Black History month has been oozing with BLACK EXCELLENCE. It is definitely a great time to be be Black. As a race, we have been taking our culture and redefining it for ourselves and by ourselves. More specifically, in the area of film, black artists have began cultivating our own lanes paved in #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy. Our stories depict our most simple daily life in the grandest and most artistic forms. The Oscars proved that culture and art is nothing without Black. From Moonlight taking home Best Picture of the Year, to Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis racking up best supporting actor/actress awards, to the brilliance of Hidden Figures legends and actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, this year’s film season has highlighted the diversity within black film.
Although the month of February has passed, I celebrate Black history year-round. Fortunately, I got to see two black films that expressed the brutal realities of what it is like being Black in America. I had the privilege of seeing “I Am Not Your Negro” written by the writer, playwright and activist James Baldwin. It was so unfortunate that I had to travel all the way to Jacksonville to see it because it wasn’t playing in Orlando at the time. (Sn: Orlando theater, DO BETTER) I went to see Get Out, which I was so terrified to see initially because of that creepy ass trailer. Both of the films created tension and a definite uneasiness in the theater. It was hard to watch what is so truthful to Black people yet what seems so unreal to others who are not.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
In the documentary, James Baldwin sets out to write a book about his friends/civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. He is writing a letter to his friend at the publishing company about his new book that plans to create. There’s a sense of hesitance that Baldwin is undergoing as he knows the process of writing the book; however, he’s having a hard time coping with the truths that he must tell. In order to complete this book Baldwin must leave the comforts of his Paris home and reality and immerse himself in Jim Crow South and racially fueled America.
The film written by James Baldwin, imaged by Rauol Peck, and told by the voice of Samuel L. Jackson chronicles the intersections of his life within the Civil Rights movement and throughout the lives and deaths of his three prominent friends. Peck brilliantly weaves together Baldwin’s private words with his public statements creating the book that Baldwin envisioned but never got to execute.
Being that it’s James Baldwin, race is the focal point of the entire film. It doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. Baldwin taps into the psyche behind black and white race relations in America and creates a sort of call to action for blacks and whites. The film features several examples of the way Blacks are portrayed in film and television as only a mere entertainment to white people, hence the name “I Am Not Your Negro.” He speaks on the black man not hating the white man but only wishing and desiring that the white man would just get out of his way. This stuck with me because it still holds true. As black people, we don’t hate the oppressor as a whole. We want to be left alone to thrive and grow as a people. Yet and still, it feels like we are always at the butt of their joke, the victim of their tyranny, the oppressed of their oppression. There’s always a black initiative and that initiative is to keep us where we are or eradicate us slowly but surely.
This is why the film is so monumental. Many points that Baldwin explores are more pertinent now than they ever been. It’s as if his spirit has traveled through time to see what the future had in store because his words are still so relevant. The film parallels Baldwin’s personal thoughts with those of the most tragic events in our #blacklivesmatter era. Visuals of present-day policemen and KKK, black face characters with protruding eyes and red lips and reality tv stars, 1960 protest assault and Ferguson militarization of policemen against the black community are all juxtaposed. Baldwin speaks of when he is young and how one of his teachers exposed him to film, theatre and literature. She was a white woman, and to him, his first experience of white was not bad. However, as he lived, as he grew older, he began to see white people in a different light. In the light (or darkness rather) that most if not all black people were accustomed to. In white people, there was a need to shut black out, to make black something dark, to make black immoral, to make black inhumane. There was a NEED. In developing and nurturing that need, white people forgot to look at themselves and ask themselves why did they NEED the negro so badly. Was it to make the world blind to their own dominion or for them to never have the responsibility to look at their own wayward souls in the mirror and face the monster they’ve become. The monster they tried to create was really a reflection of themselves.
Baldwin also discussed his slight shame in not being a complete part of the movement. He was not involved in the marches at Selma. He was not in the meetings that organized several acts of resistance during the movement. This bothered him at times because he knew that he had to pay his dues. Being that he left America, and lived in Paris, he was not in the trenches fighting with his friends. He only wrote and documented it. Nonetheless, the film chronicles the process at which Baldwin gained a slight sence of peace. He came to understand that his role in the movement was not to be a fighter in it, it was to be a witness of it. In order to be a witness, one must be removed from the situation. One must stay behind the scenes in order to tell the stories. That was his role and he played it well.
