Everyday Activist - I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Posted on Thursday, June 04, 2020 at 06:00 PM

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

With the events involving George Floyd, many people online have suggested films relating to racism. My recommendations are available on Kanopy, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race and America (2016) and the Oscar Nominated, I Am Not Your Negro (2016) about James Baldwin’s commentary on race relations. Both artists advocate for compassion and understanding rather than protests and violence. Their unique perspectives may have evolved as a result of spending time abroad, away from the terror in the US. Baldwin’s friends included Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. whom he meant to discuss in a book called Remember This House, but only completed thirty pages. The documentary hints at what the book might have looked like as well as showing us how little has changed in 60 years.

Director, Raoul Peck, includes a host of archival footage from movies, television interviews, lectures, newspaper and photos taking the viewer back to the civil rights movement linking them with modern footage of racial issues. The descriptions of the events in film sound the same as ones we heard recently. Lorraine Hansberry met with Bobby Kennedy and told him she was “very worried about the state of the civilization which produced that photograph of the white cop standing on that Negro woman’s neck in Birmingham.” Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer soon after that meeting.

Baldwin declares, “It is not a racial problem. It’s a problem of whether or not you’re willing to look at your life and be responsible for it and then begin to change it.” People don’t want to examine the pain in their lives. Anger and violence provide a false sense of power, until they run out of steam, often turning to drug use or other addictions to escape, as the present opioid epidemic suggests. “We are cruelly trapped between what we’d like to be and what we really are. And we cannot possibly become what we would like to be until we are willing to ask ourselves just why the lives we lead on this continent are mainly so empty.” Capitalism thrives in this void filling the pockets of a select few.

Davis and Baldwin give us accessible places to start healing the racial tensions by looking within to understand that kindness to ourselves results in kindness to others otherwise hurt people, hurt people. While accessible, examining our lives requires bravery. Available on Netflix, Cracked Up, the movie about SNL star Darrell Hammond, demonstrates how hard it is to work through emotional pain recounting his story on film and in a play. Despite all the trauma at home, he fondly remembers his black nanny who cuddled him before she left for the day. When people say all lives matter, I think about Hammond’s example. He credits her love with saving his life. 

Calgary Showtimes:  I Am Not Your Negro (2016) >


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