Eye on KELOLAND: The Black Project

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – When it comes to understanding someone, it’s not black and white. That’s the message a local filmmaker is hoping to get across with his latest video series: It’s called the Black Project.

“When I feel somebody’s eyes on me – judging me before I’ve done anything, before I’ve opened my mouth, before I’ve acted, based on the color of my skin, I feel hurt, I feel sad and disappointed,” Taylor Yocum said.

Taylor Yocum is a young black man from Sioux Falls. He’s sharing his personal story of being discriminated against because of the color of his skin. He says that just because Sioux Falls isn’t a big city that doesn’t mean racism doesn’t have a big presence.

“I went jogging out the country to listen to music, to have fun, and to just let myself go. I was jogging near night when a farmer decided he wanted to see who I was and what I was doing… with two big dogs, a truck, and a gun. He told me to get on the ground. I never cried harder in my life,” Yocum said.

Racial discrimination has been around for decades but the conversation is only beginning.

Since the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, many people in Black communities around the nation are speaking out against racial prejudice… that includes Sioux Falls.

“Obviously, we have come a long way since slavery, since the Civil Rights Movement… but there’s still injustices that are happening daily,” local filmmaker Bobby Peacock said.

Peacock says he too has experiences that affect him personally.

“I’m walking outside of my business, a lady sees me, looks at me, gives me an ugly look, gets back in her car and sits in her car while I’m walking. And I make it apparent – she’s parked here, I make it apparent to make her comfortable and walk all the way over here, and, for me, as a Black man, I get it: I’m Black, I have dreads, I have tattoos… I look super intimidating,” Peacock said.

Wanting to provide a platform for others to express their experiences, his latest project is asking members of the Black community in and around Sioux Falls to share a personal story of a time they were discriminated against; It’s called The Black Project.

“We want to hear people’s stories and the struggles when it comes to, ‘what is it like to be a Black American?'” Peacock said.

12 individuals have come forward to share their stories. One of the goals are to create healthy conversations about racism in America.

“Ask questions: ‘Hey. What do you do?’ You know… little things like that to spark the conversations, ‘Oh. Well, I do this,'” Photographer Eric Cottle said.

Helping him capture these moments is local photographer and friend Eric Cottle. He captured portraits of the speakers posing how they feel they are perceived by the public.

“You can see the pain, and you can see these people’s lives being released – they’re being super vulnerable too, and, it’s like, there’s power in that, and it’s like, ‘Wow. These people experience this,’ and I got the opportunity to be there and capture that,” Cottle said.

He even got to present his own testimony.

“I mean, I’ve had encounters where – you know, you’re walking in the mall and… you’re with your home-boy and then somebody white is walking toward you and they look dead at you, immediately grab their purse and they hold onto it tight as if I’m some kind of… ‘mugger’ or something – I’ve never mugged anyone in my life,” Cottle said.

He says that he used to have bitter feelings about racism until he met the love of his life.

“You know, the funny thing about it is that God is… God is very humorous. He has given me a beautiful, beautiful wife, and she loves me with flaws and all, and she’s a white woman,” Cottle said.

He says the love he shares with her has expanded his views on racial tension.

“God has shown me in that, that not all… people – white people are malicious or have any kind of intent like that,” Cottle said.

He says we need to have these conversations in an effort to push forward. A feeling shared by Daniel Bergeson, who is the producer and video editor for The Black Project. He says, that as one of the only white people involved in the project, many of the testimonies were difficult to hear.

“It’s really a hard thing to do; to just try and… shut up for a little bit and really take in what these truthful experiences are… and that’s just a little bit of discomfort compared to what people of color experience in our communities,” Bergeson said.

He goes on to say that it’s not a comfortable conversation but it’s necessary to understand that the world is not just black and white.

“I think it’s really important for white people to put themselves in situations where they’re not… the majority, where they feel that small sense of what it’s like to be the minority,” Bergeson said.

With each video, Peacock says you’ll hear stories of pain and fear, but also the victories of Black people overcoming these traumatic events and being seen and embraced for who they are.

“I bring it back to Taylor: look at what he’s doing now. He’s gone through this racial, traumatic experience, and he didn’t let that experience define him but recharge him and say, ‘You know what? I’m not going to be that type of person; I’m going to be better,'” Peacock said.

“I still love to go jogging… but, every time I go out, I always think, ‘Could it happen again?’ …a part of me still says ‘yes.'” Yocum said.

“It was some of the most profound filmmaking that I’ve ever been a part of,” Bergerson said.

“I wish people could actually see the gold… see the gold inside us before looking at us… looking at what you see on the outside,” Cottle said

“I wish people could see who Bobby is before they see my skin color,” Peacock said.

“When you see Black, I pray you see the heritage woven within my melanin. I pray you judge me for my character instead of skin. Because I have a name. I was created on purpose for a purpose, so today I stand… I stand for hashtag Black Lives Matter. Today, I hold my fist up high, and I stand for Black justice,” Peacock said.

The Black Project is releasing videos online once a week till the end of February for Black History Month. The rest of the videos will then be uploaded bi-weekly.

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