More

What parents want their black sons to do when they're stopped by the cops

It's not a matter of if their sons will encounter the police, it's when. So they want them to be prepared.

What parents want their black sons to do when they're stopped by the cops
True
Open Society Foundations

These guys are dads. They've also been stopped by the cops.

"As I'm putting my hands on the steering wheel so I don't make the police nervous, I realize how nervous I was, and then I realize my children were nervous."


"Some people pull us out of the car, throw us on the floor. It's in February, so it's, like, snow and slush and stuff on the ground, put their knees in our back, put the guns to our head."

Whether they're traveling with their kids or solo, these fathers have something in common. At times, they've all felt unfairly targeted by the police due to their race.

In an effort to keep their sons ahead of the curve, they're giving them "the cop talk" in advance. Emmy-Award-winning filmmakers Geeta Gandbhir and Blair Foster, along with an awesome production team including Perri Peltz, Michele Stephenson, and Joe Brewster, put these chats on tape.

It grew into a five-minute documentary called "A Conversation with My Black Son," originally published by The New York Times' Op-Docs section. It features parents sharing advice with their sons on how to interact with the police.

Geeta told Upworthy exclusively:

"This conversation, which has been happening in the black community for generations, will resound with parents everywhere. It's a universal desire to want your children to be safe."

As a mom to two African-American boys, the filmmaker interviewed parents from her inner circle. Although all of them are parenting young black men, the tips they each had for their sons while interacting with cops were totally different. Here are a few from both moms and dads:

  • "Do what they say; don't get into any arguments."
  • "Make sure your hands are out of your pockets so they can see."
  • "Under no circumstance are you to talk to the police if you're arrested until I get there."
  • "It's not like 'Please, master, don't whip me.' No, it's like, 'Excuse me, sir, what is your badge number? I'm going to film this.'"
  • "If you want police brutality to stop, if you want police to treat you like a human being, then you have to see yourself as a human being."

Doling out advice like this didn't come easy. Some parents shed some tears. Others smiled uncomfortably.

They said:

  • "It's maddening; I get so frustrated and angry about having to prepare my kids for something that they're not responsible for."
  • "You can put your hands up and cooperate and say that I'm choking and still be killed ... then there's no repercussions."
  • "It doesn't mean that every police officer is inherently a bad person, but what it does mean is that the police force, that institution, does not look out for your best interest."

"A Conversation with My Black Son" is first in a series of documentaries that Geeta and her team launched after the string of police brutality incidents in Florida, Missouri, and Ohio. The film is part of a larger interactive series in production, that will be released in partnership with Op-Docs. It will include a speaking tour that candidly discusses the current state of race relations in the U.S.

Geeta has two goals: "to create a safe space where uncomfortable conversations about race and civil rights can happen ... that allow different communities to experience each other's realities without feeling accused or attacked" and to educate black kids.

"We do believe that an age-appropriate conversation about the obstacles commonly faced by African-American children will help them adjust to those obstacles and develop coping strategies that will serve them for a lifetime." — Geeta Gandbhir

To hear more from these brave parents, you can hear their thoughts below.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less