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'A War On Friendly Grounds' Brings Black Military Experience To GI Film Festival

Speaker 1: 00:00 The GI film festival is underway this week in San Diego, bringing with it a host of films that present a diverse spectrum of identity perspective from within the military experience entries in this year's festival, explore themes such as women in service post-traumatic growth and the black military experience in the film. A war on friendly ground viewers are given insight into the complex perspective and experience of a black servicemen who returns to civilian life only to face the perils of discrimination. Joining us today to discuss the film is director King Jackwell Martin King Jackwell Martin. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:38 Hi, thank you for having me here. I'm super excited. Yeah. Speaker 1: 00:41 We're glad to have you. You enlisted in the U S army and moved up the ranks to Sergeant and then an unforeseen and challenging incident brought you face to face with the age old discrimination, born of ignorance and racial hatred. What happened Speaker 2: 00:57 Basically on October 24th, 2005, I was coming home from doing a uniform inspection for my soldier, POC, Carlyle. I was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I lived maybe like maybe three, four miles away from base on the way home. There was an officer in my neighborhood, um, patrolling and supposedly he was supposed to be out there looking for a white male flashing little kids. As I was driving through the neighborhood, I was well-known in my neighborhood. I used to play semi-pro football and I used to take all the women and children to the football games. They would hold the down markers. So as I'm riding behind the officer, the apartment is shaped like a rectangle. And he started driving towards my apartment complex, um, as he entered the parking lot, but he went in the rectangle first and then I went beside, behind him and we eventually became parallel. Speaker 2: 01:44 So when we came parallel, I acknowledged them by tipping my head, um, in his police report, he said that he felt like I was teasing him. So I parked my car. I get out my car and I'm walking towards the door. I hear a car pull off. And so I hear tires, screeching, and I turned around and I'm like, what's going on? I see a police officer running towards me. He's like, Hey, you, Hey, you come here on MACRA for noise violation. He says, well, give me your license and registration. He looked at the paper license and he was like, well, what the hell is this? And I said, well, dude, if you just calmed down, you can see I'm a soldier. I just got back from Germany. He's like, you will not address me as dude. And next thing I know, he slams me into the ground. Speaker 2: 02:17 He starts punching on me. And so while he's punching and hitting me, all the women and children from the neighborhood started to come out. My ex comes out and she's like, Oh my God, what are you doing to him? And I reach out with one hand. I'm like, stay back. I'm okay. I'm okay. You know, because I didn't want anything to happen to her. So the officer became more irate when I told her I was okay, because maybe he felt like maybe he wasn't in control or something. So he brings out a Canon Mason. He uses a whole can of mace on me. So I followed my training. And so, because I didn't react like the normal civilian would react to being pepper sprayed. He assumed that I was on drugs and then he became even more violent. He started kicking me and my stomach and everything else. Speaker 2: 02:55 So I understand why the other police officers arrived to the scene, the way that they arrived to the scene. But when you arrive to the scene, you're supposed to use your training and analyze the situation of what's going on. The, his supervisor, Ron gets out the car and he tells deputy Joseph Clark to get her, um, get her black. Hey, she has pictures of me. So he runs up on my ex-wife. He throws her into the car. She puts her hands up behind her head and she drops her cell phone. They take us downtown. That's like one of the most humiliating moments in my life to watch my wife get beat up in front of me as a husband, to walk into a police station in my military uniform and get fingerprinted to take mugshots in my military uniform to sit back and watch my wife get fingerprinted and, you know, watch her take mugshots. I mean, to this day, I still cry over that situation because it's humiliating. Speaker 1: 03:47 This experience changed your trajectory and led you to create this film a war on friendly ground. Tell me about it. Speaker 2: 03:55 Honestly, we did this film before the Georgia Florida situation. Um, what inspired me was Mr. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan from the Fruitvale station story and Colin Kaepernick, taking a knee and putting his football career on the line. Um, we have companies that say black lives matter, but then kind of still can't get a job, but yet we have other people that drink kill people, take advantage of women and they're still in the league. I don't, I find it horrible. So I didn't think anyone wanted to actually hear my story. To be honest with you. Um, honestly, um, I have PTSD and I'm traumatized because I questioned God. Why did you allow me to still be here? Why is it so many other people survive the situation? And why am I still here? So I kind of have survivor's guilt. So my goal for a warrant from the grounds is to build a bridge between the public and the police, because we have two entities that have to live together that have to work together, but they're strangers. Speaker 2: 04:51 They don't know each other. And then we wonder why we have so many situations where it collides. That's why, when you see my book on the cover of the book, I have the American flag. I actually have the real picture of the officer on top of me. And they just did it in a nice artistic way, but I chose bullet holes. I chose bullet holes to be the stars, because I feel like that's the new hanging back in the day. People were hung in the streets and people used to come out to wash the hangings. Well, nowadays it's just on social media and it happens so much that we become desensitized to it. And so for me, I never want to be so comfortable because of so many people that sacrifice their life for me to even have the comfort that I have today. So I feel like it's my responsibility to create change Speaker 1: 05:38 The themes of this year's GI film festival is the black military experience. Do you feel like that perspective has been particularly overlooked in film or, or more importantly in real life? Speaker 2: 05:49 Yes. A hundred percent. And the reason why is because sometimes people can't digest the truth of the experience. Sometimes it's people feel guilty because of how African-Americans are treated or how soldiers are treated in the military. And when you tell the truth, that means you have to confront yourself and look in the mirror. And sometimes people have a difficult time doing that. And in conversations with other friends of mine, people are scared of her revenge, but we don't want more things. We just want equality. And so, I mean, I know they just passed the Asian crime law and I think crime built. And I think that's amazing. I think that's beautiful. How do we do that for ourselves? Because we've been going through this for four or 500 years, how do we create that? How do we, I mean, we don't have to reinvent the wheel, but how do we take that same thing to have the same type of protections or more? Speaker 1: 06:39 I have been speaking with King Jackwell Martin director of a war on friendly ground, which screens this Friday at the GI film festival King. Thanks so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 06:50 I'm so grateful for the GI festival. I really, uh, I never thought I would be in this situation. So I want to give a big kudos to the GI film festival for giving me a platform, um, for me to be able to compete for best student film, for me to be able to compete for best military actor in a film. I think that's so amazing because the day that I was on the ground and getting beaten, I never thought that a festival like this would accept someone like me. So I'm so grateful for this festival. I encourage anyone to submit to this festival to be a part of this festival. It's really, truly amazing. I went from getting beat up and wrongfully facing 10 years in jail to becoming an actor, to writing a book, to actually win in the film festival. So you can't tell me that one situation controls your life. Speaker 2: 07:37 You are still in control, no matter what you go through. And so I have a quote that I just want to end this whole conversational. If you die today, would you get an, a plus on life's report card and only, you know, the answer to that question, but if God blesses you to see tomorrow, you better live like an extra credit and I'm just living like an extra credit. And that's why I'm here at the GI film festival. And I'm super happy, super grateful for doing this interview with you guys. And thank you guys for blessing me.

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In this year's GI Film Festival, a number of films shine a light on the unique perspective of black experience in the military.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments