12 Years’ a Grim Reminder.
(ThyBlackMan.com) Have you seen the new movie ‘12 Years a Slave’ yet? If not, you should ASAP. I attended a screening last weekend with a group from my church. Numerous film reviewers call ‘12 Years a Slave’ the greatest movie about slavery ever made. I concur. It’s also a grim reminder of our nation’s dark past.
‘12 Years a Slave’ is the true story of Solomon Northup; a distinguished, educated, free Black man who lived and worked as an in-demand violinist in Saratoga Springs, NY in the early 1840s. He had a good wife, two beautiful children, and a good life. His safe and serene world, however, came to an immediate halt when Mr. Northup was deceived, drugged, and kidnapped by slave traders. The movie follows Mr. Northup through an arduous hero’s journey: from a life of freedom, to life as a slave called Platt, to the long road back to reclaiming his life 12 years later.
Produced by Brad Pitt, written by Ridley Scott, directed by Steve McQueen, and fueled by a magnificent performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the role of Solomon Northup, this film almost perfectly encapsulates the complexities of slavery as an American institution. Brilliant performances by an all-star cast – including the aforementioned Chiwetel Ejiofor (a three-time Golden Globe nominee), Academy Award nominee Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Golden Globe nominee Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Academy Award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, Academy Award Paul Giamatti, and Alfre Woodard (nominated for an Academy Award, a Grammy, and 18 Emmy Awards) – ensure that this movie hits you like a sledgehammer to the chest. Most movie theaters showing this film leave the lights out even after the end credits are over so that those who saw it can compose themselves. At my screening, some people were crying afterwards. Others sat silently, transfixed in their seats; unable to move or to speak right away.
During the setting of ‘12 Years a Slave’ – in the film as well as in real life – the good guys were the Republicans. The Grand Old Party was founded in 1854 by academicians, social activists, abolitionists, members of the clergy, politicians, and everyday Americans of good conscience. It must be said that these people, the majority of them White, opposed the gangrene-filled wound upon America known as slavery at enormous risk to themselves. GOPers of that era not only subjected themselves to financial, social, and professional ruin; they also put their own freedom and their own lives in jeopardy for working to eradicate slavery. The Democrats – in the film as well as in real life – were the bad guys.
They were huge proponents for slavery because slaves were the unpaid and oppressed labor for the plantations in the southern states. The Democratic Senators and Congressmen themselves owned slaves; so any anti-slavery legislation proposals were totally against their own self-interests and the interests of their constituents. Back then, the Democrats were the ones willfully ignoring all that beautiful language in the United States Constitution referring to all men being free… and all men being created equal. The Dems considered slaves to be property. The Dems made it against the law for any slave to be able to write and read. The Dems outlawed any scenario allowing for any slave to vote. How can 3/5 of a human being vote?
If you think Black people are simply takers and not makers, I dare you to go see ‘12 Years a Slave’. If you think that Black people are incapable of doing wondrous things, I dare you to go see ‘12 Years a Slave’. If your heart yet beats – if you still breathe air – you cannot see this and leave unchanged. This movie is a synopsis of our forced exodus from our homeland. This movie is a brief glimpse into our holocaust – the middle passage on slave ships during which untold millions of Black people died from inhumane treatment/conditions.
This movie is a recap of the unspeakable savagery White people institutionally imposed upon Black people in America for centuries – up to and including rape, murder, beatings, and the permanent separation of family members from each other. Slavery’s wounds have not yet healed. I freely admit that I shed tears as I watched this movie. I couldn’t help but wonder about the plight of my own ancestors. Did they know much kindness in their lives? Doubtful.
Politicians like State Representative Bill O’Brien (R-NH) – who compared Obamacare’s implementation to slavery – should be ashamed of themselves.
I wish every US Senator and Congressman were able to watch ‘12 Years a Slave’. Perhaps the current Republicans would cease their efforts to block immigration reform legislation and stop pursuing voter suppression initiatives. Perhaps they would see President Obama in a different light. I can scarcely think of a better reminder that freedom ain’t free.
Staff Writer; Arthur L. Jones, III
This talented brother is a local Minister, weekly featured Democratic Op-Ed columnist, non-profit advisor, and sees the Braves winning it all this fall. Rev. Jones welcomes your comments! Please email him directly at: email@example.com.