I want to thank the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the YWCA and the National Underground Freedom Center for providing the opportunity to watch I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary based on the writings of James Baldwin. It was a great lesson for me, as I did not know Baldwin’s work. We also had the opportunity to hear from his niece Aisha Karefa-Smart and Quanita Roberson, founder and director of Nzuzu Coaching after the movie. The stark view of racism in America is impossible to deny as you watch the film. Moments from 1967 and 2014 are almost indistinguishable. It is hard not to be devastated by what we saw. Given the current climate, a way forward often feels out of reach. What Aisha Karefa-Smart said after the film was very helpful; blame and guilt do not get us anywhere. Confronting the truth of our American history, and moving forward with honesty and respect and a willingness to be present and witness may. Kindness always seems important to me, but in this situation maybe way too little and way too late.
The other reality of the film is that deep trauma has huge and lasting consequences in people’s lives. We need to recognize the hurt and support the healing. Quanita Roberson pointed out that hurt that is not transformed is transferred. It is the transformation that makes us all stronger. The quote “hurt people - hurt people” comes to me, something I heard years ago and it stuck with me. When I hear about some terrible thing that someone did to someone else, I always wonder what has happened to the person that did the harm to make them able to inflict it. So maybe kindness is more powerful than I think. Not enough, but a start. Thanks again for the lesson, CBI will certainly be present and witness as we work through our American history, which as Baldwin points out, is really the present.
We encourage you to watch I Am Not Your Negro, available on PBS.
You can also join a conversation on race locally in one of three sessions of Being Curious Together About Race. You can find out more information and sign up here.