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Why Ava DuVernay’s “13th” is the Film that Hurts and Heals

The debate on Sunday night was an exhausting exercise from the exertion of witnessing one candidate bully another on a public forum.

To say that the state of things is beyond deplorable is not an exaggeration. I lived through the Clinton years and paid attention to the astute surrender to the consequences of his transgressions. It was a brutal process that involved depositions and the guaranteed public humiliation.

He fucked up.

The GOP couldn’t wait to crucify him to the cross — that he was forced to bear in full view of the nation and the world. To foreigners, the price for allowing his private parts to dictate his actions in the Oval Office seemed rather steep. But, back home, Clinton was relentlessly taunted, haunted and buried alive under his own shit.

That was a long time ago.

Today, the ghosts of disarray and discombobulation are back with a vengeance. This time, the casualties of war hit a little too close to home. It’s the same group that was attacked by prior administrations — desperate to prove their allegiance to ridding the streets of the filth — parading around with no supervision.

We have presidential candidates that are wealthy, white and immune to the structures that are in place to provide hazardous requiems to people of color.

Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, businessman who doesn’t pretend to care about anything outside his stoned stratosphere. Hillary Clinton, is a wealthy, white politician who pretends to care but unfortunately doesn’t possess enough charm to overcome her past shortcomings.

Her reference to Black men as predators did a lot more harm than good, and helped usher in a drastic period that saw the systematic incarceration of Blacks and Latinos. Clinton supported her less than perfect hubby in his quest to carry on the stained legacy of his predecessors.

She has since apologized but, the damage is too extensive to adequately survey or accept.

As a Nigerian-American who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, my history lessons were all about the colonial wars with large specks of the vibrant Northern parts that gave me permission to never forget the active pursuits of Usman dan Fodio.

All I knew about being Black in America were the stories my dad told me. Most of them were promising — but, there was that one time he was almost shot to death by cops.

He was a guest at his friend’s house — in an all-White enclave in San Francisco. The neighbor frantically called the police when my dad dared to venture out for some fresh air.

He obviously survived that encounter but so many others haven’t been as lucky. In fact so many have missed family dinners, birthday parties, christenings, weddings, and other life-enhancing events — for reasons that seem to point to the fact that as people of color — they just don’t qualify in the realm of solidified citizenship.

Ava DuVernay brought us Selma and we raved and gasped at the magnificence of what we already knew. The trek to freedom that began so long ago — continues with the footsteps of a new generation. But, before we attempt to fill in the imprints of the giants ahead of us — we must reflect and mourn the past and despise the present — with all our might.

13th is the new documentary from Netflix — that produces the truth with all its churning betrayals — with very little room for negotiation.

As, they say — if you don’t know — now you do.

There is no escaping the funnel of information that cascades down and around the screen as the music, chants, letters, and images converge to create the ultimate coat of armor.

When we scream the names of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Matthew Ajibade, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and so many others — we resort to a habit that is never off-duty. It is a ritual that fits into the scope of what makes us who we are — even when it hurts so bad.

DuVernay’s latest offering does not stray from her signature style of hitting us with the spectrum of a map that is withered with the trials and tribulations of an open secret.

The secret that seduces America without feeling or hope.

The knowledge that White America uses to box Black America to the ground with no mercy. We know the history. It is taught and presented as a dire thesis — composed of bloody remains and shattered spirits that float without direction.

Now, they can find a place to rest.

They have a home in DuVernay’s stellar landscape — that accosts the primed duration of slavery and all its settled mishaps — through the gangster eighties — and into the boiling pot of the nineties that toppled into the disbelief that as I write this piece — nothing much has changed.

Tears must stream down your face without you feeling it as you watch 13th.

Let it flow and drown your disappointments and the hopes and fears that have undoubtedly found another generation to menace. The pain is worse when the years accumulate and you look back with anger — and forward with more sorrow than you can stand.

The healing begins after the credits run dry and you sit in silence with a half-empty bottle of wine that won’t last the night.

It is privilege to be black and alone in the silent mantra of survival that allows you to sit back and sip away the haunting thought that you are still alive — with no physical scars but, with the emotional debt to those who bore the whippings of your raised glass.

Here’s to them. Here’s to the future. Here’s to you.

The healing starts now. The fight began yesterday. Tomorrow is your fate.

Change it.

Written by

Juggling Wordsmith. I have a lot to say!

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