I just watched Summer of Soul…(Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Wow! What a ride – the performances, the narratives, the times!
Just a few weeks ago William Greaves’ Nationtime was made available for viewing by LANGSTON. Yet another piece of important Black history that lay dormant in a basement for decades, and was only recently restored and put back into the active volumes of Black cinema.
So much of our history is left to languish or intentionally tucked away, as a means for eroding Black culture and manipulating the Black narrative. With each rediscovery, our collective memories are restored and our experiences are validated. At the end of Summer of Soul, which documented the 6-week long 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, festival attendee Musa Jackson tearfully says, “Now I know I’m not crazy.” Seeing the film made him realize that his experience was not a dream or some made-up event. It actually happened - even though its documentation had been abandoned because no one cared. At the time, dominant news outlets focused on the first moon landing and Woodstock, which was to become one of the most iconic American music festivals.
These would-be-erased watershed moments in Black history must be witnessed, remembered, and shared. Sharing is made much easier in these days of pocket technology and Internet transference. Thanks to social media, we now have instant archival capability.
Not every iMovie will make it to Cannes obviously, but each of us has an obligation to bear witness to the history that unfolds around us. We just never know when we are participating in an event or activity that could serve to validate a future memory. Our daily experiences and our ability to call up those memories are reminders that we are not crazy! The richness of Black culture that unfolds at local restaurants, at festivals, in art exhibits, on theatre stages, in everyday interactions, is the evidence that we are here!
July's edition of Arté Noir offers more glimpses into the ways in which we are showing up in the world – not to be forgotten. From Black business to a theatre visionary, the creativity of a fiber artist, Black leadership in an international arts institution, the visual documentation of Black life, and the gift of Black art collectors, our light shines brightly on the non-televised versions of our history in the making.