On Trayvon Martin, Wakanda, Bed-Stuy and More

Actor, filmmaker and producer Attika J. Torrence at his home in Bed-Stuy. (Photo via BK Reader)

Filmmaker Attika J. Torrence, co-producer of Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, which debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 20, talked with BK Reader about growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Liberia, the pressure on Black filmmakers who are trying to tell stories, and what he learned in the making of the six-part docu-series which will run on the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV) this summer.

Saying that “you don’t know the Trayvon Martin story,” Torrence explained that revisiting the story really became a project in digging deep into what for many may seem a familiar story – and finding so much that hadn’t been told.

There is information out there that is just coming out. This project delves deep into what is going on, why this happened and how we can avoid this from happening again. And I’m so grateful I was a part of this project because there were lapses in the interviews and the story that I was able to see and catch right away, because… this is my culture. Our stories inevitably will be told from a different perspective, if you’re not of this culture.

I was watching an investigative news show about a white kid who was convicted for killing his parents and younger sister when he was 17 years old. He was a freshman in college at the time and was caught by his family stealing money from his grandmother. So when his parents found out, he killed them, then took their money and went on vacation and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. The news described him as “a normal kid, the All-American boy, the-boy-next-door…” The narrator said, “You would have never expected this from him.” They humanized this kid who was a killer.

Trayvon Martin was never humanized. If he would have gotten hurt or into a fight, he wouldn’t have even gone to a regular doctor; he would have gone to a pediatrician. He wasn’t an adult yet. He was a teen, and he was well-rounded. He played football. He loved to snowboard. Every summer, he attended aviation camp; he knew how to fly planes. But it’s interesting and deep the way our narratives are told. I want people to see the real Trayvon Martin and learn the real story.

I wanted people to see that he was the all-American boy.

Check out BK Reader for what the filmmaker had to say about the movie Black Panther, Hollywood’s continued push to get Black filmmakers to make films that are “less…ethnic,” and read why Torrence says that “long before Wakanda was a thing, we really lived that in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and moving to Liberia was an extension of that.”

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