by Gray Graham
I love history. Always have. I grew up studying it learning it to get a better understanding of how we all got “here”, the present day. Over that time, there has been a lot of Black art done to teach us about our past. In fact I would say that many Black leaders focus heavily on teaching people about their past and how that requires you to survive in the present.
Over the past year the greatest accomplishments in Black films has been about the past on African Americans in the United States. Slaves and house servants are always projects that Hollywood will fund and Black audiences will run to go see because there are Black faces on the screen. It has been ingrained in the Black community that “we got to know our history” so much that it is almost automatic at this point.
But like a lot of African Americans I am at the point where I no longer have a desire to see a film or TV show about the dreadful past of African Americans and how we as a people were treated. Instead I want to see projects with African Americans showing great things that we are doing today and the great things we will do in the future.
See at this point in time Black people are still a novelty for the majority of Americans. No matter our position it is always a surprise when we are there. Don't believe me? There are still many in America that can not accept that the president is Black, that there are black NFL quarterbacks, that a police chief can be black, the IT manager is Black, or we are sitting in First Class on a flight. We are still being asked on a daily basis to prove that we belong.
I strongly believe that this is because for so many Americans do not interact with African Americans on a daily basis in their professional and personal lives. The only other place they have an opportunity to see African Americans and learn about them is going to be in what they read or watch.
Unfortunately it does not seem like enough Black people have demanded that Hollywood produce projects that reflect the reality of African Americans today in America. When I say demand, I mean where we spend our dollars. Instead we will gladly go see the next project with African Americans being house servants, drug dealers, pimps, mistresses, or the always popular slave.
Are their some projects being done that show African Americans in a different light, sure there are, but when was the last time one was a success. If it was not for Denzel Washington and Will Smith I don’t think we would have any at all.
I was always told that you can not walk forward if you are always looking back. Knowing about history is great, but planning for the future is better. Like everything in life there needs to be a balance, right now in art there is anything but. We need a lot more than a few random projects that have no success to begin to change the hearts and minds of people in America and around the world. With 2014 just around the corner, far too many African Americans artists are shuffling instead of dancing.