Author Archives: BFC/A

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.

Muenz Tweets Highlights from “Saving the Race”

 


Michael Schultz’s Sonic “Archives” 

Former BFC/A Student Assistant Elijah Pouges is a writer, rapper and music producer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is often thinking about simulacrum and the interactions between sonics and image. You can find his music at brzraps.com.

In this essay Pouges examines what it means to hear as well as see Michael Schultz’s films. 

The films discussed in this post will screen at IU Cinema with director Michael Schultz present. Check out events in the “Young, Gifted and Black” series HERE.


 

If Michael Schultz is known for making any film in the ‘80s, that film probably would have been the Berry Gordy-backed martial arts showdown in New York City, The Last Dragon. However, we should think about and listen to another Schultz work produced in the ‘80s: Krush Groove (1985), which depicts the founding of famous hip-hop label, Def Jam Recordings.

schultz-social-1

Schultz, hyperaware of sonics when creating a film, directed two others in which music is not at the forefront of the viewer’s attention, but is of great importance: Cooley High (1975) and Car Wash (1976). Each film is representative of a style or type black popular music, namely soul, disco and hip-hop. When viewed in chronological series as a visual triptych, Cooley High, Car Wash, and Krush Groove, create a space where music is not only important to the film as technical device, but each film serves as a sonic archive, a thoughtful listening collection, that chronicles, preserves and document the music of each respective era.

COOLEY HIGH (1975)

Cooley High (1975) Directed by Michael Schultz Shown from left: Corin Rogers, Joseph Carter Wilson, Glynn Turman, Lawrence- Hilton Jacobs.

Though Cooley High was produced in 1975, it is set in mid-1960s Chicago. The opening sequence showcases the city, edited to “Baby Love,” the 1963 song by Diana Ross and the Supremes. The song alludes to the youthfulness of our protagonists and grounds us in the era. Historicity is suggested not only through scene and set design, but sound as well. The music reflects what would have been played in an urban center like Chicago, while Chicago-as-character serves as an archive for the music to sit within. Schultz’s attention to diegesis in sound is integral to how the music is “preserved.” The most noteworthy example occurs during a scene in which a fight breaks out during a house party. Slow soul continues to play, even as shenanigans ensue, leading to an all-out brawl. The music calmly continues to waft through the environment, helping create a true-to-life scenario where the sonics don’t reflect visual chaos, but rather convey an instance of sonic dissonance.

Next in series, Car Wash preserves 70s’ disco using the various types of motion and fluidity depicted en scene; the opening sequence can be read against the eponymous Rose Royce track with which the film begins. The music, written primarily by Norman Whitfield and performed by Rose Royce, points to the Motown/Whitfield style of disco being produced, which would have been inescapable in a locale like Los Angeles. The film necessitates this type of music due to the film’s shared title with the pop song, and the soundtrack being produced and performed by two parties working in artistic tandem.

Last in the triptych of sonic documentaries, Krush Groove stands out as the most straightforward example. The fictionalized retelling of the inception of Def Jam cannot work without the music of the soundtrack. The neorealistic use of musicians as actors, e.g. a young LL Cool J, further blurs the lines between reality and fiction, while working to exemplify the film as a visual archive for the music. Krush Groove served as a filmic introduction of hip-hop culture to the mainstream; as such, it would stand that the film serves as an important piece of sonic documentary for hip-hop music at large.

Through intentional viewing in series – Cooley High, Car Wash, Krush Groove – one can see how Schultz has not only created films that reflect visual aesthetics of black American history, but also how and what types of music were prevalent during each respective period. The historicity of the music remains a theme central to each film in series, and soundtrack serves as more of a focal point than musical underscoring Soul, disco and hip-hop anchor each film in a historical era, while the films serve as sonic archives for future viewers’ discovery and reflection.

Join the Black Film Center/Archive and Indiana University Cinema as we celebrate the 50-year career of filmmaker Michael Schultz, Nov 8-10, 2018.

Portrait (flowers)

Elijah Pouges is a writer, rapper and music producer based in Brooklyn, New York.


