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The Interview: Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes

April 26, 2010

(Scroll down for exclusive radio interview)

Most of you have seen the picture of Maikoiyo Alley Barnes, taken in April 2005.  You may have heard the audio from the police dashboard camera; the unmistakable proof of an innocent man beaten by members of our own Seattle Police Department.

Look at the picture.  Ask yourself honestly what you see- what comes to mind?  Who do you think he is?  What do you think he is like?

If we’re honest with ourselves, and don’t personally know this man- any number of stereotypes or potential scenarios push forth in an effort to explain or rationalize what it is we are seeing; a man used as a punching and kicking bag.

Maybe this guy in the picture is shady.  Maybe he’s mouthy and ‘got himself’ into trouble.  Maybe he had Bruce Lee-like skills and they had to do that to him in the process of getting him under control.

I’ll tell you what I didn’t see when I looked at the pictures.  I didn’t see a father.  I didn’t see a teacher or profoundly insightful maker (he doesn’t prefer the word ‘artist’).  Honestly, I don’t know if I saw anything at all.

Mainstream media being what it was, we really didn’t get many facts or details about what happened that night.  For the general public, the police audio/video was a flash fire that came to light two years after the actual incident.  We were outraged by the pictures.  He became, literally, a poster boy.

Then it faded away.

Then another flash fire when it was announced he’d settled a case for six figures- again, he was touted in some fashion; it was a ‘victory’ for the ‘cause’.  Yeah, words to use loosely.

While his image was being used by others, we didn’t ever actually hear from him. We didn’t see him on local or national television giving interviews, there was nothing in the papers.  It’s a rarity, to be sure.

Five years later I received an invitation to a multimedia exhibit entitled To Serve and Protect by Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes and Friends.

After my interview with Rhonda Massey, Barry Massey’s wife, I had been looking for another story to tell.  KBCS once again, was on board, and I contacted Maikoiyo and requested an interview and he accepted.

It was at that point, in doing research, that I remembered he hadn’t done any interviews.  All the mainstream media outlets that covered the story covered the same few points.

Our first interview took place in Pioneer Square.  As soon as I saw him, I was put off center.  The image I had known for so long was not the man who just shook my hand and welcomed me inside.   I’m not talking about the difference we see in people over time.  That’s natural.  I’m talking about the realization, the process my brain went through to comprehend and reconcile the picture.  The physical damage which turned the man before me into the man in the picture.  If I walked past him on the street I would never recognize him.  He would later tell me, of course, that I’m not the only one.

The first interview was long- and necessarily so.  He knew that I was no different from anyone else- I didn’t know what happened to him.  I only knew the truncated, sterilized version of events relayed through news media.

Yes, the interview was to talk about the show, but the show is the result (one of many) of his experience.

Something happens when you really take the time required to listen to a person tell their story.  We talked for over two hours but we probably could have talked about it every day for eight hours for a week and still had a few more weeks to go.

He was extremely candid and I was completely present.  Yet it’s taken me an entire week to be able to explain for you what that interview was like.  There were times I felt horrified, angry, and physically ill listening to him recount events while also watching him recount events; when his eyes would close.  When one hand would knead the other.  Simple yet very telling expressions radio just can’t catch.

Leaving the interview I was overwhelmed.  How could we successfully edit that for time while also ensuring we were doing justice to the fuller story of what really happened that night?  I didn’t know.

With the full context of events understood, we did a second interview at KBCS a few days later that went about 90 minutes; what airs during One World Report is 20 minutes of that interview.

The segment goes into great detail about the night in question as well as his new show/exhibit on Capitol Hill.

But you need to listen to the fuller version online.  You need to hear the series of events from Maikoiyo directly to even hope to begin to grasp what he has been through, where he is today and the power of the exhibit.

I’m sure at times the details are hard to stomach, but the truth is the truth whether we like it or not.

20 min version
Download edited 20 minute interview (right-click, save target as)

80 min version
Download unedited 80 minute interview (right-click, save target as)

For exhibit info, click here.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. SableFan permalink
    April 29, 2010 11:14 pm

    I heard this on the radio tonight driving home from work. Then I listened to the longer version and you are right- it’s worth the more than hour it takes to hear all the details.

    I had NO IDEA the altercation was so severe. I did some research online and from what I can tell it looks like the officers involved were never fired. Is that true?

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. April 29, 2010 11:15 pm

    The officers were never disciplined, let alone fired.

  3. Liz Reed Hawk permalink
    May 1, 2010 4:29 pm

    Sable, I listened to your interview while finishing up work, and it was all I could do to not sob at my computer. Maikoiyo, you are a brilliant gift to the world. No one should have to experience what you went through, and it sickens me that you did. But you survived, and others will be saved by your strength. Keep making. Peace to you.

  4. August 31, 2010 10:45 am

    Thank you for the interview, I got a lot out of it.


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