Police and Youth Dialogue About Police Shootings Over Film ‘The Hate U Give’

students, Michelle Obama School of Technology & the Arts, The Hate U Give
Eighth grade students from Michelle Obama School of Technology & the Arts attended a screening of The Hate U Give with members of the Park Forest Police Department. (Photo: PFPD)

Watch the official trailer for The Hate U Give below

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Park Forest Police took the unusual move last week of addressing police shootings with a demographic that otherwise might be on the cusp of trusting police the least. A group of eight grade students from the Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts and two officers from the PFPD gathered for a screening of The Hate U Give, a highly rated film currently playing in theaters.

According to a 2016 study by the PEW Research Center, Blacks are about half as likely as whites to have a positive view of the job their local police are doing. With a high population of African American students, this outreach between the Park Forest Police Department and students of School District 163 is especially important.

“Blacks and whites also differ over the root causes of the fatal incidents between police and blacks in recent years,” the PEW Research Center said. “Even before the recent lethal encounters between police and black men in Tulsa and Charlotte, the survey found that blacks are 25 percentage points more likely than whites to say the deaths of blacks during encounters with police in recent years are signs of a broader societal problem and not merely isolated incidents.”

Deputy Chief Brian Rzyski and Sergeant Julius Moore joined the eighth-graders for the film followed by a panel discussion of the issues raised by the movie.

panel discussion, Brian Rzyski, Julius Moore, The Hate U Give, Michelle Obama School of Technology & the Arts
Deputy Chief Brian Rzyski and Sergeant Julius Moore join with others and 8th grade students from Michelle Obama School of Technology & the Arts in a panel discussion of ‘The Hate U Give.’ (Photo: PFPD)

“For those of you unfamiliar with the film,” police said in a statement about the event, “the plot centers around Starr Carter who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Starr faces pressures from all sides of the community, and must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.”

The movie has an almost unheard of 96% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Jessica Kiang of Variety called the film, “A brilliantly modulated balancing act between dark and light, anger and optimism, white privilege mined for pointed laughs and black fury portrayed as a galvanizing force for change.” Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers said, “It is impossible to over-praise [Amandla] Stenberg’s incandescent performance, a gathering storm that grows in ferocity and feeling with each scene.”

From Travers’ review:

It’s one thing to say Black Lives Matter, it’s another to live it. And that’s the test facing Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old African-American girl who finds it easier to ignore the race crimes transpiring in her low-income neighborhood by attending a private, mostly white prep school across town. Starr’s mother (the reliably stellar Regina King) thinks of the school as a way out for her children. But Starr instinctively knows she’s living a lie. She keeps her white boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa of Riverdale), a secret from her family and her family away from him, scrupulously code-switching by playing it straight down the middle while her white classmates talk “black” to sound cool.

It is impossible to over-praise Stenberg’s incandescent performance, a gathering storm that grows in ferocity and feeling with each scene. Stenberg nails every nuance of a role that keeps throwing challenges at her, none more devastating than when it becomes impossible for Starr to remain stuck in neutral. The catalyst for change comes when her friend Khalil (Algee Smith) is fatally shot by a white police officer (Drew Starkey) who mistakes Khalil’s hairbrush for a gun. Starr witnesses the whole thing and finds herself at a crossroads. In a flashback at the top of the film, Tillman shows us the Carter family having the “talk.” In a concise summary of the Black Panther’s Ten-Point program, Starr’s father Maverick (the outstanding Russell Hornsby), a reformed drug dealer, tells the young Starr and her brothers about dealing with police. The crux of it is to cooperate, stay calm and always keep your hands where they can see them. The implication is: don’t rock the boat. But it is precisely Starr’s burgeoning activism that makes The Hate U Give an emotional powerhouse.

The movie is based on the 2017 young-adult bestseller by Angie Thomas.

“As a police department, we took this opportunity to have an open and honest discussion with the youth of the community,” police said of the gathering. “We appreciated the outpouring of questions and concerns and welcomed the dialogue. Deputy Chief Rzyski and Sgt. Moore, along with other community leaders, discussed what to do when you encounter a police officer, what actions police officers are required to take, and the relationship between the community and law enforcement.”

“We thank Michelle Obama School for giving us the opportunity to participate in this important conversation,” police said.

We commend the Park Forest Police Department for spending such quality time with the young people of our community. We commend our youth for honestly sharing their concerns with police. This is a crucial, critical dialogue.