Like so many others, actor Orlando Jones has joined in on the Ice Bucket Challenge, aimed at raising awareness and funding for ALS. But instead of following in traditional Ice Bucket Challenge protocol, Jones decided to use his nomination as a way to talk about the shooting and killing of Michael Brown and protests in Ferguson, Mo.
On Aug. 18, the actor uploaded his video onto YouTube and has used the power of social media to spread his message. BuzzFeed had the chance to speak with the actor about his challenge to himself and others to "listen without prejudice, love without limits, and reverse the hate."
BuzzFeed: Were you nominated to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge?
Orlando Jones: I was nominated actually by several people and obviously needed to respond. You obviously want to do a response that is provocative and poignant and as that was happening I was watching the news and seeing what was happening in Ferguson and seeing what was happening in New York. I was just struck by feeling like we were in the '60s again. I talked to my parents, they were like, "Yeah we've seen this." I think that was the core inspiration in looking at what happened with ALS and how much it had been previously co-opted.
Did it bother you to see people getting so involved in the Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS awareness and not really having a similar kind of awareness about the shooting of Michael Brown and what's been happening in Ferguson?
OJ: What's bothersome is when you really look at it, this feels like something we've seen before, so it feels like it's an outcome that we can predict. We've seen it over and over; we've seen what happened in the Jordan Davis case, now we're seeing what's happening in this case. Chances are not very high that they're going to reach a verdict and convict, so, I think I was more struck by, "What can we do? How do you change this?" The bullet bucket challenge for me was not about dumping bullets on your head, I meant it obviously to be provocative, but I wanted to co-opt it in the way the ALS did to great effect.
I was glad to obviously contribute to that important cause, but my challenge is simply to motivate people to use their voice when they see something in the world that they know is not okay. For me, bullets represent those who have fought and died in the struggle for human rights, because civil rights are human rights and an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere, and I realized that I could no longer stay silent. But to be fair, where was my voice when those injustices happened in other parts of the world? I didn't say anything because I was being apathetic, so my challenge was meant to bring attention to the disease of apathy — but gun violence is one of the symptoms. The support of a disproportionate death of young black men is one of the symptoms, but when we act like it's just the way it is, we silently endorse those convictions and allow it to fester. Unlike ALS, our disease has a cure so long as we treat those symptoms. We know what the symptoms are; this disease has a cure. Treat the symptoms.
What has the general response been from people who have seen your video?
OJ: There are people who go, "Where am I going to find a bunch of bullets to pour on my head?" and I just sort of go, "Wow, you're not even listening." Then there are people who say, "Well, you should wait until a verdict is rendered before you make a judgment," and I go, "Well, that's a really interesting point of view because people are rendering judgment on Mike Brown and discussing his character." It's interesting to see how people react. I'm not making any judgments, which is why I'm saying I'm a member of the NRA, which is a very controversial organization as it relates to gun violence. Do I agree with all their views? No. But had Jackie Robinson not become a member of Major League Baseball we wouldn't have seen change affected, we wouldn't have seen the color barrier broken. Joining those organizations that you sometimes disagree with and having a voice within them is the way to affect real change. Screaming at them and telling them what pieces of crap they are is not a constructive conversation.
What I'm most proud of and was the most touching thing for me was a guy who sent me a response video who dumped a bunch of voter registration ballots on his head. He said, "This is the way you can vote and change things, by putting people in office who share your point of view." He made a very impassioned case about how he felt apathy was contributing to what's going on. For me, that was the biggest win in the world and it made me erase a lot of the other comments that in some ways I see as frivolous and detractors saying something. I thought, this guy gets it. Put whatever you want in your bucket, I don't care if it's bullets, but in my humble opinion, listen without prejudice, love without limits, and reverse the hate.
What do you think justice looks like for Michael Brown, his family, and the people of Ferguson?
OJ: I don't know what it's like to lose your child, so I'm completely unqualified to discuss what justice might look like for those people because I cannot imagine the range of emotions going on. I hope that we see this for what it truly is because I believe this is a human rights issue, and if we can create a movement that doesn't disappear once this is over, once this is no longer in the news cycle, once a verdict has been rendered, if the movement doesn't lose steam and if we can keep our eyes focused on the prize I think justice is if we stop this, and we can. Justice is if we win this war on human rights. It's an extremely difficult war — look at the people who have been on the battlefield that are legendary — but they were simply trying to motivate all of us to be clear about what the "us versus them" mentality really is. The "us" is the people who want to spread love and create a better world than the one that we inherited, and "them" is the people who are okay with the status quo and want to spread hate and derisions. It's that simple for me on a certain level, however the issues we face are incredibly complex. It can start with putting something in your bucket and taking a stand. For me, that was the only thing I could think of that I could do.