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Posted under: Race & Identity Interviews

A conversation with Prohaize about his fight for justice

On September 20, 2015, Edward “Prohaize” Minta began running and cycling from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to Liberty Island in New York City. This journey, known as the Justice Trail, became the mission of the Justice Trail team to discuss how an increased implementation of police body cameras can facilitate greater transparency between police officers and civilians. You can watch the documentary here, which follows Prohaize through this taxing, yet rewarding journey. Almost a year later, police brutality is still a prevalent issue, and body cameras are still being discussed as a possible way to increase police accountability. Blavity sat down with Prohaize to talk more about Justice Trail, his motivations and more. Read the interview below.

Blavity: Tell us more about why body cameras were the piece of legislation that motivated you to start Justice Trail?

Prohaize: Justice Trail is focusing on body cameras because video footage provides visual and audio detail into how police officers interact with civilians. According to Campaign Zero, "nearly every case where a police officer has been charged with a crime for killing a civilian this year has relied on video evidence showing the officer's actions." This greatly motivated our campaign. There is agreement on both sides that body cameras can help facilitate concrete changes within the American Justice system. Other equally important legislation that must be instituted includes demilitarization, independent investigations/prosecutions and non-deadly de-escalation training.
http://justicetrail.org/
http://justicetrail.org/
Photo: justicetrail.org

B: At a certain point in the documentary, you state that body cameras are an unbiased 3rd party that hold everyone accountable. However, despite numerous brutality videos being caught on tape, we still aren't seeing very many cops being held accountable. What are your thoughts?

P: Our Justice system is severely flawed. In the past, it was the officer's word against the account of suspect and witnesses. This led to insufficient evidence and a failure to charge the officers that acted outside the boundaries of law. Today, video footage aids in indicting police officers as seen in the cases of Laquan McDonald, Anthony Hill, Walter Scott, and Samuel DuBose. These indictments show that there's progress, but there's much more work to be done. Police body cameras are a part of a more encompassing approach to changing the system. Groups like the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force focus on video release policies, de-escalation, community and police relations, early intervention, personnel and legal oversight and accountability. When these solutions are fully implemented, they will work hand in hand to improve how police officers interact with civilians within a fair and effective system of accountability.
http://justicetrail.org/
http://justicetrail.org/
Photo: justicetrail.org

B: Something I was blown away by while watching your film was how consistently positive and dedicated you were. What kept you so motivated throughout the trail?

P: Being born in Ghana meant spending my early years in impoverished areas. Even though we never had much, people were always grateful for life and made the best out of nothing. Experiencing this had instilled within me a strong mindset and good character before I moved to Atlanta at the age of 9. There were times during the Justice Trail run where my body felt broken down and we had to find the nearest motel or checkpoint to rest. Giving up was not far from my mind, but unconditional support from the Justice Trail team and community helped me maintain my drive and focus. It was extremely tough, but I was thankful to be able to continue every day for the Justice Trail cause. Additionally, my family and I pray often so that greatly helps my motivation.
http://justicetrail.org/
http://justicetrail.org/
Photo: justicetrail.org

B: Justice Trail's tactics have been really innovative. The interactive map on your website, the documentary and the great photography are all very impressive. Talk about the ways in which your team used tech to further your mission.

P: Technology has allowed Justice Trail to share its campaign with the world. Social media tools including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have allowed us to spread information about the journey, our mission, and the continued efforts to progress the Justice Trail campaign objectives. Creating high quality, powerful images and videos have helped strengthen our message and how people view and interact with our efforts. The interactive map is great way for us to educate, encourage engagement and promote action. We plan to continue implementing technology to make our campaign’s message as accessible as possible.  
http://justicetrail.org/
http://justicetrail.org/
Photo: justicetrail.org

B: What's next for Justice Trail? How will you and your team continue to fight against police brutality?

P: Next, we plan on optimizing our website to improve the tools that people can use to influence the implementation of police body cameras. At the same time, we will collaborate with local community leaders and activism groups on events within our communities to discuss how we, as everyday people, can act to create a more fair, transparent and effective justice system.

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Blavity Staff Writer