Saturday, February 11, 2017

Snow Days, Movies in Brooklyn, Reflections on the Best Documentaries.

Congratulations to OJ: Made In America for its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary! Especially Caroline Waterlow, the producer!

It snowed the last few days.  So we went to the park and to the movies.  With the ups and downs, warm days and odd events of the winter, a little snow was a welcome break.
So, we called our neighbors, bundled up, shoveled and made our way out, down Hoyt and Union, grabbed a friend, stopped for a bagel, lost a glove, and a scarf, and made to the snow hill in Prospect Park. It feels like Call of the Wild walking through the snow.  Once at the big hill, we cascaded through the maze of kids, up and down the hill and back home, where we had baths and cooled off.

After school on Friday, we walked  through the snow, across Fulton Mall to the Alamo Theater, where we saw I Am Not Your Negro, the pulsing new Baldwin documentary, based on a book proposal he drafted on the story of three deaths, those of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and MLK. It s a majestic and painful story about a lingering wound.  Baldwin's witnessing is moving and telling.  Yet, it is not perfect.  The film does not address the homophobia, he often felt at the hands of black writers, such as Amiri Baraka. In the last few months, we've read Giovanni's Room and Notes of  Native Son.  One of the things I love about Baldwin is his ability to call it like he's sees it, flinching at the flaws in all of us.  He once, confessed that while white racism inspired him to fits of righteous indignation, Black homophobia made him want to cry.  If ever there was a writer who lived with intersectionality, it was Baldwin. His questions about our lives, identity, and questions about masculinity are still with us today.  Contemplating his life, one wonders what he talked about with Malcom X, in terms of sexuality, especially given the questions Manning Marable opens in his biography of the icon. What would the conversations he might have had with Belle Hooks or Marlon Riggs, whose Black Is, Black Ain't offers questions about masculinity that few others have.

On the way home, we talked about the other documentaries this year, including OJ Made in America and 13th.  Its been an amazing year for documentaries.  Our sister in law Caroline Waterlow produced OJ Made in America.  I loved OJ Made in America, binge watching it in one sitting.  At the time of the OJ case, I lived in San Francisco and pretty much ignored it.  My friends were dying of AIDS.  I didn't care to think about the media spectacle happening down South.  So the seven hours of the documentary felt like a useful review of a very telling time.  It helps it all make sense. And finally, one of my students suggested I watch 13th.  Its a spellbinding and painful history of the us 13th Amendment, the failed story of reconstruction, and the descent from the War on Poverty to the War on Drugs. Hopefully this is changing today.  But with ICE raids in California, it feels like we are still filling the jails. Yet, it does not tell the story of the 13th Amendment as effectively as the documentary, the Corporation. As a whole, these three documentaries speak to a hunger for an effecting accounting of the story of race in the US.

Walking home through the streets of Brooklyn, I felt a sense of gratitude for being here, a place where we blend into each other.  Certainly the wounds persist. But we are living with them in hopefully a more open way now. 

Snow flakes were pouring through the sky as we walked home.

The snowy streets and movies of Brooklyn.


  1. I'm glad you're a writer, activist, professor, anarchist, social commentator...and poet.

  2. Thanks Jim... you're good to me. Great to know you friend.