Without giving away the entire film, the message I received from it was that the only way to get rid or ever live in a country that is void of racism is for whites and blacks to realize that TOGETHER they have created what America truly is. Blacks can’t be forced out or forced to live in improper circumstances because we built this country on our backs through slavery and beyond. It is our human right to participate in the glory of what it is to be an American because, we are American. No one can take that away from us. White people have to look at themselves and question, “Why did I need the negro or the Indian or the colored people?” Nothing else can be accomplished through laws and amendments until that question receives a solid, truthful answer.
I give the film 5 out of 5 black power fists. ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏿✊🏾
When I tell you this movie has spiraled a meme movement!!!! The twitter and instagram streets have been flooding with sunken place tea-cup realness, trump references and Kanye-saving, Kardashian-shaming memes and #getoutchallenges. Jordan Peele did it for the culture! Everyone is talking about this movie! FINALLY, there’s a horror film that depicts black people accurately. We are not just the first ones to die, or the token to a group of white friends. We have a whole movie that shows how we feel when walking into a predominately white neighborhood and the horrors of when racism meets technological advances. Sheesh!! I’m on 10 just writing this! So…let me calm myself down and #getout all of the good stuff that I need you to read because I KNOW YOU SEENT IT!
The film opens with a scene of a black man in a suburban neighborhood being kidnapped. Childish Gambino croons to “stay woke” as visuals of black people portrayed in their most effortless everyday-life are brought to the forefront. ‘Get Out’ follows a young black male photographer named Chris who is going to meet the parents of his white girlfriend. To Chris’ surprise his girlfriend, Rose, did not make her parents aware of Chris’ race. She assures him that her parents are open and her dad would have even “voted for Obama a third term.” Against his hilarious TSA-employed friend, Rod’s better judgment, Chris decides to go to with Rose. Instantly, he is literally hit with a sign that he’s making the wrong decision. The couple is hit by a deer and are confronted by a policemen. As I watched, I was immediately reminded of the respectability politics black people have to portray in order to stay alive in the face of law enforcement. Rose is able to get away with cursing at an officer and questioning his judgement, while Chris has to maintain a more cool and abiding tone. Chris is later greeted by Rose’s family in a welcoming yet, strange fashion. He later finds out that the family has two black servants, Georgina and Walter and that the mom and dad are a physiotherapist (hypnosis) and neurosurgeon. Georgina and Walter definitely aren’t your typical modern black people. They seemed like modern-day slaves with their speech and nuances. Throughout the movie Chris is given all kinds of signs as to why he should get the fuck out.
Chris is later hypnotized by Rose’s mom which gives viewers a look into the sunken place which is a dark, starry place where you’re continuously falling into to dark nothingness. As you fall, you get farther from reality and lose consciousness. Paralyzed, Chris is forced to bear all the painful memories of when his mom died and he did nothing to stop it. He is also more aware of what the family is all about. Slowly, Chris is beginning to “wake up”. The sunken place is all too familiar because it reminds me of “all lives matter” black individuals who believe that the love and peace that they have towards whites will be matched. If only we could just come together, then our problems would be solved. Reality check all you Ben Carson’s of the world, elite whites don’t want to come together with anyone or anything but their money. There is no conscious and just because you have some ‘good white friends’ doesn’t mean that the discrimination, mass incarceration, systemic racism, lynching, organ stealing and police brutality don’t exist. Get you a TSA friend like Rod so that you can wake your ass up.
That brings me to my other point, Chris would have not been able to survive had it not been for his constant contact with his friend Rod. throughout the entire movie, Chris keeps checking in with Rod when he notices something ain’t right. Rod affirms all of Chris’s suspicions of the family and tells him he needs to stop wasting time and get out. I love this because this is how black people are. We have extreme spidey-senses. Being that we are a people who have to always question our surroundings and watch our back, we’ve developed great intuition when placed in weird environments. This attests to the fact that we must stick together in this day in age. Nobody got your back like your bro or sis. It’s just facts.
