5 things you can watch instead of Birth of a Nation
Historical accounts of African Americans you should know about.
I'm not seeing Birth of a Nation. Not only are wartime movies of any kind too much for my psyche, I am unwilling to pay money to see a movie championed by two Black men accused of sexual assault, one of whom remains arrogantly unapologetic and entitled to the support of Black folks. I am unwilling to do that. That is my choice. In fact, it seems we all love to talk about the freedom to choose, until we talk about Black women's autonomy, but I’ll write about that another time.
The holdouts for Nate Parker’s film have made it clear that they are doing so because of the importance of the stories of African American history being told on the big screen. While this is an important principle to hold, there have already been reviews of the film describing the historical accuracy it lacks and how it does Black women a disservice.
So instead of Birth of a Nation, try:
1. Nat Turner, A Troublesome Property
Can we stop hailing Nate Parker as a hero who brought us our first chance at seeing Nat Turner’s story brought to life? This well crafted documentary blends interviews with dramatized accounts to tell the story of Nat Turner as well as the complicated narrative of the re-tellings of his rebellion throughout history. If you really want to learn about Nat Turner in visual form, start here.
2. Queen of Katwe
For the “there’s such a shortage of Black movies” crowd. Yes, that is definitely true. But let’s not act like there is not another movie with an almost entirely Black cast in theaters at the exact same time as Birth of A Nation. Queen of Katwe is a Disney feature that documents Phiona Mutesi’s journey from rural poverty to local fame as a chess phenom.
Come on. I don't even have to say it, but I will: This is MANDATORY viewing. 13th is Ava DuVernay’s latest hit-giving you all the facts about slavery’s rebirth in the form of mass incarceration. With all of the talk around Parker, can we PLEASE shine a light on Black female directors working so hard to tell our stories, too?
4. Hidden Figures
Black women. Black women in STEM. Black women in STEM who were instrumental in the 1969 moon landing. Taraji. Janelle. Octavia. I know where I will be on January 13th, 2017- and since we’re all up in arms about wide screen depictions of our history, I know where YOU should be, too. (And since also being made a Fox entertainment group, that fact better not matter then, since it apparently doesn't matter now)
5. The Black Power Mixtape
If your main reason for watching Birth of A Nation is that you're looking for a history of African American’s radical revolt against racial injustice, check out The Black Power Mixtape, a combination of contemporary interviews and discovered taped interviews of activists Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and others who were essential to the Black Power Movement.
Again, can we let a groundswell of support be given to a narrative about two, real life, Black best friends? Awkward Black Girl’s Issa Rae is bringing an authentic portrayal of Black life to TV when we could REALLY use some comedic relief. PROTip: Not sure where to get the money for an HBO subscription? The first episode is available on YouTube. Your 1 month free trial, plus the money you would have used to see Birth of a Nation should get you through the rest of them.
BONUS BONUS: Sign up for a 1 month trial of Audible, use your 1 FREE book to listen to THIS:
Danielle McGuire wrote one of THE most important books on the Civil Rights Movement you’ll ever read. At the Dark End of The Street begins a conversation that is, in most cases, unheard of- the sexual violence that Black women face in the United States, particularly in the midst of movements and boycotts “led” by Black men. Once again, lets not use a cop-out like “Well at least Nate Parker has us talking about sexual assault.” Let’s give that credit where it is due- to the women who choose to make African American history, and dismantling of rape culture a central focus in their work.
TO RECAP: Here are some other things to engage that will hopefully satisfy your thirst for African American history, film, and art- that is- if your thirst is real-and not a knee jerk reaction to valid critique about this movie.
Talk to y’all, soon.
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