As we reach the mid-point of 2020, we also enter another week of protests all over the world following the unlawful murder of George Floyd.
The power of social media has left no doubt that we have to inform and educate ourselves on the causes that have led to this point.
Books, films and documentaries help us to understand the struggle and injustice that black people have faced and are currently facing in dealing with systemic racism (https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/04/what-systemic-racism-mean-12806367/), the judicial system and the history of white supremacy.
Below, myself and a couple of my colleagues (including Criminal Justice consultant Mark White) have rounded up a few films, documentaries and books which serve to educate and inform audiences about race, racial tensions and race relations in the United States and beyond. Please note that much of the media listed below contain violent scenes so viewer discretion is advised.
Hidden Figures: Three brilliant African-American women at NASA - Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) - serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world. Along the way, the visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.
12 Years a Slave: In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one malevolent owner (Michael Fassbender), he also finds unexpected kindness from another, as he struggles continually to survive and maintain some of his dignity. Then in the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon's life forever. The film also stars Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong'o and Benedict Cumberbach.
The Butler: After leaving the South as a young man and finding employment at an elite hotel in Washington, D.C., Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he is hired as a butler at the White House. Over the course of three decades, Cecil has a front-row seat to history and the inner workings of the Oval Office. However, his commitment to his "First Family" leads to tension at home, alienating his wife (Oprah Winfrey) and causing conflict with his anti-establishment son.
Green Book: Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is a world-class African-American pianist, who is about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation.
Other film recommendations:
The Hate U Give - takes on themes of Black Lives Matter, police brutality and black identity and puts them in the inspiring story of a young black girl growing up
Fruitvale Station - follows the true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a black man shot by a white police officer on New Year's Eve 2008
13th: In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyse the criminalisation of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. It is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. The film was nominated for dozens of awards, winning best documentary at the British Academy Film Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards.
Time; The Kalief Browder Story: The criminal justice system tragically failed 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who spent three years in Rikers Island jail awaiting trial -- two of those years in solitary confinement -- after being arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. The case was never prosecuted; the charges were ultimately dropped. Browder committed suicide shortly after his release. His story and the challenges it poses to a basic understanding of American liberties are central to this six-part documentary. It's a comprehensive review of the case, using first-person accounts, archival footage, and cinematic re-creations of key scenes from Browder's life. Exclusive interviews with a wide range of people connected to the story, from politicians to close friends and family members to social reformers, are also featured.
When They See Us: Based on the true story of the Central Park Five, When They See Us takes us through the 1989 assault and rape case of Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white woman who was jogging through Central Park. In the days following the attack, five black teens from Harlem were falsely accused of the brutal attack, as the prosecution painted the group as violent, animalistic teenagers. The powerful and harrowing story shows not only the effects of systemic racism but how quick the judicial system is to accuse a black teen of a crime and take away their innocence. Although the format of this is a mini-series, it is based on true events.
Sitting in Limbo: Sitting in Limbo (BBC One) is a tenderly told dramatic memoir of one man’s ordeal during the Windrush scandal. This drama tells the story of just one of the victims of the government’s “hostile environment policy” on immigration, comprising of a never-ending series of humiliating struggles against a brutal, uncomprehending, and hostile bureaucracy.
Black and British – David Olusoga: Award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga covers the presence of black people throughout history from Roman to Elisabethan Britain, as well as their presence in fighting in both the first and second world wars. This book catalogues the history of black British and also their contributions to Britain today.
How to be an anti-racist – Ibram X Kendi: Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem. Ibram explores how to continuously challenge and assess your own beliefs. This book talks about the author’s own struggles with freeing himself from his own prejudices and details how there is no neutrality in racism – the opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist’, it is to be anti-racist.
Black, Listed– Jeffrey Boakye: Taking a panoramic look at global black history, interrogating both contemporary and historical culture, Black, Listed investigates the ways in which black communities (and individuals) have been represented, oppressed, mimicked, celebrated, and othered. This book covers race as a social construct, the power of words –especially relating to derogatory terms used - and the nuances of being ‘black british’.
We took part in the #BlackoutTuesday movement to show our support, and we will continue to educate ourselves in any way we can to make anti-racism 'the new normal'.
Whether you are currently contracted to work through us, are a client of ours, or whether you simply want some reassurance surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter initiatives, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Please phone us in confidence on 01772 555530 or click here.