Black History Month is still a thing. I agreed to write about this topic under the condition I could freely express myself, and from here onwards it is all opinion.
Black History Month shouldn’t be a thing because that’s still segregation. You may be giving a race a month in which to celebrate its history, but why a month? Why can’t every day just be history day? My point here is why does it have to be exclusive?
It astounds me that people think we need a white history month. Isn’t every month white history month? Think about when you learnt about a coloured person for more than a week. You learnt about the greats in one day. You learnt about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and maybe even some lesser known names, but they were all taught to you in less than a week. And doesn’t their message deserve more than a week of teaching? Didn’t they spend their whole lives spreading this same message? That exclusivity is still segregation.
With the activism lesson aside lets talk film.
I think it’s hard to think about black history in regards to films, but a few titles stand out in my mind, for their use of rich plotlines and bold narrative structures. Casting has also been dead on point in all these films.
- The Help (Dir. Tate Taylor, 2011)
- Malcolm X (Dir. Spike Lee, 1992)
- Do The Right Thing (Dir. Spike Lee, 1989)
- Ray (Dir. Taylor Hackford, 2005)
- 12 Years A Slave (Dir. Steve McQueen, 2013)
The Help tackled a major issue with enough humour and grace for it to be a “dramedy” and be taken seriously, but not too seriously by critics and film buff’s. I think the best way of putting it is the film put a delicate approach to racial tensions. Definitely recommend.
Malcolm X’s story was harsh. It showed persecution, it showed the troubles of a black man in wartime America. However, due to obvious time constraints, he had to miss out the hustling and cocaine snorting on the streets of mean Harlem, the regular stream of prostitutes and a load of drugs.
Do The Right Thing showed racial and social problems on a hot day in one small block in Brooklyn NY. On the block we have a smooth DJ (Samuel L Jackson) “spins the platters that matter”, a small corner store owned by a Korean couple and Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, the only non coloured place of business in the business.
Personally, my favourite character is Radio Raheem, played by Bill Nunn, a huge dude who lets the sound of his boom box do the talking, specifically Public Enemy’s song Fight The Power.
It starts to go downhill from when Buggin’ Out (played by Giancarlo Esposito, yeah that’s Gus from Breaking Bad) figures out there’s no people of colour on the “Wall Of Fame” in the pizzeria. Things only stop escalating with a tragedy at the end of the film.
To date, the film Ray is the only film to induce goose bumps in me for a solid 152 minutes.
The film is about the early life of soul legend Ray Charles, coming from small humble beginnings, and losing his eyesight due to glaucoma at the age of seven, Ray Charles Robinson (played by Jamie Foxx) becomes a legend with a ton of Grammy’s and chart toppers.
Only one film ever gave me goose bumps like this, and if you’ve seen it you’ll agree. But here’s a shortlist of reasons.
The scene of Ray’s brother’s funeral. The scene where Ray goes blind at seven years old. The first time he sings Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand. When he finally decides to stop using. When he has the vision of George and his mother when he’s in rehab.
With all that said this film was great, and showed a blind black man rising up out of poverty in the face of adversity.
12 Years a Slave. A masterpiece, a milestone in cinema, deeply felt across the world, this film was hugely anticipated everywhere. And definitely did not disappoint. Necessarily hard to watch, McQueen created a film that not only managed to capture slavery and prosecution in its dark light but also one that captured audiences and made them sit up and take note of things. If you are one of the few people who haven’t seen it yet, make sure you do. After that watch McQueen’s BAFTA speech. If the film didn’t make you cry, the speech will. Also my personal favourite film on the list.