No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger (1968) screening 11/15 at Boxcar Books

On Thursday, November 15, at 7:00 PM, the Black Film Center/Archive and Boxcar Books present a free public screening of the 1968 documentary No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger. The event takes place at Bloomington’s Boxcar Books and Community Center, 408 E. 6th St.

No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger

Directed by David Loeb Weiss with camerawork by Michael Wadleigh (credited here as Michael Wadley), the film documents a conversation between three black Vietnam Veterans–Dalton James, Preston Lay Jr., and Akmed Lorence–intercut with footage of the April 1967 Spring Mobilization to End the War, a national action taking place just one week after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s delivery of “Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence” at the Riverside Church in New York.

The themes of King’s Riverside speech resonate throughout the film.  As he spoke then:

…it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago.

Scene from the 1967 Spring Mobilization to End the War

Writing of the film in The Oriental ObsceneSylvia Shin Huey Chong notes how it frames “the black antiwar movement as distinct from rather than derivative of the mainstream antiwar movement, using the abuses of the Vietnam War to stage a larger critique of white racism and gesture toward a Third World internationalism that aligns American blacks with the Vietnamese as brothers in a common struggle.”  She continues: “The most powerful statements of No Vietnamese come from the filmed conversation between [James, Lay, and Lorence]…These veterans describe at length the racism they experienced both in Vietnam and the U.S., their difficulty finding jobs in the U.S. commensurate with their training in the military, and above all the gradual dawning of their racial consciousness through such experiences.”

[Dead link removed]

 

 

About BFC/A

The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University was established in 1981 as the first archival repository dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available historically and culturally significant films by and about black people. The BFC/A's primary objectives are to promote scholarship on black film and to serve as an open resource for scholars, researchers, students, and the general public; to encourage creative film activity by independent black filmmakers; and to undertake and support research on the history, impact, theory, and aesthetics of black film traditions. View all posts by BFC/A

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