Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Jeffrey Wright speaks out on 'W.' arrests

Have you checked out Jeffrey Wright's recent CNN column regarding racial bias and the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.?

The actor draws parallels to his own arrest in Shreveport in July 2008 at a downtown bar. To refresh, "W." was holding its wrap party at the Stray Cat, and actors Wright, Josh Brolin and five crew members were arrested after an incident.

Wright offers a clear first-person account, so I'll leave the details to him. He writes on

"I was arrested last July in Shreveport, Louisiana, outside a bar where dozens of members of the cast and crew of the movie 'W.' and I had gathered to celebrate the end of filming. There was no bar brawl as widely reported -- nor even a pre-election political argument.

"Nine police cars and a fire engine responded; seven people were arrested. Two of the seven suffered minor head wounds at the hands of the Shreveport police. Josh Brolin and I were pepper sprayed by cops, and while face down in the street, I was made to feel the business end of a Taser.

"The truth of what led to the whole morass has never been accurately reported. I was asked to leave the bar by a white female bartender who took exception to a comment I made.

"As with Professor Gates, the police in my case backed unquestioningly the suspicion of a white woman that the black man she accused must be guilty of something. Once that die of accusation was cast, a ghost of racial bias, misperception, and the potential abuse of police authority was set free to make mischief."

I urge you to read the entirety of Wright's column to clearly understand the context of his statements. It's a supremely interesting read.

Also, take note of Wright's account of a private conversation with Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover. Wright writes:

"Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover is known as a law-and-order mayor. The day after the encounter, in the presence of his police chief, Glover apologized to me and privately acknowledged that while most Shreveport's cops were good, there were some 'devils' among them.

"In public meetings regarding the 'W.' incident, however, he held fast that the responding officers acted appropriately. Either Glover's public statement was dead wrong, or the joke was on us."

PHOTO 1: Jeffrey Wright (Wikipedia Commons).

PHOTO 2: In this bystander photograph taken on the night of July 12, 2008, actor Josh Brolin (left) holds onto his "W." costar Jeffrey Wright on a Shreveport sidewalk outside the Stray Cat bar. The pair were sprayed with pepper spray just after this was taken. (Submitted photo to The Times)


Kathryn Usher said...

Thanks for the heads up. Jeffery Wright's column is a good read and has given me lots to think about.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Jeffery Wright's mistreatment by the Shreveport Police had nothing to do with racism. White citizens are treated the same way as black citizens by the police every day in Shreveport. The article hides the fact that Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover and Police Chief Henry Whitehorn are both BLACK men who strongly supported the behavior of the police. The is no mention that the mayor and police chief are black, and one would assume they are both white by the tone of the racially biased article. Therefore the racism claim has no merit. However, the charge of police brutality is valid and has never been adequately addressed by our city leaders and city council. They decided to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Instead, they ignored the problem and the film industry went away.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 didn't read the article...

Anonymous said...

The police brawl heard around the world!!

Bad press is very damaging, as well as incidents that leave a bad taste in ones mouth.

How bad has it affected our area?

Secretariat went down south, didn't it? And Diane Lange is married to Josh Brolin. See what I mean?

Shreveport invented the word, "doh".

And will the real mayor please stand up?? To make differing statements publicly and privately, well that's another story.

How do you like yourselves now Shreveport?

Kathryn Usher said...

I think Anonymous 11:04 pm needs to read Wright's actual column.

Could it be the racism of our community "blew it?" Or maybe the not very progressive environment we seem to be stuck in "blew it"?

For example there's no vegetarian dining place open on the weekends. That's a basic necessity for film making types. Even a place to buy natural foods on the weekend would be great! Baton Rouge and New Orleans both have Whole Foods Markets that are open 7 days a week.

Speaking of not very progressive, we have no dog park. And we're wasting tons of energy on a debate on how "we don't need no stinkin' dog park." The list could go on and on about how we're currently stuck in a non-progressive place.

