Hello Meltingpot Readers,This past weekend I went to see 12 Years A Slave with my cousin. It wasn’t a film I was excited to see, it was more of a compulsion. When Hollywood takes on the Black experience, I feel it is my duty to support the effort. I also was intrigued by the very true story of a free Black man tricked and kidnapped into slavery who manages to survive 12 years of inhuman bondage and still return home to his family.
Dear readers, can I just say, that I have never experienced a movie like this one. I have never been so moved by actors on a screen. I have never felt so intimately involved with the action going on in a film. My hat goes off to the filmmakers who were able to draw the audience so deeply into the events of the movie, that the entire theater was filled with the sounds of people sniffling and sobbing at the injustice occurring before our very eyes. And it didn’t stop there. I cried for the rest of the evening, even after the credits rolled. I woke el esposo and myself up in the middle of the night, sobbing in my sleep. Sunday morning in church, I broke down in the middle of a hymn because the cruelty and injustice depicted in the movie were just too much for my soul to bear. Too much because this wasn’t just a movie, this was the story of my people.
I could probably write 10 different blog posts/essays about my thoughts and reactions to the film, but rather than do that, I decided to simply make a list of my thoughts, ideas and impressions for you to reflect on. Here goes:
1. I was really surprised by the freedom and wealth Solomon Northrop experienced in his life in Ithaca, New York before his kidnapping. It makes me realize that the Black experience in America is so much more diverse than the popular narrative of southern plantation slave.
2. While the number of evil Southern White folks depicted in the film were many, it is important to note that the filmmakers did not use broad brush strokes to suggest that all White people were the enemy. The innocent and the guilty came in all colors and the complexity within the relationships between Black and White was well documented.
3. While I really felt for Solomon Northrup and his plight to get back to his family, my heart was torn apart by all of the female characters in the film. I will forever be haunted by Patsy’s cries and I will never forget the desperation in the voice of a woman who begs a slave trader not to separate her from her children. As a Black woman, as a mother, those stories upended my world.
4. I could not smile for 48 hours after seeing that film, yet I would see it again. And I think every single person who calls the United States their home should see this film. It is the best piece of cinema yet that humanizes this institution that effectively dehumanized our country. For people who say they don’t want to witness the horrors of slavery, I say, you didn’t have to live through it, at least bear witness to it, so that as a nation we can honestly atone for those sins.
5. Last but not least. I really want to know what happened to Patsy.
There, those are my thoughts for now. Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think? What were your reactions? Like me, do you wish you had a support group to talk about it? Well, let’s talk here. I’m so listening.
P.S. FYI, my publisher, Atria books, just re-issued a new version of the book 12 Years a Slave with a foreword by one of my favorite authors, Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I just ordered a copy from my local Indie Bookstore and it’s ready for pick-up. Can’t wait!