The Birth of a Nation was not going to be on my list of must-see movies, based on the information exposed about the film’s writer and director Nate Parker. I made an emotional judgment out of loyalty to the women in my life that I would not go and see it. It felt like the right thing to do. A woman committed suicide for many reasons we do not know, but this specific situation had to add to her agony. I feel for her and her family and anyone who is enduring the type of pain that would cause them to take their own life.
Ultimately as the movie release approached, I re-examined my position. I could not allow my emotion to keep me from experiencing a film that is so important to who we are. So, on the same day that the first Black president was raising funds for the election down the street from Kanye’s Saint Pablo tour, I decided to go and see the film with no reservations.
The film begins with a vision rooted in folklore, religion, and ancestry. Nat Turner is destined for the journey that he is on. The film then becomes another slave movie, except this time you know there will be accountability on the part of those unleashing pain and suffering on anyone with Black skin. As it happened, I found myself unfulfilled, as if it was not enough. Watching interactions with overseers and slaves juxtaposed with interactions that Black people are having in 2016 was eye-opening and sobering, but not surprising. I’m not sure what I expected.
I left feeling everything but happiness. As I walked out of the doors of the theater I felt empty, angry, and sad. In the background, I heard murmurings of “Look at what our ancestors went through, and we still moving backward.” The brothers I lock eyes with are speechless. What did we just watch? What are we called to do, who can we trust?
I’m glad I decided to go see the film despite the controversy surrounding it. It struck a nerve in me that requires reality to be addressed. What are we willing to die for? Now is the time to straighten out our backs.
Nat Turner should be honored, as a man who decided it was time to do something. Now, what do we do?