By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter
The Toledo Opera hosted “Building Trust: A Documentary Film Screening and Panel Discussion” at Lourdes University’s Franciscan Center March 23. This was the second screening of the documentary ‘Blue: Stories from Toledo’ created for the opera Blue that debuts in August.
The welcome was given by Lisa McDuffie, president/CEO of the YWCA of Northwest Ohio and community chairperson for Toledo Racial Equity and Inclusion Council (TREIC).
The 20-minute film highlights interactions with the Toledo Police Department and commentary from Toledo residents and retired law enforcement. ‘Blue: Stories from Toledo’ includes interviews with local artist James Dickerson (Facebook, IG: @dirtykics), Shirley Green, PhD, former lieutenant, retired Sergeant Anita Madison and Crystal Harris, the mother of Christopher Harris who was killed by Toledo police in 2021. The aim of the documentary is to conceptualize the story of the opera Blue in a local context. The film was produced by Madhouse.
Following the screening of the film a panel discussed the current climate between residence and law enforcement. Patrice McClellan, PhD, president and lead strategist of the Ronald Group, moderated the panel presentation.
Panelists for the event included:
- Tonya Rider – Former Toledo Police Department (TPD) detective
- Sarah Shendy – director of the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment in the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services and officer in the Copley Police Department
- David Ross – artist who co-created the George Floyd and Damia Ezell murals in Toledo
- Darriontae Stewart – State Trooper
- Marvin Whitfield – Founder of Blue Force Mobile Training Team and President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Ohio
Panelist discussed the origins of the policing in America, implicit bias, community policing and solutions to changing the culture of policing. “If they’re from the community it doesn’t really matter the race. [Police] should be from the community and understand the barriers in community… How can police work and communicate with people and they don’t know their barriers? “asked David Ross, the artist who created the George Floyd mural in Toledo. “Integrity, compassion [are] all things that are needed to make a good cop. If you don’t know the community – learn it. It’s that simple.”
The opera Blue debuts this August 26 & 28 at the Valentine Theatre and features an all-black cast. The opera addresses the complex issues of living while black in America.
“Blue is the story of an African American couple in Harlem who anticipates the birth of their firstborn, a son, with both hope and fear. As the baby grows into a young man, the mother worries for his future, and the father tries to prepare his son for the realities of 21st century America, while wrestling with his own identity as a police officer, a ‘Black man in blue.’ When their deepest fears come true, the family is forced to navigate a devastating reality seeking answers and support from their church and community. Toledo Opera presents the Tony Award®–winning composer Jeanine Tesori and NAACP Theatre Award–winning librettist Tazewell Thompson’s new opera inspired by contemporary events and Black literature. Influenced by gospel music and using vivid flashbacks, Blue places timely issues at the forefront of modern opera and invites audiences to the emotional epicenter of their impact. Chelsea Tipton, II returns to Toledo to conduct the opera and librettist Tazewell Thompson serves as the stage director.” (source: ToledoOpera.org)
Blue is made possible by Owens Corning, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information about Blue, please visit www.toledoopera.org/upcoming-performances/season-event/blue/. For more information on Toledo Opera, visit https://toledoopera.org. Tickets can be purchased for Blue via phone 419-255-SING or online.