Public Service Announcements for Silent Observer and Crime Stoppers

Here they are:

Inspired by a gathering with the family member of murder victims during a meeting of The Conquerors Support Group in Grand Rapids, we came up with a concept we hope will be helpful and find wider application.  Being included at the meeting itself was something I’d hoped for ever since I’d heard about the organization from Captain Jeffrey Hertel of the Grand Rapids Police Department.  That was at the start of 2009.  By that May I had been invited to attend the meeting and to speak about the what I considered the crucial importance of story telling in keeping the memories of the victims alive.  It was those stories, too, that I believed could lead to the solving of these murders.

At the conclusion of my remarks one of the group asked me: “So, what is it you can do for us?”

Well, certainly, I demurred, we could put the cases on the We Remember portion of the website.  But I heard a little ticking in the back of my heard.  My first thought was “This sounds like it’s gonna be work…I don’t exactly know how we’ll do it.”  That was “work” as in obligatory, not “work” as in paid.  How often is it that an idea sounds like what it isn’t?  For me that can be a daily occurrence.  The more I thought about the idea the more clearly it began to define itself.  Within a week or so I had a preliminary script.

It’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s altogether another for others to respond willingly to it.  But that’s what happened.  Chris Cameron of the Grand Rapids Silent Observer office thought the concept of public service announcements was good.  And her organization was THE RIGHT ONE to spearhead this.  Further, Carolyn Priester of The Conquerors was also essential: she would help invite and organize the efforts.  Finally, it would be The Conquerors’ home at Oak Park CRC that would serve as the location for taping the PSAs.  A lot of things had to happen in the right order.

They did.  And with prayer.

Videographer Phil Blauw lit and shot the PSAs.  It was his particular idea that the family members hold out the photos of their murdered loved ones (in my mind that simple idea makes all the difference).  Melissa was on hand to work with the family members and serve as production assistant.  Stuart Poltrock at SoundPost recommended and supplied the music bed and did my voice-over recording.

Four of the PSAs deal with six Grand Rapids murders.  One deals with a murder in Flint.

Silent Observer organized a press conference at the Grand Rapids Police Department.  On hand were many of the family members featured in the PSAs.  It was a powerful gathering: these people had the authority that no one else has to talk about this kind of crime and these individual crimes in particular.

The members of the media were respectful–even gentle, eager to share the story, and willing to carry the electronic files of the high definition PSAs back to their stations.  Chris Cameron has been working with the community affairs people at the stations and we’ll have to see if these are run and how often.

On the one hand, it’s possible by running these ads that some might think that Grand Rapids is an unsafe place and the the ads will promote a negative image.  On the other, it might be that Grand Rapids will be perceived as a major city with all the problems attendant.  But that it’s a city whose denizens care about all the people who live there and who will do what they’re able to bring and do justice.  I prefer to think the latter.

At any rate, here’s some links the press coverage:

The Grand Rapids Press

WXMI Fox 17


Oh, and as for the woman who asked me what I could do for the family members of victims there is this: she initially apologized if I thought she was being rude; she didn’t mean to be.  I didn’t think she was.  She was right.   And when I heard her question I heard both HER voice and that of another.  I really try to pay attention to that underlying voice.  You want to use the G-word here?  Okay.