Conversation on Black Film

Conversation on Black Film


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



We “betrayed” them? My God, what could have brought that out. There’s a

simple kind of simplicity in the sentiment. A kind of unconscious blindness.



Films on DVD


Barber Shop / Woman, Thou Art Loosed / Amistad / Crash /

Hustle and Flow

/ Tupac / Douglass


Sugar Cane Alley  / Malcolm XGet on the Bus / Bowling for Columbine  Sankofa /Daughters of the Dust


Lumumba / Sometime in April / The Agronomist  /  Black Orpheus


*   *   *   *   *


Conversation on Black Film

Spike Lee Will Do Film on Katrina Disaster

With Jerry, Miriam, Dennis, Ben, and Herbert


Miriam: Everybody’s jumping in. Spike Lee is planning a film on the Katrina disaster, according to reports. I guess Spike beat out Michael Moore. . . .

Rudy: Miriam, I have quite lost faith in the social benefits of black film. And I have no confidence in the ability of Spike Lee films to raise consciousness in a focused way that will deliver real social benefit. Despite it all, I find the little fellow quite a general, and very amusing, a way to while away the time until something of serious import arises.

Miriam: You and me both with regard to Spike Lee, though a few Black films have some redeeming merit.  While in Memphis, I had intended to see one, C. S. A. (Confederate States of America), by a Black filmmaker and professor of media & Af Am Studies at the U. of Kansas.  His film, according to reviews, explores the thesis—what if the Confederacy had won the Civil War.  It’s supposed to be a provocative study of race and racism, US-style, and it opened last week in only two cities—Memphis and Charlotte.

Rudy: I think such a film idea is quite extraordinary. I had thought that thought. Well, not exactly. But I had thought: what if there had been no Civil War, what if the nation had allowed necessity to kick in, how long could slavery have lasted, and might not a more organic end to slavery have left us in a better place—psychologically and materially.

I was surprised when I read the words of the wife of a slaveowner who felt their servants had “betrayed” them by the joyous welcome of the Northerners. A state of mind, I suspect common among certain Southern classes. I found the notion shocking. We “betrayed” them? My God, what could have brought that out. There’s a simple kind of simplicity in the sentiment. A kind of unconscious blindness. But nevertheless, there is something in it. The South had some benefits in sentiments that the North did not provide, that had worth and value.

The outrageous arrogance of Southern whites, I suspect, could not have been mollified except by violence. The only question in mind is what form or what time and with whom would the violence take place and what military support would the northern or anti-slavery states have provided to an independent South. Cut off from the North, isolated from the Old World, the retardation in the westerly movement of capital, may have provided us (our black we) an opportunity to win our freedom by more honorable means, and in our own name or as Southerners, rather than in the name of the Union and the North.

If the white South had better statesmen, fewer crass gentlemen, more visionary and less military-minded citizens, Southern leaders might have followed the British and offered the servants freedom and land, if war with the North was indeed a necessity. On the whole they were rather stupid men. That tradition has continued. And our oppression continues.

Until I see the film, I withhold judgment. I hope this filmmaker hasn’t screw up a good idea. I hope it is more about us than Southern whites.

Miriam: Michael Moore, on the other hand, puts his money where his mouth is.  I’m sure he’ll come up with a much more credible film, but that’s not his main concern right now.  Spike Lee is just a crass opportunist and lime lighter.

Rudy: I know little or nothing about Michael Moore. I have never seen any of his films. He is indeed provocative and he seems to use his money for left-wing activities. I will say this: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But let me add: I have no intentions on paying any money to see a Michael Moore film. There’s a greater chance I will pay to see a Spike Lee film, and I have little or no interest in his work.Miriam: You’ve missed some provocative films.  Bowling for Columbine hit the nail on the head—White-initiated violence in America against poor people in depressed neighborhoods;  and the last one (forgot the title) that nails Bush & his cronies.  To my mind films can often serve as the basis for very fruitful discussions about significant issues, and they are definitely a way to reach young people who’ve been brought up on t.v., films, and other forms of mass media.  You certainly can’t discount the impact of Sankofa and Daughters of the Dust.

