I emailed the Kalamazoo Alamo Drafthouse Movie Theater to ask if and when the James Baldwin film I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO will be showing there. The Alamo replied, “We finally got a confirmed date for I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO on February 24. Tickets will probably go on sale in mid-February.” Let’s fill the Alamo on February 24! Or go to any other screening that week!

Reviewers say:

“… a political statement and a deep look into the mind of James Baldwin, one of the 20th century’s greatest writers and social critics.” (Roger Ebert)

“In a year of remarkable documentaries on racism — coming, apparently, just in time — Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro isn’t as sensational or essential as O.J.: Made in America, nor as far-reaching and emotional as Ava Duvernay’s 13th, but it’s certainly the most scholarly. (The trio should be taken together as an important snapshot of racism as an inextricable part of American history.) Director Peck (Lumumba) bases his film on an unfinished manuscript by author James Baldwin (1924-1987), detailing Baldwin’s reminiscences of and friendships with civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Samuel L. Jackson narrates from the manuscript, using a surprisingly effective, moderated voice, and matching Baldwin’s own beautiful, intelligent manner of speaking. This flows over a stream of powerful images, archival footage of Baldwin speaking about race with clarity that was unheard of at the time, difficult for whites to understand (perhaps less so now, but still difficult). A short capsule review cannot do this documentary’s depth of intelligence justice, but suffice to say that it uses history and literature to peel back old wounds and reveal fresh ones.” (Jeffrey Anderson)

“I Am Not Your Negro … is a haunting documentary that uses James Baldwin’s words to narrate a powerful film about the nuances of race and class in America. James Baldwin was a groundbreaking writer: Black, gay and unapologetic…. With archival footage and Samuel L. Jackson narrating Baldwin’s words, … to tell a story that is frighteningly relevant today. The manuscript focused on three of his friends who died tragically: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But this isn’t just a doc about race and class. Baldwin’s commentary is much more layered. His insight was and is heartbreaking, poignant and unforgettable…. This is not a typical doc on James Baldwin’s life. There are no expert opinions. It’s just James Baldwin. The Haitian filmmaker crafted a film as masterful as Baldwin’s writing. Peck maintained the agency in Baldwin’s words and narrative, using polished editing, eye-popping imagery and fitting music to skyrocket Baldwin’s words. Peck told The Hollywood Reporter, “I didn’t want anybody to interpret him, to speak for him. I wanted to be inside his head.” Mission accomplished. Each frame is so relevant, it’s terrifying. It’s as if James Baldwin rose from the grave, warning us of the horrors we’ve ignored and the horror that might be ahead…. forces the audience to acknowledge the twisted gruesomeness of racism. But the film is not as simple as Black versus white. There is a nuance and complexity you must see to fully understand….” (BET)

The schedule will be listed here when tickets are available: drafthouse.com/kalamazoo/calendar/kalamazoo

Here are a few self-study ideas:

Search YouTube on: James Baldwin. You can watch him debate Malcolm X and, another time, William F. Buckley, Jr. There are several videos of Baldwin speaking on race in America. There is a film of a discussion at the West Indian Student Centre in London at which James Baldwin and Dick Gregory talk about the black experience in America, the caribbean and Great Britain. You can watch a 1963 roundtable discussion about the civil rights movement, on the occasion of the March On Washington, the participants being James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Charleton Heston, Joseph Menkowitz, and Sidney Poitier. There are on YouTube recordings of Baldwin reading from and lecturing on his books. And more.

Some of James Baldwin’s writings are in PDF online—NOTES OF A NATIVE SON; “On Being White….and Other Lies”; “Going to Meet the Man”, and more. Local libraries and bookshops have his books.

Thinking back to reading Baldwin when I was a young man, the impressions that have stuck with me are ‘integrity’ and ‘mastery of words’.

– Brian Leekley, Anti-RacismTask Force member

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