References:

Hayman, C. (2013). Melle Mel in the Megaplex: Postmodern Performance and the Hip-Hop “Real” in Krush Groove & Beat Street. African American Review, 46 (1), 117-132. doi:10.1353/afa.2013.0016

George, N. (2005). Hip hop America.. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

 


The Extratextual(s) of The Last Dragon  

Former BFC/A Student Assistant Elijah Pouges is now a writer, rapper and music producer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is often thinking about simulacrum and the interactions between sonics and image. You can find his music at brzraps.com.

In this essay Pouges examines the many worlds contained extra-textually Michael Schultz’s films. 

The films discussed in this post are scheduled to screen at IU Cinema with director Michael Schultz present. Check out events in the “Young, Gifted and Black” series HERE.


After watching several Schultz films, I began to realize that there’s an extratextual component to be found in many of his works. Perhaps film is a medium of extratextuals via “speaking by showing,” but something about his films strike me as particularly moving as it pertains to what they say beyond the screen.  In an another post on this blog, I spoke about how the tryptic of films, when viewed in chronological sequence – Cooley High, Car Wash, and Krush Groove – serve as forms of sonic documentaries. In these films, the prevalent extratextual component is obviously the music. However, in the The Last Dragon, I found that the movie rests entirely upon the extratextual in order to exist.

It’s important to note that the The Last Dragon was initially written for stage, as stated in an article by Ashley Burns and Chloe Schildhause. The theatrics of the film reflect this idea; the decision for Schultz to direct and the outcome of the film’s production both allude to Schultz’s extensive background in theatre. Schultz explained in an email, “I directed the inaugural play for an off-Broadway company called The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC). It puts the company on the theatrical map and, in 1969, I won an OBIE award for best director for the play, The Song of the Lusitanian Bogey.”  Schultz’s college years were devoted to learning all aspects of the theatre, including dance, lighting, and acting. The same energy used in this instance transfers to his direction of The Last Dragon. The theatrics read as uncanny, and make me feel like the film is self-aware of its origins, and in this self-awareness, the film can exist comfortably and extratextually.

The lead character, Leroy Green, played by Taimak, illustrates the idea of extratextuality due to Taimak’s real life occupation as a martial artist. The film’s cast is a bricolage of experience and backgrounds; the spaces occupied by the actors in reality are also occupied by the roles they play. Taimak had been doing martial arts for years but had never acted. Laura Charles, played by singer and actress Vanity had been doing film for about 5 years. Schultz’s direction of non-actors cements The Last Dragon’s dependency on extratextuality, the world beyond the film.

The Last Dragon_from Miriam Petty

Courtesy of Dr. Miriam Petty

The Last Dragon is and isn’t a martial arts film. By positioning itself as a martial arts film, The Last Dragon enters, if even only in a cursory way, into part of a larger genre-oriented canon in which citing external text is a part of creating a new one. Within the film, clips of Bruce Lee films are interspersed in a music video like sequence. The most immediate connection the viewer could make is an allusion being made to Leroy’s admiration of Lee as a martial artist, however, these clips also highlight the nature of the actor-martial artist position occupied by both Taimak and Lee. The use of Lee’s image makes sense not only as a recognizable pop icon to viewers, but to reinforce the film’s independence on external text.

The Last Dragon is a peculiar film for a number of reasons – cultural bricolage, uncanny sensibilities, martial arts in the middle of New York – but the nature of its existence strikes me as its most fascinating attribute. Schultz’s background in theatre is integral for how the film is constructed; it creates and exhibits an awareness of self and creator. The actor’s off-screen lives reflect that of their roles, and films cited serve not only as inspiration within the fictionalized universe, but also as a reassertion of the film’s extratextual qualities from preexisting works in the martial arts genre.

Portrait (flowers)

IU Graduate and BFC/A Alum, Elijah Pouges.


BlacKkKlansman Thoughts

Guest Post by Avery Hayden Pierce, IU ’18. 

BlackKkKlansman screens Nov 2 at 8PM and Nov 4 at 2PM  Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. 7th St. Bloomington, Indiana 47405


I’ve considered Spike Lee to be retired for many years now. Oldboy (2013) began the descent and Chi-Raq (2015) marked the end of his creative ability. Even though I found his recent Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It (2017), a remake of his first feature film, entertaining, it did little to change my opinion of him as an artist. I saw it less as an indicator of newfound imagination, and took it more as a sign that Lee was content to relive the former glory of his early Joints. So, it was with much trepidation that I saw BlacKkKlansman (2018). Even though the initial reviews were positive I was prepared for the worst. Thankfully, BlacKkKlansman surpassed my low expectations. I found the film to be surprisingly subtle in its critiques, at least in comparison to other Spike Lee joints, and was impressed that he tried to touch upon new subject matter. I won’t go so far as to say that this is a complete return to form, but it’s proof that Spike is anything but content to settle into mediocrity.

