This is the word that came to my mind while I was watching the movie: intensity. I couldn’t even concentrate on the fullness of my stomach from the Applebees I ate prior. Nor could I even care about the fact that there were barely any people in the theater. All I could honestly get into was the sheer voracity of the movie that I watched on the screen. Nothing else could even matter due to the captivating intensity of the movie.
I will say it once and say it as often as possible: 12 Years A Slave is a movie that serves to inform/education the masses and entertain those in look for a good show. What many don’t expect is the way the movie serves as a mirror reflection of Black America’s pain.
Any African American can relate to the story of Solomon Northup and see their reflection inside of him.
The African American condition is still comparable to the condition that Northup went through. While we are not in physical slavery, many Black people still feel a displacement in a land that we desperately work to find our place in. Just like Northup’s fall into illegal enslavement (he was a free man from New York) many African Americans can find themselves within the enslavement of the penal system or their own personal hell through one (or more) missteps and bad decisions. There are plenty of cases where we are the cause of our own destruction. Yet and still, there are too many situations where we are put into a state of being that we didn’t deserve nor ask for.
As “free” as many of us consider ourselves to be, deep down we know that there is another faction that would love to have us branded and serving as their chattel. That feeling, that understanding, has never left the conscious of Black America.
On another note, Black America is expected to do something that Northup never did on his own: find our own freedom. Eventually, Northup was granted his freedom when his situation was learned about. Yet, many Black Americans are expected to overcome and destroy situations that we aren’t fully responsible for. This isn’t a complaint or childish whining for a pacifier and a hand out. This is, however, the reminder that the responsibility for the African American condition goes beyond our own choices and decisions.
Therefore, when we point out those aspects, it makes us wonder why there is always a barrage of “stop your bellyaching and find your way” responses. Those that are responsible should take responsibility. That isn’t bellyaching. That is called being accountable.
Even more interesting is the behavioral mechanisms that were found in slavery that we still partake in. To ease the despair and keep their souls intact, the slaves sang spirituals. Nowadays, our own spirituals are found in our Gospel music, R&B, and even hip hop (just open your ears). Our troubles are usually given as reasons to celebrate and hasten the pace and stranglehold of our present pressures. Caged or uncaged, the birds within us still sing a beautifully familiar song.
Still, I need to once again mention the word that I started off with: intensity. There is intensity within our present steps. There is intensity within our speech and actions. Even when we are in a state of serenity, Black America breathes, sleep, and dream with that same undying intensity. We act, and react, with such intensity because our past, present, and future has been infused with it. It is almost safe to say that Black America is synonymous with intensity.
More than anything, 12 Years A Slave should be required watching for people (especially Blacks) to truly understand and visualize why we are the way we are. African Americans are consistently asked to do more, do better, and reflect grace and elegance to outsiders that could care less about our progress or their responsibility in our regression. Still, we work to rise to the occasion either winning in abundance or failing miserably. Duly noted, Northup made his way by keeping his head and fighting back when needed be. It is safe to say that, past or present, intense is as intense does.
‘Nuff Said and ‘Nuff Respect!!!