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#15 Filmmaking as a Way to Address Social Justice Issues | Phil Allen Interview



Phil Allen, pastor, author, justice advocate and filmmaker joins hosts, Tanya and Ryan, in conversation to share more about his film, Open Wounds, and how filmmaking can be a powerful way to address current social justice struggles. He provides an outlook on the historical background of racism and how it is currently defined and present in modern society.


Listen to Phil as he shares how his background inspired him to become a mentor, educator and advocate for social justice and change, and how he uses filmmaking and his ministry job to do it.

Key Points:

1:50 — Story behind Phil’s Film: Open Wounds

7:00 — Telling stories as pastor vs. through film

9:00 — Racism in history

15:40 — Understanding systemic racism

20:20 — Disconnect between society and racism in history

21:41 — Sharing life experiences and helping in people’s spiritual journey

23:00 — Mentoring relationships

27:50 — Outlook on the future: creating spaces

30:00 — Authenticity in ministry & filmmaking

33:05 — Why he got into filmmaking/ his ministry

35:00 — Upcoming projects: film, poetry


Show Notes:

https://www.philallenjr.com

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Full transcript:

Phil Allen Jr. (00:00):

Where I am today is because of mentorship. Someone saw enough in me to walk alongside me. They saw enough in me to do life with me. Someone invited me into their space, and literally taught me how to lead others. How to love. Called me out on some things. I had someone that told me, "You're prideful," and I pridefully responded, "No, I'm not."


Ryan Dye (00:24):

From CoLab INC. It's There To Here, a show about entrepreneurs, innovators, and mentors, and the impact they seek to make on the world. I'm Ryan Dye, executive director of CoLab.


Tanya Musgrave (00:34):

And I'm Tanya Musgrave, the creative director of CoLab, and the host of There To Here Film And Media podcast. This episode is a little unique. We wanted to join up on this podcast, as today's guest, Phil Allen Jr., is a speaker, author, justice advocate, and founding pastor of Own Your Faith Ministries, who is transitioning into being a filmmaker.


Ryan Dye (00:54):

Phil holds a bachelor's in theological studies with an emphasis in ethics from King's University, and master's in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is currently a PhD in theology candidate doing research on race theory, theology, ethics, culture, and the theology and ethics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Phil, it is so great to talk with you today.


Phil Allen Jr. (01:15):

Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me, man,


Tanya Musgrave (01:16):

So, to give the audience a little bit of context, we crossed paths at Sundance this past year. We were attending the Windrider panels, and you were one of the moderators, and you were a good one. And Windrider is, it's known for digging deep into their subjects anyway, but you were just exceptional as an interviewer. As a storyteller, you obviously know how to hit the absolute core of people's stories. And so now, you've transitioned into telling your own, as a transition into becoming a filmmaker yourself. Last year, you produced the film Open Wounds about a tragic event in your family history. Please tell us more about that.


Phil Allen Jr. (01:55):

Going back to Sundance, or Windrider, 2019 is when I got inspired, just being in that setting. I had no intentions of producing a film, and I saw a film called Always In Season. And it was a young man, about six years ago now, in Bladenboro, North Carolina, whose body was found hung from a swing set. But all the evidence suggested homicide, but there was no investigation. And when there was finally an investigation, it was very minimal, but it was clearly just this young man did not just hang himself. The people who they suspect killed him, lived about a hundred yards away from him. And he was a young African American kid, 16 years old, dating a older white woman who had a drug problem. She was an addict, and she lived with known racists, and he had just had an altercation with them that week.


Phil Allen Jr. (02:51):

And his body ends up hung from this swing set. They actually leave town, that couple left town that week. Within days, they got out of town. So that pointed me to... Had me thinking about my grandfather who was killed in 1953, and everyone says by his employer. They'd had an argument, and he had stopped working for, I guess, a few days, a week, I don't know. But then, he was told that it was okay for him to come back to work. And he came back to work, and got in a boat, because he was a fisherman, he was a seaman. And he got in a boat with two coworkers. And when they got across the river, to a place called Goat Island, the employer was standing there with a shot gun, literally ready to execute him. And my grandfather was a great athlete, a phenomenal athlete, strong, a Navy veteran, served in World War II, during World War II.