Rudy: I am not trying to discourage anyone at all from seeing whatever films amuse them. I want to see a film that tells me something I don’t know, that I have yet to experience. I did not see Sankofa, and I suspect I have not suffered irreparable damage. I suppose I am not yet ready for it. I did see Daughters of the Dust. I had difficulties figuring what it was about. It was almost as dense as Oprah’s Beloved. It does have aesthetic qualities I find appealing, especially its emphasis on the physical beauty of black people. It also has a vague reappraisal of forms of black culture and black historicity.

The pacing annoyed me. Overall, the film fails for me, but it was indeed a very good effort. Spike Lee’s films first brought my attention to the beauty of black people on/in film. It was wonderful There was great promise in his early films. But his subsequent work falls short. It is probably exceedingly difficult to be great director, writer, and actor—all at once.

My disregard of most films is an individual peculiarity. It is rare that I go to the movies. Baltimore used to have neighborhood theaters that showed films. That came to an end soon after 1968. One must travel to the suburbs to see the latest films from Hollywood. There are two white theaters within Baltimore that show films—the Belvedere and the Charles. Both are geared for a non-black audience.

Sometimes the Charles has left-wing films and foreign films, and documentaries. I saw a documentary film on Fidel that I enjoyed, the one in which the dove lands on Fidel’s shoulder when he made his first public speech after the Revolution. That was quite amazing. But the Charles seeks a white audience. There are no black theaters.

I don’t have a vcr or a dvd player; nor cable. So that too cuts down on the opportunities to view film. I received a 160-minute tape As an Act of Protest from Melissa Dymock and Dennis Leroy Moore, an urban guerilla film. They made it for about $50,000, primarily financed and produced by Dymock, with Moore as director and actor and writer. I thought it was an excellent first effort. It needs some editing.

There’s considerable overwriting. This film was made on blood, sweat, and tears—great sacrifices by all participants. It sets a remarkable example of what wonders can result from cooperation and collaboration. Because of all of these factors I would rate its value higher than Daughters of the Dust, even though As an Act of Protest, still needs work. I say this also because basically it has a more urgent message that speaks to urgent issues, namely, the criminalization of black men and police brutality.

Another independent film I received and viewed was by Mya B. I suspect that it was too made on a shoestring budget. Again, a young director. But this time a documentary film on sexuality, cutting new ground. I liked it and wrote a review, Exploring Sexuality from a Black Perspective. I thought that it too was a good effort, a good start. I am certain these efforts are representative of many on-going efforts now taking place because of new development within digital technology. Last summer at his home on his Mac, Kalamu shared with me work he too had done with film—his students’ work; a commissioned film on date rape; and scenes of a longer film.

These efforts need more support – from teachers and professors and pastors and businessmen, and all of us. More and more are entering the field. I like what Kola Boof has done in self-promotion and self-identification. So I think that black film is reaching another stage in its development. Mastery of the camera and film techniques, we have gotten that down. But there’s more, and I think more will come, and more excellence and more relevance.

The writing will get better, the drama will gain greater depth, meanings become more poignant, acting will become less self conscious and more natural and more exploratory, themes will gain in breadth, and novel ways of distribution and dissemination will be developed. A lot of it will be done because it needs to be done, not for profit, but for community, for consciousness sake, for liberation. So, in short, that which I really want to see and experience has yet to be produced. I’m hopeful

Herbert: Yes, I think films can be very fruitful and lead to wonderful discussions with young people. Miriam, I enjoyed all the films you mentioned. I would also add Euzhan Palcy’s Sugar Cane Alley as an example of a very fine film deserving of critical attention.

My real problem with As an Act of Protest was the inability of the Director/Writer to balance the aesthetic with the political. Its message was just too overt.

I am sorry, but I very much enjoy going to the “Charles.”   It’s one of the few places here in B-more to see a good foreign film or any other alternative films.

