For many of us 2020 will be a year we were sheltered in place due to Covid. Since most of us have reduced going out we have watched a lot of TV.
“With Drawn Arms” was recently released and I saw the preview today. IT IS A MUST SEE. Not because you are a documentary nerd, a track and field affectionado or some type of revolutionary. The doc is about the great Tommie Smith and his world record breaking performance at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Smith was an exceptional athlete but many remember his powerful gesture along with teammate John Carlos as they stood on the victory stand in what has become international folklore.
Produced by Glenn Kaino it is moving and inspirational as you are invited to get to know Tommie through his narration of many personal moments.
The doc is a solid 10 and available on the STARZ network.
Our nation has not experienced the type of environment we are living through. Millions have hit the street and that many and more can’t wait until November 3rd, at least those in the United States who are eligible to vote.
Congressman John Lewis’ doc – “Good Trouble” was debuted this weekend. It chronicles Lewis’ iconic career including battling for the right to vote and fighting back voter suppression. Through his career you have a front seat to the battles, the victories and some of the defeats. Political buffs will love the doc. Those who are new to the scene may be inspired how a simple-minded lad from Troy, AL got involved and embraced public service. There is so much to his life you almost forgot how he pulled the cous de gras to defeat his longtime friend Julian Bond to represent Altanta’s fifth district.
The 90 minute doc is available on demand and most streaming services.
Jacques Bordeaux has penned a masterpiece. I was happy to purchase my copy from Amazon. Hopefully my review will be posted in the next day or so.
I have known Jacques for over 50 years. Amazon has specific criteria for reviews which is why I am grateful for my own platform as I am able to stretch out and provide a better perspective of why you may enjoy supporting Jacques and Valerie as they start their “Sintown Saints” book tour.
During the early to mid 60’s Los Angeles (affectionately known as L.A.) was going through a cultural transition. Many families, especially those in the African-American community were dealing with the reality of police harassment, discrimination and other lifestyle issues which thwarted their progress. As a result folk were packing up and heading out so their kids could have better educational opportunities. As a young teenager I didn’t understand the significance but I recall my mother and father having a heated argument about what our family’s next move was going to be? My younger brother Reginald had not been born so it was just Ronald and I, and our two sisters Evelyn and Angela. My mother gave my father the ultimatum; it was either Pacoima or Pomona! I don’t remember much more other than Ronald and I trying to figure out how in the hell my father was going to get the truck he grabbed from work which was loaded with the family belongings up and over the I-10 Kellogg Park hill? It seemed like an impossible straight uphill shot which was nerve-racking if not daunting…….but somehow, we made it.
The migration was incredible as so many came from Los Angeles and it is now as adults, we have come to realize we actually lived in close proximity to each other. Jacques and his family came to Pomona in 1964. We got to Pomona in May 1965, about three months before August 11 of that year or the day the Watts Riots started. We didn’t recognize then but all of us have a better understanding now. Pomona was known as a regional center or a little larger than a small town. The tract homes were an attraction for families looking to “stretch out.” Whites were the majority population and near the middle to southern part of the city was a sizeable Latino population. The aftermath of the riots opened the floodgates for thousands of African-American families who staked their claim in Pomona. Many landed in Sintown or close-by developments. The Bordeaux’s lived on Avalon which is the entry street as you enter Sintown. We lived on Carlton. It seemed like everyone in Sintown had brothers and sisters so especially for the kids it was easy to make new friends. Just about everybody in the tract went to one of three schools; Arroyo Elementary, Marshall Junior High School or Ganesha High School. As mentioned in “Sintown Saint’s” that connection became part of the Pomona pride. Marshall and Ganesha was known for fielding competitive athletic teams but not to the level of the established schools; namely Pomona High and Emerson Junior High. That is until the new transplants from the Los Angeles region settled in. As Bordeaux states in the book, by the late 60’s Ganesha became a powerhouse in sports and other student activities and the rest is history.
Jacques Bordeaux has used his gift to communicate. Even though it chronicles his family’s life as they developed through various migrations, he shares the resilience and discipline of family life. The book is a jewel because it is an easy read but it speaks to a slice of life in the African-American community that some might assume doesn’t exist. In the Bordeaux’s house the existence was real and not a big deal because they had a commitment to enjoying the benefits of a positive lifestyle.
The film “Just Mercy” is set for release Christmas day, December 25th. It is a must see.
Last night we saw the preview screening at the Regal Theater at the L.A. Live complex. As many times I have been to the “Regal” I never knew the complex had an 800-seat theater? Anyway, thanks to the Californian Endowment, Liberty Hill and other organizations each seat was taken.
