BlackLivesMatter is our current day Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. Gil Scott-Heron was a little wrong – it is televised, and viewed on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
Three documentaries over the past three weeks highlight the historical importance of the current movement of #BlackLivesMatter.
These documentaries show the blurred lines of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s through 2016.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.Different year, same problems.
The first film I watched was the documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay. It screams, “No Justice” for black and brown people. DuVernay overloads the film with testimonials of the staggering statistic – 2.3 million – black and brown bodies incarcerated within the land of the free.
Historians and scholars Angela Davis, Jelani Cobb, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Van Jones, Michelle Alexander, and others, loudly scream the continual degeneration of Black Lives. Hence, the Birth of a national #BlackLivesMatter.
Today, #BlackLivesMatter tweets news of protests and resistance throughout the United States. As an aside, the importance of showing Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker, is invaluable because it dramatizes the rebellion of Nat Turner in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. We have always fought, rebelled, and protested the maltreatment of our people. History books exclude these facts. DuVernay’s documentary stands on those shoulders. Is Slavery over? Apparently not. It exists today in the U.S prison system and the same profiteers of slavery are profiting today on free labor.
The Constitutional 13th Amendment gives the right to treat prisoners as slaves. Through this language states and corporations have made enormous profit from the criminalization of black male and female bodies. They gotten free labor, federal contracts and subsidies, creating enormous wealth. In the process, the criminalization has also elected Presidents and given rise to the culture of brutality that led to the murders of Sandra Bland, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Ramarley Graham, Akai Gurley, and it continues each week and day. Countless black and brown people are treated as criminals on sight by police. Throughout the film, DuVernay includes footage of #BlackLivesMatter protesting such injustices.
I Am Not Your Negro
The second documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck, focuses on James Baldwin’s last work Remember This House, about his three gunned down friends — Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers. All black men who unjustly lost their lives – the very reason that galvanized #BlackLivesMatter.
Ten years in the making, the documentary, narrated by Samuel Jackson reading James Baldwin’s words, gives a living presence of the current connection to his words. The intermediary of American terrorism against black male bodies from the 60s is juxtaposed with protest footage of #BlackLivesMatter — black male bodies swinging on the streets in 2013 – 2016.
A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone
The third documentary, A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone, directed by Marlene “Mo” Morris centers around Edythe Boone, a 77-year-old community activist and artist who paints large sized murals.
We enter the film as Boone is in the midst of walking up a four-story scaffolding,for the mural restoration of the seven female artists of the landmark 1994 Mission District MaestraPeace Mural. Her young students are helping to restore the mural, while learning history, community activism, and art from the perspective of black and brown people. It shouts Black and Brown Lives Matter. The turn in the documentary comes when Boone sees her nephew, Eric Garner, killed by cops on the local news. This sparked the New York City protests “I Can’t Breathe” with hands-up, a position meant to inform police of no resistance in remembrance of Michael Brown, gunned down by a Ferguson, MO police officer. #BlackLivesMatter enters the narrative of Boone’s life and the film.
Although #BlackLivesMatter has also entered the narrative of all our lives, artist and non-artist alike, the international movement against “extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes,” is influencing the artistic decision of filmmakers by creating a unique intersection of past and present documentaries. While they are not easy to watch, they are very necessary.
The Black TV & Film Collective a 501c3 organization that operates as a NYC film collective. In our work, we support all artists of color including but not limited to black filmmakers. We are a collaborative platform that represents diversity in film and supports inclusion in Hollywood and TV. Our professional network of New York City filmmakers gives knowledge to those who want to learn how to produce film, how to make a web series, how to budget film projects and more. We host NYC film workshops that welcome a variety of experience levels from first time filmmakers who are either students in film school or to notables within the television and film industry. See how you can make a difference in the world of cinema by becoming a member of our NYC film collective.
Clairesa Clay is a Brooklyn native with a love for films. Clairesa has written short screenplays, directed, and produced projects. She is currently working on a BLERD conference. Clairesa is an active member of the Black TV & Film Collective.