44057829_10157002498352313_704975188936097792_o

Spike Lee’s BlackKkKlansman screens Nov 2 at 8PM and Nov 4 at 2PM 
Indiana Memorial Union

What surprised me most about the film was how deliberately different it is from the rest of his filmography, at least visually. He has largely abandoned many of his most distinct traits. Gone are the bold primary colors, here replaced with muted grays and rustic greens. The camera largely remains still, confident that the dialogue will hold the audience’s attention. And there are minimal references to other films and pop culture, save for a brief celebration of classic blaxploitation. Of course, this is still a Spike Lee Joint so there is the obligatory dolly zoom shot as well as a dark sense of humor.

However, the change that interested me the most was Spike’s discussion of Judaism, both its relationship with whiteness and similarities with black struggle. Flip Zimmerman, Adam Driver’s character, is ethnically Jewish but makes it clear he doesn’t identify as Jewish. He didn’t have a bar mitzvah, doesn’t go to temple, and has never read the Torah. Even when one of his co-workers comments that he is wearing a Jewish necklace, Flip reacts negatively and insists, “it’s not a Jewish necklace, it’s a Star of David.” It isn’t until he comes in conflict with the Klan does he realize that he may be excluded from whiteness.

BlacKkKlansman

John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth with Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.
Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

This isn’t completely new territory for Spike. He has criticized the construct of whiteness before, most notably in Jungle Fever. But he has never done so through the lens of religion or with a sympathetic angle. The audience is not meant to mock or judge Flip for realizing that he’s been passing as white. We are meant to applaud him for using this painful lesson as motivation for fighting against the Klan and the racism that is pervasive in the police force.

It’s impossible to separate a movie from the cultural conversations surrounding it, and so it is with a Spike Lee Joint.  When I went into the film Boots Riley’s criticism was at the forefront of my mind. Riley, and other primarily younger critics, argued that the film prioritized protecting the feelings of a white audience instead of pushing a more progressive message. And, at least on a surface level, that criticism bears true. Stallworth gives an impassioned speech about the value of the police, there are four police officers who are undoubtedly good guys, and speeches of black liberation are often juxtaposed with speeches of white nationalism. But after reflecting on the plot, and revisiting Spike’s earlier works, I’ve soured on Riley’s arguments.

The thrust of the social criticism against BlacKkKlansman is that it’s pro-cop and pushes the argument that the police, an inherently racist system, can be changed on the inside through good cops like Stallworth. They effectively declare the film to be propaganda. This argument only holds water if you ignore the last ten minutes of the film. Stallworth attempts to save Patrice, the president of the black student union and the love interest, but is thwarted by two white cops who don’t believe his claims of being an officer. Patrice is ultimately saved by the KKK’s own incompetence. Afterwards Chief Bridges calls off the investigation due to “budget cuts” and orders Stallworth to never contact the Klan again. Later Patrice makes it very clear that she’s dumping Stallworth because he’s a cop, and she can’t accept that according to her politics. The KKK then burns a cross in front of Stallworth’s apartment and the film immediately cuts to footage of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, and footage of the murder of Heather Heyer.

The message of the final sequence is as blatant as it is bleak: Stallworth accomplished nothing. The Klan is still active and unafraid, David Duke will be elected in Louisiana, and Heather Heyer will die. The crosses will burn, and there is nothing Stallworth can do to stop it. The ending is nothing short of the complete unraveling of everything Stallworth tried to accomplish. By depicting Stallworth’s effort as a failure, if a noble one, it’s hard to see how BlacKkKlansman is advocating for changing the system from within. Stallworth tried that approach and has nothing to show for it. I struggle to see how anyone could misinterpret the final message of the film.

