*It’s a rare person who chooses to look within when it comes to making a change. People generally do what’s easier: complain about how things need to change. Not ask, ‘what can I do to affect change?’ Coming to this, for some, is a natural evolution, while others will never get there.
As we continue to witness racial profiling and the homicides that result from it, the names Oscar Brown, the 22-year-old African American man killed in Oakland by transit cop, Johannes Mehserle; Michael Brown, the 18-year-old man shot in Ferguson by officer, Darren Wilson, and Eric Garner, a black father of six, killed in New York by officer Daniel Pantaleo – not to mention countless others – are forever etched in our minds an an ugly reminder of police misappropriation.
We have plenty of reasons to complain – but no excuse for it to stop there.
And one black man made a choice not to let it.
Jinho Ferreira, an Oakland rapper-turned sheriff’s deputy-turned actor known as Jinho “The Piper” created a play in which he portrays 17 different characters who react to cops shooting possibly unarmed suspects.
“Cops and Robbers,” a one-man play, is the result of Ferreira’s experiences as both civilian and cop.
One reviewer writes,
Centered on an officer involved shooting, writer/performer Jinho “The Piper” Ferreira takes the viewer on an emotionally charged ride with unexpected twists and turns. The Piper seamlessly travels through 17 characters, each with their own convictions, logic, and prejudices. Cops and Robbers takes no prisoners as it challenges the viewer to question all preconceived notions of “right” and “wrong.”
The play has been selling out Berkeley’s Marsh theater since July. And his diverse characters include a black preacher who rants about the cops “patrolling our streets like the overseers patrolled the plantations of yesterday,” and his media counterpart – a white right-wing radio talk show host prone to saying things like, “This is America! We have options, we make decisions and we’re held accountable for those decisions.”
In an interview, while on his job as a police officer, Ferreira is asked if the characters in his play actually hear each other. With police radio crackling in the background he says, “When the minister is driving down the street and he’s listening to the radio, and the conservative radio host comes on, he changes the channel.”
Ferreira grew up in Oakland, a northern California city known for its share of police drama. And he was a student at Berkeley High. “I had a pretty diverse upbringing,” he says. “Oakland during the crack epidemic, which was something special.”
Ferreira didn’t deal himself, but at the age of 12, calling himself a “little homie,” he helped a dealer by bagging crack. This was his community and along with his wife, an educator and mental health advocate, the two of them spent a lot of time talking about what they could do for Oakland.
On the day of the interview, Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, had just resigned. “Who’s going to replace him is the question?” Ferreira wondered out loud. “If people have a problem with the way Darren Wilson went about his job, or a problem with the way Johannes Mehserle went about his job, or a problem with how the cops who beat Rodney King went about their job—if they have a problem with that but they’re not willing to step up and replace them, then they shouldn’t be surprised if people who think like them replace them.”
He talked to his wife for more than 1-1/2 years about becoming a deputy sheriff before making it a reality. “I couldn’t shake the question,” he says—twice—of his decision. “I began to feel guilty about how passionate I was about change and justice but I’m not passionate enough to take this step?”
In 2012, after a few years as a sheriff’s deputy, he wrote Cops and Robbers, drawing from about a dozen different incidents.
Read about his exciting journey from taking his passion from an idea to the stage at MSN.com