‘Youth, Blue, and U’ premieres short film, sparks dialogue between community and police

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 10:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A mini-movie premiered in Charlottesville on Monday evening, but instead of sitting in silence, the showing of the ‘Youth, Blue, and U’ project sparked much-needed and appreciated conversations.

The roughly 15-minute short film showed what could and should happen when police officers pull people over in their cars. But everyone agreed that one of the most impactful moments of the premiere was what came after the film was shown.

The post-premiere panel brought together the players -- including Raylaja Waller with the City of Promise; University of Virginia Police Captain Bryant Hall; and Robert Haney, a lieutenant with the Charlottesville Police Department -- first for a discussion of the film, then for a discussion that they hope can change lives.

The project teamed up with the Lighthouse Studio to debut the film at the Vinegar Theatre in downtown Charlottesville.

“Part of understanding one another’s differences is putting our own views to the side and actually listening to what someone says,” Waller said.

It’s all about helping people like Hall and Haney connect with youth from the City of Promise, and help each other see things through new lenses.

“My background may be the same as yours,” Hall said. “Or it may be different. “But we may have a common ground where we can meet and I think that’s the beauty of having conversations, especially tough conversations.”

And tough conversations were had.

One of them came from a question directed at the officers: how do you feel about having concerned bystanders film your interactions?

“If you’re doing your job and you’re doing your job well, anyone can film me,” Haney said. " As long as I can do my job as far as someone not obstructing an investigation, by all means, that’s your right.”

Another topic: why do some officers approach the car with their hand on their weapon?

Hall says for some, it’s just a nervous tick -- like putting your hands on your hip. But he acknowledges officers need to consider the fear it can inspire in others.

“That’s the beauty of this program, it opens that dialogue,” he said. “When you put your hand on your gun it makes me feel this way, but as an officer, I may be thinking, ‘Oh I didn’t mean it this way.’ But it’s not what I mean, it’s what I do. Perception is reality.”

For Brian Williams, the UVA professor who organized the ‘Youth, Blue, and U’ engagement project, this is a step toward progress -- one he believes can be made.

“In the past, we’ve kind of prevent people’s willingness to participate,” he said. “But I’m an optimist. I remain hopeful that we can move beyond the past. You know why? We’re in this room together.”

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