As I waked in the Harlem Magic Johnson theatre excited to see I Am Not Your Negro I was greeted by an audience where majority of the faces that didn’t look like mine. First, upset by the face that these people were possible here to find out “Why I Am Not Their Negro.” Second, thinking are the faces that do look like mine not interested? Or are they unaware of the cinematic prowess on its opening weekend? But nonetheless I sit and wait for my friends to arrive, the previews start and the opening scene to take the screen.
As I sat in seat L9, tears fell down my face as scene after scene showed the injustices of the negro in 1960. As I stated in “I Have a Dream (Deferred)” the scenes were’t much different than the videos that capture a black person’s encounter with the police today. As I cried my mind kept thinking “Do my fellow movie watchers understand what my people are going through?” and “What role will they play in ending this injustice?” I sat there hurt by the ideals and history this country has put in place that most black people are excluded from. Baldwin put it best after debating a white Christian on the Dick Cavett Show:
You want me to make an act of faith — risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children — on some idealization which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.
Baldwin speaks of American Institutions which chose to exclude black people from some or all of their organizations or benefits from their organizations. Some still rang true today, as schools in predominately black neighborhoods are still fighting for funding and new textbooks. But as a black child in American you’re given the same “opportunities” as white children. In the words of Kanye “How Sway?” With old textbooks and little to no technology? America wants to always scream “EQUALITY” but our country is nothing but equal.
“You are not forced to see me, but I am forced to see you.” – James Baldwin
“You don’t know what’s on the other side of the wall, because you don’t want to know.”
– James Baldwin
Filmmaker Raoul Peck created a compelling cinematic compilation of video footage of James Baldwin’s interviews and speeches, footage of African Americans from the last 50 decades with Samuel Jackson reading a letter Baldwin wrote to a publisher about his new book, Remember This House. “The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.” The movie and the letter recount the events of the 1960s how he came to meet each man and their relationship, their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and how he came to find out about their deaths. The website explains it as:
I Am Not Your Negro is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of these three leaders, Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.
And that’s exactly what it does. I urge everyone to see this film regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. James Baldwin was a man who kept the facts straight and never sugar coated a thing. You may leave feeling hurt, angry or even enlightened. Either way purchase a ticket and see “I Am Not Your Negro.”
Until Next Time,
You can purchase the companion book HERE.