Written by | Ray Cornelius
There are times when you see a film and it moves you. And then there are times you see a film and it transforms your mind. That is how I felt on this past Monday night when I attended the Atlanta premiere of Magnolia Pictures, “I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO.” The Oscar nominated documentary is an amalgamation of words, images, video and commentary from one of our foremost thinkers and literary icons—James Baldwin.
The screening took place at Morehouse College and was presented by the school’s Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies (CTEMS). The evening was hosted by visual artist and friend of the blog, Fahamu Pecou along with a special intro from “Hidden Figures” star Janelle Monáe. Reportedly the Grammy nominated singer and rising actress shared background information on her label, Wondaland Records, and its special connection to Baldwin and his work. Monáe then recited excerpts from Notes from a Native Son, which set an empowering tone for the event. Unfortunately I got to the screening about 45-minutes after her introduction and wasn’t able to capture her in action.
“I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO” is a documentary film that recounts Baldwin’s personal connections to the lives and deaths of his close friends and pioneers of the civil rights movement—Medgar Evers, Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is Baldwin in his own words and exactly how he felt when he received the calls or messages that his friends were no longer alive. Baldwin also boldly addresses a myriad of ills facing Black people in America including racial and gender inequality, sexual freedom, White America’s obsession with the “N Word” and Hollywood’s exploitation of African-Americans in film and television.
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, “I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO” is Baldwin’s way of putting a mirror up to America and demanding that she take an honest and hard look at herself and address the pertinent issues within her diverse and racially mixed population. Filmmaker Raoul Peck does an outstanding job of showing viewers the parallels between Baldwin’s fight in the 1960s juxtaposed to the issues we’re still facing today in 2017. The film takes on a whole new meaning to the saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Following the film was a lively discussion about Baldwin and his cultural relevance featuring Pecou along with civil rights icon, Ambassador Andrew Young; Clark Atlanta University African American Studies Professor, Dr. Daniel Black; Morehouse College Asst. Professor of English, Dr. Francine Allen, and Georgia Equality Field Organizer, Rob Woods. The evening was moderated by CTEMS’ Dr. Stephane Dunn.
Key influencers who were present in the audience included CAU’s President Ronald Johnson and First Lady Johnson, WCLK’s Jamal Ahmad (WCLK 91.9), Rahbi (singer and activist), Victor Jackson (dancer, singer and choreographer), Mike Merrill (actor, “Last Squad Standing”), Leatrice Ellzy (Content Creator and Cultural Curator), Marshawn Evans (Author, NBC’s “The Apprentice”), and Christopher Hicks (Director, Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment). I also spotted HGTV’s Egypt Sherrod and her husband DJ Fadelf.
Check out more photos from the screening and watch the trailer below:
“I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO” opens in theatres nationwide on February 3!
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com