Oscar Michaeaux – The Czar of Black Hollywood 🎥

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Oscar Devereaux Micheaux

January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951

Probably not well known but a very important artist and groundbreaker in the early days of cinema, Oscar Micheaux was definitely a man ahead of his time. He was the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century and the most prominent producer of race films. He produced both silent films and “talkies” as a film director and independent producer of more than 44 films.

Micheaux’s movies were a challenge to racial segregation and an alternative outlet for black moviegoers. He is thought to have written, produced and directed more than 40 films from 1919 to 1948.

In response to D.W. Griffith’s outrageous and racist depiction of African-Americans in his landmark film“The Birth of a Nation” (1915) Micheaux produced “Within Our Gates” (1920). It is considered an important expression of African-American life in the years immediately following World War I when violent racist incidents occurred throughout the United States, but most frequently in the South. Produced, written and directed by Micheaux, it is his second and the oldest known surviving film made by an African-American director.

Lost for decades, a single print of the film, entitled La Negra (The Black Woman), was discovered in Spain in the 1970s. In 1992, “Within Our Gates” was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”.

On his style:

Micheaux said,

“My results…might have been narrow at times, due perhaps to certain limited situations, which I endeavored to portray, but in those limited situations, the truth was the predominate characteristic. It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights. I am too imbued with the spirit of Booker T. Washington to engraft false virtues upon ourselves, to make ourselves that which we are not.”

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Micheaux died on March 25, 1951, in Charlotte, North Carolina, of heart failure. He is buried in Great Bend Cemetery in Great Bend, Kansas, the home of his youth. His gravestone reads: “A Man Ahead of His Time”.

What the F**k People?

I’ve been so angry since Tuesday’s midterm results it’s been hard to articulate all my feelings. Therefore, I’m using this video as my mode of expression. An oldie but definitely a goodie is this Youtube video from the 2012 election featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s “in your face” take on a bedtime story. It highlights the stark realities facing our country and the decisions we need to make about what kind of policies and society we want to advance progress.

But I’ll let Samuel L. do the talking.

 

 

We’ve reached a turning point in this country and the midterms were the 2014 version of “Wake the Fuck Up.” All of the issues that were at stake in 2012 haven’t gone away. As a matter of fact, we’ve lost ground on some basic principals we thought were resolved: voter rights, women’s reproductive rights, the safety net (our social contract that no child should go hungry and every citizen should be afforded the opportunity to achieve a better life.)

I’m a baby boomer so I grew up back in the day before the internet, cell phones, personal computers and social media like Facebook and Twitter. I remember reading newspapers, going to the library to research school work and watching in horror Alabama’s reigning racist Bull Connor ordering police squads to turn fire hoses and attack dogs on innocent children in Birmingham who were expressing their right to march and protest. But, because of their dedication to take on the fight, Connor’s hate filled rage backfired when his actions were broadcast into the living rooms of millions of Americans helping to facilitate the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Alabama police attack voting rights marchers participating in the first of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965

I also remember the 1967 Detroit Riots and riots across the country in protest of police brutality, unfair housing practices, unemployment and underfunded education. I also remember watching body bags arrive home from Vietnam on the six-o-clock news and the country being outraged and questioning the war and the world around us.

These memories drive my anger and make me want to scream – We just blew it people!! We didn’t wake up and we still refuse to deal with the ramifications of a political party that doesn’t care about the poor and struggling in this country. Women, if you aren’t already, you should be very, very afraid for not only yourself but your daughters and their reproductive health.

The facts are clear. The Teabag/Republican Party has already dismantled voter rights, will repeal the 1973 landmark decision Rove vs Wade which guarantees a woman’s right to privacy and choice. And, if the Republicans win the White House in 2016, have no doubt they will repeal and thereby deprive millions of Americans the right to affordable healthcare.

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In the light of this history, it’s outrageous how we’ve turned our backs on our ancestors who believed in and died for our freedoms. It’s just sad to know we don’t take their sacrifices seriously or honor their commitment. My question is:

What’s it going to take people to finally “Wake the Fuck Up?”