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Mpls. Music Legend J.D. Steele's New Documentary Captures Elder Voices On Systemic Racism

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A documentary produced by Minneapolis music legend J.D. Steele hopes to stimulate dialogue about systemic racism.

Steele took the testimonials of four octogenarians as they recount the ways systemic racism has impacted them throughout their lives.

In the wake of the unrest in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd, Steele felt it important to reflect on the experiences of those who have come before us in order to move forward.

"When you live to be 80-plus years, you have lived it and seen it and I think that we need to respect and learn from our elders in ways that our culture doesn't do as much as it should," said Steele.

Steele listened to Macalester College professor emeritus Elder Mahmoud El Kati, Minnesota civil rights activist Dr. Josie Johnson, co-founder of Sabathani Community Center Bill English and Sallie Steele Birdsong, his mother, as they spoke about a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization.

"Our elders have a lot to say from their historical background and that things have changed a lot, but there are still a lot of things that have remained the same, particularly with systemic racism in law enforcement, housing discrimination, banking," Steele said.

"We all speak the vocabulary of white supremacy. White, black and everybody in between. You got to destroy that before anybody is free," said El Kati.

Steele hopes this documentary stimulates thought, conversation and action that will move our country away from what these elders say is an oppressive system that still exists today.

"We have to overcome systemic poverty by demanding investment in our communities, but white people have to solve racism. We can't solve that. I'll dialogue about it, but they have to solve their own racism. They have to accept our humanity," said English.

The documentary "Listen! Please!" premieres with a virtual screening Monday night on Facebook and YouTube.

Donations made during the screening will benefit the Capri Theatre, which supports disadvantaged youth and adults in North Minneapolis.

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