Boots Riley also chastised Spike for creating Flip Zimmerman. Arguing that since the real Ron Stallworth never partnered with a Jewish officer, then Flip is a tool created to propagandize the police. But this misunderstands the larger implications invoked by Flip’s identity as a Jewish man. Because of his heritage Flip is denied entry into whiteness by the violent gatekeepers of the KKK, even though he has always considered himself a part of the white monolith. But Flip is still able to infiltrate the Klan successfully. He does so by adopting the KKK’s accepted brand of whiteness, which mainly consists of saying nigger and shooting guns. Flip is so successful that David Duke uses him as an example of a great white man. The point of Flip Zimmerman isn’t to provide another sympathetic police officer for a white audience, but to undermine whiteness by showing the performative nature of race, further showing the illusions of the concept of race in general. Critics also are dismayed that Spike seems to draw a line between black liberation and white nationalism, often juxtaposing the two ideologies. I disregard this critique outright. I find it hard to believe that Spike Lee, a man who wholeheartedly agrees with Malcolm X’s quote “I don’t even call it violence when it’s self- defense, I call it intelligence”, truly believes that black liberation is on the same moral ground as white nationalism. To claim that he does is to take BlacKkKlansman entirely in bad faith.

BlacKkKlansman

Laura Harrier stars as Patrice and John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.
Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Riley focuses on the political implications of Flip’s and Stallworth’s jobs as policeman, and in doing so he misses the true meaning of the film. BlacKkKlansman is not a film about cops vs the KKK or one black man’s quest to fix a broken system. No, it’s primarily about the ties that bind Jewish people and black people together in the decades long struggle against white supremacy in America. The oppressors see us as one and the same, Spike argues, so why bother dividing ourselves when we are stronger together? Either we confront the system as one or we shouldn’t even bother. This message is reinforced directly and indirectly throughout the whole film. Flip uses his status in the force to advocate for Stallworth’s investigation, Stallworth chastises Flip for not being more emotionally invested as a Jewish man, and they both rescue one another from danger multiple times. The message of racial solidarity isn’t presented in the brash tone to which we are accustomed from a Spike Lee Joint, but it’s there. BlacKKKlansman is a call for solidarity among all people in the struggle against white supremacy, for we are much stronger united than divided.

Unknown

Avery Hayden Pierce is a Senior at Indiana University. He would one day like to produce feature films.

 


What was FOCUS: Black America, 1968?

This Wednesday October 24 at 6PM in the IULMIA Screening Room (Wells 048): the Black Film Center/Archive, the University Archives, the Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center Library and IU Libraries Moving Image Archive will stage (RE)FOCUS: Black America 1968/2018.

This interactive experience includes a screening of HERITAGE OF THE NEGRO 30 min. (1965), narrated by Ossie Davis and FACING THE FAÇADE 55 min. (1994), directed by IU Alumnus Jerald Harkness. Mr. Harkness and Tim Mayer, the designer of many of the  FOCUS program posters will be present for discussion. This project is supported by Indiana Humanities. For more information about these specific films or questions about accessing them please contact the Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive.


SCREEN

Focus: Black America film series poster designed by Tim Mayer for the 1968 endeavor.

This striking poster for a film series in IU’s Fine Arts Auditorium stood out among materials on display for the “Voices of 68’” exhibit at University Archives in the spring 2018 semester. Many important questions surround this poster: Who designed it? Why do the titles of these films seem familiar? Whose face is this?  What was Focus: Black America?

 

The film series advertised on the poster turned out to be part of a yearlong event held on Indiana University’s campus throughout 1968. Many of these films are titles held by the Moving Image Archive. The poster was designed by Tim Mayer, then a design student at IUB and today a retired member of the Bloomington City Council.

 

FOCUS: Black America originally took place in 1968 and organizers brought entertainers, academics, artists, politicians, and activists to Indiana University to lecture, participate in panels, showcase artworks, and give performances. Professor Gus Liebenow, founding chair of the African Studies Program, initiated the program with the help of faculty and students in African Studies and across the Indiana University campus. An entire box of Dr. Liebenow’s papers, held in the Indiana University Archives, is specifically dedicated to the yearlong event’s formation. The documents supply evidence of an attempt on IU’s campus to broadcast the history and experiences of Africans and African Americans to the campus.

