KENOSHA — Equipped with just a skateboard and smartphone, Kenosha resident Koerri Elijah is producing a vital and viral video record of the city’s historic unrest following the controversial police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake last month.
To thousands of area residents and hundreds of thousands of online viewers, the 32-year-old provides the most accessible and comprehensive footage of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests, tragic cases of intense violence and burning, and the responses from locally elected officials and law enforcement officers.
Viewers don’t need a newspaper subscription or cable box to view Elijah’s harrowing coverage of mostly the downtown and Uptown communities, though that’s far from all he covers. They follow him on Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter, and send him real-time feedback and tips — because they trust him in the era of so-called “fake news.”
For his part, Elijah doesn’t use pricey high-end production equipment (he uses an iPhone on a gimbal to help steady the camera). It’s a one-person operation fueled by supporters.
Elijah recently spoke with Kenosha.com outside a downtown cafe while enjoying an iced beverage. During the interview, the impression of Elijah’s work on the community was obvious as a half-dozen men and women thanked him for his “live” coverage and asked him to please continue providing it.
Elijah, a 2007 graduate of Indian Trail Academy and High School’s communications program, said he doesn’t consider himself an activist or journalist.
“Honestly, if you ask me, in 2020, I see myself as more of like an in-real-life live-streamer,” Elijah said.
Elijah said he’s not surprised folks are turning to him for breaking news at all hours of the day and night.
“I was out there to show what was happening and to figure out what was happening,” Elijah said, adding that some reporters may only be here “for a story” and may produce content in “story mode,” looking for an angle to exploit.
“Me, I’m just showing what’s going on,” he said. “So, as things happen, they unfold. If a story comes out of that then you know, then a story comes out of that. … People need to see what’s going on.”
Elijah likens his videos to time-capsules.
In the moments after the video of the Blake shooting began circulating and sparking outrage on social media on Aug. 23, Elijah was just finishing dinner. Elijah, who’s been recording public events since 2013, was sent the now-infamous video clip recorded by a neighbor.
“I was getting kind of flooded with messages with people trying to figure out what was going on,” he recalled. “It was like a ‘time to go’ situation.”