Black Film: Reclaiming Our Right As Storytellers

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Recent outrage from individuals in the Black community over the casting of several Hollywood produced films, including Nina Simone’s biopic and Exodus: Gods And Kings (2014), is not only ridiculous but also laughable. As usual, Hollywood casting directors decided it would be a fun idea to inaccurately cast Zoe Saldana, who is a mixed race Latina, as the legendary Nina Simone, who is visibly dark and a heavily African-featured woman, not a fair-skinned Latina like Zoe. Instead of choosing a Black actress who is just as, if not more talented than Zoe Saldana and also fits the physical requirements of the role, someone like Orange Is The New Black star Uzo Aduba, they went through the racist trouble of putting Zoe in blackface in an effort to chan- nel Nina. This move by hollywood directors is not only insulting but predictable. In addition, the movie Exodus: Gods And Kings, which tells a story of Ancient Egyptians, depicts the royal Egyptians as something other than the Black Africans they were, as white men. Of course the slaves in the film are cast as Black, we’re always allowed to be that. This reshaping and whitening/lightening up of our history is what happens when we allow our oppressors to tell the stories we should have been telling all along.

As a reaction to the absurdity of both films, Blacks have voiced opposition and drawn up petitions in an effort to get them shut down. Once again, we’ve found ourselves trapped in an en- gulfing hell of useless pleas and unnecessary explanations, fighting for inclusion and crying about the whitening up of a history we know so well. We’ve allowed ourselves to be reactions to whiteness as opposed to the doers. Instead of creating the stories of Nina Simone and Black Egyptian stories we want to see, we’re pleading for change upon the deaf, careless ears of white media. Let’s face it, Hollywood is a predominately white controlled media platform who always has and will continue to do what they please with such platform because they can. It is not their jobs to accurately tell our stories or to even tell them at all. This overvaluing of white media has to stop in order for us, Black people, to move forward on the rigorous path of healing and independent self-awareness.

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Coming from a legacy of Black filmmakers like Spike Lee, Haile Gerima, and the legendary Os- car Micheaux, who didn’t wait for white media platforms like Hollywood to produce the stories they wanted told, there’s no reason we can’t continue to act as the definers these individuals helped lay the foundation for us to be. It is time, way past time, for us a people to cease the up- holding of white opinions and perspectives over what we know as true. We know Nina Simone was not a fair-skinned Latina, we know Ancient Egyptian royalty were not a court of white men, therefore the emotional reactions to these careless insults by white media are useless. Instead of dredging up petitions or voicing cries of hurt and anger out in the street, combat the obvious lies with art. Ensure that other Black people know the truth about this war of accuracy in history by reclaiming your right as the storyteller and create what you want to see. Zora Neale Hurston once said “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” In this context, if you continue to allow your history to be told by your oppressor, they’ll continue to erase you and trap you in a prison of explaining instead of doing.

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