25 Black art documentaries you need to watch

Last February, Lachelle Chyrsanne compiled a list of 25 must watch Black art documentaries.

From the list, I’ve only seen 5:

  1. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011)
  2. Black Is the Color: A History of African American Art (2017)
  3. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
  4. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
  5. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

There’s no time limit on watching these so I’ll add them to my ever-growing Letterboxd watchlist. The documentaries I have watched were very powerful and worth your time and investment.

See also: James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, Toni Morrison on Jazz, and Jean-Michel Basquiat on how to be an artist.

James Baldwin on the American Negro image

james baldwin

I saw this on Instagram (sidenote: follow @retrosoul__ on Instagram for more of the same) and thought it was poignant, given the last 4 years of American politics and what the future holds now President Biden is in office.

“One of these facts is that the American Negro can no longer, nor will he ever again be controlled by white America‘s image of him. This fact has everything to do with the rise of Africa in world affairs. At the time that I was growing up, Negroes in this country were taught to be ashamed of Africa. They were taught it bluntly, as I was for example, by being told that Africa had never contributed ‘anything’ to civilization. Or one was taught the same lesson more obliquely, and even more effectively, by watching nearly naked, dancing, comic-opera, cannibalistic savages in the movies. They were nearly always all bad, sometimes funny, sometimes both. If one of them was good, his goodness was proved by his loyalty to the white man.”

James Baldwin—”A Negro Assays the Negro Mood”, New York Times Magazine (12th March, 1961)

What does the future hold for Black America? Only time, hope, vulnerability, and strength will tell. But it will always be on Black people’s terms.

Related: The world according to James Baldwin, James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, and love from a Black perspective.

(via Daana Townsend on Instagram)

The world according to James Baldwin

An illustration of James Baldwin

Christina Greer gave a 4-minute TED-Ed talk on James Baldwin and the time the FBI created a 1,884-page file on him (something I wrote about a while back).

In the 1960s, the FBI amassed almost 2,000 documents in an investigation into one of America’s most celebrated minds. The subject of this inquiry was a writer named James Baldwin, one of the best-selling black authors in the world at the time. What made him loom so large in the imaginations of both the public and the authorities?

If you haven’t already, you should immerse yourself in as many of his speeches and lectures as you can, read his books, actually listen to what he says, act on it, and never talk to Black people about it. Deal?

Stream the video below.

Notes of a native son: The world according to James Baldwin - Christina Greer

Love from a Black perspective

My Dad has always been full of wisdom. He once described love to me as a pure and positive force that could not take any other form but itself. He said that actions that were jealous, angry, or otherwise ego-driven weren’t in the name of love. And that stuck with me ever since.

I look back at how I’ve received love and a lot of them were in forms my father decried as false. I’ve tried my best to love as purely and openly as possible. It has backfired a lot but I don’t regret what I did or how.

And that got me thinking about how love has been discussed by some of the great Black scholars and thinkers of our times and in this article, I’d like to share some with you.

“Love is divine only, and difficult always.”

Toni Morrison

“Love is where you find it. And you don’t know here it will carry you. And it is a terrifying thing [love]. It’s the only human possibility but it’s terrifying. And a man can fall in love with a man, a woman can fall in love with a woman. There’s nothing that anybody can do about it.”

James Baldwin

“Love is space. It is developing our own capacity for spaciousness within ourselves to allow others to be as they are. That is love. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have hopes or wishes that things are changed or shifted, but that to come from a place of love is to be in acceptance of what is, even in the face of moving it towards something that is more whole, more just, more spacious for all of us.”

Angel Kyodo Williams

“Some people forget that love is
tucking you in and kissing you
“Good night”
no matter how young or old you are”

Nikki Giovanni

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

Zora Neale Hurston

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Dr Maya Angelou

“Love quiets fear.”

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Brief Excerpts From James Baldwin's 1,884-Page FBI File

james baldwin

Such was the strength of racism and homophobia during the Civil Rights Movement. You can still feel that potency today, if not in different ways. But this quote from Literary Hub is harrowing:

My memorandum date 7-17-64, which concerned the captioned individual’s plans for a future book about the FBI, has been returned by the Director with this question: “Isn’t Baldwin a well-known pervert?” It is not a matter of official record that he is a pervert…

James Baldwin, a well-known pervert? M.A. Jones of Crime Records elaborated further:

While it is not possible to state that [Baldwin] is a pervert, he has expressed a sympathetic viewpoint about homosexuality on several occasions, and a very definite hostility toward the revulsion of the American public regarding it.

M.A. Jones of Crime Records

It is no wonder Baldwin moved across the Atlantic.

(via Literary Hub)