 

1968 was a transformative year in the United States, particularly on college campuses.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated that April, just as IU students were finishing the 67’-68’ semester. At San Francisco State in the fall of 1968, the Black Student Union and a coalition of student groups known as the Third World Liberation Front led a five month strike demanding equal access to public education, more senior faculty of color, and a curriculum the embraced the histories of  all Americans. Among the gains was the establishment of the SFS’s College of Ethnic Studies which served as a model for universities across the the country. Students and other activists were protesting the war in Vietnam. Students on IU’s campus held a sit-in at the Little 500 that year to protest a lack of black representation on campus and address discriminatory clauses in Greek organization charters. The Black Market on Kirkwood Avenue would be firebombed by Klan members later that December and just down the road from Bloomington, Carol Jenkins, a young black woman from Rushville, Indiana, was brutally murdered by two white men in Martinsville. By the early 1970s, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center and the academic department that would becomes the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies were founded in the wake of student activism.

 

Where would FOCUS turn its focus?

 

Liebenow, his colleagues, and students across campus, sought resources at IU to respond to racial injustice and both overt and institutionalized white supremacy in Indiana with lectures, seminars, musical and theater performances, and a variety of motion picture screenings. Some of the films, which were presented at events on campus, were specifically educational and responsive to social problems related to prejudice and discrimination, while other screenings featured Hollywood narratives that dealt thematically with race and racial identity. Some of the educational and documentary programs were produced and broadcast by CBS and WNET television networks and became part of Indiana University’s Audio/Visual catalogue. The Moving Image Archive has recently digitized educational and documentary films that were, according to information available in Liebenow’s papers, screened at these various FOCUS events.

 

One question about these films and others shown at various FOCUS events is whether they were truly responsive to the campus climate and the needs of black students on IU’s campus. Included in Liebenow’s papers is an editorial written in the Indiana Daily Student, titled “Focus Picture is Out of Focus,” which casts doubt on the extent of this responsiveness. The writer argues that the program is out of touch with the “black racial situation in this country” and calls for more inclusion of black students, whose voices were not being heard in the development of the program.

Who was FOCUS ’68 for and does it have parallel audiences today? What does FOCUS ’68 mean today? Why this program and why now? What can we learn about the curatorial logic of 1968 through this exhibition? Have we made the right choices for (RE)Focus 2018? How might today’s student leaders respond to ’68 and what are their strategies for engaging politics, literature, art, scholarship, and music today in Black America, on campus?

 

 

 


Go-Rilla Means War and Black People in Bloomington

Guest Post by Essence London, Indiana Review Editor-in-Chief.

September 20, 2018 the BFC/A held a Mystery Screening in partnership with #DirectedbyWomen and IU Libraries Moving Image Archive. The content of the screening was not announced beforehand. In the essay below guest contributor Essence London reflects on the event and her complex relationship to the histories of Black Bloomington. 

The Mystery Guest was Crystal Z. Campbell, a US artist and writer of African-American, Filipino and Chinese descents hailing from Oklahoma. Campbell’s work in analog film, video, sound, performance, sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, and community projects are excavations of unsettled historical narratives. Campbell uses art as a tool for agency, social transformation, and time-travel. IULMIA screened her 2017 film Go-Rilla Means War. The film is a relic of gentrification, and highlights the complex intersections of development, cultural preservation, and erasure in the form of an intricately woven parable and celluloid frames weathered by decades of urban neglect.


 

September 20, 2018, I entered a screening room on the ground floor of Indiana University’s library, a couple minutes late because that’s somehow become a habit. I stepped in and made eye contact with a calm woman wearing glasses and big hair. To show that I, both a stranger and a writer among film buffs, come in peace, I waved. I’m new here but I’m nice. I found a seat upfront, to the far left because my hair is also kinda big, and settled in, really curious due to the Mystery Screening frame for the event. I wondered what kind of film we’d be watching, how long it was; I wondered if the visiting filmmaker was already in the room. From the information included on the marketing materials—the Black Film Center/Archive as a host and the film as part of the #DirectedbyWomen series—I could infer that the filmmaker identifies as a Black woman. Even with no knowledge of her name or her image, no context on the film at all, there was a certain intrigue and attention that I noticed in my body as Go-Rilla Means War came onto the screen.

Reenactment, exhibition at BRIC Arts

From Go-Rilla Means War by Crystal Campbell. 35mm Film transferred to Digital Video, Paint, Bench, LED’s, Stereo Sound, Speakers. 20 minute Single Channel Video. 2017.