Phil Allen Jr. (03:49):

And he got away from the two guys, and went for the river, went for the water. He was a great swimmer. And before he could get to the water, he got shot in the back of the head. And the man lived, I think, two, three, four doors down from my family at the time. And so when I saw those connections, those connecting points, it inspired me to want to tell the story. I shared it in the forum, the forum where we met, in Windrider. I shared the story of how that film impacted me, because another guy had shared, but he was speaking more about the technical aspects of shooting the film, because he couldn't connect with the lynching, the killing of a black man. And I just felt like there's so much more to that film than just how it was shot, and the technical aspects of filmmaking.


Phil Allen Jr. (04:39):

So when I told my story, I mean, you could hear a pin drop. And so essentially, my grandfather was lynched. Not hung, but lynching, as understood in that time, and even today, was not just about being hung from a tree, but it was anytime there was two or more white folks, a mob, that would aggressively pursue or go after a black person, or persons to do harm. And they didn't even have to die for it to be considered a lynching. So there was this broader connotation of the word lynching. I began to tell the story. I called my friend, L. Michael Lee, as he's known by, he's a director. And he said, "Yeah, I'm in." And so we sought to tell this story last year, and we went. I was able to raise funds, enough funds for us to get to South Carolina for literally, for just over 24 hours. We went, I mean, it was... We went breakneck speed-


Tanya Musgrave (05:38):

A marathon.


Phil Allen Jr. (05:39):

... from location to location. We did, I think, four interviews, maybe five interviews. We went to the grave site. We went to just all the places we could go to, to get footage. And then we were out of there in less than 48 hours, like a day and a half. And then we flew to Minnesota to interview my dad, and his brother. And then we came back, did some filming here with me, interviewed a few people who are in the film as well. In six months we got it edited, put it together. And we screened it by Christmas in South Carolina. So we've been screening it this year, and it's gotten a tremendous response. So I'm grateful for that.


Tanya Musgrave (06:24):

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So this is your first time film making?


Phil Allen Jr. (06:27):

Yes. So I really didn't have a clue as to what I was doing. Lamond is the trained filmmaker. I'm more, in this case, the visionary, the storyteller of the big picture. This is what I want. I want to make sure the story says this. And Lamond was putting it together as a shooter, editor, director of the film.


Tanya Musgrave (06:56):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you're a pastor as well?


Phil Allen Jr. (06:57):

Yes.


Tanya Musgrave (06:59):

And so you're really no stranger to telling stories, and that kind of thing, just in a different medium. How is this medium different for you? And as a first time filmmaker, how was your journey in that change of medium, and deciding that it was time to share it in that medium?


Phil Allen Jr. (07:16):

The thing about with preaching, or teaching, pretty much in the moment. It's live, right then and there, you have to be prepared all week, or what have you, and you have to get it right. I mean, you can make mistakes, of course, but it's for that audience, then it's just by video, it goes out to a broader audience. With filmmaking, it's like putting together a puzzle. You get these shots, you tell this story here. And it's like, "Okay, this fits here. And this fits like this." And you're literally creating this masterpiece over a period of time. But because we live in such a visual world, we live in a world where everyone's in front of the camera, everyone's in front of the screen, watching who's in front of the camera. So it has a capacity to, not just reach a broader audience, but to be more effective, I think.


Phil Allen Jr. (08:02):

Just for the connotation of preacher, if someone says, "I'm a preacher. I'm a pastor," for some people, "Oh cool. Great. I want to hear some of your stuff." But got a lot of people, "Okay, he's going to preach that message to me." But with filmmaking, you're telling a story, and we all love stories, no matter who we are, we want to hear stories. And so I get to now package it differently, in a different medium, and be able to draw people in, to get lost in the story, hopefully. And so I think it can be more effective in this day and age. It's got to be a part of the pulpit. For a lot of artists who have this call for ministry, the stream should be a part of their pulpit. One of their pulpits.


