At the end of May this year Black Lives Matters protests took place at the Allen County Courthouse in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. What began as peaceful protests turned into violence and chaos as the Fort Wayne Police Department began pepper spraying and tear gassing protesters, unprovoked. A three-year old was tear gassed, a 21-year old lost his right eye after a tear gas canister bounced off the ground and into his face, and 99 people in total were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and refusal to leave a scene. One of those protesters arrested and charged was Breon Jones, aka rapper FloStorm. Jones was knocked to the ground, kneed in the ribs, and pepper sprayed all before being put in the back of the patrol car and told to “enjoy the pepper spray”.
Jones grew up in Gary, Indiana until the age of 13. From there he lived in Indianapolis, then Alabama, back to Indy, and then settled in Warsaw, Indiana. Regarding music, Breon stated that he wrote a poem at 13-years old called “FloStorm” and that name kind of stuck. Poetry was what Jones pursued throughout his teenage years, but things changed when he turned 19. “I would say at about the age of 19 I started writing raps under the moniker FloStorm and I really started taking it serious about 7 yrs ago. My initial influence was Lil Wayne. After that I did my research and I would say my influences now are more so Lupe Fiasco and Biggie.”
The Voice of the Voiceless is a mini-documentary directed by Dalton Tokarczyk and produced by Greg W. Locke. It shows artist FloStorm recording his single “The Message”, inspired by the death of George Floyd, the BLM protests, and Jones’ own experiences in Fort Wayne during the protests. It also shows Jones telling his story directly to filmmaker Tokarczyk and producer Greg W. Locke. It’s an engaging and harrowing look into the fight against police brutality at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect.
The documentary came together shortly after the protests in downtown Fort Wayne. Director Dalton Tokarczyk explains, “Not long after the protests on the weekend of May 29th, Greg Locke and I were asked if we would like to make a music video for Breon “FloStorm” Jones, who was one of the 99 people arrested during that first weekend of protests. Breon was writing a song, “The Message 2020,” talking about issues of race in America, and while creating the music video for this song, Greg and I thought it would be a good idea to sit Breon down for an interview and have him talk about his experience during the protests.”
Tokarczyk and Greg W. Locke made a personal and to-the-point documentary, essentially getting out of the way so Breon Jones could openly and explicitly tell of his experiences at the Fort Wayne protests. Cuts between the making of his urgent and visceral single “The Message 2020”, as well as his retelling of his time with other protesters in the Allen County Jail for nearly two days is disturbing and eye-opening.
As well as filming the video for “The Message 2020” and making The Voice of the Voiceless, Dalton Tokarczyk and Greg Locke were both at the protests in May. As well as showing their support for the changes needed in our law enforcement system, the filmmakers documented what they saw with video and photos. Like Jones, Greg was one of the 99 protesters arrested that weekend. His experience was harrowing, and sadly not uncommon.
Locke, an accomplished independent filmmaker( Forever Into Space, Drinking Water, Hollar and the Moan) said this about The Voice of the Voiceless. “This is a very small project. It’s not at all representative of what Dalton or myself can do. We shot for an hour and Dalton edited for a day. But it’s getting attention from festivals because of the content. Because of FloStorm. The rawness and realness of what he’s saying. How articulate he is. It was capturing lightning. And Dalton did a great job of putting it all together and a lot of festivals are taking note. And that’s cool. As of right now we’ve already been accepted into seven festivals. That’s out of 10 entries, so we’re batting .700. Which is incredible.”
Breon Jones’ story is sadly not isolated. In fact it’s an all too common narrative in the reality of America. The death of George Floyd was an especially tragic and heartbreaking one given that it was filmed over several terrifying minutes. His pleas and fear put to video and audio for all of eternity while cops stood by doing nothing as one of their own murdered a man before their eyes. This atrocity, which followed many other atrocities against African Americans by law enforcement over decades upon decades seems to have been the match that lit the fuse. A fuse which exploded into not only national protest against police brutality, but an international one. Protests across the globe broke out in honor of George Floyd and for the need for serious police reform.
What The Voice of the Voiceless shows is that despite pepper spray, tear gas, and ribs to the knee this movement has the momentum to make some real change. FloStorm took his experiences at the Fort Wayne protests and turned them into art, as well as a rallying cry. Words have power, and I will leave you with these words from Breon himself. “We need more people not affected to have those uncomfortable conversations with their family and friends. It looks stagnant because let’s be honest, we live in Indiana. On the whole people are waking up. The more people we have wake up, the more chance we have to fight the system. We can’t keep putting band-aids on the issue. We need a new system.”