The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been a huge social media hit, with videos of billionaires, celebrities, sports stars and even former presidents popping up on videos in Facebook feeds pouring cold water on their heads to help raise awareness of the neodegenerative disease ALS.
It’s also been a fund-raising success — the ALS Association reports the campaign has led to more than $15 million in donations.
Now, Orlando Jones, one of the stars of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” has launched a new variation he calls the “Bullet Bucket Challenge” that was inspired by the shooting death of black unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Hoping to bring attention to violence in the United States and around the world, Jones made a video where he poured a tub of shell casings over his head to represent all the lives that have been lost to violence.
Fusion spoke to Jones by phone about the video, the protests in Ferguson and his own experiences with racism growing up in the South.
FUSION: Tell us about your take on the “ice bucket challenge.”
ORLANDO JONES: First of all, the “ice bucket challenge” sort of started elsewhere, and the ALS Association is a completely worthy and incredible organization. They’ve raised millions of dollars, which is kind of amazing.
Thinking about what has been happening in America over the course of the last week, it seemed like tons of celebrities had done the ice bucket challenge to bring attention to the disease. I wanted to do what ALS did, co-opt a viral thing and make it my own, to talk about the insanity happening in Ferguson and just around the world. My parents are like, “It’s the ’60s again.”
Those shell casings in my video represent the people who paid the ultimate cost for the freedoms we have today. I couldn’t find enough bullets to dump on myself to illustrate the number of people who gave their lives for a very important ideal.
FUSION: You said in the video that you’re a lifelong NRA member. That probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people. What’s the background on that?
JONES: I had a cross burned in my front yard when I was in the 6th grade. I grew up in the Deep South and I have a very intimate relationship with race. My father carried a gun. Did he carry it because he was some thug or anarchist or wanted to hurt people? No, he wanted to protect his family. For me, I became a member (of the NRA) because I wanted to affect change in the organization. Do I share all of their ideals? No. I’m not a monolith in culture. I don’t agree with all black people on everything either. I’m a complex person and I wanted to make that point.
FUSION: Were you ever — or rather, how often were you — profiled by police while living in the South?
JONES: I’ve been profiled by a police officer more times than I can count. I’ve had the police pull a gun on me during a routine traffic stop. Like, I think I’d changed lanes without a blinker or something.
I remember when Susan Smith had tragically killed her children and blamed some unknown black male assailant. It was a nationwide all points bulletin to find him. Everyone was looking for a black man in South Carolina, and I was a black man in South Carolina. I was stopped four or five times in those two or three days.
Then the police realized all of that was a hoax and she’d killed her children. But before they realized that, hundreds of black men — I know at least 15 of them personally — were detained and questioned about committing a fictional crime.
'The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.'— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) August 18, 2014
FUSION: What do you think about the coverage of what’s happening right now in Ferguson?
JONES: If you show up with a tank, you’re looking for a fight. My view of the coverage is that no one wants — at least I don’t want — more lives to be lost. And I certainly don’t want to feel like it’s the 1950s or ’60s again, where people of color are being treated like animals. That’s like, how many times have we done this? It’s 2014.
I hope someone is held accountable for this atrocious act. We’re seeing a lot of politics and spin doctoring going on, lots of people talking in absolutes, when this situation only has one absolute: People are dead. The focus is really on trying to shift blame and not on what we could have done to avoid that.
FUSION: A lot of celebrities have done the “ice bucket challenge,” but not many have spoken out about Ferguson. Why do you think that is?
JONES: I don’t think this is the McCarthy era and we should be writing lists of who stood up and who sat down. It’s something I feel strongly about, but that doesn’t mean I’m a better person than anyone else. You’re looking into an American city and it looks like you’re looking into a war zone. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a city in the world look like a war zone, and to be fair, where was my voice then? So for me, it was like, I can no longer be silent. I just don’t feel comfortable being silent while people’s rights are being trampled on. I believe the Civil Rights movement was a human rights movement, and looking back, I think it was a mistake to confine that discussion to this nation. Everyone has rights, regardless of what patch of grass they live on.
FUSION: Part of the “ice bucket challenge” is challenging other people to do it. Who are you challenging for the “bullet bucket challenge?”
JONES: I’m challenging everyone. I’m saying that I’m pointing the finger at myself and holding myself accountable. If you feel the way I do, you can do something. Whatever your challenge is, if you want to write letters, whatever you want to do, spread the message to affect change.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.