Ryan Dye (08:47):

I feel a great deal of your study centers on ethics, race, and culture. And there's a lot of heavy issues to unpack and address there. As a black man growing up in America, particularly in the South, you've shared your family experience, and the horrors of racism firsthand. I wanted to spend some time talking about how you're working to develop and raise up culture changers. I like that term.


Phil Allen Jr. (09:17):

The two things that frustrate me, in terms of trying to get people to think for cultural change, right? There are two frustrations that I have. One is people not knowing the history of racism. And two is people not knowing what racism is. So in terms of the history, we don't know how we got here. A lot of people, when I hear them talk, and I watch, read things on social media. And I see people talking about what's happening right now, as if this is a new thing, or as if what's happening now, it's just started happening in the last 10, 15, 20 years. Or maybe since Rodney King. And people have to understand this is our lived experience. So I ask people, show me a decade, one decade out of 40, where black bodies aren't disproportionately killed.


Phil Allen Jr. (10:08):

And so that means from 1619 to 1865, when it was officially done, the Civil War, slavery, that's 246 years of slavery. So you can't count that. Then 12 years of Reconstruction, and we found out EJI, Equal Justice Initiative, just did a report, produced a report, that showed there were 2,000 terror lynchings during those 12 years. When we thought we had a reprieve, and there was so much hope, there was still 2,000 terror lynchings during that period. Which means that there are other lynchings that either weren't documented, or did not necessarily count in that statistic. So now, you got another 90 years of Jim Crow. So you got 348 years of terror, being terrorized, up until 1965. Since then, you have the mass incarceration, you have racial profiling, you have people killed at a disproportionate rate, who are black. Even up until today. Attorney Barr made a statement, thinking that he was going to prove his point, that there's no real systemic racism in policing. He used a statistic, he said, "So far this year, there have been eight black people killed, unarmed black people killed, by police. But there were 11 white people killed by police." He thought that he was making this good point.


Ryan Dye (11:38):

As if that helps.


Phil Allen Jr. (11:39):

Because there's more white folks killed than black. But white folks make up five times the population that black people do. But there's only three more. So in order for that to equal out, there would need to be about 40 white people killed, who are unarmed, to match the eight of black folks. And so the congressmen and women were saying, "You're proving our point." And it's apparent he doesn't even know the history, or care to know, the history of terror. I was teaching a class in the Midwest, in Missouri at a Bible college, very conservative, predominantly white Bible college. I don't go back to that college to teach, because I refuse to participate in any form of tokenism. There's only one African American professor on staff, the first one and the only one. And I came in and taught a one day, two day class. The class was a biblical ethics toward racial... A reimagining of biblical ethics towards racial solidarity. I'm teaching the class. I go through the survey from middle passage, up until today, of black history. US history from a black perspective, I should say. And a white girl is sitting in the front row, and I have them take a break because it was so intense, so heavy, right?


Tanya Musgrave (12:54):

It's heavy, yeah.


Ryan Dye (12:55):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Phil Allen Jr. (12:56):

I showed images. I wanted them to feel what I've had to feel, and others that had to feel, when we think about our history. And she came back, and she was staring straight ahead. And she just had this scowl on her face. She was just upset. And she was staring, just staring a hole through the wall. And I knew I needed to process with her, not just move on to the next lecture. And I asked her, I said, "So what's going on? Help me. I see what's on your face. The look on your face. Let's just talk through this." I said, "How you feeling right now?" She said, "I'm angry." So, "Okay, why are you angry?" "I'm angry because I never knew this stuff." So here she is, 21 years old, and she knew nothing about this history. And she said, "I'm angry at my parents and my grandparents for never teaching me this stuff." So I said to her, "Let's continue to process this," because this is important for her to know, given the fact that she, and her boyfriend, upon graduation, which it was in a few months, planned on going to Chicago to do urban ministry.


