My Thoughts About Seeing “The Birth of A Nation”

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“To go or not to go?” This is the question that many people are asking themselves in regards to supporting the highly anticipated (at least within the African American Community) upcoming movie “The Birth of A Nation” scheduled to be released in October. The movie was co-written, co-produced and directed by Nate Parker who also plays the lead role of Nate Turner whose life story is the basis of the movie.Until recently on my facebook page there were posts after posts shared about the upcoming movie with people commenting how they “can’t wait to see it” and are “looking forward” to the October release date. But now, many are questioning whether or not they will or can support the movie any longer in light of the recent news that has once again surfaced about the allegations of Parker’s involvement in a rape case that happened years ago during his college years at Pennsylvania State University.

With all the recent buzz about whether or not people should support the movie with some people having already chosen to boycott it, I too have had to answer the question of whether or not I will still support the movie in light of learning about Nate Parker’s past indiscretions. As both a woman and a mother of a young woman who will soon be heading off to college; “rape” and the “rape culture” are certainly matters of great significance in my point of view and should never to be taken lightly. Being also the mother of two young men and having had many conversations about the importance of “respecting” women and making sure that they understand that decisions can change at any time and that “No” means “No” and any advance after that point is most certainly rape. I can certainly understand why some people have taken such a strong stance against supporting the upcoming movie. Rape is not Ok under any circumstance period.

However, even after considering all of these factors, I must honestly admit that I did not have to   ponder long about whether or not I would still support the movie when it comes out (if it in fact actually makes it to the big screen after all the dust settles). And my final answer is “Yes”, I most certainly will! Yes, I most certainly will support a movie that shares a glimpse of a not so docile portrayal of the life experiences of African American slaves. Yes, I most certainly will support a movie that exposes a part of American history that many would rather be forgotten or at minimum discussed in muzzled conversations.Yes, I most certainly will support a movie that showcases the talent and employs a significant number of African Americans working in various capacities within the film industry including many actors and actresses who even now are continually challenged in their pursuit of opportunities to get roles that are both meaningful and impactful. Yes, I most certainly will be going to see the movie when it hits the theaters. And I will be taking my daughter who is currently very interested in the film industry along with me.

You see what I know and understand is that I can do both. I can without hesitation support a film that I believe shares a story whose time has come up once again for revisitation. Especially considering the fact that in America we are still currently being challenged to acknowledge, confront and dismantle the legacy of systematic racism which unfortunately remains a part of the present day American experience whether we chose to admit it or not. And at the same time I can without hesitation stand strongly against rape, rape culture, sexism, toxic masculinity and male privilege. Because when it comes down to it, the fact is, these two choices are not mutually exclusive.

You see what I know and understand is that Nate Parker is not a perfect man, never has been perfect and never will be perfect. And neither am I, or neither or you. And truth be told, if we are completely honest with ourselves we can all admit that we too have made some decisions and choices in life that nobody may know about but if they were flashed on a big screen for all the world to see we would be quite ashamed and embarrassed and some of us might even find ourselves in places we wouldn’t want to be (i.e. jail, prison, mental ward and maybe even the graveyard). Those unwise choices may have been made for a plethora of reasons such as youth, immaturity, ignorance or pride. But I digress, I know this is about Nate Parker and his sins of the past and not yours or mine. And for that we can breath a sigh of relief and be thankful!

So here’s the thing, I think we can all agree that apparently when Nate Parker was a college student 17 years ago at Penn State University, he “fucked up” to put it bluntly. Both he and his friend, Jean Celestine were active participants in perpetuating the unfortunate but existent “rape culture” and this truth cannot be denied. Now for those of you who may be offended by such bluntness, let me put it this way, it is apparent that Nate Parker and his friend made very unwise choices in the area of their sexual activities 17 years ago when they were students at Penn State University. As a result of their unwise choices the life a female college freshman identified in court documents only as Jennifer was negatively affected and would never be quite the same again.

And the truth of the matter is that just like Jennifer’s life (when she was still alive) was never the same after being raped, neither will Nate Parker’s life ever be quite the same again now that he has to confront his past face to face in a “Come to Jesus” type of way. This has happened at a time in his life when it seems he was nearing a pinnacle of success in his career. But life always has a way of bringing dark areas to light especially at the time when light is necessary for betterment and growth individually and collectively. This is obviously one of those times. Yes, it’s  time for rape, rape culture, sexism, toxic masculinity and male privilege to be acknowledged, confronted and dismantled. Yes, it is time! And this whole experience with one of Nate Parker’s past indiscretions along with a number of other similar news stories involving rape brings the discussion of these issues front and center. Not to be ignored. Perhaps this alone is the silver lining in this gray cloud of a discussion about whether or not to support the movie.

So Yes, I will support the movie “The Birth of a Nation” and Yes, I will continue to stand strongly against rape, rape culture, sexism, toxic masculinity and male privilege.  In an exclusive interview in Ebony magazine, Nate Parker says he will do the same. I really hope that he does and that he is proven to be a man of his word. Will that happen? Only time and his actions will tell. But whether he does or he doesn’t, perhaps the more important question is, what will you do and what role will you play in affecting positive change in regards to these issues? My hope is that when it comes to these issues, all of us will find a way to do our part, whatever our part may be.

Click here to read the Ebony Exclusive interview with Nate Parker


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