Dear White Hollywood

I couldn't help but notice that you have been giving the green light to many black-themed films as of late, films that may be among the greatest of their like in the last ten years–with 12 Years A Slave being among the greatest of them all. And it is not without some hesitation that I dare ask you for much of anything. These moving images are pushing the overall conversation regarding the image of the African American experience in an increasingly positive light, as of late. For the past century people of African descent have been cast stereotypically. We have been portrayed as docile, dim-witted, savage, cowardly, disorganized, inept and largely subservient to white interests, more often than not.

Admittedly, the skilled portrayal of these images has created a class of superior black actors and actresses who stand among the greatest to have ever graced the silver screen: Denzel Washington, Jamie Fox, Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, Forest Whitaker, and of course Will Smith, among others.

We have been the tragic victim, but never the tragic freedom fighter. This is not to disparage any of the magnificent works that have come out of Hollywood as of late. For The Best Man Holiday, Black Nativity and the like, epic attention is required. Slaves fighting for freedom, yes. But what about freedom fighters fighting for freedom, grand epics of the scale of historical theater depicting our grand struggles against racism of our own accord? Stories like Braveheart, Dances With Wolves or even There Will Be Blood. We have our noble tales, just as every one does, white Hollywood. How they pertain to the fighting spirit of the African American against racism in a "martial" manner, though, has never been explored. That is to say featuring wide scale, epic battle scenes. against whites.

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The story on the the lives of Huey P. Newton, Assata Shakur, Eldridge Cleaver or Fred Hampton. To the public at large they may be considered terrorists and criminals. However, just as the south holds its Confederate soldiers dear despite black objections, these brave, self-less individuals are heroes to a great number of African Americans, despite some right wing or conservative African Americans preferring that the world not know of them. These uppity Negroes are not heroes to all. But heroes to many.

As with the noble plight of Native Americans, American immigrants, Chinese and Japanese legends, we were prideful fighters as well. The cinematic impact of images on the American mind cannot be overstated, however. I understand that images of black people being portrayed as violent toward white people is still a very touchy subject matter in this country. But the lives of people such as Nat Turner, Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton do deserve attention. These are the tragic would-be Nelson Mandela's of the African American resistance. Their stories require big budget treatment, and I fear that only someone of Stephen Spielberg's tier would be skilled enough enough to do it and make it a blockbuster.

For a black director to pull off such a feat alone would require massive collaboration within black Hollywood. As you may have heard, A-list black Hollywood directors tend to get on each other's nerves. Collaboration would be nice, but highly unlikely. The kick starter for this would be enormous.

Any director who would dare take up the task would need to be somewhat removed from the subject matter to be objective. The reason I am asking this of you, white Hollywood, is because black Hollywood may not have the clout to pull off these stories on an epic scale as of yet. We're talking $100 million range here. Only white Hollywood can afford to at this time.

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The story of a last stand. A fight to the death. A tragic tale of struggle against all odds that failed, but is worthy of the telling. The story of the Native Seminoles fighting alongside runaway slaves during the First Seminole War has American frontier written all over it.

The scope would need to truly be epic to be fully encompassed. These tales are as quintessentially American as Custer's Last Stand. Causes that dare be told in a bold manner. They are part of the very spirit of America. A revolutionary cause. Yes, it is necessary that the slave story be told, and it has been told repeatedly as of late with Django and the aforementioned masterpiece offering of 12 Years A Slave, but the fight for freedom continued after slavery. We did take up arms against the establishment and they were put down. However, the overall telling would be somewhat cathartic to both whites and blacks. We weren't just victims in all theaters of the American experience. We were fighters.

Telling these stories can be crafted beautifully and honorably. An African American director might be too emotionally attached to the subject matter to be totally honest. Every bullet, every bloody death, and every grizzled detail needs to be explored. There are those who will point to Glory and Red Tails as examples of Hollywood's attempts at showing historically accurate depictions of black heroism, leadership under fire, grit and guile.

While each were high quality they didn't necessarily meet the criteria fighting outside of, and against, the personal interests of the white establishment-just as Mel Gibson's William Wallace fought against the English establishment in Braveheart. And despite the quality of George Lucas' Red Tails, people did not show up to see it. Perhaps the familiar subservient theme was too familiar. Yes, the Tuskegee Airman have been portrayed with fighting spirits, bravery and resolve. But in a war that was ultimately fought for America and not necessarily for black people.  Besides, white Hollywood has been making money off images of blacks getting their asses kicked. Can we have some realistic images of us doing the striking instead of being constantly struck?

If you want a real slice of black Americana, then those are your stories. Sounds crazy, yes, I know. However, it's crazy enough where it just might work. Unfortunately, it simply would not be in the best interest of any black Hollywood director to tell such a story. Malcolm X, in my humble opinion, is an American cinematic masterpiece.

If, say, Ron Howard would have done it, Oscar norms would have rained from the sky. But because it was from a black hand, a conservative audience might be quicker to disregard these stories as false history or biased retelling. They are hot button stories. Do you dare tell a story of Nat Turner or John Brown on an epic stage? These were noble fighters of noble causes and would would add on to the overall tapestry of the American fighting spirit.


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