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Happy Birthday James Baldwin: VOX Teens Revisit Reviews Of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

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James Baldwin would have turned 93 years old today. To celebrate, we’re sharing some of the VOX teens’ reviews of his documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.”

This past February and group of VOX contributors attended an advanced screening of “I Am Not Your Negro” and walked away with feelings ranging from anger to being convinced that not much has changed since Baldwin was alive. Race relations continue to be a challenge in America and our teens captured those sentiments in their reviews. So as we celebrate the life and contributions of Baldwin, we also wanted to celebrate the talent of our teens and re-share their reviews and thoughts of the film.

In his review titled, “‘I Am Not Your Negro’: How the Words of James Baldwin Still Ring True,” Jahleelah Shaheed wrote:

I thought deeply about the broken record of oppression that has a hold over black life in America. Baldwin’s analyses on race remain relevant. With systemic racism and prejudice still running rampant, the fight for the liberation of black people in America is far from over…Racism is not over. James Baldwin knew it, modern black people know it, and it is likely that those after us will know it.

We will keep fighting. We are not your negroes.

Thalia Butts offered a call to action with her article, “The Reason White Folks Need To See ‘I Am Not Your Negro,'” saying:

Every soul who is able should bear witness to the blessing that is “I Am Not Your Negro,” but especially white people. Imagine James Baldwin holding a mirror up to your face and telling you to look into it and you obey him because, duh, it’s James Baldwin. In it you see and almost begin to feel the pain and agony an entire population of people endured purely because of the color of their skin as your relatives and ancestors enjoyed their picket fences and tea parties and church bazaars and — what’s that called again? — oh, their white privilege, that they oh so kindly passed onto you.

VOX contributor and Atlanta Word Works poet Ogechi Ofodu’s “America as a Whole Needs This Movie: Reflections from ‘I Am Not Your Negro,’” was not only a glowing review, but a daring poem as well. In it she wrote:

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”

“I Am Not Your Negro” is now available on iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play.

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