Homeless Black Man Creates Groundbreaking Film, Inspires Community
Ira McKinley’s story is one that is oftentimes ignored by mainstream media. The 49-year-old man has faced some of the most traumatic experiences known to man. He lost his brother to suicíde and his father to police brutality. He also found himself homeless after serving nine years in the federal penitentiary on non-violent drug charges.
Contrary to what most people believe about ex-felons, Ira sought to uplift himself and his community upon his release from prison. He sought aid from the state, but was rejected time and time again because of his criminal history. Frustrated by the cat and mouse chase that he was sent on for assistance, Ira turned to Unitarian Universalist Church of Albany, NY, which he says “I chose to attend this church because of their commitment for social change in my area. They are based on the concept that love is the key.
” The church’s love and commitment to the community and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow
were the inspiration behind his decision to create The Throwaways,
a timely and provocative look at the impact of mass incarceration and police brutality on black males in America.
More than a simple illumination of marginalized people at their weakest moments; this film is a call to action, a story of directly engaging in the fight for justice.
I came up with the name of The Throwaways
because I am, like others, dealing with a New Jim Crow system that helps keep people of color in the viscious cycle of homelessness, poverty and the complete alienation from society. Since I have been released from prison (Arthurkill Correctional Facility in Staten Island, NY), I see how this New Jim crow system works to keep some of us oppressed. I came to realize to [a] certain class of people, I was considered a Throwaway. So after doing some great things in other cities, I came back to Albany, NY and it was the same situation again — homelessness, poverty and despair. So I went to the state library here and started reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow
and realized she was writing my life history. I said to myself “What she expressed in a book I will show on film.” At first it was other people’s story but my co-director/producer Bhawin Suchak and Jay Wilcox convinced me that we could not do story unless I became the main character.
Please give me your thoughts on how mass incarceration directly affected the Black community.
Mass Incarceration is the major cause of dysfunctionalism in the African American communities. It is the new Willie Lynch system of exploiting a whole population for control.
How would you like to see your community change?
I would like to see the our communities go green. Greening our Ghettos is the key to our survival. It is the solution for us to learn to live healthier and stop our dependence on fossil fuel so that we can have cleaner air and also help save our planet.
What do you hope to accomplish from this film?
The goal is to give back part of the gate to these communities so they can continue to function without all of the red tape and to start a coalition of organizers. We already have a core group of people like Kenneth Braswell of Fathers Inc.; Yusuf Abdul-Wasi- who coordinates DEC Diversity Program and is responsible for an urban outreach to increase the diversity of their Summer Youth Environmental Education Camps; Jacqui C. Williams who is the founder of FIGAH (Filling in the Gaps in African American History); Corrie Terry MAMAS (Mothers Against Mυrders and Shootings); and Renee Panettam who is also deeply into the environment. We are trying to raise awareness and funds for under-served communities by doing these forums and talking to communities with nationally known guest panelists like Dr. Benjamin Chavis and Dr. Wilmer Leon. We would love for Dr. Boyce Watkins to participate. We will also do concert tours using old-school and social conscious musicians. I do have another film I am working on and let me say this it is just as powerful as The Throwaways