I mean, we're still so excited about getting gas out of shale. It's a process that wastes tons of water. If we were as excited about solar and wind energy would the filmmaker types would be a little more enthused about our place?

It's a whole wonderful world out there. Explore it and re-create it here in SB Land. With the great deals we still have on housing combined with the Internet replacing New York City as the cool place to be, there's no stopping us.

Right now let's start with a vegetarian restaurant being open on the weekends. And then maybe a place to get locally grown organic fruits and veggies year round. And that means more folks would have to grow local produce. It's not really a farmers' market if folks are just reselling things they bought elsewhere. Me? I'm thinking about digging up my yard and planting purple garlic.

JB Jones said...

I am the biggest Kathryn Usher fan. Seriously.

I love that she said "with the Internet replacing New York City as the cool place to be..." Ha!

But cleverness aside, she's totally right. From outside our gates, we seem like a very un-progressive place. Why would Hollywood want to hang with us, when WE don't want to hang with us.

I'm with you Ms. Usher. I'm going to go plant some cilantro right now!

Anonymous said...

read the entire article....ouch.

Bad national and viral press for the Shreve.

What's up next? Oh yeah KTBS covered that last night.

More corruption with this particular industry with Shreve implicated. Words like kick backs, bribes, not very good publicity, and now Jeffrey Wrights guest columinst piece.

The Shreve needs some major damage control.

But are they smart enough to handle up?

What's next?

Anonymous said...

Let's just bring it up again and again and again...

Let's just keep talking about everyone knows. God forbid that we would learn and MOVE ON.

Redneck bartenders and wise guy actors(brain surgeons both) throw in a promotion hungry cop or two... What do you expect...


Charles said...

I read Jeffrey Wright's commentary in full and it is worth a look as it gives us his account of what took place that night at Stray Cat's. This is the first time I've heard his account which makes me wonder if Jeffrey's account was ever given any airtime or printspace in the papers. Does anyone know otherwise?

Anonymous said...

We should stop blaming everything on the "Racism" smokescreen when it obviously is NOT the issue, and face the true problem here. Our BLACK mayor publicly endorsed police brutality against both black and white actors. Any racism is on the part of Cedric Glover speaking out both sides of his mouth. Someone keeps saying forget about the other words don't fix the problem and let our city continue in its corrupt ways. WHY NOT TALK ABOUT IT AND FIX THE PROBLEMS IN CITY HALL? Why are there people still covering up for mayor Cedric Glover no matter what he says or does. If he hurts our city's image we should not tolerate his behavior and we need to hold him accountable. Why is Cedric Glover allowed to wreck our good city, our national image, and our economy without having to answer to anyone? Why the double standard?

Anonymous said...

Kathryn Usher, have you ever noticed how your purple garlic resembles Cedric Glover in his purple suit?

Anonymous said...

Didn't the mayor's office publicly announce Millennium will break ground on its new studio in Shreveport by the end of July?

Could this be just another city hall scam? Haven't heard much from the film office lately, have you?
Will the studio be built here, or will we use the land for the much needed additional cemetary plots for all the victims of senseless shootings and violence in Shreveport?

Thank God the Shreveport police are protecting us from the real criminals...the Hollywood actors... while we sleep at night!

ChrisBrad said...

One thing strikes me after having read this article and its comments...

There seems to be a lack of concern about the real reasons Shreveport is losing its share of the film market.

To say that Shreveport is losing productions because of a lack of vegetarian eateries and organic food stands smacks of simplistic understandings. Shreveport doesn't need to become more "progressive," my friends. Shreveport needs to become more production friendly.

If the film folk actually skip town because they can't get a mushroom and sprout burger or hay-fed tomatoes and corn, I laugh at them. Then, I say good riddance.

Why? Because Shreveport does not need to cater to every whim, urge, desire or want.

Shreveport needs to cater to the production aspect of productions.

How many films came here from 2005 to 2008? Quite a few! And even though they may have had some legitimate wishes for things "more like home," they still left with quality films (for the most part) and good memories.

