Whenever Martin Luther King Day rolls around, we get to bask in golden memories of the heroic days of the Civil Rights movement and listen to lofty rhetoric that was founded in Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance. If you aren’t racist to the bone, it’s a warm-and-fuzzy sort of occasion. What many of us, however well-intentioned, are somewhat less eager to remember are the scary times that followed King’s assassination, when a much more militant Black Power movement arose in the US, uninterested in cultivating alliances with sympathetic white folks and unwilling to forswear the use of violent means to attain its ends.
Then as now, it’s a period of history that remains relatively unexamined by the domestic mainstream media, and therefore much misunderstood. But fortunately, the Europeans – for whom battle in the streets was not so unimaginable due to their own recent history – took a greater interest in what the Black Panthers and other leaders of the Black Power movement had to say, and why. Swedish television crews logged thousands of hours of 16mm footage of demonstrations and interviews with luminaries like Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver and others.
A whole lot of that footage was recently rediscovered in storage in a cellar somewhere in Sweden and edited into a fascinating new documentary titled The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, which also incorporates follow-up interviews with more contemporary African American activists, scholars and cultural icons. The film will be shown three times this weekend at the Rosendale Theatre, with screenings at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, January 20 and at 5:30 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 21. The perspective of nearly 40 years’ worth of hindsight should cast the edgy dialectics of those times into a whole new light of understanding – whether you’re black, white or other.
Tickets to the Rosendale Theatre cost $7 general admission, $5 for members. Visit https://rosendaletheatre.org/2011/12/10/the-black-power-mixtape-1967-1975 for more info and to view a trailer.