The Black Jacket
This verité documentary follows a one of a kind non-profit as it works to reduce the violence in South Central Los Angeles. Aquil Basheer, a former Black Panther, leads ex-gang members and community outreach workers through a 16 week curriculum recently adopted by the Los Angeles City Council. The mission: Peace. The method: Changing the violent mindsets of influential gang members one person at a time. The result: Hundreds of less murders per year, 87 warring neighborhoods communicating and negotiating peace agreements that stop the bloodshed before it starts. Aquil's teaching method and course are being adopted in cities throughout the world.
The daily struggles and value of the non-profit program are examined simultaneously through the POV of three characters. Aquil the founder and instructor, street name - The Commander. Reynaldo, a graduate of the program now working in his community streets, street name - Wiz. James, a first time student of the program, street name - Blue.
Day in and day out, Aquil sets out to accomplish what no one in the world has attempted to do before: unite rival gang members under a common bond
to create more peaceful communities. Combining his passion for peace and their desire to change, Aquil teaches his students gang intervention, life skills, and communication techniques that change not only the individuals who take the class, but also the neighborhoods they return to.
While intervention has been in practice for 40 years in South Central, no one has been able to professionalize the work. Through the course of the film we learn the difficulties that Aquil faces in trying to grow the program and the true value of the work that Aquil and his converts are doing in their communities.
We see long standing hope for the people of these besieged communities as the power of personal transformation and change are put in their hands. Change comes from within, it starts with the individual and the community they live in. Breaking the cycle of dependence on the government or external authorities, Aquil's method helps communities save themselves by transforming the mindsets of practitioners of violence to mind sets that foster peace. The problem is universal, the solution is local. As Aquil says: "It's on you."