While Empire creator Lee Daniels is attempting to help white America heal and “feel cool” by making a white girl the lead of his new Fox show Star, filmmakers like Raoul Peck are actually addressing America’s long, deep-rooted, and continuing history of racism in meaningful, much needed ways.
The official trailer for the Haitian-born director’s powerful documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, was released on Thursday. I Am Not Your Negro explores the past and present race relations in America using James Baldwin’s words as the backdrop. Although it’s been in the works for the past 10 years after Peck gained access to James Baldwin’s archives with the permission from his family, it’s definitely the film America needs to see right now. It’s gotten rave reviews and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.
In 1979, Baldwin was planning to write a book, titled Remember This House, talking about the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in relation to America’s race problem, but he died before he could complete the manuscript. Peck uses the manuscript as the basis for his film.
Along with never-before seen archival material from Baldwin, the film takes a look at the lives of Malcolm X, King, and Evers as well as a look at various movements and cultural moments from Ferguson and Black Live Matter to the civil rights movement and the original Birth of a Nation film.
“The story of the Negro in America is the story of America,” says Samuel L. Jackson, who narrates the film, in the trailer. “It’s not a pretty story.”
In the trailer, you can hear Baldwin’s discernible voice and prophetic words (narrated by Jackson) and images from the 1960s to the present day. “If any white man in the world in the world says ‘give me liberty or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds,” says Baldwin in the trailer. “When a black man says exactly the same thing he is judged a criminal and treated like one, and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.”
Last year, in an interview with Complex, Peck said that America’s youth needed to see the film. “We are lost,” he said. “We have a youth that is totally lost in terms of how to find a right track or even how to learn to make allies, how to organize.”
He continued, “We need to learn how to organize, not just to let our anger explode. We need to have organization for the long run, not for one issue, not for one murder, but for everything coming to us in the next 20, 30 years. Everything is linked, and we forgot that.”