What is the responsibility of the Black community when it comes to the relationship with law enforcement? What role does the black church play? Should black police officers patrol urban communities differently? Are black artists expected to speak out about police brutality and other social justice issues? These topics and more will be discussed during a two-night special, “BET Music presents ‘Us or Else’” to include a short film, one-on-one conversation and Town Hall on Monday, April 24 at 11pm EST on BET and Tuesday, April 25 on BET Jams and BET Soul at 9pm EST (check local listings).
On Monday, April 24, in the ‘Us or Else’ short film, Tip “T.I.” Harris stars as three different characters in the community – a pastor, a police officer and a hustler - who all deal with an unexpected death of a young black man in the neighborhood in their own way. The film is part of Tip’s ‘Us or Else’ movement he started with his ‘Us or Else’ EP released in September 2016 followed by a full-length album ‘Us or Else: Letter to the System’ released exclusively on Tidal in December. Pitchfork called the album, “his most selfless project.” As part of the film premiere, Rye will have a one-on-one conversation with Tip about why he continues to speak out and if he considers himself an activist among other topics. The ‘Us or Else’ short film is produced by Cinema Giants and Harris’ Grand Hustle Films.
“T.I's short film ‘US or Else’ is a strong piece of art that awakens the activist in all of us. It reminds us that we must all play a role in solving this issue of urgency. Police violence sadly remains a perennial conversation and ongoing challenge in our community, this contribution will reach beyond his fan base and inspire folks to stay woke and take action. I commend Tip on using his platform as an artist so responsibly and effectively,” said Rye.
On April 25 at 9pm on BET Jams and BET Soul, Rye will moderate a panel discussion with a diverse group to include Tip and community thought-leaders including: one of the most socially-aware rappers, Talib Kweli; Cleveland police officer Nakia Jones whose emotional Facebook post went viral after the shooting death of Alton Sterling; activist and co-founder of the police reform project Campaign Zero Brittany Packnett; activist and co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, Tamika Mallory; Pastor Eric Mason a/k/a “Pastor E” from the Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Vernon, New York Mayor Richard Thomas.
A few of the panelist expressed their thoughts on the importance of this discussion:
“This is an important subject matter because if the bridge between the African American community and Police department is not mended we will all be in trouble. It shouldn't be an Us versus Them. We should all be working towards making our communities a safe place to live.” – Officer Nakia Jones
“Have the tough conversations, just like we did on air, and face the hard truths. Above all else: take action, because it's us or else...nothing,” – Brittany Packnett
The church also needs to be called to lead on serving these needs that will move towards long term change,” - Pastor E.
“The way forward will require concerted efforts by the law enforcement community to open the dialogue with the citizens they serve making the commitment to bring positive change to a forefront. America has a history of overcoming social unrest and we must draw on that proud legacy to conquer the current antagonisms.” – Mayor Richard Thomas.