories that surface social and cultural issues often overlooked by the mainstream media.

The filmmakers have been touring “Hate Crimes in the Heartland” around the United States and holding panel discussions with local social activists with Q&A following in an effort to stimulate a dialogue that addresses hate crimes and their deep rooted causes. Their Black History Month schedule has included screenings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, New York City, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Boca Raton, Florida. Coming up are screenings in Cincinnati, Ohio on Feb. 24; Chicago, Illinois on Feb. 25 and in Jersey City on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Jersey City University, Margaret Williams Theater, 2039 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, New Jersey at 5:45 p.m. RSVP: www.hchnewjerseyscreening.eventbrite.com, visit: www.hatecrimesheartland.com for information.

© Amun/Ankhra House, Ltd.

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