Jerry: Rudy, I would trust Charles Burnett or Julie Dash to do a post-Katrina film  I do like much of Spike Lee’s work, but his New York cum Morehouse persona or ego attitudes often prevent him from being analytical enough. 

Some of us should suggest that all proceeds from the film be used to build housing for the citizens of the Ninth Ward.  They have been objectified rashly and unfairly.  Filmmakers and media pundits need to take Human Relations 101: HOW TO TREAT DISPLACED PERSONS AS YOUR EQUAL.

Rudy: I do not trust Charles Burnett. He butchered the Nat Turner documentary and after agreeing to respond to Questions for Charles Burnett he balked and we never got an answer. Poor Charles is not his own man; nor a man of the community. I might trust Julie Dash, though I do not know her, nor have I had any dealings with her. Daughters of the Dust was good.

Here’s a curious social analysis by Martin Kilson. Instead of speaking of the black poor, he refers to them as “weak-sector Black Americans”:

Achieving a multi-dimensional Black elite-cooptation pattern will require what might be called a “Neo-Black Communitarianism.” By this term, I mean mobilizing liberal and progressive elements in Black Civil Society Agencies – in women’s clubs, clergy organizations, fraternal organizations and sororities, churches, labor unions, professional associations , etc. – that cultivate what I call a “Black-awareness ethos”. 

A “Black-awareness ethos” is an outlook that puts the needs of the weak-sector Black Americans at the center of overall 21st century African-American concerns. The weak-sector of Black Americans amounts to perhaps 40% of African-American households today. This weak-sector of Black Americans was rudely and graphically brought to national and world visibility by the Katrina Hurricane devastation of Black lives in New Orleans. (Black Commentator

It is all a bit stiff and scholarly for my taste. But it is true we need a program to liberate the black poor. Film makers should keep this in mind. Kilson, however, expects too much out of the structures and organizations that now exists and he depends too much on the 9000 elected officials keeping “the weak-sector Black Americans at the center of overall 21st century African-American concerns.”  

But these politicians know too well who votes and who doesn’t and from whence their campaign funds come. In short, we have here too much sociology and not enough common sense honest and openness.

Jerry: Amen, Rudy. Kilson is tripping.

Miriam: You’ve hit on one of my passions–film, and especially the works of Black writers, actors, and directors, because, in my view, it’s one of the most creative and provocative art forms.

Although I don’t have cable and seldom watch Hollywood-type features on t.v., I have always been interested in films and their history, from the early productions of Oscar Micheaux to the blaxploitation films of Melvin Van Peebles (which I criticized as demeaning to Black people), to the more progressive works of Gordon Parks & Charles Burnett to the current features of John Singleton, Haile Gerima, Spike Lee and others. 

I did not like Lee’s first film “She’s Gotta Have It,” because I thought it was a male fantasy of female desire, rather crudely executed;  in fact, bell hooks summed it up for me in her brilliant critical essay, “Whose Pussy Is This?” which was required reading in one of my grad classes.  I detested “Jungle Fever” and refused to see “Bamboozled,” both of which depicted Blacks in stereotypical fashion.  To my mind, Lee’s best films are “Malcolm X” and “Get on the Bus,” and, from what I’ve heard, “Four Little Girls,” about the children who were murdered in Birmingham.  But I don’t think too much of Lee as a filmmaker; most of his stuff is commercial and White-oriented in spite of his posturing to the contrary.

I am a devotee of foreign films, and, yes, Herbert, Black Shack Alley, directed by Euzhan Palcy is excellent.  She does a fine job of remaining true to the characters and themes—racism, poverty, classism—of the novel Rue Cases-Nègres.  Haile Gerima, though an Ethiopian, has done a remarkable job in understanding African American language and culture in both Sankofa and the film on Sterling Brown.  Did you know that his wife is also a filmmaker?  Another of my favorites is Raoul Peck, a Haitian who lived for a while in the Congo.  His Lumumba is a powerful, well-executed masterpiece, and his recent Sometime in April” is a moving docudrama about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

As you know, Herbert, from Françoise’s book on African film, that continent has produced some excellent cinematographers who are examining problems that plague their countries:  religious strife, poverty, class divisions, colonialism, etc.  The National Museum of African Art offers free films by directors from Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, etc.  Two years ago, when Mali was featured in the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival, the film series presented several works on the Dogon people, their history and culture. 