Phil Allen Jr. (13:56):

So this young lady would have been ill equipped. She would not have been equipped to handle the intergenerational trauma, which I missed when I was telling you about my film, because my film really is a setup to take us into that discussion of intergenerational trauma from racial tragedy. Trauma that's passed on from generation to generation. Trauma that has reconfigured without changing our DNA. It's reconfigured our genetic memory, genetic coding, to where it literally can be passed on from generation to generation. And if you don't believe that, at least socially, if you're growing up in that context, you will take on some of those responses, right? It can be retriggered, retraumatized. She wouldn't have been equipped for that. And if too many people, they think that what's happened just happened in the last few years, because they see what's on camera, what's on social media. This is our lived experience.


Phil Allen Jr. (14:53):

The second thing that frustrates me is not just the history, but it's understanding racism at all, defining it. I admit that there was a time, not too many years ago, when I had an elementary definition of racism. And it was really based on prejudice, bias, blatant bigotry, right? Personal experience. But we have to understand systemic pervasive in every aspect of society. The criminal justice system. I have a document on my computer that I'm literally just collecting data on racial disparities, or how racism shows up in every facet of our society. From education to hiring practices, housing, healthcare, military, sports, criminal justices. I'm just collecting data, so that when people say, "What's a systemic racism?" Let me show you. So understanding that institutional racism is not something you will necessarily see as a thing that happened, but it is a thing, it is an atmosphere where it happens, and it doesn't have to be a clear actor, as one of my friends would say. The system is already set up the laws and policies of cultural messaging. I saw a statistic recently that said 16.2 million leadership jobs, executive leadership positions in this country, African-Americans make up about 2%. People of color, in total, make up about 12%. So where are the rest, the other 14%, the other... That's 14%. Not 14. That's 12%. The other 88% are white. And a majority of them are white men. Okay?


Ryan Dye (16:39):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Phil Allen Jr. (16:41):

So sports, where you have 75, 65% of football and basketball players are African American, but coaches make up a handful, if that. Executive positions, general managers hardly any, like two or three in each sport. One owner in both sports, Michael Jordan. Who's going to say no to Michael Jordan anyway? [inaudible 00:17:03]


Ryan Dye (17:03):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (17:04):

Right? Like majority owners. We have some teams with people who are a part of that ownership team, but majority owner, it's only one. So in the church, it looks the same way.


Ryan Dye (17:15):

Sure.


Phil Allen Jr. (17:15):

The church looks the same way. These diverse mega churches go past the congregation, where it starts to look a little diverse, go past the staging, where there are, what I call, the token bodies on stage, and get into the leadership, get into the elder board, get into the decision makers. And you will see what I'm talking about. It looks no different in a church.


Ryan Dye (17:36):

Yeah.


Phil Allen Jr. (17:37):

Right? So for me, part of how I wanted to change that was both on a race level, and a gender level, my board was 50, 50, women and men, and it was black, it Asian, Lebanese.


Tanya Musgrave (17:53):

What? What?


Phil Allen Jr. (17:53):

You know? I needed to reflect who was coming to my ministry.


Ryan Dye (17:57):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (17:59):

Right? And I think it has to start top down, and not bottom up.


Ryan Dye (18:03):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (18:05):

Right? So those are the two frustrations. If you want to be a culture changer, when it comes to race or racism, one, understand what we're talking about. So I use Love Sechrest. One of my professors, she's now at Columbia Theological Seminary. Love Sechrest shares racism, or what is racist, identify something that is racist, or a person that's racist. And I'm going to add a few words to her definition, but an attitude, an action, or anything really that reinforces, or perpetuates group hierarchy.


Ryan Dye (18:39):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Phil Allen Jr. (18:39):

Right? Because racism is not just about the individual thing. Racism doesn't mean that every person of color can't make it. It means the groups, one group is going to have a much more difficult journey to making it, than the other group, because of the laws and policies that the country was built upon. The cultural messaging the country has built upon, and reinforces generation, after generation, after generation. Whether we're talking media, magazines, film. We look back a few years Oscar's so white. Well that sends a message when your lead actors, and whoever gets the awards, are generally white, but you have all these amazing actors of color, where one or two may get an opportunity here and there to be in that top echelon. But it's not at the same rate. And so people understanding racism on that level, because otherwise you won't change, you won't change culture. You'll be fighting this battle.


Ryan Dye (19:40):

I was just talking with Tanya a little bit before we had this talk. And I said, I mean, speaking as a 40 plus year old white guy, it's challenging to have a lot of discussion around race, because it just doesn't seem to happen where I feel like it should. And so therefore there's a disconnect in communication. Like you were saying with the student that you're teaching, she's angry because she's like, "We've never talked about this. I don't know this. I never heard this history." I think that's the biggest problem today, is that there's no community and communication that really gets into developing healthy multicultural relationships. I don't know. That's just speaking from my perspective. I feel like that's one of the biggest disconnects.


Phil Allen Jr. (20:29):

Absolutely. Absolutely.


Tanya Musgrave (20:31):

And I feel like maybe even the generations that came before, it definitely wasn't talked about with them. And as open away as we are, even today and right now, and not that that's an excuse at all, but it is like we're also experiencing the generational lottery, I guess if you could say, of wherever we came from, the generational lottery, good or bad, of where people of color have come from. That kind of thing.


Ryan Dye (20:59):

I really enjoyed, in my high school years, I went to a school that was very multicultural. I had a lot of friends from different backgrounds, and I loved that experience. But again, I think as one who has two children, 10 year old, and 12 year old, we're in a challenging time. And as we move forward in history, I think it's just very important to be intentional about how we develop our communication, and understanding of background in history, and move forward in a healthy direction together. That's, to me, is what I see. And we'll touch on that a little bit more in a minute, but I just wanted to add that final thought.


Phil Allen Jr. (21:33):

Absolutely.


Ryan Dye (21:34):

So how do you take your life experiences and share this as a tool in helping others grow in their spiritual journey?


Phil Allen Jr. (21:41):

Where I am today, I say this all the time, where I am today is because of mentorship, is because someone saw enough in me, and to walk alongside me. They saw enough in me to do life with me. So I call it life on life ministry. Someone invited me into their space, a pastor, and literally taught me how to pray, how to lead others, how to love. Called me out on some things. I didn't just have an amen choir. I had someone that told me, "You're prideful." And I pridefully responded. "No, I'm not." And he said, "Yes, you are." And I said, "No, I'm not."


Phil Allen Jr. (22:31):

And I don't know if he explained it to me, or if he just said it one more time. "Yes, you are. Look at you." And I paused, and I was like, "You know what? You're right. I am." And he said, "You're not naturally a humble guy." And I took offense initially, but he was right, because my issue had always been being too confident. I played basketball, I got good grades. I was always pretty popular coming up, even though I was an introvert, and I could totally not have... I could care less about going to parties and functions, because that stuff drains me. I just was in that space, right? And I grew up getting all the compliments, pats on the back, and stuff like that.


Phil Allen Jr. (23:17):

So I didn't struggle with confidence at all. Well, if you grow up in that, you start to walk in that, and it can easily get to a place of arrogance. And I'm not saying that I was necessarily arrogant, but I do believe that I would hit those moments, those parts, times of my life, or doing certain things, especially as an athlete. And then he said, "But you're trying to walk in humility." He said, "You're not humble naturally." He said, "But I see you trying to walk in humility." And what he was saying is, "You are willing to learn. You're willing to listen, to be interdependent upon others, to be dependent upon God." He said, "I see that in you." So he was breaking me down, but he was always building me up. And I think that's the key part.


Phil Allen Jr. (24:02):

Even when we talk about race issues, I mentor, and walk alongside white folks in my ministry. And I talk about these things, and I'm very straightforward. But they know I love them, and they know I want unity. I use the word solidarity. And so I'm mentoring them in this area. I've mentored them in the area of theology, but I've mentored them in the area of life, overcoming certain obstacles, making wise decisions. I have people who did that, and still do that with me. So for me, I think it is imperative that we have a culture of mentorship. If you're not helping someone that's coming behind you, or a few people doing life with them. If you're not doing that, then I think we're wasting. We will waste away a generation if we don't have a culture of mentorship in whatever field. It could be work related, marriage related, growing as a person with integrity, and character. When someone thinks it's okay to cut corners, or compromise, I have to be there and say, "How does that show integrity? How does that show integrity?"