The film opens with strong, deep piano chords and the title set in white font over a background that shifts on beat between various shades of red. Within the first minute, I was struck by the seeming incongruence between the voiceover and the images on screen. I saw two boys searching for guidance from men while I heard a woman recount details of the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius and a long history Nydia figures. As the film progresses, more political threads are woven into the audio. There are clips of a Tawana Brawley press conference, a description of gentrified Bed-Stuy. We hear about the life of judge, community activist, martial artist, and filmmaker John L. Phillips and the last years of the Slave Theatre. Meanwhile, the visuals get increasingly stranger: the two boys poison a man and leave his body at a dining table staring at a mural on the wall, a cop pushes over what viewers believe is a woman, a man in a park simply looks in one direction then the next, a few martial arts segments climax inside a largely empty building.

Campbell_GMW 2

From Go-Rilla Means War (2017).

By the close of the film, the voiceover makes the connection between audio and visual explicit. She has told us the story of how she found the soundless film we’re watching as well as provided the historical, political, and artistic context. The Nydia she “may or may not have known,” is the narrative hinge, the woman who led her into the Slave Theatre, setting up the moment that a neglected film reel is kicked in the dark, rediscovered. Before this reveal, the features that merged the voiceover with the visual for me are the discoloration and the abstract scratches and patches moving atop the visual. I learned during the Q&A following the film that the blues and yellows, the overlaid textures weren’t edited in—that this film isn’t a new thing trying to look old. The damage is real, a result of years of chemical degradation and a result of the artist pulling frames apart to decipher what was on them. I also learned that the calm voice over the visuals belongs to the filmmaker Crystal Z Campbell, that the filmmaker was the calm woman I waved at when I first walked through the door.

IMG_8154

Visual Artist Crystal Campbell was our Mystery Guest. Photo credit: Alexander A. Myers

Further into the discussion, Campbell pondered gentrification with us. Not only the effect of screening the film in various ironic settings like Woolworth’s Lunch Counter and galleries in gentrified neighborhoods, but also the fact that she’s an Oklahoman telling a Bed-Stuy story. She lived in Brooklyn for about a year and, while there, a friend told her she had to see the Slave Theatre. Clear, Go-Rilla Means War is an experimental documentary. Though a geographic outsider, Campbell nurtured 20,000 frames and has plans to continue this project, to revise it, and to play a part in the evolution and the survival of the Slave Theatre in human memory and record.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m in Bloomington for what may or may not be a final year. Go-Rilla Means War made me want to learn more about the city where I currently reside and the Black people who have contributed to it. I visited the Monroe County History Center after hearing about their exhibit Breaking the Color Barrier: Bloomington’s Firsts. Before my son and I passed the pay desk even, the hostess apologetically explained that they’d hoped to have a more elaborate display and that they plan on integrating more information like it into the permanent exhibits. I expected to see first Black principals, athletes, and government officials. This is what they had with a few uniforms and props to illustrate. I also expected to see details about the first Kappa Alpha Psi chapter, the first business opened by a Black person in the area, the first community center in a Black neighborhood, etc. That is what they did not have. So I went to the Banneker the following week.

IMG_7771

Historical marker at the entrance of the Banneker Center, 2018.

Not long after moving here in 2016, I found information online about the Banneker, a community center that was a school only for Black students during segregation. I’d only visited once before because it’s out of the way from my apartment. This time around, I spoke with the director, a young white man who’s been there three years and Pauline Bridgwaters whose grandmother was one of the Banneker’s first students. They told me it’s been a struggle to serve the children and families the building has historically served due to surrounding gentrification. Their lack of parking, for example, didn’t pose a problem until Black families were pushed into neighborhoods out of walking distance. Luckily though, the Banneker has its own library and is preserving its own story. While there, I encountered a visual timeline mounted to the walls, interviews of locals associated with the Banneker collected by high school students, framed photos over a glass display case containing relics like workbooks and the loveliest pair of pink earrings. And there’s been no effort to demolish the center, though it needs some of the same maintenance and architectural attention that Boys and Girls Clubs in the city have received. I suspect that the same subtle guilt for neglecting Black communities that I noticed at the History Center may be part of the reason why, but that’s probably not it. As I left the Banneker, the director and a group of volunteers were discussing plans for a Halloween party—pumpkins and table activities and candy bags for kids who show without one. The people connected to the center are working hard to keep it fun and relevant to the families it does serve.

