The Paramount Network, in partnership with Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z) and Black Entertainment Television, is giving us a six-part documentary series exploring Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman. It cites the instance as the birth of the Movement For Black Lives and chronicles the most recent and inflammatory race divide in the US. If the series is documenting the birth of the MBL alongside the Zimmerman trial, I am curious about who is telling the story and what the goal might be at such a volatile time in the nation.
The trailer opens with a worried 911 call from Trayvon’s father, Tracy. The trailer goes from zero to lightspeed showing emotional imagery coupled with blistering bars from Black Thought of The Legendary Roots Crew. From photos of the crime scene to the audio of Zimmerman’s 911 call as he stalked Trayvon home. Voiceovers from Black Lives activists, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony, and testimony from Trayvon’s own mother, Sybrina Fulton. The trailer pulls no punches and paints a very clear picture for its audience. It also leaves a glaring question on the mind of the viewer: If this clear-cut trial yielded no justice under Obama, where is it to be found in our divided country, under its present administration?
As a media critic, I gotta wonder if BET/Paramount Network can deliver the series with the nuance this discussion requires. Truly, the decision making at the network went from Spike TV (frat-boy demographic) to Esquire (frat-boy turned hipster demographic) to Paramount (OG xenophobic cowboy movies demographic).
Not a lot of POC perspectives in the room, much less at the table here. My faith in this series is lessened by the history of the network, which used to be TNN, then CMT before it was Spike.
Remember the Nashville Network and Country Music Television? Precursors to our current iteration of Fox News. Reaching out to the demographic most diametrically opposed to the Movement For Black Lives and likely to move politically against their own self-interest. While I am excited to see this open up dialogue, do I trust them to tell this story? Will Paramount’s partnership with BET measure in fairness how this story is told? We’ll see.
Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, comes out at the end of the month. Part one premieres Monday, July 30th on the Paramount Network.
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