What the World Needs Now Is Not Another Slave Story, Part I: The One Story We Cannot Stop Telling Ourselves
Could 2019, exactly 400 years since slavery and its twin offspring of racism and discrimination, be the year in which racism in America dies?
This is … interesting, yes?
When Star Wars came out in 1977 with A New Hope, it spawned a new era of science fiction feature films (e.g., Star Trek, Avatar) and gave birth to a new industry, a new time, the new ways. The Star Wars franchise would go on to produce some of the most powerful commercial films of all time (The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi are some of the highest grossing films of all time).
An argument can be made that Star Wars perhaps killed (or at least put in its casket) another genre of American filmmaking: The Western. Although, arguably, Unforgiven, Tombstone, and Dances with Wolves, or to a lesser extent Kevin Costner’s Open Range and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, gave vitality to the genre just as it seemed moribund. Star Wars changed not only the way America (whose most powerful export is her culture) and the world see themselves, it was storytelling that changed the world. Star Wars helped create the future that is now. Those stories spawned a generation of fans who would go on to invent the internet, mobile phones, and social media. Now, no less, we live in an age in which a Supreme Leader with Sith Lord tendencies (Capitalism) is opposed by The Resistance (the people or Democracy).
In these instances, the systems and ideologies of racism are more powerful than those of capitalism.
When Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather debuted, it was a singular movie that redefined the American cinematic experience in a manner so thorough it can be argued that The Godfather along with Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (“greed is good,” right?) was the birth of the American modern movie, or certainly the 19th century opus which celebrates The Art of the Deal, or certainly set the table for a reality television Trump Presidency. However, before The Fast and the Furious or Star Trek film franchises would go on to Part VII and possibly X, there was The Godfather and The Godfather Part II demonstrating that the only constant in masterful storytelling are the fundamentals: the development of characters, thematic constructs, setting, and smart plotting. The rest is just smoke and mirrors, or CGI and superheroes.
However, the singular coup de grâce of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther stuns the world with its reinvention of the normative of American storytelling; moving American, global, and African culture from the stagnant decay of rot represented by not only the Trump administration but also the American soul. To be sure, Black Panther is creating a cotton … a black excellence industry of stories of our kings and queens and those empires of antiquity. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan themselves already are in early discussions to produce a movie about the ancient king and wealthiest man in history, Mansa Musa (of the wealthy Kingdom of Mali). Hill Harper is co-producing a new Egyptian film trilogy, Protector of the Gods. In 2013, Nick Cannon said through Twitter that he wanted to see more films about African kings and queens, long before the release of Black Panther.
The Afrofuturism projected by author Octavia Butler, cosmologist Sun Ra, visionary Renee Cox, and symphonic and galactic composer George Clinton and his Funkadelic are now. However, rather than destroying the modern equivalent of The Western or The Slave Story, it metastasizes, reinvigorates, and launches a new cotton industry of Slave Stories.
Former Lionsgate executive (the same studio which brought us the whitewashed, controversial Gods of Egypt and its predecessor Exodus: Gods and Kings) Mark Amin will direct a movie, Emperor, a Civil War-era historical drama from his production company, Sobini Films. Reginald Hudlin, producer of Django Unchained, will produce this neat little film treat as well. The Escape of Prisoner 614 looks as if it will proof out Michelle Alexander’s neo-slavery precepts in her 21st Century opus, The New Jim Crow. And there is the remake of Gordon Parks’ classic Superfly due out June 15th, 2018. Now, the idea of pimps and hoes and entrepreneurship was cutting edge in the 1970s when the iconic Gordon Parks came out with the all-time classic Super Fly, but in the 21st century, isn’t it just a retread?
The technology of racism may be more powerful than those of capitalism, but are they more powerful than the systems of love?
The sole instance in which capitalism does not vanquish all other concerns, the only time in which green is not more permanently significant than black or white, is when Black Panther is the third highest grossing film in North American box office history and is the second fastest grossing movie of all time? In this instance, as when the first African American president resuscitates the nation from the brink of economic collapse, the racism of America devolves into a form more toxic and vitriolic than any since the 1960s. In these instances, the systems and ideologies of racism are more powerful than those of capitalism.
Is it any wonder we can’t shake the conflict … the tribulation that is nearly 400 years old from 1619? Could 2019, exactly 400 years since slavery and its twin offspring of racism and discrimination, be the year, however, in which racism in America dies? (It is always darkest before the dawn.) Or it is, at least, laid in its casket? Will Americans ever live to the creeds in their Declaration of Independence and Constitution: All (wo)Men are Created Equal?
The technology of racism may be more powerful than those of capitalism, but are they more powerful than the systems of love? No, seriously, Love Almighty, outside those clichés of tree hugging, meditation, and yoga practices?
Ahhhhh, the technology of racism: a 400-year-old beast growls. There is an absolute balance in the cosmic energy of the universe. So, the ancestors and spirits sigh—Ahhhhh, yes. We will come together as a humanity in a manner hereto unseen. We have the fortitude. We have the multitudes. We have the love. Yes, yes, yes.