Will Smith and Jay-Z working on a project about a racist murder from 1955

26 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Jay Z & Will Smith Teaming With Producer Aaron Kaplan for HBO Miniseries on Emmett Till.

As race relations continue to be a hot topic of discussion in the United States, celebs Jay Z and Will Smith aim to educate the present by looking at the past.

The two are teaming with noted TV producer Aaron Kaplan to develop an HBO miniseries about Emmett Till, a black teenager who was brutally murdered in 1955 after he allegedly flirted with a white woman. After allegedly flirting with a 21-year-old white co-owner of a Mississippi grocery store, Carolyn Bryant, Till was killed when Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother, J.W. A writer is currently being sought for the project that is in “active development,” Deadline reports, with the as-yet-untitled miniseries expected to run six hours. Milam, showed up at the house of the 14-year-old teen’s great uncle and took him away, gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River. The murder of Till, whose mother gave his mutilated body an open casket funeral to spotlight the atrocity, was a major catalyst in the emerging civil rights movement; three months after Till’s death, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white rider in Alabama.

Several other Emmett Till projects are also currently in the works: one backed by Roger Ebert’s widow, Chaz, and one adapted from the play The Face of Emmett Till. In recent years, the rapper and his company Roc Nation have helped produce numerous projects, from Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 The Great Gatsby musical – Jay Z also executive produced the film’s soundtrack – to 2012’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary about civil rights activist Angela Davis.

The untitled project, which hails from Kapital Entertainment, Overbrook Entertainment and Roc Nation, marks a reunion between Jay-Z and Smith, who were both producers on the 2014 feature remake of “Annie.” The miniseries also serves as a homecoming of sorts to HBO for Jay-Z, as the cabler aired his concert special with his wife, “On the Run Tour: Beyoncé and Jay Z.” The announcement of the Till series comes just two days before what would have been his 74th birthday. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. The killers were eventually acquitted of the kidnapping and murder charges they faced, but — protected by “double jeopardy” — they later confessed their crimes in an interview with Look magazine. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again.

Early in the evening on July 26, 2012, Michael Haynes was cruising around Morgan Park on Chicago’s Far South Side when he and his friends, Harry “Slick” Fullilove and Lester “Doogie” Freeman, got word of a fight about to break out. Haynes — who went by Mikey, though also answered to “Big Bro,” “Lil’ Bro,” and “God Bro,” because so many Morgan Park residents considered him family — was a 22-year-old basketball star five days away from heading to Iona College in New York. He was a familiar sight on the courts near his house: six-foot-seven with broad shoulders, wearing crisp white Nikes and colorful warm up gear, shooting jumpers and smoking blunts with friends. Everyone there lived along a dozen or so blocks in Morgan Park dubbed “The Jungle.” Four miles past the final stop of the city’s main subway line, in what is known as the Wild 100s, The Jungle’s main drag on Vincennes is a thoroughfare for drugs and violence. Dealers use the two-way street for open sales through car windows, and slip through the “cuts,” spaces between the houses, to more secluded parts of the neighborhood.

Now, Don P and JaJuan were arguing over a 14-carat gold chain that Don P had lent to JaJuan, and JaJuan had apparently lost. “I really wasn’t supposed to give it up,” Don P says. “He caught me at a nice moment.” Earlier that day, Don P had gone to JaJuan’s house, hit him and tried to throw him over a porch railing. Doogie says Mikey was calling out Q for disrespecting a member of the neighborhood’s elite crew; Slick says Mikey was upset to see guys who grew up together rely on a gun to settle an argument; and Q, who denies giving JaJuan a gun, believes Mikey was looking to start a separate fight the moment he exited the Buick. “Man, you bogus as hell,” Mikey said to Q. “You bogus for giving a gun to one of the guys.” A crowd gathered around them. Five days.” Mass shootings in Aurora, Newtown and Charleston drum up the national gun debate, but any given holiday weekend with decent weather in Chicago sees similar devastation.

In anticipation of Fourth of July weekend last year, hundreds of extra officers patrolled the city’s most violent areas. “What were the results?” Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy asked afterward. “The results were a lot of shootings and a lot of murders, unfortunately.” In three and a half days, 82 people were shot and 14 were killed. Yale sociologist Andrew Papachristos found the average annual homicide rate during a recent decade in one West Side Chicago neighborhood was 64 per 100,000 people, nearly the casualty rate for civilians in Iraq during the height of the war (hence the nickname “Chiraq”). Once in the streets, firearms are often bought and sold within trusted social networks, and tend to be old; the median age of guns confiscated from gang members is over a decade. Mark Jones, a former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and an expert on illegal firearms at the University of Chicago Crime Lab, says interviewees consistently tell him, “We are not afraid of the police. We’re afraid of other people in the neighborhood who might try to kill us.” Gun violence in Chicago is routinely attributed to gangs, but crucial distinctions exist between gangs, cliques and random feuds.

Morgan Park is the territory of the Gangster Disciples, one of Chicago’s historic sprawling gangs, the kind that wrote rulebooks and implemented rigid chains of command. But after two decades of police targeting top leaders, the structures fragmented, leaving behind hundreds of less organized and more violent neighborhood cliques. They will be with you.” But when affiliations are loose and firearms are plentiful, the likelihood that two people will cross paths at the wrong moment, with tragic consequences, becomes that much greater. “Because the gangs were so well-organized, the shooting was fairly targeted,” Kotlowitz says. “And today, it feels so much more random and so many more people getting caught in a crossfire.” Mikey spent his first decade living with his mother and three brothers in a house on 115th Street and Vincennes.