Ryan Dye (25:09):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (25:10):

And then help them see another perspective. And then usually you get the, "Oh, you're right. You're right. I never thought about it like that."


Ryan Dye (25:17):

Yeah.


Phil Allen Jr. (25:18):

And so I think we have to have that. And for me, because that had been poured into my life. And I think when I was younger, I didn't take advantage of it enough. Again, I thought I knew everything. I'm on the brink of possibly going to play professional basketball. I'm cool. And I recently admitted to the guys at my old, my college where I played ball, we had a Zoom call with the coach. He wanted alumni to come back. That's the first thing I told them. I said, "Guys, understand what the culture your coach is trying to produce right now." I said, "I didn't have this when I was playing, 20 something years ago." I said, "On this call are champions. There's a championship pedigree on this Zoom call right now." They don't have championships. I got three of them.


Ryan Dye (26:01):

That's awesome.


Phil Allen Jr. (26:02):

There were guys on that call that four of them, or more in terms of conference championship, regular season, and tournament. I got three. There were guys that were my big brothers in basketball, they were on the call. And I said, "These guys on this call, I wish I had taken advantage more of their mentorship." I said, "But we didn't have this, this intentionality." I said, "Take advantage of this."


Ryan Dye (26:25):

That's good advice, for sure. I think that's our goal too, is just tap into the wisdom of those who have gone before you, and learn from their successes, and their failures.


Phil Allen Jr. (26:35):

And their mistakes, yes.


Ryan Dye (26:36):

Because that's probably even more valuable.


Phil Allen Jr. (26:39):

Absolutely.


Ryan Dye (26:39):

You know?


Phil Allen Jr. (26:41):

And I think it's essentially, interesting you said that, because I think that's a critical piece of mentorship, is being vulnerable enough, as a mentor, to share your failures, and even the ones you still struggle with, because that way you become that much more real, tangible. Your life is more textured for that person. And you're more trustworthy.


Ryan Dye (26:59):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (27:00):

I don't trust anybody who's got everything together.


Ryan Dye (27:03):

Isn't that the truth.


Phil Allen Jr. (27:04):

You're lying about something. You're hiding something.


Tanya Musgrave (27:04):

Yeah.


Ryan Dye (27:04):

Yeah.


Phil Allen Jr. (27:09):

So if I'm in the workspace, or there are filmmakers, working on my film, who would say to me, "Let me tell you, this is what I did on my first film. You don't want to do this." So you're right. The valuable information is not just my successes, but here's why I failed. And you can get so much further ahead, so much quicker, if you can avoid the making these same mistakes.


Ryan Dye (27:31):

Absolutely. We are facing so many challenges in our society today. Many that we can't control, but some that we can. As a flawed, fallen humans, is there hope for the future? Do you think we can unite in love, and community to overcome our ignorance, arrogance, and prejudice?


Phil Allen Jr. (27:52):

I think there's absolutely no hope. No, I'm just kidding.


Ryan Dye (27:56):

We're screwed.


Phil Allen Jr. (27:59):

I'm just kidding.


Ryan Dye (27:59):

Please don't tell me that.


Phil Allen Jr. (28:01):

Here's what tell people. I believe that we will always struggle with injustice. We're at 2020. There's never been a time in history where there's never been injustice.


Ryan Dye (28:17):

Yeah.


Phil Allen Jr. (28:18):

The wealthy taking advantage of the poor, ethnic struggles, gender struggles, ability, disability struggle. I mean, there's all power. System, that dynamics of power, right?


Ryan Dye (28:29):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Phil Allen Jr. (28:30):

But what I do believe, what gives me hope, and what keeps me fired up, is creating more spaces where there is that, not Heaven or utopian feel, because there's always going to be conflict. We're human. But we can have more spaces where we handle them in a more healthy way. I'm not even looking for, or hoping for a context without conflict, without some struggles and trials. I'm not even thinking about that, because I don't think it's possible-


Ryan Dye (29:00):

No.


