Black Behind the Orange Curtain


By: Mahdee Gill


Shandell Maxwell, then 14-years-old, waited for her younger sister outside their home as she did every day after school.

Suddenly, red and blue lights lit up the street. Maxwell froze. A police officer drew his gun and ordered her to her knees.

“What are you doing in this neighborhood?”

She lived there, she said.

In response, the officer cuffed her, slipped off one shoe and checked it against prints on the door of a home that had been burglarized.

It wasn’t a match. She was cut loose.

“These are people who were sent to protect me, and for the first time I realized that everyone doesn’t share the same views,” Maxwell said.  “Just because they wear a badge does not mean they are protecting me. This was a point of awakening for me, I carry that experience and I learned to deal with those feelings.”

Years later, Maxwell was insulted during a meeting with colleagues.

The incident fueled Maxwell’s desire to draw to Orange County’s attention the outrages suffered by the African-American community.

Now Maxwell is using her experiences to lift the veil and show what it is like to be a member of the 2 percent black population of the O.C.

Maxwell, a graduate of Pepperdine University, has taken her passion for transformation and used it to document the plight of African-Americans with a documentary called Black Behind the Orange Curtain.

“Throughout my life I have been a change agent so for me, trying to find ways to fulfill needs is a part of who I am,” she said.

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Black Behind the Orange Curtain, a crowd-funded project, features stories of African-Americans and others that have been discriminated against openly and more indirectly. The documentary includes a panel of residents of various ethnicities discussing life as minorities in Orange County.

In 2011 an Inglewood police officer and his wife, an O.C. deputy sherrif, moved away from Orange County after rocks were thrown through their windows and acid pellets fired into their garage, damaging one of their vehicles.

“My motivation was a story about an African American family … from Yorba Linda who were victims of hate crimes — and ultimately moved away,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell wants to encourage dialogue that can eliminate the common misconceptions about blacks. Her ultimate goal is to engage the national and global community in a conversation about race.

“If we as a community in Orange County can start healing some of the smaller populations, I think it would help us all to heal as a nation,” Maxwell said.

The film debuted Nov. 2 on YouTube.


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