She has debilitating arthritis that keeps her bound to the house; Mikey bragged that when he turned pro he would move her into a mansion with an elevator. Some of his friends earned cash by stealing or selling drugs, but Mikey cultivated a better hustle on the basketball courts at nearby Blackwelder Park. He was third generation — Annie had come to Chicago as part of the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the South in the first half of the 20th century. Many of the towers’ residents protested the decision, but between 1995 and 2011, the city tore down three infamous furnaces of violence — the Cabrini-Green, Ida B. According to Williams, Q had a reputation as a weakling and a pushover, “the type of person that if you punch him, he ain’t going to do nothing.” Mikey was supposed to be the type of person who made it out.

To improve his standing in the eyes of college recruiters, he enrolled at George Washington High School on the east side of Chicago his sophomore year. George Washington lost the Chicago public school championship that year to Simeon Career Academy, led by its dazzling point guard, future NBA MVP Derrick Rose. A district policy prohibits students from competing in sports for a year after transferring, which effectively ended Mikey’s high school career in Chicago – he could only practice with the team. That’s why I say, ‘We a family.'” Though Mikey didn’t lace up for a single game his senior year, he was still ranked the 12th best player in the state, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Six months later, in the summer of 2011, Mikey’s former AAU coach Loren Jackson got him a spot on the roster of Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. Though only a five-hour drive from Chicago, the rural small town – where the population is 98 percent white – might as well have been a foreign country for an inner-city black kid with tattoos covering a seven-foot wingspan. (Mikey once wondered at the sight of an unfamiliar creature on the side of an Iowa road; it was a deer.) But the school quickly embraced him. He electrified crowds with rattling two-handed dunks and a signature roar – fists clenched, muscles flexed, and a bellicose cry reverberating against the walls – and led Indian Hills to the junior college national championship tournament. He would pop into their dorm after practice for late-night pancakes, and often hung out with a sophomore cheerleader, Jenna Strom, whose dad has been out of her life since she was 11.

After his standout season in Iowa, Mikey got another chance to play basketball at the next level: Iona College, a small Division-I school north of Manhattan, offered him a scholarship. Even Mikey occasionally swept through to party. “Cinque’s thing was trying to fit in with people around him,” says Q’s next-door neighbor, Wadell Hardy, who’s an officer with the Chicago Police Department. “That wasn’t his demeanor when I met him.” Hardy had been close with Q’s family.

Hardy drew up a 14-page report of Section 8 violations, but never filed it. “The day that I was submitting it,” he says, “was when the incident occurred.” That morning of July 26th, Q walked out into his front yard and said hello to his 16-year-old neighbor, Aliczay Christian. Mikey’s 21-year-old younger brother Brian was sitting in a car on Vincennes, with Doogie and Don P hanging out on the curb, when he received a phone call that Mikey was dead. Gabriel Fuentes, the assistant coach at the time, describes Mikey as thoughtful, while Brian “was disrespectful” and “a bit more into being a thug.” Brian quit the team, and at 17 was charged with three crimes in four months: battery, assault and disorderly conduct. One police report describes him as a “self-admitted and documented Gangster Disciple.” Armed with a pistol, his face red and eyes bloodshot from crying, Brian marched from the car toward 116th Street. More than a thousand people squeezed inside the Salem Baptist Church for Mikey’s funeral on August 3, 2012, requiring extra chairs and making the choir section standing-room only.

When they stopped at a police station to ask for directions, the cops warned them not to go. “We were all definitely scared,” says Mikey’s college friend, Jenna Strom. Before the cheerleaders exited their van parked a few blocks from the church, Strom had everyone bow their heads and pray for safety. “We knew Mike was going to protect us,” she says. And to me, that’s a hero.” But those who understand the workings of Morgan Park —its inescapable street code enforced with handguns — believe his undoing was more complicated. “I think he was flirting between the street and basketball,” Liggins says. “Mikey did want to live up to that street life.” Pastor Dearal L.

After Mikey’s killing, he hid out at his three-year-old son Jordan’s mother’s house, before heading off to play football at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. Although his family’s home had been torched, JaJuan believed tensions had since subsided – after all, he figured, the argument over Don P’s chain had nothing to do with Q shooting Mikey. JaJuan had a gun too, which he kept under a seat in the car. “Turn back around, bro,” he told Williams. “Let’s go holla’ at them.” Williams parked the Dodge just down the block from Q’s old house on Vincennes.

JaJuan had been shot four times in the back. “He was conscious for a minute,” Williams says. “Then he just laid his head down.” By the time an ambulance arrived, JaJuan was dead. He wasn’t able to identify the shooter, but has a hunch it was one of “Don P’s people.” “Hopefully it’s over,” Williams says. “You never know.” Q shot Mikey, Don P shot JaJuan, and now someone had shot at Williams. “I got a theory that every time somebody gets killed, it wakes up another killer,” he says.

Then, almost filling in the gaps of his theory, Williams imagines what other Dirty Butts or Gangster Disciples might have said to Don P to perpetuate the violence. “They probably was pressuring Don P,” he says. “‘Mikey got killed over your chain.

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