History On Repeat: the London filmmaker fighting for justice and for black lives

London filmmaker Meena Ayittey hopes to shine a spotlight on the ongoing injustices.

Mission: Film director Meena Ayittey
Mission: Film director Meena Ayittey

The horror over the death of George Floyd was so deep it broke through the public consciousness and some would say led to the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for his murder. 

Far from being a one-off, similar encounters go unreported and under-investigated much of the time. 

London filmmaker Meena Ayittey is hoping to shine a spotlight on a law firm that has made it its mission to bring these cases to trial in a film bleakly entitled History On Repeat

Jill Collen Jefferson, who runs Julian, a civil rights law firm in Washington DC, had seen Ayittey’s award-winning film Mama – a reaction to the murder of Floyd – and the pair made contact allowing her to highlight the cases she was seeing. 

The Kickstarter, which will run until 22 August, aims to raise £21,630, with every penny raised going solely to the production of the film. The project is currently at 79% of its goal and among its backers are Engine Creative CEO Ete Davies. 

Ayittey told Campaign: “It’s a human rights issue; that’s the reason this film is so important, it transcends territories. The Black Lives Matter movement, which until last year was more or less concentrated in America, has sparked a worldwide demand for justice.” 

Of her decision to work with Jefferson, Ayittey said: “I didn’t know that modern-day lynchings were happening and I was horrified, quite rightly. As a society, we want to see justice and I think that by helping firms like Jill’s gain publicity and by bringing attention to these cases we can help the families of these victims see justice. 

“These conversations must become part of our dialogue.”

Jefferson is currently attempting to force the district attorney to reopen the case surrounding the death of Willie Jones Jr and has requested prosecution by affidavit. Jones, 21, was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his white girlfriend’s home in February 2018. The sheriff’s department ruled the hanging a suicide, whereas the Jones family believes he was lynched. Further details of the case will be highlighted in Ayittey’s film. 

Jefferson told Campaign: “The foot soldiers of the civil rights movement kept pushing in the most devastating situations imaginable. Those leaders trained me, and they advise me still. They taught me how to overcome and instilled the belief in me that I’ve got to keep the faith.

“So, it’s become innate for me that I have to keep going. I also think about the people relying on me. I can’t let these families down. Their pain – the pain of injustice, consistent injustice – is harder than anything I’ll ever endure. They are at the centre of this, and their strength inspires mine.

"This is also my calling – my purpose for being on this earth. I was made for it. I was built for it. I was trained for every single thing that may come my way. So, no matter what happens, I won’t give up.” 

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