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Mayor Thomas Appears In BET Music & T.I.’s Short Film & Town Hall

The film will be followed by a panel hosted by Angela Rye, featuring a discussion with artists and activists, including Mayor Richard Thomas about preventing tragedies in our communities.

Following the series of deaths of unarmed Black citizens like Sandra Bland and Philando Castile at the hands of police and our current political climate, multi-platinum and Grammy Award-winning artist/activist and Grand Hustle Records founder Tip “T.I.” Harris was inspired to create a short film portraying the relationship between police and the Black community. Tip stars in the movie, which also features cameos by a few Grand Hustle artists.

The campaign started with the release of Tip’s politically charged EP Us or Else in September 2016, which he followed up with the release of his full-length album Us or Else: Letter to the System (Dec. 2016) and a series of open letters to then-President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump and U.S. citizens to express his thoughts on the transition of power and to offer a call-to-action to everyday people. Viewers can see the broadcast premiere of this mini movie Monday, April 24 at 11 p.m. ET on BET.

The Us or Else Town hall will cover in depth topics concerning police brutality, the role of the black church in inner-city communities, the image of Black people in the media, the responsibility of the artist and how to take back and own our communities.

Moderated by CNN correspondent and political pundit Angela Rye, this panel includes commentary and discussion with Grammy-Award winning Rapper, Actor and Entrepreneur Tip “T.I.” HarrisTalib Kweli – a poetic and profound Hip-Hop artist with a commitment to a range of social issues, Tamika Mallory – social justice champion and Co-founder of Women’s March and nationally recognized civil rights activist, Brittany Packnett – Vice President of national community alliances for Teach for America, a co-founder of Campaign Zero, and a member of the President’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, Nakia Jones –  Warrensville Heights, Ohio Police Officer whose video condemned the shooting death of Alton Sterling, Richard W. Thomas – Mayor of the City of Mount Vernon, NY and Dr. Eric Mason (Pastor “E”) – Pastor from Ephipany Fellowship in Philadelphia and airs exclusively on BET Jams and BET Soul on Tuesday, April 25 at 9 p.m. ET.

“Glad to join T.I., Talib Kweli and Tamika D. Mallory in important dialog on police-community relations,” Mayor Thomas tweeted Monday afternoon.

After discussing T.I.’s short film on police brutality, which the rapper produced as part of his socially conscious Us Or Else: Letter To The System EP, Rye delved into a round of questions spanning from how to bridge generational divides that may hinder social justice work to the role of artists in the movement.

When Rye asked what the next steps are in response to police brutality, Kweli asserted, “We have to be active before the tragedy.”

“For me the best way to do it is to align myself with the people who do the work even when the tragedies don’t make the news,” he said. “Whether it’s through groups like Dream Defenders or Black Youth Project, or the most famous right now, Black Lives Matter. There are groups of people who are in the communities who do this work 24/7 that I think is our job, as artists and influencers, to uplift the work that’s already being done.”

Audience members added thoughtful questions as well, including what kind of social justice work each of the panelists engage in so they, too, can get involved in the movement. Mallory does extensive anti-violence work as co-chair of Gun Violence Awareness Month while Kweli aims to support existing organizations through his Action Support Committee. T.I. and Jones cited their volunteer work and community engagement focusing on youth.


About AJ Woodson (2373 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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