The film is about the storied career of activist attorney Bryan Stevenson and his work in helping those tied up in the legal and penal system with no or ineffective representation. The numbers are unimaginable and makes you wonder who in their right mind would take up such a cause where the odds are weighted against you?
“I was able to see the premier at the Grand Lake theater here in Oakland. It was riveting. I’ve known Bryan and his work for decades. He has been an inspiration to motivate me to keep my eye on the prize with the work we do.” James R. Bell, Burns Institute – Oakland, CA
Murder and race
Acclaimed actor Michael Jordan plays Stevenson. The film centers around Walter McMillan who is brilliantly played by Jamie Foxx. McMillan was found guilty of murdering a young lady who is white and had relegated himself to meet his final fate in the electric chair. You will also see O’Shea Jackson (Ice Cube’s son) bring life in playing Roy Hinton who was another person ensnarled in prison. It’s one thing to be poor. It’s another thing to be poor and black!!! Yet, to be poor, black and in Alabama doesn’t take much creativity to conclude what your ultimate plight will be.
The Lynching Museum
Stevens legal brilliance is well known. Several years ago, he took up the charge to give voice to the countless African-Americans who suffered death by lynching. The museum is located in Montgomery and has received rave reviews. Stevenson is from Alabama and headed north to Harvard Law School to obtain his law degree. He took the state bar of Alabama and passed. Upon receiving a grant, he headed back home to establish a legal defense organization to help those like McMillan.
As mentioned, Just Mercy is a must see. It chronicles a stunning series of events. There will be times when you will have a smile or a laugh and then there will be times where your eyes will be wet from tears as you are taken through a journey to see if McMillan can receive justice.
There is a coffee craze going on in the hood. In the past year or so in Leimert Park and on the fringes independent coffee shops have been popping up. In 2018, Hot & Cool Café opened its doors in the epicenter of Los Angeles’ African-American community; Leimert Park. Approximately two miles to the east near MLK Blvd. & Western, South L.A. Café is the newest entry. True to the spirit of community they get their coffee from Oakland based Red Bay Coffee Roasters, which recently announced opening their own spot in 2020 adjacent the famed Harold & Belles restaurant on 10th Avenue and Jefferson.
South L.A. Café is planning for their grand opening which is slated for Sunday, December 8th. I popped in for a sampler and the business has much promise. As mentioned, it is located on the southwest corner of Browning Avenue and Western Avenue, which is one block north of King & Western.
The business is well-appointed, staff is friendly and eager to serve you and best of all you are treated to a positive environment. The area is going through a renaissance or as some may say, gentrification but locals as well as interlopers now have a spot to grab some good coffee and tasty pastries at an affordable price. I understand as the business grows the menu will be expanded to include soups, sandwiches and other items which add to its diversity.
old-school coffee cake and cup of coffee
The spot is spacious, offers a meeting room adorned with noted community activist and artist Mohammed Mubarak’siconic portrait of Nipsey Hussle. Of course, there is complimentary Wi-Fi for those needing a reliable connection.
If you saw “When They See Us” that is great news AND if you ALSO saw the actual documentary “The Central Park 5” – Congratulations, you are in the top of the class. If you only have seen one of the titles or haven’t seen any at all……. please do yourself a favor and do your homework – watch them. The 1989 Central Park Five issue has been reignited with Ava DuVernay’s recent production. It is the most talked about subject at work, at home or at play. DuVernay’s piece makes it that much riveting or fuels inspiration for you to get up to speed. Even the person who takes pride in being the local curmudgeon will appreciate the time they invest to join the crowd.
Noted film-maker Ava DuVernay has struck a nerve across the globe with her docu-drama series, “When They See Us.” Fueled by the Netflix platform a record 23 million viewers tuned into the first month, which was June 2019. “When They See Us” is a spin-off from the documentary.
“The Central Park Five” which was created by the erstwhile story teller, Ken Burns and his daughter, Sarah. Their piece showcased in 2012.
Both pieces relive the story of five teenagers from Harlem who happened to be at New York’s Central Park when Trisha Ellen Meili while doing her routine jog was viciously raped and left for dead. The case exploded in the media as the teenagers were rounded up and faced charges of the jogger’s plight. They were comprised of four African-Americans and one Puerto Rican. The victim was a young career professional who was white.
A matter of perspective
Public sentiment was fueled by the racial characteristics of the incident. During that period there was an epidemic in communities across the United States being affected by drugs and other criminal behavior. Those in urban cores such as Harlem was defined as “ground-zero” for the mayhem which became an everyday occurrence.
