Proceeds from a new streaming documentary about the tension between Pasadena police and Pasadena’s African American community will go toward a new college scholarship.
“Thorns on the Rose: Black Abuse, Corruption & the Pasadena Police,” directed by Dennis Haywood and produced by James Farr and Rochele Jones, was released on Vimeo on April 8. The 63-minute documentary examines the last 40 years of Pasadena’s police-community relationship with a particular focus on the officer-involved killings of Black men, including Michael Bryant, Kendrec McDade, Reginald Thomas, Jr., Anthony McClain and others. It is available to rent for $4.99 and to purchase for $9.99.
Haywood, who serves as editor-in-chief and publisher of Pasadena Black Pages, announced Tuesday on the online publication that $1,000 from the film’s proceeds will go to a local student for college.
“While I was editing the documentary, I came to the conclusion that the monetary gains from the film would go back to the community,” he wrote. “At first, I didn’t know how. After [the film] was released and I saw the reaction to the film, I wanted to do something that would have an immediate impact,” and thus the scholarship idea was born.
He added that depending on how many people rent or buy the movie, the amount of the scholarship could increase.
“It can only go up from here,” he wrote. “This is a way we can make a positive change in our community, by helping a student get through college so they can come back and do great things.”
The scholarship contest requirements will be announced soon, with the scholarship itself to be awarded on June 8. Farr said the filmmakers are still defining the criteria for the scholarship and will likely announce more details in the next couple of weeks.
“It was something that I thought was commendable and really showed leadership on Dennis’ part to want to measure our intention as well as our impact, taking a tragic event and seeing if we’re able to do something positive,” Farr said. “Young people who are graduating have been through a horrible year through the pandemic and a lot of other things, so [a scholarship] would certainly help some young person. We invite others to join us in the effort.”
The film includes footage of the late Pasadena activist and former Black Panther Michael Zinzun in the 1970s and 80s. Zinzun lost vision in his left eye during an altercation with Pasadena police officers in 1986, for which the city eventually awarded him a settlement of an estimated $1.2 million. In 1989, he ran for a seat on the Pasadena City Council, then known as the Board of City Directors. Zinzun was an early proponent of citizen oversight of the Pasadena Police Department, which is finally being realized four decades later with the recent formation of the Citizen Police Oversight Commission. City Council members are expected to announce appointees to the commission by April 19.
“Thorns on the Rose” also includes footage and analysis of fatal encounters between police and Black men in Pasadena. In 1993, Pasadena barber Michael Bryant was tasered by an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department while standing in a pool and then died from asphyxiation after police hogtied him in the back of a squad car.
In 2004, officers put LaMont Robinson in a chokehold, causing him to lose consciousness and die 90 days later. Also in 2004, officers shot and killed Maurice Clark after Clark fired at officers.
In 2012, Kendrec McDade was shot and killed by police after they received a 911 call from Oscar Carrillo Gonzales who falsely claimed McDade was armed. In 2016, an altercation between officers and Reginald Thomas, Jr., who was experiencing mental health issues, ended with his death after a brutal encounter with police.
In 2017, Christopher Ballew was violently and nearly shot by Pasadena officers in Altadena. In 2020, Anthony McClain was shot by police officers during a traffic stop.