As a person of color, I have lived to see myself referred to as Colored, Black, African-American and Negro. Do you know why we were called Negro? Then let me hip you to some little known facts… Negro was the terminology most often used to describe us during the 18th century until it fell out of favor in the 70’s. Did you know that Negro is Spanish for “black”. The Spanish language comes from Latin, which has its origins in Classical Greek. The word negro, in Greek, is derived from the root word necro, meaning dead. What was once referred to as a physical condition is now regarded as an appropriate state of mind for millions of Africans.
Now, having said all that, let me introduce you to the prolific documentary… “I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO” written by Harlem Renaissance Legend James Baldwin and directed by Raoul Peck. Each time I have watched this, I walk away thinking the same thing I thought when I watched 13th, Selma, Hidden Figures, Loving and so many other films covering the experience of people of color our country. The more things change…the more they stay the same.
James Baldwin could see this even when he began writing this unfinished piece compiled of his notes chronicling encounters with Medger Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X allowing viewers to explore and experience a fresh, yet familiar narrative of the radical perspective and current tension in America as we knew it then and today.
As Baldwin’s voice reverberates like a relative visiting in a dream, we are reminded, “The thing we think of as the ‘American radical problem’ is not the American racial problem. It’s a crisis of the American Spirit, with race as the excuse. It’s a disease that we must heal or it will destroy us“. After all, it was “that” America that prompted Baldwin to move to Paris, yet return when he felt his voice could be helpful in tempering racists in our country. Yet, at the same time, wanting people of color to be aware and cautious when necessary.
I Am Not Your Negro is a must-see for ALL Americans. Maybe, just maybe, we can finally begin the healing this country so sorely needs. Debuting this fall at The Toronto Film Festival and released in LA and NYC on December 9th. I Am Not Your Negro is set for nationwide release by Magnolia Pictures on February 3, 2017.