Of course Senegalese Ousmane Sembène is a master of the medium whose works often deal with social and political issues.  His latest, Moolade, for example, examines the subject of genital mutilation.  The Black British filmmaker Isaac Julian is also extremely talented.  I showed his Looking for Langston about homoeroticism during the Harlem Renaissance, in one of my graduate classes and invited other students & profs to attend.  It created the background for a provocative discussion about homophobia in the Black community.

And, oh, my God, don’t even get me started on Cuban films:  the early work of Afro-Cuban Sara Gómez, films by Gutiérrez—The Last Supper, Lucía, and Memories of Underdevelopment—and the recent work of Gloria Rolando.  I showed her spiritual-erotic film on Santeria at a conference, and one of my up-tight friends/colleagues (who’s married to a Baptist minister) walked out when Ochún rose up out of the water in all of her bare-chested beauty. 

Rolando personally presented her film on Assata Shakur at Howard a few years ago, and her most recent film debuted this summer at the newly-renovated Tivoli Theatre.  You’re right, Rudy, most of the theaters have moved out to the suburbs, but developers are beginning to renovate neighborhood theaters like the Tivoli on 14th St., which has been closed since the riots of the ’60s.  Even when these theaters reopen, though, I very seldom see our folk at significant Black films. 

Of course, they rush to see Barber Shop and Woman, Thou Art Loosed, but seldom attend even thought-provoking, Hollywood-produced films such as Amistad‘ and this summer’s Crash.  In fact, most of my friends don’t attend films;  I can count the ones who do:  Sandra, my friend whom you met, Acklyn, writer Marita Golden, a Memphis friend who has a tremendous film collection, and that’s about it. 

I like to organize theater and film parties.  This summer, I took 8 friends to see

Hustle and Flow

,” which was directed by a Memphian and filmed in that city.  Afterwards, I served dinner and we critiqued the film. As expected, they came down hard on the characters (pimps and prostitutes), who were depicted as real people, poor and struggling to make it, with some dignity and self respect.

Then, Black filmmakers have produced some tremendous documentaries, such as Tupac, one on Du Bois, and another on Douglass for PBS.  Did either of you see Black Is, Black Ain’t by the terrific Black filmmaker, a New Orleanian, who died a couple of years ago of AIDS?  I used his film in my Intro. to the Black Experience class to examine the issues of racial and gender identity.

Films can be an important educational tool, but students have to learn how to analyze and critique films, as well as to develop their own standards of evaluation.  Personally, I don’t like films that are too didactic; I prefer subtle sociopolitical messages that are conveyed through highly crafted art forms.  Like poets, painters or potters, cinematographers should hone their skills to produce films or documentaries that provoke thought and capture the imagination. 

Oh, I forgot to mention a tremendous documentary, The Agronomist, which traces the life of a Haitian radio journalist who sacrificed his life (he was assassinated) to take the truth to poor Haitian peasants.  If you get a chance, please see that film.  It was produced (funded) by writer Edwidge Danticat and musician Wyclif (I forgot his last name).

Herbert, did you see that last Cuban film that I recommended to you, about the Cuban-American who returned to the island in search of his roots?

Other films that are definitely worth seeing:  The Learning Tree, Black Orpheus (a Brazilian film which I’ve seen 5 times), and Eve’s Bayou. There are a lot of others, but my mind is tired.

I haven’t seen  As an Act of Protest, but will check it out.

Rudy: Most of the films and directors you name I am familiar. But I have not seen the films and most of them seem to be foreign films. I like very much the idea of film parties. When I was a child, there was my uncle who acquired films and showed them in the community and for a modest fee one could see black films and black cowboys. The nearest theater was ten miles away and one was required if colored sit in the balcony. So I liked very much this kind of community initiative.

This approach the producer and the director of As an Act of Protest  had in mind. But they never figured out how to implement it. I tried to find a venue in Baltimore to show the film, but failed. I did show it to a small group. But those who made the film have not made a dime off all the work they put into it. Kalamu, I believe, is trying to figure out a way to at least preview these kinds of films in cyberspace. There is a website that does something like this for African film. Maybe such film promoting groups is something that needs some work and development within our communities.

We probably also need to develop more writers and critics of film who can develop a taste among our teachers and other professionals and the masses in general for the kinds of films you have named.

Dennis: Thanks, Rudy for the mention. I will email Miriam this week and properly introduce myself. Protest is playing here in Berlin and I showed some footage of my work in progress God at 4AM Blues here at the Kunsthaus Tacheles. A very different work than Protest , but it seems to be going well. If you speak to Miriam inform her I will try my best to send her a VHS by next month or so.  I would love her to see it.

A great deal of what she wrote is true, true, true. And what you mention about black film critics is very true, they should champion and help promote the works of black auteurs instead of opting to crtitique the Hollywood trash. It is hard without formal critiques at times because it is one of the only ways to grow.

And most real black art filmmakers are unknown, marginalized, or pushed aside because their films are not geared towards ENTERTAINMENT. That is another essay I have been trying to write for ChickenBones along with my Wilson piece, which I am still penning.  

Rudy: maybe these email discussions will have some effect. I have been posting them on ChickenBones and I have created an entire page for the links of the discussions — Conversations with Kind Friends. Maybe people will be more enabled to follow the discussions. I have put them in a kind of dramatic (dialogue) form, as if they occurred all together. I liked very much also the idea of film parties. The problem still is how to get money back to the filmmaker when one is also trying to avoid the old commercial routes.

Dennis: Yeah, the old commercial routes – you said it…the stories I could tell. Well, you have heard them all before anyway. . . . I am headed back now to the city center to screen some footage of my new experimental film. No one understood the first ten minutes of it (which in the case of the form of the film is actually a compliment) and the damn video projector over-heated. Second time that has ever happened to me…wonder what that means!

The movie is structured like a musical composition; I refer to it as a chamber film or a sonnet – because of the “un-standard” format I edited and collated the scenes. That is bit of a mouthful, I know, but I have been energized lately because of the different points of view the film explores (in a series of six fragmented scenes, they play throughout a total of three times. The first sequence, the movie focuses on one character, the second time it is the same scene – but with reverse shots – focusing on the other character, and so forth.)

I thought about you a lot because I know you appreciate progress, experimentation and can relate to that sort of “blind discovering” or risk taking – like when you are not sure of how one of your poems will come out when you are, especially, attempting a new style.

Anyway, brother, everything you are doing is positive and progressive. I love it. I emailed Miriam and agreed that film parties are great. I used to do that all the time when I was directing plays and living in Harlem and before I made As an Act of Protest. Showed all kinds of independent and Black films. Most of the time the reception was not good – but there were some moments that really sent us reeling (no pun intended) – when everyone was in sync – just as audience members. A beautiful thing.

Conversations with Kind Friends is a wonderful idea…so much to do, Rudy, but we do what we can. But as a filmmaker, I applaud you personally – because you understand and empathize the problems we face just in terms trying to spread the word, advertise, distribute, and raise funds. People give lip service to the overall issue, but most don’t really understand.

Miriam: Dennis, I was very excited to receive your message and delighted that Rudy had forwarded to you my hastily-written, subjective piece on Black films.  It is so good to know of you, your work in theater and film (as writer & director), and your future projects.  I did not know about As An Act of Protest, so I shall check out the reviews on ChickenBones and the other sites that you mentioned.

