Are positive black male leads endangered in film?
Despite the belief that there aren’t enough positive roles or representations of Black men in media, this year I noticed that there ARE. Movies like 12 Years a Slave, Fruitvale Station, and Mandela, have rose to the occasion to provide a vision of the Black man in different eras.
All of these movies are based on true stories, where Solomon Northup, Oscar Grant, and Nelson Mandela are Black men who despite the tragic events that took place in their lives, have remained as pure as gold. Each in their own way, have placed their mark in history, affecting the lives around them.
These Black men who were incarcerated, racially profiled, and dehumanized, have shown their ability to rise ABOVE the oppressor creating stories that may shed a tear but with pride. Pride knowing that our scars heal with time and the ability to continue these stories, informing our youth and the country that we can be anything to YOU but we will not be BROKEN.
I recently wrote about how religion played a part in 12 Years a Slave, after reading blogs and subject titles that expressed a need to discard all the slave movies. I didn’t touch on the matter because I felt that these opinions are for the misguided and misinformed.
Black people understand, slavery can NOT and should NOT be erased from our history. It shouldn’t be swept under the rug, regarded as “Oh that happened SO long ago,” when it still affects us today. They make movies about the Holocaust still because it’s something in history that have affected the lives of generations to come.
And when I write our history, I mean AMERICAN history. It IS hard to see a reenactment that could probably never suffice to the events that actually took place in that time, but it is something that reminds us that it was wrong, it has affected us, and we must come out of the fire alive. Not burned, left with scars or denying that the slave era happened, but learning from it, and growing FROM it.
America has a way of making Black history feel unimportant and by saying that there shouldn’t be movies about the slave era. To me, it’s as if they feel that it isn’t important. They don’t include it in our studies, there’s no banners waving in the air that says “Remember 1865.” When in actuality it was the very means of this country’s survival. It helped construct the society we see today.
When the reenactments of slavery, injustice, or racial profiling makes you feel uncomfortable, sad, empathetic, disgusted or just angry, these emotions make you HUMAN. ONLY a human being can be disgusted by the injustice, the brutality, and oppression another group of human beings have faced.
I commend the directors, actors, all the contributors who took the time to bring these men stories to the screen, to life, captivating us with their performances. It’s so easy to share the typical stigmas of Black men, shaking our heads and wondering if we’ll ever see something positive. Open up your eyes, research, check out the independent films and artists who WANT to show you something positive. Or do better, create it YOURSELF.
The media is a contradicting character that will play any side, but that last side it will play is yours.
Please check out lead actor of “Fruitvale Station,” Michael B. Jordan, express his take on the role as Oscar Grant and attiudes towards Black men with Oprah. Also check out the interviews with Idris Alba of “Mandela” and Chiwetel Ejiofor of “12 Years a Slave.”
Be sure to add these movies your collection.