Phil Allen Jr. (29:00):

... on this side of Heaven, as one of my pastors would say. But I do believe we can create more spaces where you enter into certain places. And you're like, "Man, there's a lot of love here." It doesn't mean it's no conflict.


Ryan Dye (29:15):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (29:16):

But it's characterized by the love. I, on my Sunday services on Zoom, I've had some people come on and join us. So they're visiting virtually. And several people made the comment like, "Man, I sense so much love in your community."


Ryan Dye (29:38):

Yeah.


Phil Allen Jr. (29:39):

And I'm like, "Wow, that's interesting because, I mean, we strive for that." But for these... I didn't ask them. That was the first thing they said to me is, "You guys seem like a family for real." And within the whole ministry, there is a core that that is the case. It doesn't mean we don't get on each other's nerves.


Ryan Dye (30:00):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (30:01):

It doesn't mean that I don't get on their nerves. It doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes and offend one another. It's in how we handle the offense, so we can move forward.


Ryan Dye (30:10):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (30:11):

And even with that, there's a genuine, when people are going through something, they get a phone call, they get a text messages, emails, "How can I help? Are you okay?" That happens. So I believe that we can create more spaces. I'm responsible for the space that I'm in. And if I can be a part of facilitating healthier, more loving, more serving, selfless spaces, communities, I think that's what we can really strive for as something that's very attainable, creating more spaces.


Ryan Dye (30:44):

It's that authenticity that will help us move forward.


Phil Allen Jr. (30:48):

You're absolutely right. We got to be honest about where we are, where we've been, who we are. I'd rather someone tell me they're racist, than to pretend they're not. I've had been in California, I told my sister early this morning, I was on a FaceTime with her. And we were talking about California versus South Carolina. And I was telling her I've experienced more blatant racism in California than I ever did in South Carolina. And I'm talking about, "I'll come back here and kill you, N word," to my face.


Tanya Musgrave (31:21):

What? What?


Phil Allen Jr. (31:22):

On church campuses. Three out of the four-


Ryan Dye (31:24):

It's crazy.


Phil Allen Jr. (31:25):

... most bigoted things that were done to me were on church, or bible college campuses.


Tanya Musgrave (31:31):

What? Oh, my word.


Phil Allen Jr. (31:33):

And so, yeah. And so I'd rather you tell me, like in the South, we knew what part of town not to go down. If we heard, if we saw your last name, we knew you were probably racist, because that family was known for that.


Ryan Dye (31:48):

Sure.


Phil Allen Jr. (31:49):

I know what I'm dealing with. But the person who smiles in my face, the person who says, "I love you Pastor Phil," but then you see and hear other things, that's like, "No, that's a set up." So I'd rather a person be very honest with me, that way we know what we're dealing with.


Ryan Dye (32:09):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (32:09):

Right? So I'm just saying that, to your point about authenticity, being honest, being real, being transparent, being true. Otherwise, we going to be in a cycle.


Ryan Dye (32:20):

Yeah. We won't break the cycle. Yeah.


Tanya Musgrave (32:22):

For your particular mission, I mean, it is a pretty fantastic, and also Everest of a mission, it might seem. But the church, or even any ministry whatsoever, they're not known for being very up on getting that authenticity, and that honesty out there to where the people actually are. I'm talking about filmmaking too. I'm hoping that filmmaking will continue to be part of that mission. There is one question that I always ask though, what questions should we have asked you?


Phil Allen Jr. (32:57):

I think a good question is always the why. Why did I make the film?


Tanya Musgrave (33:06):

Yeah.


Phil Allen Jr. (33:06):

Why is filmmaking going to be a part of the mission? Why am I even... I tell people I'm in the belly. I'm not far left. I'm not far right. I'm independent. I'm one of those crazy folks in the middle, right?


Ryan Dye (33:19):

Preach.