From the synopsis that you sent me, it seems like a very provocative and stimulating work of art, radical and modernistic in its conception and execution.  You bring a wealth of training and experience to your work, which is most impressive.  (I, too, am a devotée of John Cassavetes & Ingmar Bergman.  In fact, I saw Bergman’s latest film, starring Liv Uhlman, just a couple of weeks ago.)

I retired from UMBC in 1999, so I can no longer tap into university resources to organize programs.  I will, however, forward information about your film to a UMBC student and a  faculty member in the Africana Studies Dept. who is a former student of mine.  She is a very dynamic and progressive Pan Africanist, who is very much interested in the arts. 

The university generally sponsors a Black film festival during Black History Month, so it’s possible that arrangements can be made for a showing of the film along with your lecture.  I also have contacts at other universities, so will do what I can to distribute information about Protest to other academics who might be interested in having you present your work. 

When Gloria Rolando was in the country a few years ago, a friend arranged a screening of Assata at Howard, and we raised money then to assist with the production of her most recent film.  Françoise Pfaff, who is of French & Martinican descent, is a specialist in African film at Howard University and has also studied/taught films of the African Diaspora, so she might be interested in organizing something.  There are also several institutions here that promote films:  TransAfrica Forum, National Geographic, and various museums.

The work that you’re doing in writing, directing, and producing films is so important, but I understand that the promotion, marketing, and distribution of films must be costly and time-consuming.  Perhaps you know that Haile Gerima and his wife have opened a bookstore/cultural center called “Sankofa” here in D. C.  He has labored so long and hard to produce and promote his work;  he gives so generously of his time and energy to stimulate interest in Black art and culture.  He has recently held a series of programs/discussions/lectures on marronage or maroon culture in the Diaspora. 

I have tremendous respect for him:  his integrity, his commitment, his determination.  When I saw Sankofa here in D. C. several years ago, he attended that screening and most of those that followed to discuss his work within the context of Black art, history, and culture.

Your and Rudy’s reaction to the film parties has given me an idea–to encourage others to have informal gatherings like you did in New York, where small groups of us come together to view, discuss, and sup & sip on a regular basis.  Maybe a part of the problem is that so many people have not learned how to analyze and critique film as a cultural text with significant social and political implications. 

I discovered to my chagrin that many of my students at the historically-Black college where I taught as well as at predominantly-White institutions had never seen a live theater performance, so I took them to plays, movies, art exhibitions, and even (ugh!) operas.  I used to wonder why students would laugh at the most sensitive and heart-wrenching parts of plays (like the abortion scene in for colored girls), and then I realized that it was because they did not know how to deal with their complex emotions and to respond appropriately. 

(In video games, you laugh at everything, even the sight of a man getting shot.)  

Is there any wonder that there’s no audience. no viewers, no consumers for our art?  How sad–and how ironic–that so many of our artists have been better received in Europe than in North America.  Berlin.  One of the coldest cities that I know.  The sight of those massive statues on top of buildings chilled my blood, but I found excitement in a rousing street demonstration and joy in the three-story erotic museum that I happened upon quite by accident one August afternoon.  The little old ladies with their shopping bags made my day!

I look forward to viewing your film at some point.

