I have a laundry list of things I hated about public school. One of those things happens to be the authentic history of America. When it came to history class and when the subject of slavery came around, it went by faster than Sonic the Hedgehog. It was mainly a measly paragraph like: "Yeah, black people were held in captivity for 400 hundred years, Civil War (Not Captain America, folks), Abraham Lincoln, the end." No mention of where the slaves came from, the underground railroad, the mistreatment they had to endure or the fact that they built the White House — and pretty much the country, for that matter.
I did some research on these facts outside of school. Sure, names like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass popped up here and there, but only facts that implied they were slaves and nothing that they achieved. Seriously? You don't mention that Tubman, the greatest female leader in American history, led hundreds of slaves in the underground railroad and did not take any prisoners? When I mention not taking any prisoners, I am talking about the fact that she shot and killed her brother, who did not mind returning to the fields to be a slave. More than likely, your school never acknowledged that, either.
In 2012, a film by Quentin Tarantino was released called Django Unchained, a story about a slave-turned-bounty hunter, but also takes down slave owners. Prior to the release, my mother (a Black Historian herself) mentioned that Tarantino must have took inspiration from the story of Nat Turner. An eyebrow was raised when she mentioned that name. After doing some research, I learned that Nat Turner led one the greatest slave rebellions in history. Think of him as the Aragorn to the slaves. After reading a good book, article or comic, I usually say to myself, "Damn, this would make a an awesome movie." Nat Turner is definitely not a name that gets brought up when it comes to mainstream black history.
Fast forward to today and we can clearly see that that thought has become a reality. The film is titled Birth of a Nation — written, produced, directed and starring Nate Parker. What did my heart good was the fact that after this trailer played before Barbershop 3: The Next Cut to a theater that was majority black, a good chunk of people applauded, myself included. I love, as I am sure studio executives do, too, when moviegoers clap for trailers — it shows that fans take major interest. For example, when Captain America: Civil War had its first trailer drop in front of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans immediately applauded once it was finished. I take it that, just like Civil War, fans are eagerly awaiting a story that hits home.
The crazy thing about the title, is that it mirrors the title of another controversial film made by a racist. In that film, the blacks were depicted by whites by using black face, reinterpreting slavery. Keep in mind, this was early Hollywood, where blacks were not even allowed in the studios, but that still does not justify what they did. Parker pitched this film to major studios, but they turned this man down like a light switch. So, Nate had to get funding from a total of 25 financial backers. Among one of those financial backers is basketball player Tony Parker. It's incredible when you have to solicit outside of your field. Parker debuted this film at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and sold it to Fox Searchlight for $29 million.
However, with every uprise, there comes a downfall. Just a few weeks ago, Nate Parker's past has come back to potentially hurt him and his movie. In 1999, Nate Parker and his screenwriting friend, Jean McGianni Celestin, are said to have raped an unnamed woman, during their time as students at Penn State. Parker was found innocent, while Celestin did time in jail, but was released after the woman failed to show up to a trial. In 2012, oddly enough the same year I did research on Nat Turner, the woman committed suicide. No one knows if it was because of the rape situation or because of something unrelated, but I find it very suspicious that this news is revisited, when one of the biggest slave movies in the history of entertainment is about to release. Here's my stance on the subject, I am so glad Parker was found innocent. How does a woman agree to sexual activity one day and the very next day, say she was raped?
Before news broke about the rape case, Nate Parker and his wife, welcomed their fourth child. I, like many others, had no clue that Parker was married. Not just any kind of marriage, but an interracial marriage at that. Yes, Parker's wife is a white woman. Once that information was released, the black female moviegoers had a field day. Personally, I have not one problem with interracial couples. Hell, I dated black, white, hispanic and Guamanian, that doesn't make me less of a Black man, does it? I am proud supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, as is Parker and I am always fighting for ethnic diversity in many different mediums. If you think Parker did not care about his Black Pride, why is he making a movie about Turner? And why is the media doing everything in their power to demolish Parker and his movie?
Hollywood, located in California, which is in located in America — a country that slaves built — does not want the truth about slavery and the birth of this country revealed. A majority of civil rights and slave movies always have the white savior trope. A white mentor comes along and aids the struggling black person to victory. Look at Django, Roots and 12 Years A Slave. Each one had a white savior. With this film, I think the reason Hollywood turned it down the first time was because there was no white savior. Turner had enough of the nonsense that white folks did to his family and friends, gathered slaves from other plantations and sought out to avenge. Pretty sure that studio executives were not going to green light a movie about a rebellious slave unless he was encouraged by a white man. Why would a white man encourage a slave to annihilate every white person on sight?
I mentioned that Django had a white savior. Nothing is wrong with being assisted. Interestingly enough, after watching Django, I felt so empowered, that I wrote Tarantino himself a letter thanking him for creating such a strong character during a period where blacks were nothing but property. Why I felt so empowered, was because after Shultz bit the dust, Django took everything he taught him and excelled profoundly. Taking down slave captors, wanted criminals and racists. With Nat Turner, that is all his story is about, minus the taking down criminal part, because Turner himself became a wanted man. His name was briefly mentioned in Roots.
Another reason why Hollywood is scared of this film, is because of all the riots going on because of the police shootings of unarmed black men and women. They may feel that after viewing this movie, the riots will get worse. Well, tell the racist police to stop murdering unarmed blacks, then everything will be all fine and dandy.
Comedian Eddie Griffin has gone on record saying, "Black male stars, don't leave this business clean." He is not wrong. Before Michael Jackson passed, he had many allegations of being child molester. Although he was found innocent, the person who accused him admitted that it was false. Bill Cosby, a Hollywood legend, has been accused of raping 40 plus women. Those allegations popped up as soon as news broke that Cosby wanted to purchase NBC. Because the allegations were crucial, Cosby's shows, minus A Different World, were taken off the air, his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame was stripped and HBCUs that he donated money to stripped him of his accolades. Meanwhile, the father from 7th Heaven, Stephen Collins, admitted to being a child molester and 7th Heaven is still on syndication.
Bryan Singer, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are well-known filmmakers who have a history of child molestation and rape allegations, but no one bats an eye about them whenever a film of theirs releases. Granted, I love the X-Men movies and comics and I was not about to let Singer's personal issues sway me away from watching X-Men: Apocalypse, because others worked on the film as well. I fully support Parker. I support him so much so, that I still want him or either Tyrese Gibson to play the Green Lantern, John Stewart, in the upcoming Green Lantern Corps. How come Nate Parker can't get the same treatment as Singer or Allen?
How you personally feel about Nate Parker's situation is totally on you, but I still say that if you want to know the truth about American history and felt short-changed growing up in public school when it came to information about slavery, you should definitely go out and check this movie when it hits theaters this October.
Despite the controversy, will you watch Birth of A Nation?