Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Ferguson Documentaries Will be Made Available for Free
If ever there was a time for American citizens—specifically white Americans—to learn about the history of racial segregation, oppression, and the reasons and uses for protest, that time is now. Actually, that time was decades ago, but for the purposes of this post, let’s focus on today. Tens of thousands of people all across the country have been in the streets protesting police brutality and systemic racism after the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was asphyxiated, while handcuffed, by officer Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, while three other members of the MPD watched. Sadly, Floyd’s death—which was caught on camera—is only but one reason for the outrage that has people eschewing city and state-mandated curfews to stand with Black people from New York to Los Angeles and literally every state in between. The names of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are now known to American citizens far and wide; they are two more innocent, unarmed Black people shot and killed in the past few months.
With this in mind, Variety reports that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and O Cinema has partnered with Magnolia Pictures to make three crucial documentaries free, starting this Sunday, June 7. The three documentaries cover two of America’s greatest writers and thinkers and the protests that sprung up in Ferguson, Missouri, after the unarmed teenager Michael Brown was murdered by police officer Darren Wilson. The films are I Am Not Your Negro, from director Raoul Peck, which focuses on the legendary writer and Civil Rights leader James Baldwin and his efforts to write a book about the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, from director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, which is a meditative look on the singular life of one of the most celebrated writers in American history. And finally, Whose Streets, from filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, which examines the systemic police abuses that led to sustained protests and nation-wide anguish after the murder of Michael Brown.
The three films will be available starting on June 7 in eight cities through community partners: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit, Michigan; Macon, Georgia; Miami, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; San Jose, California; and St. Paul, Minnesota. There will also be virtual discussions on the Monday following each screening to help educate people on how to support anti-racism initiatives and social justice reforms in their communities.
Here’s a snippet of the statement from Alberto Ibarguen, the president of the Knight Foundation, which is covering the rental costs of the films:
“Informed, equitable, inclusive, and participatory communities are as essential to a strong democracy as an informed citizenry. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis is a terrible affront to that ideal – and this weekend is a reminder of how tough it will be to rise to the moment. But our democracy depends on our willingness to try.”
The films will be free each Sunday for a 24-hour window, with Magnolia, Knight Foundation, and O Cinema sending out information to their mailing lists. You can subscribe to their lists on their websites—Magnolia, Knight Foundation, and O Cinema. There will also be a landing page where you’ll be able to access the films, coming soon. I Am Not Your Negro will stream on June 7, Whose Streets? will be available on June 14, and Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am will be made available on June 21, with the virtual discussions the following Monday of each film. Magnolia produced each of the films. Knight Foundation supports the arts, journalism, and cities where the brothers’ John S. and James L. Knight published newspapers. O Cinema is a non-profit, mission-driven independent art-house theater in Miami.
If you haven’t seen these films, they are excellent and necessary even at the best of times. Now, they are essential viewing.
Featured image: Toni Morrison in TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, a Magnolia Pictures release. ©Timothy Greenfield-Sanders / Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures