Today Howard University celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding. Despite this being a special day for the Bison family, it would be naive of me to talk about how amazing Howard is and ignore its shortcomings in light of recent happenings on campus. A few weeks ago Concerned Students 1867 presented a list of demands to Howard's president, which included banning POTUS from campus, creating more inclusive spaces for Muslim and LGBTQIA communities on campus, and, overall, holding HU administration accountable in advocating for the liberation of Black people. I wanted to write this post to discuss the norm of romanticization (romanticize-v. to deal with or describe in an unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is) that is very pertinent here at Howard and is something that has caused dissonance with students' push for a better college experience. With the development of what is also being called HU Resist and the attention on Howard's sesquicentennial, now is as good a time as any to talk about this and remind ourselves about what made Howard Howard in the first place.
This weekend I went to see I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary directed by Raoul Peck, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, and written by the late James Baldwin. The movie is based around Baldwin’s 1979 letter to his literary agent Jay Acton about Remember This House. The book was to be Baldwin’s memoir about the assassinations of his three close friends-- Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. However, by the time he died in 1987, the book remained unfinished, with only a 30-page manuscript left behind.
Peck in a way completes the book, using Jackson’s voice to read Baldwin’s letters, supplements the narration with clips from various TV interviews and university lectures, and connects both with an interesting analyzation of American 20th century films and images from today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement to add to the conversation of race in America. Watch a clip from the film below:
The film definitely lived up to the positive reviews. It takes a handful of the most influential Civil Rights leaders and connects it to present-day to show that America isn’t exactly as progressed as we think we are. I Am Not Your Negro is a necessary documentary that forces everyone to take a long look in the mirror and figure out “what your role is in this country and what your future is in it.” Baldwin’s lowkey sarcasm is evident throughout the movie, which I found funny and slightly lightened the mood in the theater.
I will say that compared to others’ reviews on Twitter, I wasn’t as emotionally provoked by the first half of the film. Not to say that this topic doesn’t make me angry, because it definitely does. I was mostly shocked at the images from the funerals of Baldwin’s three slain friends. That close perspective on all three deaths was the one thing that was new to me. It wasn’t until the clip of Baldwin’s television appearance with philosopher Paul Weiss, in which Baldwin rebuts Weiss’ argument that Baldwin talks about race too much, that I felt the most passionate (I was sitting in my seat like “YES THANK YOU! LET THEM KNOW JAMES!!!). This moment accurately represents the conversation between Black people and the majority of America that still exists today. In general, I liked how the film brings up how deeply rooted racism is ingrained in American culture, and how people are more willing to maintain power than confront what has become blatantly obvious again with this past presidential election. Something Baldwin said that stuck with me is "I can only conclude what they feel through their institutions." I feel as though this is the biggest part of why racism in America is still so pertinent today, it has more so to do with the institution rather than people's feelings alone. I also agree with Rolling Stone in that Peck’s, use of Jackson’s narration brought Baldwin’s words to life in a really interesting way.
Click to view my interactive cheat sheet for I Am Not Your Negro. Click the photos and quote for sources and to see articles that explain each topic further.
Click the photo at the top of this blog post to take you to I Am Not Your Negro's official website (or click here) to see what theaters near you are playing it.
It is undeniable that Black women made notable contributions to everything ranging from sports, pop culture, politics, music, and movies in 2016. In spite of the horrible year everyone claims 2016 to be, Black women truly did do the damn thing. So, just because I can, here's my list of some of the Black women who inspired me and the world in 2016 (click each photo to see some of the great things these women have done this year):
Can I be Honest?
This week has been very weird. Tragic, definitely angering, but also weird. With the recent killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, it is very evident that America has come together and said, enough is actually enough (enough was also enough after Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, and… I guess you get the point). At first I didn’t want to write anything about this, instead my twitter is full of retweets of others’ sentiments on these events. I’ve given myself time to think about what I could say about this. So I guess I’ll start from when I first heard about Alton Sterling...