Trai Byers Makes Spectacular Debut Below the Line with The 24th
As a young girl, my Mom would tell me multiple stories about my Uncle as he served for the U.S. Army in France. She often times described those days as some of the best of his life and coming back to America was difficult due to the blatant manner in which Black man was treated and disrespected. Funny how some things change, but yet stay the same.
Inspired by true events, in the summer of 1917, White mobs attacked Black communities in East St. Louis, Illinois and Chester, Pennsylvania with horrific acts of violence. In the wake of this tense racial climate, the All-black 24th infantry division arrived in Houston, Texas to guard construction of Camp Logan, 3 miles outside the city.
The Mission of the camp was to train soldiers for service overseas in world war only sending them to France. Only white soldiers would be deployed. The 24th hoped to change that.
This film let’s you know that there are more stories of Black soldiers beside ‘Glory,’ which focuses on the 54th All-Black Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment.
It’s also an amazing showcase for the talent of Trai Byers, Aja Naomi King and Mykelti Williamson. All three provide strong, grounded no holds barred performances which should be seen and revered.
As difficult as these stories are to watch, there are necessary and depict Black people as fully fleshed out human beings with dreams, substance and character. People whose bravery and existence make it possible for a Black woman like me in 2020 to write this today.
It is never lost on me how cruel and inhumane others behave simply because the color of one’s skin makes that same faction of society uncomfortable.
Nothing was more unsettling than watching the scene where a young woman with her child, on her own property, was dragged and beaten because someone didn’t like the way she looked. Or how a bunch of Black men serving our country were hung and murdered because they were simply tired of being treated less than. If you keep pushing a human down, they grow weary and rise up against human injustice.
Funny, that we are still writing, protesting and talking about those very same issues today via Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. When does enough become enough to institute change morally and mentally.
Directed, Written and Produced by Kevin Willmott, The Houston riot of 1917 led to the largest murder trial in American History. Eleven civilians, five policeman and four soldiers were murdered that night. There were two additional trials of members of the 24th. In total, 19 soldiers were executed and 41 were sentenced to life in prison.
As much as I despise being taught the history of my people via cinema and not in the classroom, I’m grateful for the stories being told for a whole new generation to become informed and educated about where they come from.
Produced by Vertical Entertainment in tandem with Willmott and Byers(who also co-wrote the script), The 24th is available to stream via VOD on August 21st.