I am a huge lover of things that focus on racism, intricacies of race in America (mostly racism), literature, and incredibly intelligent black intellectuals, activists, creators, dancers, and writers, during the time between the 50’s -60’s in America.
Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Gwendolyn Brooks, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, and James Baldwin to name a few.
However, among many others, I am particularly fond of James Baldwin.
To me he exemplifies a term, often over-used in my opinion, which is black excellence. (Sometimes I see this post in reference to a teen-aged black couples dressed in African-inspired clothes for prom, which don’t get me wrong is pretty amazing, but black millenials I know personally can sometimes overlook what black excellence looked like before Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther and Beyonce before and after Lemonade…)
So, in no ways am I demeaning African-inspired proms or Wakandan anything. I am pro-Wakanda and you know pro other things, but…I digress.
In my heart of hearts though, James Baldwin is who I would want to have been in 60’s America, except the woman version. I admire his strength, boldness, and outright audacity to challenge the view of white America from a uniquely, brilliant, and intellectual standpoint. James Baldwin was a man not to silenced, ignored. He did not allow for his stance as a prominent black writer to be stifled and I admire that.
In order for me not to drone on about this man, because I am here to write a review I will cease my gushing…somewhat, here.
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary that was released February of 2017. When I saw the trailer for the first time I was struck with an immediate desire to see this film. There was something on the inside of me that sparked and I knew I had to. It took me over a year, but I finally saw it, and y’all and it was so worth every minute of it.
For me, I believe being from Mississippi and experiencing my own share of racism,many things about this documentary hits close to home for me. From the opening scene, the viewer is introduced to Baldwin, who he is, what he does, and what inspired this documentary.
Two minutes in and the scene is alive with the presence of Baldwin on Dick Cavett’s talk show in 1963. After being asked a series of questions about the plight of the negro in America, he responds with how his concern isn’t so much why negroes may or may not feel hopeless in this country, but what will happen to America if they continue to persist in a language and a culture that does not promote the nation moving forward beyond race, acknowledging the ugliness of oppression, and so on and so forth.
As the film continues there are scenes many of us have probably seen on screens in school during Black History month. There is the tear gas, the loosely leashed dogs, and the black jacks beating black flesh for the simple act of protesting a law that does not equate to basic human rights.
Out of the many films, movies, and historical clips, and documentaries I’ve seen that tackles the plight of slaves, black Americans, and racism, this is by far one that I was captivated with from beginning to end.
This is not simply a film to glorify racism and all of the horrendous things that happened to blacks during this time period, but it is a mirror of realization and an epiphanous piece of work that speaks to our history and our present as a nation. It can be seen as a call for recognition, reconciliation, and unification as a nation. It is hard to watch, but it is a beautiful reminder that in order for a present and a future to be whole there must be a reckoning with the past.
In the ending scene James Baldwin makes a statement that I’m still ruminating on, which is this, “What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger,” he said. “I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it… If I’m not a nigger and you invented him — you, the white people, invented him — then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it’s able to ask that question.”
I wholly suggest this be watched, show it to your family and friends and discuss and talk about it. Beautiful things come about when discussion occurs.
If you’ve seen the documentary I would love to read what you thought, so please comment below.
Love you dear readers,