Solomon Bass has experienced both sides of the social coin as a black man who also worked as a security guard.
As a recipient of the Rocket Grant Award, which is partially funded by the Spencer Museum of Art, Bass will use the $6,000 to create a documentary titled "Black and Blue," which will focus on bridging the gap between black communities and black police officers.
Julia Cole, program coordinator for the Rocket Grant program with the Kansas City-based Charlotte Street Foundation, said that the grant comes from money received from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
The program puts out a yearly application for artists who work in non-traditional spaces, from which 10 recipients are selected. Cole said a jury of four professional artists choose the winners. The program awards up to $6,000 for each project.
Cole said there were many reasons as to why Bass was chosen as one of the recipients of the grant. She said he has very strong skill sets, experience, and the capacity to do what he wants to do.
“His story is very compelling," she said. "He wants to do a project about a topic that is really important and timely, and it will have a big impact in the community, because not only does he want to make this documentary, but he also wants to have a community dialogue.”
Cole said that she hopes the program will help artists grow, challenge themselves and stretch in their practice.
Bass said the documentary will feature stories and personal experiences from black communities and black police officers.
“I’m from the black community and I went to Ferguson and got a lot of footage, and it kind of made my heart hard towards police — until I got a new job as a security officer," Bass said. "And that is what woke me up."
Before getting his job as a security officer, Bass had never worn a badge. During his first week, he would walk into the waiting room and receive dirty looks from people who are part of the black community. He wondered what kind of pushback real police officers were getting if he was receiving negative looks and comments from the black community as only a security guard.
Bass said he thinks a documentary like "Black and Blue" plays a big role right now because black communities have no trust in law enforcement, no matter what color they are.
“I understand it, but at the same time it hurts because the police department is going to win every time, and it’s setting us up for failure,” he said. “Someone has to do something, and someone has to build a bridge.”
The film will premiere in June of 2018 at the Southeast Community Center in Kansas City, followed by a discussion about how to bridge the gap.
Bass said he hopes his documentary can shed some light on both sides of the issue and that he wants to spark a change by creating new ideas and opening people’s minds on both sides. He hopes that when people watch the documentary, they understand black officers go through a lot on top of facing hatred from their own community.
“They face a lot and maybe we can be more understanding,” he said. “But then I want the police department to understand the black community is really hurt and it’s hard for them to trust.”