As difficult as it is for people to candidly talk about race, in reality it is pretty easy as it can only be based on one’s perspective or experience. Such is the case when you read and hear comments about both pieces. Generally, whites or those who adopt a white perspective define the films a certain way and those who are non-white see things from a different lens. More specific whites see police or those in authority of simply doing there job.
DuVernay takes you on a journey to help you grasp the issue from the beginning such as giving you a glimpse of what life looked like for those teenagers who were charged. Her piece was split into four parts with each being a little bit more than one hour. So, after completing the journey you have consumed a piece of history that very few could articulate while insuring accuracy to understand a very complex subject.
In the documentary one of the teenagers, Kevin Richardson tells how he was approached by then college student Sarah Burns who was researching a project for one of her classes. She wanted his permission to share his perspective of the incident.
She persuaded her father, Ken Burns to help bring the story to life via a documentary. Through their team they produced a piece which was woven into two hours. The footage they produced never stopped as with the case of most of their films. Hard facts and the actual subjects zoom right into your zone.
Both pieces showcase the issue of racial injustice. They showcase ego and incompetence. They showcase the personal and financial toil of how families must navigate a person who is incarcerated. They showcase fear in victims who must suffer the wrath and intimidation of those investigating and/or interrogating them. They showcase the rawness or life for those incarcerating and the basic survival skills necessary to stay alive and not lose your mind. They showcase the paltry support system of those who have served their time and must transform themselves back into their community.
Despite their incarceration the five teenagers had morphed into manhood from serving their time. Following serving their time, they accepted their sentence and simply committed to get on with their lives. Call it a fluke, luck or magic the five held onto to their knowledge of serving time for a crime they did not admit. Years had passed but by chance, the person who actually committed the crime came forward and shared his confession with the oldest defendant; Kory Wise and later with prison authorities.
“This tragedy reminds us how much we struggle to come to terms with America’s original sin, which is race,” Ken Burns.
The bottom-line is all had their sentences exonerated. Even with the clear confession and proof the five had nothing to do with the initial crime. The prosecution and various authorities as well as many in the public could not accept, they were totally vindicated. Yes, the victim who performed the rape was finally identified BUT many people simply brought into the notion that prosecution or authorities would never resort to coercing any type of confession or they subscribed to the belief the teenagers lived in projects and had troubled-lives so even though there was no evidence they did the act, surely they most be guilty – if not for the rape, OF SOMETHING!!! Part of their assessment was based on confessions molded on their naïve belief that “who would confess to something they did not do?” but to be more specific they allowed the disparity of race to cloud their lens in proclaiming the five young men as guilty.
Just as Sarah Burns and her dad received extraordinary acclaim for their documentary, the same can be expected for DuVernay and her team as they have presented a compelling piece or work that will be referenced for years way into the future.
DuVernay’s piece is split into four parts so give yourself enough time to absorb and understand the content. No doubt since there is more than four hours of footage, she was able to stretch out more than what is presented in the documentary. That is necessary to help you understand the complexity of the characters and the issues they faced.
The documentary is a must see, as by investing two hours you are able to grasp actual information and filter it through your own lens or understanding. Your assignment is not complete until you have seen the docu-drama and the documentary.
If this book were a novel it would easily earn 5 stars.
Unfortunately, because it deals with history and is one person’s account, I will be generous and rate it 3 stars, simply because there are a couple of critical omissions, so unless the reader is fully informed on the life of Dr. King and the events which led to his assassination, they are left to the narration of others.
The book is masterfully designed and in hardback looks great. It is designed as part of the Scholastic series or targeted for high school students or young adults. However, regardless of age, the content is so intriguing it is a great find for your library.
It weaves you through the journey of Dr. King’s life including one of the initial assassination attempts during his inaugural book signing which took place in New York. Also, there are some great photographs in the book. It continues and traces Dr. King’s work which eventually took him to Memphis. Then, it changes course and brings James Earl Ray into focus. Swanson does a good job in narrating the life and struggles of Ray. It concludes with his decision to finally pull the trigger firing the deadly blow which allegedly fell Dr. King.
The book covers 373 pages and has a touching forward by civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis. Upon reflection I doubt if Congressman Lewis read the entire book? The contradictions made in Swanson’s representation are basic well-known facts, so either Lewis let it slide, didn’t think it was significant enough to challenge or simply lent his name to the book but didn’t read it?