But late in 2008, something changed. The production announcements dried up. Sure, the economy was part of it. But other areas of the state flourished in the bad economy. Sure, the bad press from the Wright episode didn't help. But problems between actors and police have not stopped productions elsewhere.

These two excuses that I read and hear day in and day out tell a part of the story, but they do not tell the whole story. So what is the missing piece of this puzzle? I wish I knew.

But the one thing we do know is this: Shreveport should break down its doors to help set up an actual production community. (This idea has been floated on this very site by others for YEARS.)

We need to skip the gastronomical wants of film crews and instead focus on getting Shreveport to Los Angeles flights. We need to stop apologizing for being a southern city and instead focus on film education courses. We need to stop having a city administration talking out of both sides of its mouth and instead focus on building a network of electricians, construction workers and set designers who can be ready to do anything required.

We need to stop pretending like the lack of a recent film-base is our fault and instead take a hard, focused look at our city's leaders and their policies. We need to focus on how we can get that studio built and staffed. And focus on how we can sell the city AS IT IS to the indie market that we all know is right beneath us. And focus on having our own local-grown talent sell our city and its myriad positive aspects. And focus on regaining that lightning in a bottle.

The point is, Shreveport needs to take the production-focused steps first. We don't need to change for them, and we don't need them to change for us. Shreveport and its citizens shouldn't have to. We are who we are. And, after all is said and done, I have to say we are actually pretty well off. We may have our issues. We may lack all the fine eccentricities of southern California. Heck, we may even take guilty pleasure in moving at a slower pace. But that doesn't make us backward. It doesn't make us less important. It doesn't make us anything but who we are.

Shreveport needs to change some things, for sure. But let's make those changes we need to get productions back to Shreveport, not the changes we think will make the Hollywood elite feel comfortable. Films should come here for the tax credits, the crew and talent, the possibilities of making grand pictures and the people and this city the way it is.

Let us do what is right for us. Let's forget Mr. Wright and his seemingly misplaced accusations. Let's forget about broken promises and pipe dreams. Let's forget about the double-speak and conspiracy theories.

I don't know about all of you, but I am certainly ready for Sheveport's second reel to start.

Anonymous said...

ChrisBrad...I agree totally. However, there is one BIG piece of the film industry puzzle that the locals don't get, or perhaps don't want to get.

In order to focus on building infrastructure and making Shreveport a film hub, we must have a city administration that truly values this goal. Without the right people in the mayor's office, film office, and city council, we don't stand a chance, because they are the ones who control city activities, affect the image of the city, and set the economic climate for the city.

Once Mayor Cedric Glover and Arlena Acree are out of office, perhaps we can work on rebuiling and prioritizing the film industry, instead of using the film industry to promote local politicians and their political careers, as we have all seen for the past 2 years.

You have made some good points that the present administration has ignored for 2 years, while selfishly ruining the image of Shreveport. The only thing Shreveport lacks is LEADERSHIP.
Hopefully, in 2 years we will elect an honest, ethical, intelligent, and non racist mayor, and send Cedric Glover back to elementary school.

Until then, you can bank on it the film industry will stay away, because they don't want to constantly deal with corrupt politicians and have incompetent money-seeking city officials try to control and manipulate their every move. Shreveport desperately needs a leader as mayor, not Bozo the clown. And we need a city council, not a circus side show.

Anonymous said...

ChrisBrad: But we CAN'T forget about the one person who has hurt the film industry more than anyone because of abuse of his position as mayor: Cedric B. Glover has ruined our city and we can't fix the problems until he is gone!
A mayor cannot tell victims some police are "devils" and then say the police act "exemplary"...this political BS is damaging our good city name. Its all Shreveport politics, and thats why Shreveport is getting smaller by the day! WAKE UP CITIZENS!

Alexandyr Kent said...

Chris-Brad's thoughts deserve thoughtful, focused consideration.

Anonymous said...

Chris-Brad for Mayor!