George Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump’s memorial speech brought rousing applause.
A new Netflix documentary underway on Ben Crump will be an intimate look behind the scenes of the civil rights attorney’s pursuit of racial justice.
The yearlong project includes interviews from Crump’s law partners, investigators, family and community leaders in Tallahassee, where he’s headquartered. On June 9, cameras began rolling at George Floyd’s funeral.
Crump and his team orchestrated logistics as thousands, including celebrities, mourned the death of 46-year-old Floyd, whose controversial death in May while under arrest for passing a counterfeit bill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked countless protests in the U.S. and a global end to police brutality. Floyd was killed on Memorial Day.
The film produced by #BlackAF and “Blackish” creator Kenya Barris is slated to debut sometime next year. It will be directed by Nadia Hallgren, who also netted two Emmy nominations for directing former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Netflix “Becoming” documentary released in May.
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A while back, Crump said, Barris approached him with a documentary pitch. The idea was to provide a realistic lens of what Black people experience in America on a regular basis.
“He thought it was very important to do it, because so many times when you look on television, you never get to have critical conversations about how Black people are profiled and marginalized in our society and in and out of the court room,” Crump said.
The new documentary will be the latest addition to Crump’s screen time.
His television shows include TV One’s “Evidence of Innocence,” chronicling four people arrested and jailed for crimes they didn’t commit before being freed and “You the Jury” on Fox that included a round of celebrity attorneys, including Crump.
Author of “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People,” Crump is haunted by a reoccurring nightmare where Black and people of color are unjustly killed and hashtags demanding change are coming quicker than he can keep up.
As camera crews roll into the capital city, Crump, 50, told the Tallahassee Democrat he feels like he’s running out of time to prevent the next Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old paramedic fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky, while in her home in March, and Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old fatally shot by neighborhood watch man George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.
“That’s my fight. That’s my struggle,” Crump said. “I take it very personal that we can’t make a great enough impact for them to stop killing our children.”
And he rattles off a string of other names. He and his team sit with the mourning families, living in the pain.
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Adner Marcelin, an attorney in Crump’s law firm, said he and others didn’t notice the Netflix camera crew after a while because of their ceaseless workload. Marcelin was part of the team in Houston for Floyd’s historic farewell funeral.
Marcelin also serves as president of the Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP. He’s worked with Crump for 10 years, including as the communications manager at the former Parks and Crump Law firm.
The documentary, Marcelin said, will shed light on long hours devoted to fighting for clients.
“There are a lot of things that people don’t see,” Marcelin said. “They don’t see the days when Mr. Crump is sleeping on a window, because that’s the only little bit of time he gets to sleep. The constant 24 hours and being up all day, running around with staff, just to be able to get justice for a particular person.”
Marcelin said the documentary offers a glimpse into Crump’s sacrifice and being away from his wife and daughter, Brooklyn, and the weight of the world in every high-profile case.
“You can try to explain it to somebody, but it really takes a special person to kind of understand what it is that we do and how important this work is to the upcoming generation,” said Marcelin, adding that’s the documentary’s purpose. “It’s not for notoriety. It’s not for fame.”
Crump looks to the storied career of his personal hero, the late Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights activist who became the first Black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said Marshall would take cases that had a broader impact on society, including the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case where a Supreme Court ruling led to the desegregation of public schools.
No matter who’s calling him, from Academy Award winner Actor Jamie Foxx to Democratic Vice President nominee Kamala Harris, Crump said he’s grounded by his humble beginnings growing up in Lumberton, North Carolina.
“I honestly believe that no matter how successful I get, I’m still that little Black boy who was raised in the projects by a single mother who taught me that life ain’t fair. Life is hard,” Crump said. “You make it fair by what you bring to the table. If you don’t bring anything to the table, don’t expect for anyone to let you sit down at the table.”
Contact TaMaryn Waters at [email protected] or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.
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