Following the breakout success of his racially charged 2017 directorial debut film Get Out, Jordon Peele produced another intriguing piece of work with his latest horror / thriller, Us. Get Out, produced on a $4.5m (approx. £3.4m) budget saw Peel become the first African-American writer-director to earn $100m (approx. £75.8m) with his debut film. Produced with a $20m (approx. £15.1m) budget, Us also exceeded initial estimates since its release on 22 March 2019, reportedly making $87 (approx. £65.9m) worldwide so far.
However, unlike Get Out, Us is not entirely focussed on race and debunks the historic portrayal of African-Americans in horror films. As the focus of the film, the African-American family are notslaughtered in the opening scenes, which generally happens to black charactersin horror films, and their race is not fundamental to the plot. However, in atime where colourism (they ugly cousin of racism) is being discussed more openly,the depiction of a dark-skinned black family is important.
To the back drop of the iconic London skyline, on the grounds of Alexandra Palace, Block Party Cinema hosted a special event which rounded off the Great British summer we had this year.
The weather held out and I joined the crowd of people eating food and ‘cutting shapes’ (as they say,) with my dance moves during the silent ‘diva disco’. It was my first time at a silent disco; a great concept because everyone around me had headphones, so I could sing out of tune freely! @pxssypalace DJ KKINBOO was on the decks and didn’t disappoint.
The Free Angela and All Political Prisoners documentary released in 2012, recounted the extraordinary events that simultaneously made Angela Davis infamous and heroic. I hadn’t watched it until last week; it reminded me of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Focussing on the events surrounding the Soledad Brothers case that led to Davis becoming a murder suspect and fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list, the documentary highlight why unity in activism is important.
The UK has seen record breaking temperatures this summer, which inevitably encouraged people to make the most of their weekends. Summer also brings about nostalgia vibes and al fresco experiences. We all love a sing-a-long, so bring on award winning and critically acclaimed musicals to keep us entertained for the rest of the summer:
1.The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre – Award winning adaptation of the Disney’s animated film of the same name, has been going strong since 1999.
2.TINA – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre – One of the most highly anticipated musicals in years, showcases the extraordinary life of a music industry heavyweight.
3.Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre – Inspired by the Oscar-award winning film that brought us the sounds of black America in the 1960s and led to Jennifer Hudson wining the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. If you don’t want to see this one indoors, Block Party Cinema will be screening the original 2006 film, al fresco style on 18th August – tickets available via http://www.blockpartycinema.co.uk/
4.Hamilton: An American Musicalat Victoria Palace Theatre – The critically acclaimed ‘story of America’ drew praise and controversy after casting non-white actors as the founding fathers. The production infuses the sounds of hip-hop, pop and R&B; in 2016 it won 11 Tony awards including Best Musical.
5.The Greatest Love of All Show– A Tribute to Whitney Houston, reminds us of one of the greatest singers of all time, that we lost too soon. This is on tour across the UK.
Before Donald Trump bulldozed into the UK last week, everyone knew there would be drama. Waves of protests in support of and against the US president were seen in England and Scotland.
Donald Trump was only in the UK for a few days, but his presence led to an estimated 250,000 protesters marching through London, along with the famous inflatable ‘Donald Trump baby’. A far-right protest was also happening in the capital and some of those protesters were singing Donald Trump’s praises (of course). Wherever he goes, the Trump effect is palpable.
After criticising UK Prime Minister Theresa May, then sitting down to dinner with her and having tea with the Queen, Trump went to his luxury resort in Scotland for some downtime. However, Scottish protesters made it clear that Trump was ‘not welcome’ in their country because of his views, interpreted as racist and misogynistic.
As the leader of what is said to be the most powerful nation on earth, I get why Trump is constantly served to us on a platter by the media. Usually upon hearing his name I do the classic eye roll and sigh. Sometimes I actually laugh in moments of disbelief at what comes out of his mouth. Trump’s comedic value is up there with the best of them. All jokes aside, I am aware of how dangerous Trump is.
It was a quote from one of the most candid political activists of our time, Angela Davis, that made me think Donald Trump does serve a purpose. While many are repulsed by his views, there is no doubt that Trump has awoken the social consciousness of everyone.
Last year during a speech at Florida Atlantic University, while condemning Trump, Angela Davis stated, “maybe we need a Donald Trump to wake us up”.
