‘BlacKkKlansman’ delivers critical and powerful message

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Director Spike Lee talks with Denzell Washington, Jr. actor in film.

Even though “BlacKkKlansman” is set in the 1970s, the themes in the film are just as relevant today as they were back then, Anita Bennett, the managing editor and creator of Urban Hollywood 411, told NNPA Newswire. “We have a president who constantly attacks Black athletes, newscasters and politicians, and white nationalists marching in the streets,” she said.

“The racial climate in this country is toxic, [so] if Spike Lee can open just one person’s eyes to the systematic racism that African Americans face every day, then he accomplished what he set out to do,” Bennett said. The longtime entertainment journalist joined a chorus of other experts who noted that Lee’s latest film continues to receive positive reviews, with critics and fans alike celebrating it for sparking a much-needed conversation about the current political climate and the complex relationship between law enforcement and the Black community. Several critics and actors told NNPA Newswire that Lee has deftly used his platform to expose systemic injustice while advocating for African-Americans and other minorities. Bennett said it’s important that the Black Press continues to spotlight films like “BlacKkKlansman,” “Sorry to Bother You,” and “Blindspotting.” “The Black Press champions and helps spread the word about films from African-American directors and writers, as well as movies that focus on issues important to the black community,” Bennett said. “The Black Press – and I’m not talking about gossip websites – but industry-focused outlets like EUR Web, Blackfilm.com, and Urban Hollywood 411, write stories about these films and post interviews with the people behind him. We talk about the movies on social media and encourage Black audiences to go see them,” Bennett said. Actor, director and film producer Shiek Mahmud-Bey said the Black Press enables filmmakers like himself, Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, to remain relevant and provides a platform to tell the untold stories that are meaningful to African-Americans. “It’s a one-hand-washes-the-other thing,” said Mahmud-Bey, the CEO of 25th Frame Films. “Only the Black Press can tell our story the way it needs to be told and only Black filmmakers can put that story in perspective and deliver it to a wide audience on screen,” he said. “BlacKkKlansman” earned about $11 million during its opening weekend, making it Lee’s third best box office debut. Based on a true story, the film tells of undercover Black detective, Ron Stallworth, who manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. It has earned positive reviews from audiences and critics with an A-rating on CinemaScore and a 97 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Spike Lee has always been socially consciously aware as a filmmaker, going back to ‘Do The Right Thing,’” said actress turned film critic, Carla Renata, who’s known for her website, “The Curvy Film Critic.” “As a filmmaker he uses the art of dialogue, the lens and his actor’s performances to illustrate his point of view on any given subject allowing the film to do the talking for him,” Renata said. “Given that ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is adapted from Ron Stallworth’s novel, Lee amplifies this former detective’s experience and puts his spin on it as only a Spike Lee Joint can do. ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ along with ‘Blindspotting’ and ‘Sorry To Bother You’ are the perfect films for the perfect climate that have infiltrated hate and Neo-Nazi behavior into our daily existence via our current administration,” said Renata, a graduate of the Howard University School of Communications. She added: “It’s no coincidence the film was dedicated and released on the anniversary of the Charlottesville attack and rally where Heather Hoyer was mowed down like a dog and murdered. It’s also no coincidence that the last image you see is the American flag fading to Black and White turned upside down. Perfect image analogy for where we are as a society.” Renata said also that she believes Black Hollywood has a love/hate relationship with Black Press. Most artists, actors, studios, publicists and films reach out to the Black Press at the start in order to get that word of mouth buzz happening, she said. “Once the artist, actor or film has been accepted by mainstream media, their marketing/publicity teams abandon the same Black media that helped them gain acceptance in some of those arenas,” Renata said. “We are almost treated like the ‘black sheep’ of the family that no one likes to talk about or acknowledge.  It’s sad…but true,” she said. Diarah N’Daw-Spech, the co-founder of ArtMattan Productions and the annual African Diaspora International Film Festival, said a number of Black filmmakers have used films to make social commentaries directly tied to serious issues in their communities. She cited Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene whose film, “Molade,” served to denounce the mistreatment of women in his native country, particularly the practice of sexual mutilation, N’Daw-Spech said. “Film is a powerful social media and a powerful source and tool for change. It is important for filmmakers in general and Black filmmakers in particular to realize and use their power through their film making the way Spike Lee and Ousmane Sembene do and did it,” she said. N’Daw-Spech said the Black Press has always been a “natural ally” to Black filmmakers. “Black Hollywood is one of the important platforms available to Black talent. Black Hollywood can use its influence to tell meaningful stories the way Spike Lee does it. When it does, the Black Press should support and celebrate it,” she said. While “BlacKkKlansman” isn’t perfect, it’s insightful, timely and entertaining, Bennett concluded. “The movie raises some important issues about racism, police brutality and stereotypes in classic Hollywood films like D.W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation,’” she said. “Spike Lee touches on a lot of hot-button issues, but he smartly sprinkles the film with humor, so that it’s not too heavy-handed. Can we talk about the ending of the film? It’s powerful, heartbreaking and will make you leave the theater thinking. I’ve encouraged everyone I know to go see this important film,” Bennett said.

Newswire : Supporters call a ‘United We Stand rally for Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee instead of standing for the National Anthem at NFL football games

By: Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports Reporter

Colin Kaepernick
 Colin Kaepernick

We’re a couple weeks into training camp and Colin Kaepernick remains a free agent, and it’s unclear if that will change in the coming weeks and months.

One explanation for Kaepernick’s current situation: He hasn’t been very good in recent seasons. Another take is that Kaepernick is being blackballed for his stance on social-justice issues. That’s why there will be a rally at NFL headquarters in Manhattan on Aug. 23 to support the embattled quarterback, according to a tweet from filmmaker Spike Lee.

This comes three months after Kevin Livingston, the president of 100 Suits for 100 Men — one of the organizations Kaepernick worked with earlier this year — organized a “stand up” outside the NFL’s New York City headquarters as a show of solidarity with the quarterback.

“He stood up for us,” Livingston told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein at the time. “It’s only right that he took our issues in our communities and brought it to a national level and sacrificed salary and being ostracized by the NFL. It was only right that we stand up for him. I started this, literally, when he came to my office — I was moved. I work with parolees. People usually want to ostracize this particular population. Me working with him on the front lines and him coming to my office, this is not the first time I’ve worked with him. So I thought it was only right that I stand up for him.”

“We’re not protesting,” Livingston continued. “This is not anti-NFL. This is not going against the police. What we’re doing exactly is we’re showing solidarity to the league on behalf of Colin Kaepernick. This is nothing planned by him. This is all me. Others have suggested that Kaepernick’s supporters boycott attending and watching NFL football games until he is employed by one of the teams.

“But I have to say, Colin Kaepernick really moved me when he did that for our community. And so … the reason why I chose [NFL headquarters] is the league needs to see that Colin is being supported. And that we’re buying consumers and that our dollars matter and I don’t think it’s fair the way he’s being treated by the league. I just want to make that very clear.”

Kaepernick, who played for the 49ers from 2011-2016, began last season on the bench behind Blaine Gabbert, but was reinserted into the starting lineup in mid-October. When it was over, he had started 11 games and completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed 69 times for 468 yards and two scores. But according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, Kaepernick ranked 30th among all quarterbacks, just ahead of Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler and Jared Goff.

The Seahawks showed interest in Kaepernick in May, and the Ravens appeared to close to signing him earlier this month. Nothing materialized and Kaepernick is still looking for his next opportunity.