Dr. King’s life and work is well documented. Some facts or issues are disputed but I am one who has studied Dr. King for some time and while mistakes or errors do occur from time to time, from my perspective Swanson writes from a viewpoint he feels worthy of directing. Also, in fairness to Swanson I received a copy for review so perhaps corrections have already been made? My critique is not to be a knit-picker but facts are facts and any omission raises red flags and as previously mentioned are very important when historic events or figures are the topic.
Here are two contradictions on why I reduced my rating from 5 stars to 3 stars. Fortunately, in addition to studying Dr King’s work, I have been to Memphis. Been to the Lorraine Hotel, the area where the shot was allegedly fired from. Additionally, I have been inside the Mason Temple arena where Dr. King gave his last speech, the famous “Mountaintop Speech.” As Swanson describes the day of April 3, 1968 on page 128 he specifically mentions on the third paragraph Dr. King had spoken for an hour and a half. That translates into ninety minutes? Fortunately, many of Dr. King’s speeches and remarks were recorded. I have listened to the “Mountaintop Speech” well over 50 times and the facts are simple; Dr. King did not speak for ninety minutes but more like 30 minutes from the time Rev. Abernathy introduced him until his last words where he was helped to his seat when finished.
The other issue is accepting the notion that James Earl Ray was the only killer? Coincidently, in 2008 I met Judge Joe Brown at the Lorraine Motel and he spent over three hours explaining the case federal case where he was the presiding judge. The trial is well documented and was brought by the King family to determine if James Earl Ray was the only killer? Judge Brown is known for his controversy but whether you believe them or not, or whether you believe Swanson’s narrative or not was not the sole criteria for my review. However, Swanson appears to marginalize the King family’s attempt to get “their” truth as on page 251 he writes, “his lies (Ray) deceived Dr. King’s family and one of King’s sons visited Ray in prison, told him he believed him, and shook his hand.” The problem for me what Swanson’s represents is the tone of denial or questioning the reality of the King family, at least as how they saw it! In other words who is it for them to question the narrative which most of the public has accepted?
Judge Brown told me directly that based on the trial, James Earl Ray was not the killer. As shocking as that might sound, it is a critical fact or point of view worth exploring. The bigger point and the reason I challenge Swanson is the King family accepted the jury decision of the trial, which concluded James Earl Ray was not the lone killer as people had been made to believe.
Nevertheless, Swanson has presented a good book. It is yet another perspective of Dr. King and his assassination. I am sure he has an explanation on the issues I have raised regarding the accuracy or narration of the book? For some the omissions I have pointed out may appear irrelevant but the factual record is clear and if the King family supported granting James Earl Ray a trial to determine if in fact there were other conspirator’s, then who is for Swanson or me to refute their desires or motivation?
The piece is not just another bio-pic about Cuba. What it does is update the historical record and highlights how Fidel rose to the ultimate leadership position.
I decided to make the film with the understanding that some would hate it and try to dismiss it, and others would love it!! Professor Glenn Gebhard
Prior to the noted take-over in 1959, escalating in the 1950’s there were several opposition forces to the Bautista regime. The film highlights leaders who at the time were more powerful than Fidel. Two which deservingly captured the research of Gebhard was Jose Antonio Echeverria and Frank Pais. Many young people across the island formed their activism while attending the University of Havana. Jose Antonio Echeverria was student body president and developed quite a following which bled out of the University to the western part of the country. Frank Pais (Pie-Es) was at the southeastern portion of the island in the Santiago region and also had assembled an impressive opposition group.
Fidel’s martyrdom is well documented. Unfortunately, Echeverria nor Pais lived to see the victory of the revolution. Echeverria was killed at 25 years old in 1957. Several months later in July País who was just 22 years old was also killed.
Even though previous historical accounts skip over their place in the revolution (highlighting Fidel as the primary leader), Gebhard’s film gives you a much better perspective how their actions fueled the revolution and successfully forced Bautista out. After all, following the July 26, 1953 ill-fated battle at Moncada prison, where Fidel suffered a defeat and subsequently was captured and imprisoned, Echeverria and País had forces much larger than his.
In completing the film, Gebhard compiled a fledging team who were able to cull together solid documentation. However, it was through his connection with Steve Krahnke and his team at PBS that finally made the film a reality.
The thing about a documentary is facts are pulled together from the perspective of the producers. Some may dismiss their facts but just as Gebhard presented information to update the record, until others provide refuttable facts, the presentation becomes the current account.
My score, a 10 based on content.
**screening dates of the film are pending, however it is available on Netflix**