Part 2 Gearing up for Action

Miriam: K. Brisbane, a colleague from UMBC who now lives in Tobago, is a film buff who buys up videos when she’s in the States to take back to Tobago to show to friends.  She’s done a lot to bring together the Tobagoan & expatriot communities there, and I think that her kind of cultural sharing (films, food, fellowship) has helped to break down barriers there.  It’s amazing how we humans work so hard to “exclude” others from our “inner circles.”  By the way, our friend Herbert has done a lot to promote the film When the Saints Dance Mambo by the Afro-Puerto Rican Santeria and Yoruba priestess Marta Moreno Vega.  He’ll present her with her film at the Pratt Library where he works.  We just all have to work together to get our stuff out there where it can do some good and help to raise consciousness, especially among the youth. Brisbane: Miriam, Thanks for such a good overview of black film in the Diaspora. After seeing the documentary, “Sisters in Cinema” this past winter, I got Marcia to get me a copy. It is such a rich source of films and the discussion about making, financing, distributing and continuing in the field was dynamic and frankly heartbreaking. There is so much being done by people who know what they are doing and yet who can’t get the money to sustain their work. What I found interesting in the on film discussion was the determination of the sisters to keep on keeping on. I love Palcy, Sembene and Peck’s work and would love to see the latest from each. MLK, Jr. Library had a great collection at one time. I guess its still there. The brother who managed that division was very helpful in getting films of substance into the collection. Collective film viewing is essential for younger people and probably older folk as well. It would be so wonderful to reinstitute the Black Film Festival in DC. Even if its done in a small way. I would love to help organize that. Those sisters in the documentary were clear that they needed exposure and support and it seems that one way to do it. Maybe the library would help organize that. I wonder if Mr. White is still at MLK? When we meet, I would like to talk with you further about doing something in regard to airing black films.

Dennis: This sounds great!  I will pass along the info regarding When the Saints Dance Mambo . I have heard of Vega and will definitely do all I can to support. I will email some folks I know in the states. When exactly is the screening? How can I contact Herbert?

Rudy, I am not sure if you have Miles McAfee from Medger Evers college, but he runs a film screening program there. He was very supportive of Protest up until the day I left the states, I think he might be on your mailing list. If not – I will contact him. His email is I am sure he would help pass along any information regarding recommended film screenings – anywhere in the country. I believe he is in Gerima’s camp, but I am not quite sure.

Regarding Brisbane – that’s wonderful to hear. My family is actually from Port of Spain, Trinidad. Is she in the U.S. now? This is all very positive stuff to hear, for a change, thank you Miriam. Stay in touch, keep me abreast.

By the way, I put an order to get a VHS dub for you and will have it sent out by end of November. It will probably be mailed out to you from NYC, where my original dubbing house/source is located.

VHS tapes in Europe are nearly impossible to make and even on PAL it is very expensive even if you do it in bulk, which is odd because there are many independent directors here but most don’t seem to be able to finesse the dubbing houses and develop relationships the way you can in the states. But enough of that.

Ben:  The revolution is taking place. In the first place asia is thumbing its nose at Hollywood and ignoring “intellectual property.” Places like India, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia are already going digital and the masses are responding. Now we read that Miramax and Disney are getting into the act and equipping 85 theaters with 3d digital projector at a very large cost. But this is more of a ploy and promotion to make “Chicken Little” pay off than it is to lower admissions or bring culture to the people.

However, not only is the digital projector about to change the world of entertainment, but the digital movie camera. In the sixties when I had all the greats playing my theater, from The Dead, Janis Joplin, Coltrane, Coleman, Fatha Hines, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughn, Dick Gregory, Richie Pryor, Sandman Sims. Jimmy Slyde, Chuck Green, the Yardbirds, The Cream, The Doors, et al we could not even afford 16mm stock and a great opportunity was lost. Oh, to have Jimmy Hendrix, Mama Kass or Timothy Leary on film.

Now a digital film cost bupkis and any young person can be a filmmaker. I don’t mean to lecture you but the entertainment industry has been controlled by a few men. First, Sarnoff created a quasi governmental company RCA with two senators as directors, and stole Marconi’s patent, then Emile Berliner defeated Edison’s patent (the cylinder phonograph) by inventing the platter, and then RCA became RCA VICTOR (for the victory) and for 20 years RCA VICTOR enjoyed a monopoly, and then Goldwyn and Meyer stole Lee Deforest’s invention of the talking film. And then Sarnoff and Balaban stole T.V. transmission from a young British inventor, and so forth.

Film was controlled by George Eastman and still is. 35mm film was developed as to monopolize film, and so only Hollywood had prints. The digital camera and projector will change all that, and is. Watch Kodak stock. Sell it short.

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#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 16 October 2005 / update 22 December 2011




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