Davis has been a political activist for decades and played a key role in the civil rights movement in America. However, it was in the early 1970s that she became infamous after being linked to the ‘Soledad Brothers’ case and listed as a fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list. Davis was imprisoned, but during one of the most captivating trials of its time (hence inspiring a documentary), was exonerated by an all-white jury.
In addition to affiliation with the Black Panther movement and more recently Black Lives Matter, Davis has also been described as a feminist. As a staunch adversary of Trump, at the age of 74, Davis shows no sign of her political activism abating.
There’s no doubt Trump’s presence on the global political landscape has inspired many. Trump inspires his supporters, who claimed they didn’t have a voice before him and everyone else who was wrapped up in apathy but now forced to stand against oppressive ideologies.
We still live in a world where racial narratives are clearly defined and blurred at the same time. Despite some progress in racial equality policy, some of the issues around race that were acute decades ago, are still poignant now.
Many black story tellers have pointed out the similarities and nuances between racial narratives past and present, but when I watched the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro at Block Party Cinema’s Film Club series, it remined me of how racism is driven by mindset. It’s these ideologies that drive the social structures built to oppress the powerless.
I was quite lucky to find The Film Club showing of this award-winning documentary, released in 2016. Upon arrival, there was a DJ’s, street food and the signature beanbags, and just before the film started a brief synopsis was given by the Block Party team. Some of the quotes from the documentary that will stay with me are below, if you’ve seen the documentary which quotes resonate with you? Comment below.
“I was not a Black Muslim, for the same vein, though for different reasons that I did not become a Black Panther, because I did not believe that white people were devils and I did not want the young Black people to believe that.”
“If we were white, our heroes would be your heroes too. Malcolm X would still be alive…when the Israelis or the Poles pick up guns and say ‘give me liberty or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds. When a Black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one. Everything is done to make an example of this bad n**ga so there won’t be anymore like him.”
“All of the Western nations have been caught in a lie: a lie of their pretended humanism. History has no moral justification and the west has no moral authority.
“History is not the past, “It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”
“The world is not white. It can’t be, whiteness is just a metaphor for power“.
What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.
Few writers’ words still resonate thirty years after their death, but James Baldwin was no ordinary writer. It’s believed that Baldwin died of cancer on 1 December 1987 aged 63 while starting, what is now his final manuscript – Remember This House. Comprising only 30 pages at the time of his death, the focus of this manuscript were personal recollections of the lives and assassinations of 3 juggernauts of the civil rights movement in America – Martin Luther King Jr,. Malcom X and Medgar Evers.
The lives of the former two have been compared throughout history. The ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X even came up during the commentary surrounding Marvel’s Black Panther movie, directed by Ryan Coogler. The ideologies of Black Panther (T’Challa – played by Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Kilmonger (played by Michael B Jordan) were likened to the two civil rights activists. Some thought Kilmonger’s desire to arm all oppressed people so they could protect themselves reflected Malcom X’s rhetoric. While T’Challa’s (what some would deem) measured approach was like that of Martin Luther King Jr.
I watched two men, coming from unimaginably different backgrounds, whose positions, originally, were poles apart, driven closer and closer together. By the time each died, their positions had become virtually the same position. It can be said, indeed, that Martin picked up Malcolm’s burden, articulated the vision which Malcolm had begun to see, and for which he paid with his life – James Baldwin in a 1963 TV interview
Medgar Evers died on 12th June 1963; a World War II veteran and university graduate, Medgar Evers was instrumental in overturning segregation laws at the University of Mississippi, public facilities and collating evidence from witnesses in the Emmitt Till murder case. Malcom X died on 21st February 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. died on 4th April 1968. All three of these civil rights activists were killed within a 5 year period and none of them lived to see their 40th birthdays.
In his array of writings and novels where he documents the civil rights movement, Baldwin’s words are still pertinent today. Events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and similar situations, played out over social media is testament to this. When the civil rights movement started there was no social media, now we all have front row seats to witness injustice and oppression. While there has been progress, there is still some way to go for black lives to be seen as equal to others of the human race. There’s still unfinished business to handle…
Clip from 1963 where James Baldwin is asked about his view on the future of America.
“The future of the Negro in this country, is precisely as bright or dark as the future of the country. James Baldwin