By Regina Bolton. Regina is a Social Justice Activist, Mental Health Advocate, & Political correspondent for various Progressive Movements including @Dactivist
#BlackMentalHealthMatters and ‘When They See Us’ is a lot to take right now
Lawd…Everyone’s talking everywhere, social media is trending about it, especially in Black Hollywood.
The buzz everywhere is about Ava Duvernay’s newest project, a 4 part series on Netflix, ” When They See Us ” based off of a true story that depicts what happened in the 1980’s to 5 black teenage boys from New York who were framed for raping a white female in Central Park. No DNA, no forensics or any solid evidence connecting them to the crime. These young teenagers were innocent, interrogated for endless hours, wrongfully convicted and then ultimately incarcerated.
Now there has been tremendous praise circulating about the raw talent from these actors who portrayed these young men, so candid and passionately. As much as I am an admirer of Ava Duvernay’s work, I’m still not sure when I’ll be emotionally prepared to watch it. As important as telling this story is , I get anxiety and uncertainty about whether I can stomach what my eyes will watch and how I will feel thereafter. 12 Years A Slave, Amistad, Roots, The Butler, DJango
Unchained, Mississippi Burning…the devil in the details, the emotional heaviness of the story.
True enough its accurately depicted and deserves to be told, but by creating cinematic films, do these movies help us heal or add to our pain? When we’ve seen films, like Wakanda Forever, that elevate our race by destroying the negative stereotypes we’ve been forced to see since the beginning of cinematic era. We left those theaters rejoicing, faces lit up beaming with pride. Black children and grown folks leaving the theatres elated, feeling a newfound sense of grandeur royalty. An attitude of pride ready to take over the world, achieving anything they’ve set their mind to.
That feeling of exuberant optimism and pride was eclectic, plastered over our children’s faces. Although that movie is fiction based, it made us forget for just a little while, that on screen, up there, we didn’t need saving. We were our own saviours, protectors and leaders. When They See Us, is one that will weigh heavy on my heart.
Before watching I’ll try to disconnect from my emotions., but after a few moments I’ll immediately be pulled into the story. Kleenex in hands, eyes puffy, emotionally invested in what happens to these young black boys & how their lives were taken but eventually evolve. If these movies are created to enlighten, inform and educate people who are not only of color but white folks, is it resonating? Does it’s ability to resonate result in change? Is it our moral obligation to watch? This pressure within our culture mandating us to support the filmmakers, screenwriters, directors & producers without having to? These movies arent just harsh reminders of the past, these are realities of the present. With the climate of racial hatred towards people of color, sadly it is a reminder of what injustices we face. Not just past, but present. When these movies have been highlighted, dissected and applauded, the discussion of race relations and a indifferent criminal justice system will remain. Maybe things will change. Either way I am compelled to still ask myself the very question that this article is written about. When they see us, what do they see?
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