Walking While Black an ‘emotional roller coaster’

The film about the impact of racial profiling led to important discussions following the evening showing at Quakertown Community High School.
Posted on 01/29/2020
Quakertown Community High School seniors Nathanael Chatterpaul, right, and Jake Berton explain the highlights of their breakout group discussion following the film Walking While Black.By Gary Weckselblatt

The film Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. is the Answer made an impact on those in the audience for the Quakertown Community School District’s showing of the movie that examines racial profiling and the effect on both citizens of color and police.

The movie, played in the high school Tuesday night, was brought to the district through the efforts of School Resource Officer Bob Lee’s work with Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub. Approximately 50 people attended the showing in the Performing Arts Center, including law enforcement, district students, teachers, administrators and community members from Quakertown and surrounding communities.

Students were particularly touched by the film, which Mr. Weintraub described as “provocative” with “some parts difficult to watch.”

“It was really an emotional roller coaster, touching on every topic,” said QCHS senior Nathanael Chatterpaul. “I watch online videos (of interactions with police) and people are always arguing with cops. The thing I take from today is don’t escalate the situation. I’m definitely going to show this video to my friends.”

Riya Sembhi, a QCHS junior, said the movie is very emotional. “It’s all about perception. We make it so difficult for ourselves by putting hatred over love. Not everyone understands that. You have to talk to people. You don’t even have to agree. Just have a conversation. We need more discussions like this. Without them, how are we going to be ready to leave Quakertown?”

Social Studies teacher Sean Burke agreed, “I appreciate the chance to have this difficult conversation,” he said.

Highlights from the breakout sessions

The movie by A.J. Ali and Errol Webber features interviews with law enforcement officers, as well as members of minority communities who share their experiences and a mission to build stronger police-community relationships. The acronym L.O.V.E. in the title stands for: Learn about the community and the people in it; Open your heart to the humanity of people in the community; Volunteer yourself to be part of the solution; Empower others to do the same.

Following the film, audience members broke into groups for a discussion facilitated The Peace Center, a social justice organization that works to prevent violence, promote peaceful resolution of conflict and foster inclusive, equitable and safe communities. About 45 minutes later, everyone returned to the Performing Arts Center, where group representatives gave highlights of their discussions.

“Really, tonight is about building relationships and building on redemption,” said Danny Thomas, The Peace Center’s executive director.

More than a dozen members of law enforcement attended the event, including Quakertown and Richland police chiefs Scott McElree and Richard Ficco Sr., respectively, and QCSD’s SRO’s Officer Lee and Brian Hendrzak. Besides Quakertown and Richland, departments represented included Hatfield, Hilltown, Pennridge and Perkasie.

“After every interaction (people have with police) you want everybody to go home and to go home safely,” DA Weintraub said. “I’m feeling much enriched for going through this process.”

Students from Arcadia University Master’s program International Peace and Conflict Resolution also took part in the program.

“The feedback was very positive and the reflection following the film was even more important,” Officer Lee said. “This was a huge accomplishment for our community and school district.”

Barbara Simmons, The Peace Center’s Executive Director Emeritus, said “Everybody had a good conversation that needs to continue. We don’t want it to end here.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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