Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
Now that Will Smith’s newest film, Emancipation, is set to hit the big screen on December 9th, people want to boycott it because of the infamous Oscars slap back in April of this year.
Never in my life have I seen people so upset over a Black man slapping another Black man–especially when the entertainment industry’s bread and butter comes from us being enchanted by films and music with the same or worse levels of violence.
Y’all got this man on talk shows and in online magazines still giving an explanation for what happened when clearly all parties involved are trying to move past it and, people have done worse things with way less accountability. Let me take this moment to remind everyone that Brett Favre is still guilty of stealing millions from welfare recipients in Mississippi, and not one person sitting in the ivory towers of professional sports has called for the revocation of his hall of fame status.
I’m not condoning violence or saying Will wasn’t wrong. But what I’m not rocking with, ever, is fake and/or selective outrage. Especially outrage that has the potential to bury an important film about Black history at a time when anti-history and anti-blackness are at an all-time high.
“Emancipation” is the story of ‘Whipped Peter’”
Every once in a while (probably around Black history month), we see a picture of an enslaved man sitting on what may be a stool with his back turned towards the camera. His back, neck and head are filled with scars, keloids and welts from being whipped. Looking at the picture is painful and infuriating.
I was today years old when I found out that man’s name was Gordon and that photograph is called “Whipped Peter”. This wasn’t discussed when I was in school but conveniently, we now have movies like Emancipation to learn more.
Emancipation is inspired by and based on Gordon’s radical resistance to enslavement. It tells the story of Peter (Gordon) and his escape from a plantation in Louisiana. He’s able to evade persistent and cold-blooded hunters, eventually joins the Union’s army during the Civil War and speaks on the brutalities of slavery.
Also, the movie has tones of love, fearlessness, and inspiration. In past Hollywood depictions of slavery, Africans were casted as unintelligent and entirely submissive to their masters. Emancipation, along with a few other recent films about our history, is setting the record straight–some of us did fight back.
We need to know our history–real history
Facing backlash for featuring Smith as the main character in the film, Director Antoine Fuqua spoke on why it was important for him to tell this story:
“The only thing I can do is try to tell stories that I think could be inspiring in some way but remind us of our history. Because there is a responsibility: We are citizens of the United States of America and that’s the same country that kidnapped us and forced labor and brutalized us with violence for greed. So, I don’t think we can forget that. I don’t think we go about it with bitterness. We should go about it with an open heart; we should go about it hoping to have conversations about it and try to start some sort of healing about it.”
And that’s it right there. Y’all, people are actively trying to suppress our history through banning conversations about it and race. We have a responsibility to tell our stories the right way.
So listen, people pulled this same boycott stunt a few months ago with The Woman King, and we’re not doing this again. “Emancipation“ is bigger than the Will Smith controversy. And although difficult to swallow and revisit, our history is one of the biggest parts of our identity. We have to learn and know it however we can.
Now, go boycott Brett Favre.