Brainy Quote of the Day

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

I Am Not Your Negro...

James Baldwin, in the new documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
Dan Budnik/Magnolia Pictures

Topics: African Americans, Civil Rights, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, History, Women in Science

A Facebook post I made responding to some of the president's* supporters wanting a "white history month" (last chance to disengage before the rant):

365 - 28 = 337 freaking days! You freaked out over President Obama when you had 232 years of white male rule that only changed parties. You freaked out on Black Panther, when you had THREE Thor movies. Speaking of which, you freaked out when Idris Elba played Heimdall and Tessa Thompson played Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarök. You lost it when Kate Mulgrew played Captain Janeway on Star Trek Voyager; you had a conniption fit over Avery Brooks as Commander, then Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek Deep Space Nine and you almost had a Grand Mal seizure over Sonequa Martin-Green on Star Trek Discovery! Don’t let me get started on how the sad/rabid puppies attacked NK Jemisin on having the audacity to WIN the Hugo and Nebula Awards for EXCELLENT science fiction that didn't center around gene spliced clones of Buck Rogers, John Wayne, James T Kirk and Han Solo! In other words, how emotionally butt-hurt do you have to be where ANYTHING that doesn’t involve your culture as front-and-center of the plot line is an all-hands-on-deck existential crisis? Get some therapy and switch to Decaf!

Rant over. Read the title and listen to the embed videos. Definition with ramrod straightened back follows. Blog break during spring break next week and the rest of this one to prep for midterms. \\//_

Definition of negritude (Merriam Webster)
1 : a consciousness of and pride in the cultural and physical aspects of the African heritage
2 : the state or condition of being black

The Harlem Renaissance inspired Negritude. Authors such as Claude McKay and Langston Hughes laid groundwork for black expression. Senghor, Damas and Césaire together drew influence from their work. Other artistic influences were jazz and earlier fin-de-siècle poets such as Rimbaud, Mallarmé and Baudelaire.

Negritude responded to the alienated position of blacks in history. The movement asserted an identity for black people around the world that was their own. For Césaire and Damas, from Martinique and French Guiana, the rupture from Africa through the Atlantic Slave Trade was a great part of their cultural understanding. Their work told of the frustration and loss of their motherland. For Senegalese Senghor, his works focused more on African traditionalism. In ways the assertion of each poet diverges from each other, but the combination of different perspectives is also what fueled and fed Negritude. Black Past dot org: Negritude

Fimmaker Raoul Peck's Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro features the work of the late writer, poet, and social critic James Baldwin. Baldwin's writing explored race, class and sexuality in Western society, and at the time of his death in 1987, he was working on a book, Remember This House. It was never completed, but his notes for that project became the foundation for Peck's I Am Not Your Negro.

Among those notes was a letter J Baldwin wrote to his literary agent, Jay Acton, in 1979. In that letter, he wrote that he wanted to explore the lives of three of his civil rights movement contemporaries and close personal friends: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. "I want these three lives to bang against and reveal each other as in truth they did," he wrote, "and use their dreadful journey as a means of instructing the people whom they loved so much who betrayed them and for whom they gave their lives."

Peck had been wanting to make a film about Baldwin for years, but he says it felt like an impossible one to make. When he first read Baldwin's letter, he knew he had the basis for that film. "I had access to those notes, which for me was the real opening I needed to address the film I wanted to make — which was how do I make sure that people today come back to Baldwin and the important writer that he was, and the important words that he have written, and [have] this well-needed confrontation with reality today with words that he wrote 40, 50 years ago?"

The Haitian-born filmmaker has been a fan of Baldwin's writing since he was a teenager. "He helped me understand the world I was in," Peck says. "He helped me understand America. He helped me understand the place I was given in this country."

'I Am Not Your Negro' Gives James Baldwin's Words New Relevance
Mallory Yu, NPR, heard on "All Things Considered"

Related link:

Tamron Hall: Unapologetically black and American, Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

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