The prison at Guantanamo Bay has been at the epicenter of the ongoing controversies involving the Iraq war. It became the symbol of ineptitude, corruption and the abuse of power associated with the Bush administration. In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama’s team has said that he is determined to shut down the prison. The statement from his transition team is more than likely just a symbolic gesture meant to signify a change in political strategy, more than it is a realistic expectation. It is highly unlikely that the detention center in Cuba will close in the near future. Obama himself said that it would be “a challenge” to close it — even in his first 100 days as president.
But, issuing the order has signified the beginning of deciding what to do with the approximately 250 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects and witnesses who are detained in Guantanamo Bay — many of whom have never been formally charged with a crime.
Obama signed the executive order to close the prison on Jan. 22, 2009. This is expected to be the first in a series of executive orders from the president in the coming weeks. Many detainees have been cleared for release and others may be returned to their home countries for further detainment, although many nations were resistant to the Bush administration’s attempts to repatriate the prisoners. Obama’s advisers have said that these nations will be more willing to accept the prisoners after becoming more familiar with the new administration.
Hollywood, Race and Obama: History In The Making
It’s official — the most powerful country in the world has an African American president. Well, how did the United States arrive at this point? It certainly wasn’t easy. America has long grappled with the issue of race in general and the depiction of blacks specifically. But now that we’re closer to Dr. King’s dream becoming reality, it’s only fitting that we highlight some of the films that have over the years attempted to tackle the centuries-long struggle for racial equality in America. –dewayne rogers
A Raisin in the Sun (1961) Paired with director Daniel Petrie, actor Sidney Poitier provided a new image of the black man. Explosive in the role of Walter Lee, Poitier portrays a black man who is concerned with lifting his family out of their dead-end existence. No longer was the black man depicted as a servant or a railroad porter. Poitier’s character was both intelligent and ambitious.
“Roots”(1977) This six-part, 10-hour television adaptation of Alex Haley’s novel fully reopened the country’s eyes to the rich history of blacks, recalling the origin of the slave trade and a people forcefully ripped from their existence in Africa. Even today, the importance of “Roots” hasn’t waned.
Glory (1989) When Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his extraordinary work in Glory, it did two things. For starters, it allowed the torch to be passed from Poitier to Washington as the leading black actor charged with the unenviable task of creating strong black images on the silver screen. And secondly, the film offered an impassioned portrayal of blacks who fought for a country that didn’t have their backs.
“Separate But Equal” (1991) This three-hour TV movie underscored the importance of Thurgood Marshall and his contributions to civil rights. Even before he rose to prominence as the first African American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall was an overworked attorney for the NAACP, responsible for taking a supposedly small-time South Carolina court case all the way to the Supreme Court, resulting in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education court decision. Poitier portrays Marshall nobly, once again playing a strong, intelligent, and highly capable black man able to perform at the highest levels, and against the greatest odds.
4 Little Girls (1997) Spike Lee has always tackled race in his movies, most notably with the 1989 film Do The Right Thing. But his most stirring work to date may be the documentary that he produced chronicling the horrific incident in 1963 when a bombing in Birmingham, Ala., killed four little girls attending Sunday School. The emotionally gripping film further humanized the black experience for white America, fully displaying the gross injustices and struggles blacks had been forced to endure.
The awareness of black America created by these trailblazing films, and others like Malcolm X, King, Nothing But A Man, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman should not be forgotten. And now that this country has indeed taken significant strides with the election of Barack Obama, the legacy of these movies becomes all the more important as they — in their own small, but significant way — paved the way for America’s acceptance of Barack Obama.
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