Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Marvin X reviews Django in Black Hollywood Unchained, edited by Ishmael Reed, Third World Press


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Django, finally, the black hero who kills white people! What a change from my childhood attendance at the movie house watching the white man kill Indians and we sometimes cheered at the death of Native Americans while infused with their blood. Whether infused with the white man’s blood or not (and surely most North American Africans are, maybe only Gullah and/or Geeche Negroes can claim they are not) it was a pleasure seeing them die at the hands of Django. Yes, this Spaghetti
Western, this neo-Roots, gave North American African film writers something to think about, even if they know it is highly unlikely we shall now expect to see more of this “resistance” genre in Hollywood. We’ve yet to see Danny Glover’s long expected movie on the Haitian revolution, yet to see a film on Nat Turner’s revolt or Denmark Vesey's or Gabriel Prosser's, although Arna Bontemps novel Black Thunder could provide the basis for a Prosser film.
And why has not Spike Lee given us his version of a resistance film rather than condemn this Western fantasy? I was taught in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University by the great novelist John Gardner, if you don’t like something, use your creativity to write something better.
Being that I am in the Nigguh for Life Club, I am always fascinated by the endless and perennial debate over use of the term, whether nigger or nigguh, now made into a billion dollar word by rappers, reactionary record producers and hip hop culture globally.  What fool would not want to use such a profitable term? And nearly all those who claim to abhor the term will, in a moment of passion, make use of it, e.g., I hate you nigguh or I love you nigguh!
I have written about the psycholinguistic crisis of the North American African. As my comrade Amiri Baraka noted, what else do you think they called Africans entrapped in the American slave system, Sir? But imagine an African caught in the American slave system speaking German. Better yet, imagine those Africans caught in the Brazilian slave system who spoke several languages, including Portuguese, Arabic, Hausa, etc., while the slave master could not write his name! For me, the term devil ascribed to the Africans was quite amusing: we saw the depiction of pseudo science when the African skull was noted for areas of passivity. How ironic the Africans were described by the oppressor as devils but all the evil, i.e. kidnapping, rape of men, women and children, torture, terrorism and genocide came from the European “good guys”.
D, jango as a love story was positive. Seeing a North American African fighting to free his woman from the hands of the devil was inspiring since so many of our women these days suffer abandonment, abuse and neglect. So many must don the persona of the male and find their way by any means necessary. Of course it would have been better to show a mass insurrection rather than this individual struggle for freedom. Of course in the world of make believe inhabited by Hollywood, the depiction of a mass uprising would have been way over the top with the possibility of subliminal suggestion. As Dr. Fritz Pointer said when Brother Mixon killed four police in Oakland, D’jango gave us a dose of obscene pride in seeing the whites die, just as we experienced obscene pride when the Los Angeles black policeman, Christopher Doaner, went postal after suffering alleged abuses in the LA police department. I remember being surrounded by LA police when I asked for directions to City Hall.
Long ago, H. Rap Brown (Imam Jamil Alamin) told us violence was as American as cherry pie. D’jango should remind us of  America’s roots (laws) that evolved from the violence of the slave system. All the present talk about guns must begin with the examination of America’s roots.  Most of the present laws were created to prevent the very acts of the type D’jango carried out. Not only did the slave system fear Africans with guns, but Africans on horses, not to mention Africans who could read and write, and of course three or more Africans standing together was a violation of the Black Codes.
But how can the world’s number one gun merchant talk about clamping down on gun proliferation? Don’t believe the hype.  If anything new occurs, the gun merchants will simply increase the export of guns as the call for decrease heightens within America.
Just know America’s fascination with gun violence is predicated on preventing the oppressed from rising up and overthrowing the oppressor. D’jango’s personal mission is an example of what must ultimately occur on the mass level.  As New York City Councilman Charles Barron once said, “Every Black man should slap a white man for his mental health!” Yes, for the mental health of the Black man and the white man! We’ve heard there can be no redemption of sin without the shedding of blood.
We believe in peace, non-violence, but we also believe in self defense, that oppression is worse than slaughter. It would be better that all of us North American Africans are murdered outright rather than endure this slow death on the killing floor.
James Baldwin said the murder of my child will not make your child safe. America is now witnessing her children being slaughtered in the suburbs just as poor ghetto children have been slaughtered for decades, and their ancestors the victims of genocide for centuries. Thank God, director Terrentino has given us a fantasy version of what must occur in the real world. His love story is what revolution is about, i.e., freeing the family! Yes, the American slave system was about the destruction of family, thus the task of the North American African is the reconstruction of family. We shall not progress as a people until we reconnect with our women and children, rescue them from poverty, ignorance and disease; emotional, physical and verbal abuse.  Ultimately, it is not about killing the white man, which we can never find enough weapons to do so, but it is all about us realizing our women and children are our most precious asset and we shall never make progress until we rescue them from the clutches of the devil. For sure, D’jango realized he could never be free until he saved his woman. For North American African men, this is food for deep thought!
--Marvin X

Did you catch the flash of Marvin X in Stanley Nelson's film Black Panthers, Vanguard of the Revolution? His writing/thoughts appear in Ishmael Reed's The Complete Muhammad Ali.

Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, producer/director, Straight Outta Oakland, Black Arts
Movement 27 City Tour
photo Pendarvis Harshaw 

Black Hollywood Unchained edited by Ishmael Reed

In Black Hollywood Unchained, Ishmael Reed gathers an impressive group of scholars, critics, intellectuals, and artist to examine and respond to the contemporary portrayals of Blacks in films.  Using the 2012 release of the film Django Unchained as the focal point of much of the discussion, these essays and reviews provide a critical perspective on the challenges facing filmmakers and actors when confronted with issues on race and the historical portrayal of African American characters. Reed also addresses the black community’s perceptiveness as discerning and responsible consumers of film, theatre, art, and music.

Twenty-eight contributors including this book’s editor, Ishmael Reed, offer insightful, informed and provocative points of view on the ever changing, yet unchanged, landscape of Hollywood and film production in America. While the 2012 release of Django Unchained was the film that generated nation-wide conversations and many of the essays in this collection, this book intentionally extends that dialogue about race, history, entertainment and the image of Blacks on the screen to include an examination of the culture of contemporary films and television. Black Hollywood Unchained is critical of the roles of actor, film-maker and viewer as it asks questions that redirect our thinking about the multi-billion dollar industry we call “the movies.”


J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, Houston A. Baker Jr., Amiri Baraka, Playthell G. Benjamin, Herb Boyd, Cecil Brown, Ruth Elizabeth Burks, Art T. Burton, Stanley Crouch, Justin Desmangles, Lawrence DiStasi, Jack Foley, David Henderson, Geary Hobson, Joyce A. Joyce, Haki R. Madhubuti, C. Liegh McInnis, Tony Medina, Alejandro Murguía, Jill Nelson, Halifu Osumare, Heather D. Russell, Hariette Surovell, Kathryn Waddell Takara, Jerry W. Ward Jr., Marvin X, Al Young  

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