In fact, Chris ends up seeing one black guy that looks familiar to him at the families’ annual party. During this party several people look at Chris in wonder as if he has something that they wants. White women even caress his arms and talk about how strong he is built. When he notices the black guy and talks to him he realizes that he’s similar to Georgina and Walter as in he’s black but doesn’t act like we normally do. He takes it upon himself to take a photo of the guy on his phone and the camera is accidentally in flash mode. This sends the guy off into a panic, nose bleeding and crying. The guy runs up to Chris and pleads for him to GET OUT! Now, Chris knows something is up. He sends the picture to TSA buddy and they both begin uncovering the dirt and secrets that the family is hiding.
Without revealing the full plot of the movie (because I want you to go see it) Chris realizes that the family is on some foogazzy ish and they’re trying to hold him hostage. He then must find a way to get out without being lured and trapped into the sunken place. The family ties him down to a chair and Chris is going through a mental process of learning more of what the family is all about and losing less of his consciousness. In order to not succumb to the sunken place, Chris uses the cotton from the leather seat to bud his ears. This was brilliant and my first thought was, “damn, cotton finally did some good for us,” hence the fact that as slaves our lives were given up for that damn cotton. When Chris did this, he was able to defeat the family and ultimately, get out. Towards the end after all the shit hit the fan, Chris has almost made it out. He runs into Walter and Georgina, who just like the house nigga, do their best to kill him before he could leave. Luckily, Chris has his camera and he turns the flash on Walter before he could kill him.
There’s something about the flash because it allows the sleeping blacks to snap out of the sunken place and remember what’s left of their conscious. Similar to how our present day reality is. Sleeping blacks sometimes have to have a horrific flash of who they are in society in order to wake up out of their “sunken place.” When all the respectability politics and white-washed behaviors don’t work anymore they are forced to see their blackness for what it is in the eyes of white elites. This is a more prevalent problem in black males. Black women, for the most part, know where we stand in race relations. We are the ones burdened by the intersections of oppression being black and female. So, there is no room for us to even consider that white people have magically lifted their monstrosities and finally want to sing songs of freedom alongside us. We don’t have the privilege of ignorance lingering over us. For black males on the other hand, society has let them in a bit. They are the coons at the forefront of entertainment, they even have some of the same jobs as white men. And let’s not forget that black men now have access to one of white men’s most prized possessions: the white woman. They now don’t have to hide their desires for Becky with the good hair. Becky throws herself at him. This film shows what can happen when you forget the history of the oppressor, fall into the sunken place and become a sleeping sheep. Somebody is just going to have to put the flash on and wake your black ass up!
I give the film 5 out of 5 black power fists. ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏿✊🏾
There are three parallel themes in the films. The first is to stay woke. This does not mean hate all white people. It means to remember that, “history is not the past. It’s the present. We carry history with us.” This means that you cannot live under the false pretentious ideas that people aren’t racists and that those times are over. If we still have to say “black lives matter,” if we’re still protesting, if we’re still getting killed in the streets without justice, then you should know that history repeats itself. The DNA of racism lives deeply in the blood of America and those who created it for them. Until white people ask themselves why they’ve become the monster they’ve become, then racism will live and thrive and continue to control the lives of our generation and the generations to come.
The second theme is the obsession and need for the negro. In both films, there was not white without black. Also, the genetic makeup of blacks made us strong and ideal. Yet, the mental and emotional abuse of black people made us weak and prone to destruction and rule. It is true that America could not flourish without the presence of black people. But the issue is that white people have yet to admit that. Like James Baldwin said, they must figure out why was there a need for the negro. And if there is a need, then recognize the value. Anything needed, is valuable. The black life has infinite value, it does matter.
The third theme is the black sell out. In Baldwin’s film he discusses how in film many of the actors such as Sidney Poitier, would play roles in which black people felt that he had sold out. They would play characters that played into a certain stereotype of play a role so far removed from black people that they couldn’t connect. In Peele’s film, the sell out is Chris dating a white woman. This has always been an issue within the black community. Black women have felt that despite the fact that white women have everything, they still want more and find that in black men. Black women have always felt abandoned when it comes to this issue. It raises the question of how can a black man love a white woman when he doesn’t love his own? I’ve heard many stories where a black man would leave his family to be with a white woman. It’s been depicted in film numerous times. The underlying issues is betrayal. Black people don’t like the idea of being betrayed by another brother and/or sister in the struggle. We’re supposed to be in this fight together.
Be easy and PUT THE FLASH ON! 📸📲