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America as a Whole Needs This Movie: Reflections from ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

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On Jan. 30, along with  fellow VOX reporters, I had the special opportunity to attend a press screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” written by the late James Baldwin and directed by Raoul Peck. The film tells the story of race in America from Baldwin’s perspective, using his unfinished memoir “Remember This House” as well as connecting the Civil Rights Movement to the present climate in America regarding race.

James Arthur Baldwin was a prolific African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic during the late ’40s through early ’80s. His memoir was unfinished due to his death in 1987 from stomach cancer. This is my reflection.

In this movie

What you learn, may not be that informative, or new

But that wasn’t the point.

And the point doesn’t really hit you till the end, or maybe in reflection afterwards.

In this movie

You’ll realize for black Americans

“It’s a great shock to realize you’re black” in America

And me being raised in white suburbia,

That line is all too true

The feeling of “wishing I were white”

Coats my heart in disdain

That it is in actual feeling many Negroes in America harbor to this day

 

You’ll see Medgar, Martin and Malcolm

All men who were killed before they reached 40

Banded together in ways you may have already knew,

But have never seen put together in this format

 

You’ll see pictures and videos of civil rights era violent bigotry

But never under the scope of the particular perspective of a peculiar man

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With a peculiar voice, and an even more peculiar mind

That is of James Baldwin

And I’m sure you have never seen so much visual footage of Baldwin either

 

In this movie, I hope you understand the “helpless rage”

That erupts from the agony of constant sorrow black people are forced to feel

That white “Violence is as American as Cherry pie”

That to the negro, white people are not hated, but we just want to left alone.

Just want for our pain, struggle, disenfranchisement and modern slavery

To not be the building blocks of their society and wealth

To acknowledge “The word white is a metaphor for power” in this country

 

For white people to realize,

This movie was informative to them

Was new to them.

But just another version of the same old story to us.

The same old beatings, the same old killings, the same old racism we’ve been surviving through

That they have ignored. Or detested as false.

Or chose to live in the “euphoric state … their whole lives”

 

The gasps and whimpers that escaped the lips of the white audience in the theatre

Were more annoying than anything else to me.

And maybe I’m wrong for thinking this way, but I just don’t think so

That fact that this movie was needed to them, is shameful

Is anger-inciting in me, because in this movie you realize

That black people’s liberation truly does “[Lay] on the White Community”

The community that doesn’t see black men as human, or black women as complex creatures

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And for that fact damn near alone, is the reason why you should watch this documentary

America, as a whole, needs this movie,

That’s what should slap you in the face at its abrupt end.

That was the point.

Or at least I think so, in this reflection afterwards.

 

Ogechi is a 19-year-old student at Georgia State University.

Like Poetry? Spoken Word? 

Maya Angelou Rise EviteOn Saturday, Feb. 18, VOX is partnering with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) to celebrate Maya Angelou’s legacy with And Still I Rise Teen Spoken Word Workshop (1-2:45 p.m.) and Poetry Slam (3-5 p.m.).
Bring friends, bring poems, bring yourselves for an afternoon of art not ego and inspiration! IT’S FREE!
Click here to register.
VOX welcomes Atlanta-area teens’ original poetry for publication. Just email your work, along a headshot or piece or accompanying piece of art, with your name, age and school (if in school) to Sarah@voxatl.org.

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