Michaels' "Obama In NC" Links History Of Black Experience
It's also a documentary of the indomitable spirit of Black people--enduring slavery, the terror after "emancipation," Jim Crow and
institutionalized racism in the 19th and 20th century, but unyieldingly
demanding a role in the wider American experience.
Cash Michaels has produced a very important documentary that sets itself apart from all the other films about the historic march of Barack Hussein Obama to the White House.
Most of the films I've seen discuss candidate Obama's unlikely march --almost all note that: he was Black; he was an inexperienced candidate; he had an atypical name; and he faced serious challenges, including from doubtful Black voters initially, and later from formidable candidate Hillary Clinton and the Clinton machine-- Michaels' film, correctly, pushes the history way back.
To show how a path was paved for Obama, Michaels travels as far back as the 19th century. He covers the story of the Black experience and struggle in these United States. From the period after so-called "emancipation," and surviving the terror subsequently unleashed against Black communities including lynchings, massacres, and the burnings and destruction of properties and whole neighborhoods.
Michaels is the editor and chief reporter for The Carolinian Newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., and staff writer for The Wilmington Journal in Wilmington, N.C.; both are major Black newspapers. While he's New York-bred, Michaels has lived for many years in North Carolina. So one can forgive his natural inclination to focus on the Black struggle in that part of the country, tracing the history during the era of reconstruction, the reaction against early Black advancement, the rise of the KKK, and the setbacks suffered by the early movement and coalition between Blacks and poor White farmers that had helped produce the first surge of Black elected officials, even at the national level.
Yet this account mirrors the history of the Black experience through much of the country, especially the South, where the terror was most concentrated. What's most interesting to note by this reviewer is that the early adverse White reaction against Black advancement reflects some of the reaction against the historic election of Obama --with his campaign's White alliances-- that burst to the surface last year during the so-called town hall meetings to push back against healthcare reform and the subsequent formation of the Tea Party. While this analogy isn't explicitly made by Michaels, who narrates the film, it's obvious to the viewer and doesn't even need to be mentioned.
Like the contemporary reactionaries, those of the 19th century also claimed that they were simply opposing the erosion of "conservative values" and principles; the 19th century reactionaries claimed they wanted to protect the rule of law and the safety of White women from ignorant Blacks who couldn't rule and were sexual predators.
Contemporary reactionaries aren't shy to hold up posters depicting Obama as a primate while claiming that he represents a threat to the nation's fiscal health.
Of course the 19th century reactionaries had no problem with slavery and its legacy; the contemporary reactionaries don't lament much the fact that it was a White Republican president who destroyed the nation's economy and plunged the U.S. into two costly foreign wars, all of which were inherited by the "primate" president Obama.
Michaels' "Obama In NC: The Path To History," is a documentary that should be viewed by everyone who is interested in placing Obama's election in its proper historical context. It's also a documentary of the indomitable spirit of Black people--enduring slavery, the terror after "emancipation," Jim Crow and institutionalized racism in the 19th and 20th century, but unyieldingly demanding a role in the wider American experience.
It's that spirit that eventually led to the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement, spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. --many of his disciples are interviewed in the film-- and the election of Black officials, at the local, state, and federal levels once again. These were the early forays that paved the way for the runs of Rev. Jesse Jackson --whose presidential campaigns are featured in the film, including segments from Michaels' own coverage as a radio journalist-- and Harvey Gantt's quest for the Senate. Although not featured in the film, the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm was also a pioneer.
Michaels' film, which has just won Second place for Best Feature Film at the 16th Annual Hayti Heritage Film Festival in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 21st, also shows that invariably Black gains in the socio-political arena in this country always invites vicious backlash --now and in the 19th and 20th centuries.
There are many poignant moments in the film, as when Michaels boards a bus with his family for the journey to Washington, D.C., for Obama's inauguration on December 20, 2009, accompanied by his wife Markita, and daughter KaLa, who was five at the time, and an older daughter, Tiffany.
The film is a tribute to his mother, Lillian Marie Keaton, a New Yorker from Brooklyn --where she raised Michaels. Sadly, she died on January 19, 2009, the day before inauguration. Yet, like millions of others of her generation, she had lived to see the election of a Black president of these United States.
The Film runs for 118 Minutes
The film can be ordered via http://www.facebook.com/l/bcdaf;www.obamainnc.com
Also see www.durhamcounty.mync.com and
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