#FreeKevinEpps: The movement has started!

Filmmaker Kevin Epps, a de Young Artist fellow, collaborates with other artists before showing his films at the Koret Auditorium in San Francisco July 8, 2011. Recently, Epps has been working on a short documentary that provides a critical look into the family structure of Black Americans. – Photo: Liz Hafalia, SF Chronicle

Update: The next hearing is Wednesday, May 29, 9 a.m., in Department 11 at 850 Bryant. Pack the courtroom!

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

“I’m here in support of our brother Kevin Epps. He is in a real difficult situation, because it is something going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about, other than the incident of standing his ground in his own home, defending himself and protecting his own family,” said longtime friend and community advocate Derrick Toliver at the end of the May 20 hearing at 850 Bryant denying to grant bail to the activist and legendary filmmaker Kevin Epps. This was the second denial of bail – the first was on May 8 – in a case that the D.A. had originally arrested Kevin for in 2016 but refused to press charges then, citing insufficient evidence to prosecute.

On May 6, 2019, Epps was arrested again, after prosecutors all of sudden decided to press charges in the case surrounding the fatal shooting of Marcus Polk in the Epps family home. The “something going on behind the scenes” that Mr. Toliver is referring to is that certain details of the case are sealed and cannot be heard in open court.

“To revoke his ability to get out on his own recognizance, it was really a setback. They wanted to portray (Epps) as a threat and as a criminal to keep him in that orange jumpsuit as they go forward in preparation for this trial. I think it is an injustice,” asserted Toliver. “He’s done too much service in this community and he does it on a continuous basis. No one asked him to do it. He does it on his own.”

Among the 60-70 people who attended the May 20 hearing were family, friends from all walks of life and business associates who have been positively impacted by Kevin’s work. There was a hodge-podge of different ethnicites, ages and people.

In a scene from his best known film, the game changer “Straight Outta Hunters Point,” Kevin Epps mourns the loss of a close friend, Tyrone Laury, at the memorial marking the place where Laury was killed, at Evans and Middlepoint in Bayview Hunters Point, on March 10, 2001. – Photo: Liz Hafalia, SF Chronicle

Tobee Vanderwall, an Asian woman and literary editor, worked with Kevin on his book “Black Rock” about the experience of Black prisoners on Alcatraz. “I was interested in helping him do some developmental editing on his book ‘Black Rock’ that was accompanying his film. I saw a screening in 2008, on Alcatraz. So I met Kevin for the first time in Glen Park, and I invited him into my home immediately.

“At the time, he just struck me as somebody who was doing work in that genre that no one else had done. Sociologists and criminal sociology professor friends said: ‘You know, there isn’t anyone looking at the Black experience on Alcatraz. He is the first person to do it.’ And this is in academic circles.

“Kevin Epps is an intellectual and a San Francisco treasure. And the words that come to mind when I think of him is that he is very meek. He is humble. He is also proud. He doesn’t ever talk about his own accomplishments. He talks about being a voice for his community. And that he was given the opportunity to be a voice, and he recognizes that. He takes that very seriously. So I’m here to support him in any way that he needs support as a community member, as an acquaintance and a growing friend.”

Kevin is very well known and loved in the streets of San Francisco as well as in the alleys, theaters and studios of artists from all over the Bay.

“Kevin is a little older than me but we went to the same high school; also we went to SF State. We are both artists,” said the legendary Asian visual artist Spie. “Every time I see Epps, he’s always on ‘how do we put this together? How do we combine what’s going on and make something of it?’ And it was always good.

“Sometimes I would be painting out there in the Bayview and he would come up, and hours would go by, just talking. He’s just a good friend. He’s a very instrumental person out of the Bayview community, and the San Francisco Black community in general. And I think that his plight, and what his mother is going through right now, it’s just really sad.

“He needs to be out. He needs to be celebrated by his (children), his family and the community. I just can’t say enough about how much of a genuine person and righteous brother that he is.”

Superior Court Judge Christine Van Aken, is the presiding judge on Epps’ case holding all of the keys, in the decision to leave him rotting in the concentration camp until he goes to trial or to release him on his own recognizance so that he can adequately defend himself, be it that he is fighting for his life in a case that the D.A. claimed in October of 2016 had insufficient evidence to prosecute.

“His recent history speaks for itself, and it is unfortunate that they would look at somebody who is dedicated to his family here – his mother, his sister, his children and his business are all centered here in San Francisco. He’s not going anywhere. He hasn’t gone anywhere since he came from New Orleans at an early age. He’s been here for some 40 years. And it’s unfortunate that they are looking at him as a flight risk. It is not right!” protested Derrick Toliver.

Kevin Epps’ next court date is June 3, 9 a.m., in Department 20 at 850 Bryant in San Francisco. For people who would like to write a letter in support of Kevin Epps, send it to his lawyer, Mark Vermeulen, at markrvermeulen@gmail.com. #FreeKevinEpps

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and filmmaker, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportTV on YouTube.