January 26, 2011 by Desiree Washington
Filed under Entertainment, Film & TV, News
Among the most illuminating films at the Sundance Film Festival in January in the World Cinema Documentary Competition is Goran Hugo Olsson’s powerful “THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975.” The film combines audio interviews with contemporary figures with 16mm archival footage documenting the Black Power movement in America, shot by Swedish journalists between 1967 and 1975 and only recently unearthed from the basement in which it quietly waited out the last 30 years. Among those who provide commentary: Talib Kweli, Harry Belafonte, Sonia Sanchez and Erykah Badu. The film features music by Badu, The Roots and Michael Jackson. Danny Glover is a co-producer. In one amazing segment, activist Angela Davis explains that she was friends with the girls who were blown to bits in the 16th Street Sunday school bombing in Birmingham, Alabama AND recalls when Commissioner Bull Connor, a symbol of bigotry, announced on the radio that there would be violence, and thus instigating violence against an entire black community.
“When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible,” says Davis in archival footage from 1972 seen in the trailer (below), “because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through, what black people have experienced in this country, since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”
Davis’ statements resonate today as America struggles to manage hate speech published by conservative talking heads such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and as America wrestles to control the gun trade that conservatives seek to deregulate, and which liberals, perhaps misguided, seek to strengthen.
Black Power is a political slogan and a name for various associated ideologies. It is used in the movement among people of Black African descent throughout the world, though primarily by African Americans in the United States. The movement was prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, emphasizing racial pride and the creation of black political and cultural institutions to nurture and promote black collective interests and advance black values, as opposed to multiculturalism.
“Black Power” expresses a range of political goals, from defense against racial oppression, to the establishment of separate social institutions and a self-sufficient economy (separatism). Not only did this “Black Power” movement encourage separatism, but it helped usher in black radical thoughts, and action against what was considered to be an elusive, yet visible higher power. The earliest known usage of the term is found in a 1954 book by Richard Wright titled Black Power. New York politician Adam Clayton Powell Jr. used the term on May 29, 1966 during a baccalaureate address at Howard University: “To demand these God-given rights is to seek black power.”