IMG_7727

Display case in the Banneker library.

IMG_7711

Display honoring the Bridgwaters family.

IMG_7709

Breaking the Color Barrier exhibit description.

The Slave Theatre wasn’t so fortunate to outlive gentrification or efforts to destroy it. In 2017, it was sold for $18.5 million and torn down. It makes all the sense in the world for Campbell’s Go-Rilla Means War to end with Tawana Brawley saying, “I simply want justice then I want to be left alone.” When I heard that statement, I said, “Okay?” in my Black Women In Agreeance voice. This approach to our communities may be all we have left in order to heal and survive and take them back. I’ll remember Brawley’s words whenever I return home to Little Rock. I’ve got idealistic aspirations to help rebuild the clubs, the beauty shops and restaurants, the theatre that my city destroyed in the 1960s and 70s. Thank you Crystal Z Campbell for merging image, sound, color, time, and place in Go-Rilla Means War, for getting me to think about revitalization with a complex, non-linear frame. The work is only beginning. The work never ends.


Dnft4azU8AAvSGd


Jerome Dent’s Research Journal

Jerome Dent, PhD Candidate at the University of Rochester visited the BFC/A as one of our inaugural visiting research fellows. Dent documented his research and the connections he found across texts in a series of Facebook posts which are compiled and featured here as a research journal. 


Day1 Greaves and JulienDay 1! A bit of Julien, and some Greaves.

 

Day 2Day 2: Berry, Gunn and a couple of amazing shorts. “You’re into horror movies. I can dig it.”

 

Day 3Day 3: More (S. Torriano) Berry! Viewing The Embalmer (dir. Berry, 1996), the connections between it and Candyman (Rose, 1992) are obvious, but the former manages to make certain intersections explicit and visceral in a way that the latter does not! It’s a real gem!

 

Day4aDay 4Day 4: LA Rebellion! (Dash, Diary of an African Nun [1977]; Gerima, Hour Glass [1971]; Fanaka, A Day in the Life of Willie Faust, or Death on the Installment Plan [1972]; Nicolas, Daydream Therapy [1977]), White Zombie [1932] and revisiting Gunn and Ganja (and Hess)!

 

Day 5Day 5: Interviews, Candyman (1992) and Shorts!
“The fact is, they don’t believe that we’re really people. I mean that’s the most extraordinary – that people could be so naïve as to believe that another human being is not really a human being is extraordinary in the 20th and 21st century. I spent much of my life…trying to convince people that I was real. When you sit on a plane, you have to eat a certain way, you have to dress a certain way, you have to carry yourself [a certain way], because you are always reassuring someone else that you’re not going to eat them, or mug them, or rape them…At one point, you’re attacked by this exhaustion, this intellectual and emotional exhaustion and you say ‘no more.’” — Bill Gunn (Ganja and Hess, Personal Problems), Interview by Phyllis R. Klotman, Black Film Center/Archive, 1983.


There’s much more to this complicated answer that he gives regarding investments in black spectatorship and the general reception of black films, but I’ve transcribed this bit which is very interesting in the context and subjects of his work. But it’s also something I think we should sit with rather than dismiss through an assumption that we’ve progressed beyond the moment that he’s illustrating, especially considering that this interview was conducted after he’d already reached a certain level of success.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 6: Revisiting Dickerson and Urban/Hood Horror! Tales from the Hood (Cundieff, 1995), Bones (Dickerson, 2001), Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (Dickerson, 1995), The Transfiguration (O’Shea, 2016). (Special mention: Black Devil Doll From Hell [Turner, 1984]) A high note on which to end this visit — the first of many for sure.

 


Unknown-1

Jerome Dent, PhD Candidate, University of Rochester

Jerome Dent, PhD Candidate, University of Rochester. Jerome Dent is a California native, but his academic studies have brought him to locations all across the United States. He has a B.A. in Comparative Literature and African American Studies from the University of California, as well as two M.A.’s in Humanities and Visual and Cultural Studies, from Mount St. Mary’s University and the University of Rochester respectively. His dissertation is focused on the figure of blackness and how it is represented in contemporary fiction films.