A national taste for historical prospective on American chattel slavery has reignited this year. If you listen closely you can hear and see social media patron’s complaining and murmurings about their 'slave fatigue.' Some even have gone as far as to demand that more 'when we were kings and queens' movies be produced as opposed to all this ‘slavery stuff’. Titles such as, Underground, Roots Reboot and now Nate Turners story retold in The Birth of a Nation dissuade many descendants of slaves from watching, reading or even wanting to have a productive dialogue about it.
I am one of those slave history enthusiast who feel this topic is of uber importance. So when news of The Birth of a Nation first hit earlier in the year I earmarked it as a must see. That was some eight long months ago, who would have known that this movie carrying seeds of revolution would blow into town on the very week that the worse hurricane of the season made its début. Hurricane Matthew jumped on the scene projected to directly hit us, but by divine providence our area dodged the eye of the storm. We came out practically unscathed, one night of black out, tangled branches and uprooted shallow trees were the only remnants left behind. This week’s inclement weather set the stage for the uprooting of a much deeper tree, one laden with the weight of hanging bodies and bloodied roots.
Two minutes late, 1:40 pm was show time and I was two minutes behind schedule. I entered the dimly lit room in a rush, forced to feel my way through the darkness. On the screen I beheld what appeared to be a dream sequence, the unfamiliar language felt uncomfortable to my ears. Subtitles graced the bottom of the screen and for a second I was confused. I stood on the steps fumbling to find my seat, finally I was able to use the flashlight on my phone to light the way.
The movie seat towered over my back and I sank into the darkness ready to absorb this 1851 experience. Nate Turner’s story is one that is often demonized in popular literature, even in the Roots Original at the name of Nate the ‘whites’ quailed with fear. His story represents a fearful thought for the powers that be, just speaking Nate Turners name may cause inflammation in the consciousness of the ‘white’ and ‘black’ populations alike. Nate Parker has harnessed this energy into a masterful work of art. The spirit of hard work, blood sweat and tears are felt in Nate Parker's passion project The Birth of a Nation. Truth be told this is not just another slave narrative.
The Birth of a Nation takes on a journey of awakening, helping you to understand the progressions of liberation. How does one elevate from being complacent in their oppression to being the vehicle to combat it?
It is so interesting that on the very day I awoke determined to see this movie, headlines arriving from Ethiopia that the people have decided to fight back. Tired of their own systematic oppression and exploitation the Oromo and the Amhara people groups band together to retaliate against the tiny Tigrean elite. Because of the uprisings the Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency.
It seems the human spirit has a limit on oppression. The Ethiopian people are fighting today as Nate Turner decided to do some 185 years ago. This movie touched my soul, several times through the piece I cried. Tears streamed from the depth of my soul cleansing places that their memories have long been stored. I cried for my fore parents, generations forgone and their progeny that has survived under the most hostile conditions until this day. I cried. After the film finished the other patrons sprung from their seats, rushing for the door but I could not move and so I remained. The credits and screen finally faded to black and still I was bound there for some time longer.
A young melinated woman entered the theater and began to clean between the seats, she came into my field of view but even her presence could not change the soul cleaning process. Finally, the feeling returned to my limbs, I rose from my place much different from when I arrived less than two hours before. The spirit of this film translates into different soul languages, it works with what already resides within you. My experience will not be yours, however I bid you to experience this film and allow yourself the opportunity to feel it.