Last weekend I went to see “Get on Up,” the biopic that chronicled the life of James Brown and his career. I thought the movie did a great job of summing up The Godfather of Soul’s colorful life and career and depicting the racism Brown encountered. However, Demetria Mosley, a student I met at NABJ, left the movie theater questioning why a white director, Tate Taylor, was chosen to tell a black story.
“They [white people] know of the inequalities and hardships that black people faced, but can they really relate and understand how it feels,“ wrote Mosley in a movie review for The Monitor .
After reading Mosley’s review, I began to contemplate the decision that was made to remove Spike Lee, the original writer and producer of the James Brown movie, and to replace him with Taylor (bull shit reason for replacement). I questioned if having a black director would have drastically changed the way James Brown’s story was told on the big screen.
This question lay tucked away in my subconscious until it resurfaced at a Mike Brown rally I attended in Raleigh on Sunday, August 17.
“Who controls the black image?” asked a rally speaker to a crowd of about 75 people.
“The media!” yelled the crowd.
“And who controls the media?” asked the speaker.
“White people!” the crowd responded.
And then it hit me. Now I knew why it was so important to Mosley to have a black writer and producer direct James Brown’s biopic. It was about black people having control over our image and telling our story, because who can tell our story better than us?
Victor Tremell, writer for Black Blue Dog, put it perfectly when he wrote:
“Many blacks will probably cry the foul of racism over Brian Grazer’s decision to fire Spike Lee from the job he was given to help tell a black man’s story. However, until more wealthy black people open up more of their own big time movie production studios, they will always be under the thumb of their white counterparts in Hollywood.”
Until black people pull our resources to create black owned media, we will forever be stuck hoping someone funds our projects or retweets and shares our Twitter and Facebook rants. But change is going to require more than a revolutionary hashtag gone viral.
Take for example the organizers of the rally on Sunday. Angel Currie, one of the organizers of the rally, said she met Dequan Bradley, another rally organizer, on twitter. She saw his tweet about wanting to show support for the people in Ferguson and replied to his tweet saying she wanted to help. This was on a Thursday night. Three days and a couple of introductions later, Currie and Bradley, along with Hardy Copeland and Alezro Godley, planned a successful rally in downtown Raleigh that received media coverage by several news outlets.
I preach a lot about minorities creating their own voice, and I admire how one passionate tweet, transpired into the planning and implementation of a rally. Sunday’s rally organizers didn’t just send a tweet, they acted, and I challenge my generation to not just create a voice on social media, but to be a part of a story that can proudly be voiced.
What James and Mike Brown taught me:
“RACISM is more than just hate, it’s a complex system of social and political levers set up, and is a cultural DISEASE.”