It always fascinates me how many interesting and prominent American figures, particularly people of color, are regularly excluded from the narratives found in textbooks and school history lessons. I am astounded when I learn of someone whom I feel should have been an integral part of my early education and whose contributions and works I should be fully aware of by now. Most recently, I experienced this when the whole MHP team went together to see the new Oscar-nominated documentary film, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO.
Before seeing the film, I only had a vague idea of who James Baldwin was and the impact his writings continue to have today. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is a film by Raoul Peck that tells the story of James Baldwin’s unfinished thirty-page manuscript, Remember This House, in which he recalls the legacy of civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. The film also explores Baldwin’s experience and pays critical attention to the history of race relations in America. For me, it was interesting to see how Baldwin's experience as a black man in America during the Civil Rights Movement paralleled struggles we still face today, as well as what has since changed. I appreciated hearing Baldwin’s honest opinion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and their approaches in dealing with race relations during the Civil Rights Movement.
This film introduced me to the mind of an intelligent, thought-provoking, and influential man. It is moments like this that I am not only fully conscious, but also grateful of how significant and valuable documentary filmmaking is. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is a very powerful film and I would encourage everyone to see it.
Marjan Koffa is the Outreach & Distribution Intern at Meridian Hill Pictures and a recent college graduate from The Catholic University of America. During her time at Catholic, she majored in Media Studies with a concentration in production where she had the opportunity to create a documentary short for her senior thesis entitled TOKEN. Her film explores the frustration, compromises, and joys of black students at their Predominantly White University. Inspired by her studies and internship, Marjan plans to pursue documentary filmmaking.