Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I Double Dog Dare Ya!
Last night and the night before, I watched two separate documentaries that took the top of my head off. So you know you're gonna hear about 'em. They were both on my local Public Broadcasting channel and they are available online for free even as I write, though my understanding is that they will disappear in fairly short order, so you need to look lively if you're going to get a freebie while simultaneously having your mind blown. I realize this doesn't appeal to everyone, but c'mon now, you're reading this blog. You could invite a few friends over, order some pizza, and watch a double feature. I dare ya. In fact, I double dog dare ya.
Anyway, the first documentary I'm begging you to watch (I know you don't believe by this point that I have any emotional scruples whatsoever) is the visual take on Slavery By Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II" by Douglas Blackmon. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and vaulted Blackmon from his position as a Wall Street Journal Bureau Chief to his current position as Washington Post Contributing Editor and Chair of the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs. I'm just sayin'.
I basically knew the information that the documentary would highlight. In fact, I've been asked to be a guest with a friend of mine who specializes in African-American peonage on a blogtalk radio show later tonight on that specific topic. But the way Slavery By Another Name (the film) is put together and presented is disturbing, to say the least, even if you think you already know everything about how the White Supremacist power structure in the United States has systematically exploited people of color to stay rich and in control to the present. As the credits rolled, I mumbled to nobody in particular, "Well, that was disgusting."
So. At your earliest convenience and my unabashed urging, check your local Public Broadcasting listings or visit this site before it's too late to watch this film. You'll take yourself to the next level of understanding on race relations in America, I promise you. Even if you're Black.
The second documentary thrusts us into the Twenty-first Century as if meant to give us an intellectual and psychological whiplash. First, we are treated to an unapologetic examination of slavery carried into the 1960's (in "Slavery By Another Name") and then we are riveted (in "The Interrupters") by the garish and horrifying results: African-Americans who are so frustrated by their oppression that they attack and even murder each other as rage-filled youth grabbing for shreds of "respect" in a world where they are told they deserve none and never will.
"The Interrupters," if you can imagine it, is about men and women who used to be gang members in Chicago and now walk the streets looking for imminent outbreaks of violence to (get this) interrupt before the flash fire can actually burst into flame. I don't know what your bead on this is, but think about it now. These folks walk around wearing flourescent colored jackets that read Ceasefire Violence Interrupter. They look, listen and sniff around for flickers of rage in people's eyes or voices. They answer terrified phone calls from possible victims, by-standers and even would be perpetrators asking for help even as the situation escalates.
Would you rush to such situations daily, nightly, and repeatedly to defuse a situation that could put you in the hospital (as it does with one of the Interrupters featured in the film) or even in the ground? For real?
The Interrupters' stories and the intimate personal details of the lives of young people who are trying to survive in poor neighborhoods in Chicago where jobs are few, the criminal justice system embedded, and the pain through the roof glued me to my screen. And left me believing -- once more -- that love can win, no matter the odds, and that those who love enough have a courage all their own -- and something to tell the rest of us.
Watch "The Interrupters" here for the present. Or watch the trailer now: