“This film is a portrait of life and death on the streets of South Central Los Angeles, an area just beyond the Hollywood limelight where state intervention comes mainly with a siren attached. 50 years since the Watts riots exploded onto the streets and shocked the world, little has changed for the better inside of America’s most notorious address…” – Catching Hell In The City of Angels (Presented by Russell Simmons and All Def Digital)
A large reason why I host The People Series is because I care about people. I care about the people who have and are willing to share their story with others with the goal of shifting, shaking up humanity, and positively contributing to evolving the lives of others. This “evolution” can come in the form of a perception shift, the sharing of an experience, conversation exchange and more; wherever there lies an ability or opportunity to make a collective difference. When I met Hen Gee Garcia, we got talking and it was like we’d known one another for 20 years. That’s largely what life is about – having kinetic moments of what feels like past life connections with people on somewhat of a parallel path to yourself – in one way shape or form. The one subject we hopped on immediately was music and the music business; hip hop and life in and outside of the hood. We shared our love for music, urban culture and our aspirations to make change by doing. I quickly learned about one of Hen Gee’s most recent endeavors; co-producing the documentary Catching Hell In The City of Angels in conjunction with Russell Simmons + All Def Digital. After having recently attended the screening of 13th documentary (an Ava DuVernay project), which inspired and moved me a great deal; I couldn’t wait to download the experience of Catching Hell. As part of 2017’s Pan African Film & Arts Festival, I was grateful to attend a local screening, witnessing the perspectives shared by many, in and around life surrounding Watts, Los Angeles; honest, raw and confronting experiences of those immersed in what is at the best of times, a destructive, cyclical community faced with limitless challenges. Over the duration of my life, I’ve experienced moments where I’ve felt “trapped”, but no where near to the extent of what others have endured – especially in these surrounding communities. These trapping feelings can breed the need to just “survive” and survival in the “hood” generally means embarking upon unruly behavior that leads to great disadvantages, and premature death for many. Having visited the slums of countries like Nepal, India and Vietnam, whilst I care greatly about these communities, cultures and countries, I do like to look inside our own communities and often wonder why more is not done for those living side by side the rest of us. It pains me that few (residing within these communities) see a way out. It pains me that there’s much we can do to nurture these communities of individuals who have the potential to be just as talented as the next celebrity, entrepreneur or revered creative, and contribute to culture, society, humanity positively, but that we still to this day have limited resource and input from the powers at be (interpret as you wish). With any hardship, it’s only always about being able to make it out “the other side” and do something good with it. Music is so critical to all of our lives and urban music and culture, mainly hip hop is globally embraced by millions of people, inspired by the crafting of these melodies, beats, lyrics, stories… And much of it illustrated from having faced these types of hardships. It’s great for the individuals who “make it out”, who somehow find a loop hole to “break the mould”, but what about the young kids, teens and adults who want to get out, want a better life, aspire to “the other side”, but simply don’t have the means to get there? This is why pieces of informative content like Catching Hell In The City of Angels can help inspire action – from gang intervention to developing education, sports and other related programs, infrastructure, and more. Individuals like Hen Gee Garcia and associates are philanthropists and gang interventionists who can and want to continue to nurture these communities, by having one foot in the culture and one foot in renegading the change to the best of their ability. If you’re willing to support on a micro level, you can easily do so by renting or buying Catching Hell via Vimeo On Demand, but also uncover ways to assert your every day skills to support learning, growth, opportunity and so on. It’s about understanding your personal strengths, having a little empathy and taking action on how you can personally effect change. It’s also the pursuit of the small things, taking the small steps and making contributions, i.e. the efforts made in producing Catching Hell that hopefully inspires others and sheds greater truthful light on a situation that’s yet to be fully and humbly addressed. Thank you Hen Gee (and team) for putting your best foot forward to bring a project like this to light, and for caring enough to share your anticipations of a brighter future. Peace and love.
“The ’65 riots to the ’92 riots left a huge scar on this community…”
Written and Hosted by Georgii Speakman
Filmed by URBN247
Recorded at Dash Radio, Hollywood