We celebrated Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday by watching the 90-minute PBS special documentary, ‘I Am Not Your Negro.’ The movie was part celebration, part eye-opener, and part sadness-filled and left us wondering, when will racial hatred stop? Why does the color of one’s skin have to matter? Why do we hate people who look different from us? Directed by Raoul Pieck, this film centers on the life and work of James Baldwin (1924-1987), a brilliant African-American novelist, playwright and essayist. The film features Baldwin’s writings on the lives of three Civil Rights icons—Medgar Evans, Malcomb X and Martin Luther King, all of whom were murdered. Moving back through history, the film projects music, dance and theater with a montage of images from 1960s-70’s, TV talk shows, news reports, and scenes from classic movies that projected White supremacy and underlying racial inequality themes. But then Pieck moves to the present and interjects contemporary news stories such as the repeated brutish murdering of unarmed Black youths and men by White policemen, the suppression of the Black Lives Matter movement, but he also adds on the joyful side, the election and entrance to the Oval Office in the White House of the 44th president of the U.S.–Barack Obama.
Pieck’s documentary helps us understand, though they have not been fully recognized as such, that American Black citizens have every right to claim that they were the founding fathers and early builders of what we call the USA. He reminds us through Baldwin’s writings , that our country was build on the free labor provided by Black men and women who were originally stolen from their home country and forced to come to America to work.
We wonder what would happen if Pieck’s documentary was viewed by every elected and/or appointed official in Washington, D.C. in all three branches of government? Would the public discourse about racial topics be any different?