Film production disruption hurts entire community

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NAJEE’S NOTES

By Najee Ali

Contributing Writer

There has been a lot of talk in the community concerning the physical altercation between employees working with Community Build and grassroots activists who are part of a coalition called Africa Town last month.

That coalition has also been called Clown-town by numerous community members. They have earned that title in large part due to their clownish behavior. Africa Town leader Kevin Wharton Price, who describes himself as a Black Lives Matter activist and his followers, continue to harm the Black community.

On Feb. 25, Price’s latest stunt was provoking and initiating an attack on employees of Community Build, who were working as safety ambassadors during a film production for the Apple TV+ series “Truth be Told” in Leimert Park. After any fight, both sides always differ on how and why it started. In this situation, I know how and why it started. I was an eyewitness having just got out of my car to patronize Eso Won Bookstore.

I saw two groups of men arguing aout the film crew being allowed to continue production in Leimert Park. After a few minutes of back and forth, I witnessed a member of Africa Town assault one of the Community Build safety ambassadors. That is when all hell broke loose.

The LAPD was on hand to stem the violence, but the damage was done. Africa Town activists had once again harmed the Black community in a significant manner. In an area that was struggling economically before COVID even existed, film production revenue is a help to Black business owners in Leimert Park. The production company was contracted to pay $38,000 for the three-day film shoot.

According to Community Build financial reports, that is substantially more than the filming revenue received for all of 2020. A portion of the money was allocated for the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association and the balance was proportionately distributed to the businesses based on their daily sales.

James Burks, a longtime community leader and former employee of the city of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, helped negotiate the production contract on behalf of Community Build and the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association.

Burks said said Africa Town has a long history of harming Black businesses in Leimert Park, citing the disruption of a performance by Barbara Morrison’s at the 2018 Leimert Park jazz festival.

As someone who has been on the frontlines of my community for more than three decades, I have been a witness to Price and Africa Town’s behavior. I usually ignore them.

Price went on social media to condemn Robert Sausedo CEO of Community Build and his staff, but his description of the incident was different from what I witnessed.

Last September, Price and his followers went to a hospital where two sheriff’s deputies were being treated after being shot and seriously wounded. Price and his followers were heard yelling “I hope they (expletive) die!” outside the hospital.

Price also shared YouTube video from outside the hospital where he referred to the injured deputies as “America’s most notorious gang members” and called the shooting the “start of retribution.” and “a good thing.”

Price was eventually arrested for trying to storm the hospital unsuccessfully and blocking the emergency room exit and entrance.

I have led several protests against law enforcement over the decades. Not once did I ever cheer for a law enforcement officer to die.

I reached out to Price for a comment but did not receive one. I did receive a statement from Sausedo, who said Price and a colleague, William Campbell, were a constant source of dissention and division in the community.”

“Africa Town’s recent disruption of a film production by threatening and extorting money … resulting in the film crew relocating to Pasadena was … reprehensible,” Saucedo said. “This disruption has the potential of damaging Leimert Park Village’s reputation in the film community as a production-friendly location and thereby taking thousands of dollars out of the pockets of businesses at a time when they need it most.

“When this behavior was brought to our attention by the film production crew, [Community Build’s] safety ambassadors intervened.”

I am speaking up now because I can no longer stay silent while Mr. Price, Mr. Campbell and African Town Coalition continue their campaign to advance disorder by constantly wreaking havoc and then projecting false narratives about circumstances they have created.  If this behavior sounds familiar, it is because the same tactics were successfully used by the former president to sow seeds of chaos and descent while never taking responsibility.   

Community Build Inc. is solidly and passionately committed to building up our community and our work speaks for itself.  I pray that the community no longer has to endure and suffer from the destructive activities that this group continues to perpetrate while playing the innocent victim.

The Black community must decide. It can support the leadership of a few Black activists yelling outside the hospital for human beings to die or support Community Build and its leadership with decades of positive contributions for our people.

To me, it’s an easy choice.