In our current era of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we must question ourselves as a nation and as a people of how we treat one another—people living in the same country, the same city, and the same neighborhood. What prevents us from letting each person pursue equal rights in pay, position, work, and education? What do we ultimately fear about one another that keeps us from respecting each other even in the midst of our differences?
Here we are almost seventy years after the Civil Rights Movement when Martin Luther King Jr. led the charge for peacefully exercising rights under the Constitution of the United States and prejudice still abounds in our free nation. 150 years since slavery of the African-Americans ended in the South with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment and still the hateful residue sits like a cancer on our country’s very skin.
Art has a way of bringing these underlying issues to the fore. Film, as the socially-impactful visual storytelling medium of our era, has a lot to say. Recently numerous films are telling the stories of people who lived either during the Civil War or during the Civil Rights era of the 50s and 60s, thereby keeping alive the hope of our nation to live as, “One nation under God.” With the likes of films like The Hate U Give (2018), The Help (2011), Hidden Figures (2016), and 12 Years a Slave (2013) stories keep coming to the fore that tweak our consciences so as to question how far have we come. Some up and coming feature films make it clear that no matter the color of our skin the human spirit fights for justice and the pursuit of happiness in this life. Movies like these are our history lessons and tell a profound truth that can change how we move into the future. The next generations must learn, listen, and understand so that we do not continue to carry the weight of our nation’s sins, but rather change our hearts and minds and together look to a new direction in a communion of God’s grace.
Here are brief descriptions of these films coming to theaters soon:
Harriet — (releasing November 1, 2019) One of the most admirable women in US history, Harriet Tubman defied everyone’s expectations driven by that fire within her soul, which she believed was God speaking to her and guiding her. Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet at the time when she and her husband John, who was a freeman, want to leave her owner on the plantation in Maryland to begin their family as free citizens. He responds by putting her up for sale on the slave market. She runs away making it by herself to Pennsylvania, and freedom, thus beginning her journey on the Underground Railroad. Her fierce determination to save others comes from her belief that God shows her the way and gives her premonitions or visions of what is to come. These visions or dreams help her to make quick decisions to change her direction so as to avoid detection. She rescues over 70 slaves from the harshness of slavery and as the Civil War breaks out, she goes with a black Northern regiment to save hundreds more. The only image that comes to my mind when I see this story is an African American Joan of Arc. In her very weakness God became her strength. She believed that she was to fight, “until this monster called slavery is ended.”
Just Mercy — (releasing December 25, 2019) This legal drama directed by Destin Daniel Cretton tells the true story of a young African-American Attorney, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) who graduates from Harvard Law School and seeks to be legal support for black prisoners in Alabama who have no legal counsel, many of whom are on death row. He comes to know of the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man imprisoned for the murder of a young white woman, but whose trial lacked any significant evidence that he was the perpetrator of the crime. Stevenson is determined to uncover the underlying prejudice and overturn the system’s deceptions through proof according to the Law. Though seemingly impossible circumstances and impenetrable Caucasian court Justices, Stevenson breaks the invisible line of scapegoating to save those falsely accused. He uses his intelligence and determination to show up the deceitfulness of prejudice and allows justice to reign in racially-divided Southern town. This film shows up the death penalty for what it is—the taking of another life never solves any problem.
There are several more films on the Hollywood docket, so look for them. These are great opportunities to share with our youth the evils of racism and hatred. If we are truly Christian than upholding the rights and dignity of every human being must be at the very basic level of the living of our faith. In fact is the core of the Gospels, "love God and love your neighbor." Christ loved. He expects nothing less from us as his followers. Not only do we stop hating but we help to change the so-called standards of society that keep people locked into classes or groups. We are called to challenge the hatred we see and not just stand by. It is the call of all God's children. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”