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Friday June 18th 2021

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Civil Rights as Film Entertainment Misses the Struggle of the Black Body in the United States

Killing us with smiles, promises, and movies for the mainstream. (Photo: Nate Parker’s New Poster for ‘Birth of a Nation’ Pulls No Punches)

Capitalism…you gotta’ love it. The civil rights movement has been the perfect vehicle to make money off the unsuspecting critical times in United States history. The need to understand history’s invalid actions is only palatable in the form of entertainment, which demoralizes freedom, equity, and civil rights into a ball of nothingness made for the film. Personally, I find it difficult to “celebrate” Black History Month – I was born black… every day I or one of my brothers wakes up not killed by law enforcement is a celebration in real-time and thankfulness. Sometimes breathing is very humbling.

Recently, I posted a critical comment on the Huffington Post section “Black Voices.” The comment was in response to a story about the actors who starred in the “Selma” movie, including Oprah, who used mainstream media time for a faux civil rights march in Alabama in promotion for the movie. My comment: “Question: Why do we have to keep reliving this history via entertainment? The people in the front of this picture (Oprah and friends) have enough clout and money to address any relevant issue in the United States concerning black people. In short, we should not be marching, we should be reading and coming up with a plan. Why would anyone pay to see a movie about history imitating life in 2021? Our priorities are very clear; change does not need another meeting or protest, there needs to be action.”

Some people think “Selma” is a movie made for theaters. The events in Selma were real. In 1964 when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. travels to Selma, Alabama with Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, James Orange, and Diane Nash. King and his followers march through Selma before a crowd of white folks and the ruthless Sheriff Jim Clark. The marchers kneel down and put their hands on the back of their heads. One man fails to kneel as his wife and son help him. Sheriff Clark and his cohorts go over to them and try to force the man down. When his son defends his father, Clark nearly strikes him with his club, until Annie hits Clark and knocks him down. In retaliation, Clark and his goons force Annie to the ground. King and many of his followers are subsequently arrested and incarcerated.

The Selma event was one of the many social engineering movements that helped to shape and change the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The movement in the 1960s was about Black people in the United States having a voice, place, and self-leading power to right the historical wrongs put upon us. Unfortunately, when Hollywood hears a great story, there is room to tell it again, and again. This time it is not about working on civil rights in ever, nor is it about asking the nation’s former first black president to re-issue a check to Black America that is not marked non-sufficient funds, or NSF. This story does not bring to light the killing of the innocent or the disfigurement of a colored workforce by denying jobs and education. These stories, like the movie “Selma,” are feel-good publicity stunts cleverly delivered to the American public just in time for the MLK birthday celebration and Black History Month – and nothing more. No film entertainment has ever stopped the killing of unarmed Black men; but a film about it will make millions.

I originally wrote this column on MLK day from my office desk while many attended sanitized (virtual) civil rights breakfast and one-day boutique performances to work on some type of social justice concern.  The plight of Black America has been turned into a revenue-generating cash cow where civil rights are nothing more than a social cabal and a Black person can be killed by the police and the classroom.

In 2021, Black America still has major obstacles in the road to freedom and the creation of fair playing fields. While I like a good movie, I would prefer to work on agenda items that will create wealth and equity for others who will travel my path, not hide behind a bunch of ‘that’s the way we have always done it.’

Best of success to those who financed “Selma,” and other movies on the verge of release that deal with black history. I hope your investment was well thought out and you make your money back and then some. From my purview, the road to freedom and civil rights is still under construction. Impress me and work on today’s real-time issues – history will be there; it is not going anywhere.

We shall overcome? Indeed, someday.

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