Black lives matter
The other day, I was at home reading the news about the George Floyd's murder and the subsequent wave of protests around the globe. I am firmly against any sort of oppression and racism and my articles and students can testify my position. At the moment, though, I am very concerned about the spread of Covid-19. I avoid going outside and I think people should do the same.
I expressed my opinion online and I was hardly criticised for it. I was called racist.
This article comes as a response to those people.
That same day I watched the double bill: Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020, currently on Netflix) and I am not your negro (Raoul Peck, 2016, also on Netflix and via Imovision Instagram page) on that order. Somehow, I left behind the latest film, though at the time of its premiere, it was on my list. Rest assured that watching it now caused much more impact than if I had done it in 2016.
Da 5 Bloods follows the journey of four North-American black Vets and one young man into Vietnam. The young man is Paul's (Delroy Lindo's) son, whose personal history was equally affected by the Vietnam War.
As usual, Lee brings back to our consciousness names that cannot be forgotten despite the strong injustices they suffered: Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Marvin Gaye, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Hedy Lamarr are just a few -- you can check more about Lamarr, watching her biopic. Alongside these personal references, the movie introduces historical references of that time and nowadays, such as Operation Junction City, the Riots of 1968 and Donald Trump's excuse not to go to war.
The journey of the black men is a quest for gold -- the Vets had buried some golden bars in the forest. But it's also a painful way of refacing their ghosts that kept unburied since the war.
It's been ages that Spike Lee doesn't perform as an actor in his movies but his personality is undeniably there. Da 5 Bloods alternates moments of raw truth and vivid
energy. And although the film's theme is heavy, Da 5 Bloods has comic scenes. There are powerful musical and cinema references that will certainly make you think that those days were not only dark.
Early in the movie, we see some of the old warriors as soldiers back in war. Lee didn't hire other actors to play them as young. He also didn't use the de-aging effect you can see in The Irishman (Scorsese, 2019). The same actors play them as young and old. At first, this can create some sort of strangeness, but it is justifiable within the plot itself.
The second picture of this "Black lives matter" double bill is I am not your negro (pictured below). The documentary is based on a 30-pages letter James Baldwin wrote to his literary agent in which he juxtaposes the history of the United States and the life of three black men: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Black documentarist Raoul Peck started reading Baldwin when he was 16. In his words: "For a very long time, I felt like I grew up with Baldwin. When I was in my 20’s, I realised I was saying a lot of things that were, in fact, Baldwin’s."
Indeed we are unable to distinguish Peck's voice from Baldwin's, which is a very rare thing in documentaries, particularly nowadays when sometimes the voice of the filmmaker is even stronger than the voice of what he is trying to show (watch any movie by Michael Moore, for instance). Apart from Baldwin's interviews, a compiled version that works well in order to reestablish who he was and what he thought, Peck cast Samuel L. Jackson as a voice over to Baldwin. A wise choice, as Jackson seems to incorporate Baldwin in his strength, urgency and bitterness.
Likewise Lee's movie, I am not your negro revisits thousands of black icons, so that to isolate Baldwin from them. Baldwin left the United States for Paris in search for freedom. From his tales, we note that the oppression against black people and homosexuals at his home country asphyxiated him. But Baldwin had the courage to come back and raise his voice loud.
His personal account of the lives of his close friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. explains the idiosyncrasies of the United States. Furthermore, it brings to light why racism persists until today.
"The negro problem" might be more evident in the United States but I dare to say that it is still alive in every society.
I sustain my opinion that there must be other ways of protesting rather than going out on the streets amidst a pandemic. You can do more and yet don't remain silent. You can take action by joining the Black Lives Matter. Join the Movement to fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice by signing up for updates, supporting theirr work, checking out their resources, following them on social media, etc.
If you are white, like me, remember that white communities are used to consciously and unconsciously maintaining the racist policies.