We should watch a movie about a young boy in Florida who gets caught up in the African-American experience and his struggles. We should find another movie dealing with gang violence in New Jersey. We should watch a movie about a young white male who gets tangled up in gang violence in Queens. We should watch a movie about a black man working in a factory in Flint Michigan and he learns to embrace his humanity and his vulnerability. We should watch a movie about an American doctor in Boston who treats a man who gets hit by a truck in a parking lot and how he deals with it. We should watch a movie about an African-American writer named Toni Morrison in Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we should watch a movie about African men who are working in the coal mines of Eastern Kentucky. And then maybe we should start watching a movie about the African American soldier named Desmond Doss and what it is like to be black in uniform. Or on the front lines in Afghanistan. Or the battlefields of the Second World War.
We should watch a movie that speaks about what it really means to be African American for African Americans, and not about being black for the sake of being black and no other reason other then it appeals to black audiences.
We should watch a movie with an African American lead in it. We should watch a movie with a black main character. We should watch a movie where the protagonist is an African American man. We should listen to a movie where his actions are not in relation to another race that he is in conflict with or doesn’t know how to interact or is being made to feel like a second class citizen. We should also listen to stories with African-American leads told by black actors about his experiences.
We should listen to books about African Americans including a book with an African American protagonist in it.
It should be a film with at least one African American director and maybe two of them with African American leads.
And finally, a movie about the African American community, its experiences, and challenges from a black man’s perspective.
I’m so excited and proud of what the film industry has made, but I want more. I want to watch more movies with African American leads, where their struggles are actually the main focus of the story, and they are not simply a means by which a white character to further his agenda. And I want there to be more films with African American lead actors who are actually out on the streets playing a key role in the stories so that we all understand that in their own way, African Americans are not a commodity for the market to commodify and use as a means to generate financial value. I want to watch more films where the African American characters have depth and struggle and the actual struggle of being African American isn’t just about what the white audience is looking for in a film but that the film itself represents the struggle that the black community goes through. And the more and more we try to capture a larger African American community that really exists and does not exist in some sort of manufactured bubble in order to sell their art, the more we show ourselves as not a commodity that can be resold, but a dynamic and unique and unique human individual.
I know that I’m not alone in wanting to see more and more African-American films. I know that I don’t think I’m alone in this either.
I know that I’m not alone in needing these films more than I’ll ever know what to say to one of my favorite actors. I know that I’m not alone in being curious what it’s doing for me in this moment in my life.
And I know that I’m not alone to think that it’s worth the effort. It’s worth it even if I’m an old white man with 20 years of film history sitting at his computer telling me that it’s not worth my time and my money that I’m not interested in the film. You must be one of the people out there wondering why I’m not giving it more of a chance. I apologize in advance if you’re reading this and you either don’t know me or you hate the idea of finding a film with a black leads that doesn’t appeal to you and therefore the possibility of seeing the film to be one of the reasons that you don’t give it more of a chance. This is just something I’ve come to in the last two months.
It’s been two years since I saw ‘The Help’ . I wanted to come back this year to see if everything has really changed for this film since 2012, so I started digging. It’s still true that, outside the film, there are very few African American characters who seem to be given a chance. The very first African-American character in a major film that I know was ‘Empire’ was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That film had great chemistry between David Oyelowo and Samuel L. Jackson, but it still didn’t feel like I’m seeing a real African-American character