Tanya Musgrave (33:19):

I got you.


Phil Allen Jr. (33:23):

Right? I think it's crazy to think that one side has it all right. I tell people I'm in the belly, I'm in the spaces where people aren't receptive to my message. I talk to a lot of white folks, a lot of conservative, white, evangelical Christians, and I get the backlash, right? I got friends that unfriend me, or don't follow me anymore. That's fine. I unfriend a bunch of people too, but it's the why. The why behind all that. So I think that's the biggest question. You can always ask a why question. One, it forces me to have to think through, but it also gives more insight as to why I'm doing what I'm doing.


Ryan Dye (34:02):

Well Phil, it has been an absolute honor to talk with you today. And we look forward to keeping in touch, and all the exciting work that you're doing down the road. What is the best way for folks to get connected, or just see what you're working on?


Tanya Musgrave (34:16):

And to see your film.


Ryan Dye (34:18):

Yes.


Phil Allen Jr. (34:19):

So a couple of things. You can always go to philallenjr.com. That's going to be my hub. I'm getting ready to start a podcast myself. So I need to learn this audio stuff.


Tanya Musgrave (34:31):

Hey.


Phil Allen Jr. (34:33):

But I'm getting ready to start that. My book, Open Wounds, is coming out in February, but all that information will be on philallenjr.com. To watch the film, if you go to philallenjr.com, there's a page, Open Wounds. You click on that, and you can go that route, or you can go directly to vimeo.com/ondemand/openwounds. And right now it's $4.99. You have it for 24 hours to check... That project will help fund my next project. So I hope people aren't turned off by the cost, but it'd be like giving a $5 donation.


Ryan Dye (35:12):

Totally.


Phil Allen Jr. (35:13):

A mandatory $5 donation, but it really will help fund future projects, the next project. I think it's an important film.


Tanya Musgrave (35:24):

What is your next project?


Phil Allen Jr. (35:25):

I'm going to do some short films. I enjoy short. I need to learn filmmaking. So one of the things I want to do is, I want to do more stuff centered around my spoken word poetry. We're working on one now called My Body Tells A Story. It's actually the poem I do at the beginning of every screening. And so we're doing My Body Tells A Story. And then I have another piece called Unknown Land. I really want to do that one as a short film.


Tanya Musgrave (35:50):

Oh, nice.


Phil Allen Jr. (35:51):

I'm a part of this organization called Engaging Liminality, is the organization. So that in between space. And I think being black is being in that in between space. And I'm sure, people of color, of other groups can say the same thing. Like, "What does it mean to be, and to live in an in between space," right? And that could be something as simple as COVID-19, stay at home, this pandemic is a liminal space, right? The norm of the past, and we're hoping to get through this, and get to the next season, but right now we're in this in between space. It can be uncomfortable.


Ryan Dye (36:25):

Right.


Phil Allen Jr. (36:26):

And so this piece that I'm writing was called Unknown Land. And it's just talking about being in this black skin is a liminal space, in between African and American. I want to take that piece, and make a short film out of that. It may be being black. It may be what does it mean to be biracial? That's an in between space as well, but I think that's going to be my next project, Unknown Land.


Ryan Dye (36:56):

Phil, this is really been an honor. I thank you for talking with us. We're hoping to connect again down the road, and certainly stay in touch with what you're doing.


Phil Allen Jr. (37:03):

Man, I appreciate being on. Thank you for the time.


Ryan Dye (37:06):

Thanks for listening to There To Here. We invite you to check us out on all the various social media platforms, and visit our website, colabinc.org to sign up for information on our many upcoming events and the various ways we help promote the spirit of entrepreneurship.


Tanya Musgrave (37:20):

If you want to hear more of the Film And Media There to Here episodes, you can go to media.colabinc.org. And if you have comments on today's episode, or know someone who would be a great guest on our show, go ahead and send your suggestions to ryan@colabinc.org. We'd love to hear from you.


Phil Allen Jr. (37:35):

Special, thanks to our producer, Michael Webberley, and all the CoLab staff. Until next time, be well, and God bless.


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