PART 1 | PART 2
It took me nearly 15-years to sit down and watch Hotel Rwanda. I can say the same regarding Last King of Scotland. As I think about it, I suppose my initial reaction to delay watching these films had a lot to do with how and when I grew up.
I was raised in a home where we talked a lot about global issues, especially those impacting the African diaspora, so it is no surprise that I was watching the news footage beaming into my TV and listening to the radio as a 14-year old. Truth be told, I had been watching, listening and reading a LOT about the happenings of African nations.
In 1994 there was great celebration within my circle regarding the election of South Africa’s First Black President, Nelson Mandela. This following the formal ending of Apartheid, a state sanctioned practice of discrimination and terrorism that ranks right up there with the U.S. Jim Crow era. Seeing Mandela released from prison and elected leader of his country was an important day and time for Black people around the world.
Another significant win that year was the appointment of Desmond Tutu to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by President Mandela. Having a formal process to address the ingrained social bad acting that supported segregated systems of control was a huge step forward for the nation in acknowledging that changing the law alone would not be enough to move forward together.
Another contemporary of these great men was Ghana’s Kofi Annan whose humanitarian work led to his 1996 election as United Nations Secretary-General.
We also discussed men who were committing atrocious acts of violence on the Continent such as Idi Amin who led a coup in 1971 Uganda.
This story was dramatized in the film Last King of Scotland (2006) which I profiled on my Black History Month tribute list of movies filmed in African nations.
Another bad actor we discussed was the leader of Libya’s 1969 Coup, Gaddafi.
Each of these men affected change on a global level and the only one who was ever mentioned in my U.S. school curriculum was Mandela and to be honest, very little was said about him. I know these things because my parents had the means and felt the need to make sure I knew these things so that I could be better prepared to become a global citizen.
I remember having some heated debates throughout high school in Northwest Arkansas because we were seeing with our own eyes the violence of civil wars and genocide in Rwanda and Somalia breaking out and the U.S. joining efforts with the U.N. to intervene. I would also quickly learn that many of my classmates (and teachers) did not have the global historic perspective to understand why the U.S. HAD to assist in these interventions.
Imagine for a moment what it felt like to be standing in a room wearing my Black skin looking into the white faces of my classmates and teachers and hearing their arguments for the U.S. to pull out and refuse to aid Somalia and Rwanda while with the same breath passionately advocating for increased involvement and investment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Bosnian genocide. I am thankful that I can look back at those times now and realize that I had a significant advantage over many of them in that I was better informed on global events than they were. My family made certain that I had access to information that traditionally was not permitted into the approved world history brought to an American school district near you. That ignorance colored the perspectives of many of my high school colleagues so much so that they could not at that time see the commonalities of the genocidal conflicts taking place at relatively the same time of three nations.
Rwanda = 1,143,225 deaths
Somalia = 400,000+ deaths
Bosnia = 8,372 deaths
Thanks to the global news cycle, I witnessed in real time a ghastly amount of violent human murder throughout the early to mid- 90s. The experience changed me. It made me question even more. It emboldened me to challenge authority figures when they spouted out ignorant rhetoric and failed to substantiate their opinions with facts and evidence. The experienced sharpened my truth speaking sword. These few examples I’ve called out were really just highlights of what was really going down as I was preparing to go to College and step into my adulthood.
The world was figuratively and literally on fire.
And this doesn’t include all of the social and economic terrorism that was being enacted on African Americans within the U.S. during this time period as well. That’s another story for another blog.
So, when Hollywood started making movies about these atrocities, I was admittedly reluctant to dive back and swim in those blood soaked waters; however, I am glad that I did eventually. Each of the movies that I have featured and will feature in my Black History Month tribute points a lens that picks up the Africa that is captured in the background and presents it for the world to see and learn and in many cases, combat the brainwashing that is done to so many in the western world that Africa is a homogenous entity easily categorized as poor, uncivilized and lost without the guiding hand of Europe.
I hunt for the background images in these films and shows to satisfy my appetite for the information that I feel is edited from my mainstream viewing experience in most western-based media. Does Africa have starving children? Sure. And so does America. But if you’re not careful you can be lured into the belief that Africa is only made up of Sally Struthers commercials and white church missions. Some of the world’s oldest universities were founded on the African continent. Some of the world’s oldest architecture exists in Africa. The oldest human remains are tied to Africa. So why do we in the West treat Africa as though it is not worthy of our time and attention and respect?
Ignorance of history is not a justification for heinous acts. And this is what grinds my grits about all this Critical Race Theory (CRT) nonsense. CRT resistors are gathering a bunch of things under an ill-fitting label and leaping to crusade. Labeling historical facts and happenings that are unflattering to some white people as CRT (which is not what CRT is at all) is an act of violence against the people whose historic identity and culture you suppress in that act of erasure. Systematizing this act of violence is downright criminal in my opinion. Make no mistake, this is done all the time, especially in our textbooks.
If you doubt me, go look for the textbook for AP African Studies/History/Languages. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
I need to go cool off and calm my blood down so I’ll come back next week and bring some more fun and factual talking points along with some solutions I’ve been pondering for how we get unstuck from this CRT fight and start addressing the egregious gaps in our education system that leads to underprepared adults making all kinds of trouble in the world.
Marta is an award winning filmmaker, writer and producer committed to sharing the rich and complex stories of America’s Heartland region. Marta wears several hats as Chief Creative-in-Charge of MartaGwyn Productions, LLC as well as the Co-Founder and Senior Grant Writer of Youngblood and Associates, LLC and Chief Operations Officer of Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services, LLC.
Marta is also the founder and editor-in-chief of TheWRITEaddiction. An online community of writers that publish creative and inspirational works daily at www.TheWriteAddiction.com.
Marta is an alumna of The Ohio State University and Tougaloo College with degrees in Sociology and English-Journalism and resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and unconventional college sweetheart of 10 years, Terrance Youngblood.