There’s a particularly telling moment in “#Bang4Change,” the documentary made by Orange County activist Ferin Kidd during five tumultuous days in May, at ground zero in Minneapolis, starting the day after the death of George Floyd.
Kidd is with a group of protesters, people incensed after seeing video of Floyd, who was Black, being suffocated under the knee of a white police officer. Kidd, the “old” guy in the crowd at 35, convinces younger people to stop threatening and shouting at MSNBC television journalist Ali Velshi and, instead, to communicate their concerns.
“I had to intervene to keep the people from tearing his a– up,” Kidd explains in the voiceover describing that moment.
The exchange said a lot about who Kidd is, what he wants to do, and the skills he brought to the cause of social justice in 2020.
Kidd served as a bridge between media-wary protesters and an interviewer who, in their eyes, represented an out-of-touch media. But it was — and is — clear who Kidd was there to empower; the young, Black voices.
“I had to give my camera to my nation,” he says. “Everyone felt like they needed to do something.
“For me, it’s my camera.”
‘Beauty, strength, power’
When he returned home to Costa Mesa, Kidd emerged as a powerful voice himself. As the summer played out, Kidd estimates he took part in some 50 social justice protests in Orange County and the surrounding area. He organized some of those gatherings; in others he was invited to address the crowd.
Another key moment came at the Juneteenth gathering he organized (with friend and new Santa Ana City Councilman Johnathan Hernandez) at Sasscer Park, part of a Santa Ana neighborhood once known as “Little Texas” because of the small but tight-knit Black community that once lived there. The protest marked the African American holiday of June 19, the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas learned of their emancipation.
Kidd, who has a Black father and white mother, told the crowd: “If you’re Black and from O.C., I hope you’re proud of it, too. We have a responsibility to go out in the world and reflect the beauty and strength and power of our blackness.”
His life so far can serve as an example of how finding your voice and a higher purpose can be transforming. He hopes to influence and guide Black and Latino youth especially, mentoring them and nurturing their creativity — in photography, videography, music, and other artistic endeavors, but with a basic grasp of the business end of entrepreneurship.
It is what Kidd has been about since his release from state prison four years ago.
Part of his story is, unfortunately, common enough. He spent much of his teens in and out of Juvenile Hall. At 20, he was convicted of armed robbery and served 10 years in state prison.
But upon his release, Kidd did something unexpected. He took the $200 in “gate money” the state gives parolees upon their release and created a corporation, The Black OC.
“It became my goal to reemerge from prison stronger and smarter and faster in every way — and to become the change I wanted to see in the world.”
In prison, Kidd says, he read a lot. He found mentors among some of the older Black men who were also doing time. And he found spiritual growth in the practice of Islam.
When he returned to Orange County, his mother presented him with a camera, a Sony 6000, that enabled him to practice both still photography and video.
Today, he makes money shooting video of young hip hop artists, though he works with artists that he believes convey a positive message; he won’t work with those who glorify violence, drug use, misogyny, or otherwise downgrade and demean Blacks, women, and people in general. He also produces hip-hop themed events.
In prison, Kidd also decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur. And he is that, though his businesses all convey a message that resonated in 2020.
Though Kidd and his girlfriend and their six-month old son live on a shoestring budget in Costa Mesa, he maintains a two-story studio in an aging business complex near Fullerton’s transit center, at Orangethorpe Avenue and Magnolia Street. One room serves as a video editing bay; another is a tattoo studio run by someone Kidd knew in prison, a young Mexican-American man who is a like-minded businessman.
Kidd also has a line of Black OC apparel — baseball caps, T-shirts, hoodies. And he’s come up with what he has named the Unity Flag, made from four different colored bandannas — black, brown, beige and white — to represent people of different races and ethnicities.
But all of Kidd’s effort — the apparel, the flag, the videos, and the documentary that he shot in Minneapolis and back home at Sasscer Park — are aimed at a single purpose, a project he calls “Buy Back the Bloc.” The goal is simple: to purchase the business complex where he runs his studio, and refurbish it into a cultural sanctuary for other Black artists and businesses.
His promotion on bang4change.org: Buy a Unity Flag for $25 and get a link to a private screening of the documentary that he will launch in January. He says he has sold about 600 Unity Flags; his goal is to sell 5,000, to match the number of his Instagram followers.
“People will be able to look more at who I am, what I’m doing.”