Award Winning Filmmaker Korey Green’s New Film The Blackness Project Seeks to Rewrite America’s Racial Narrative
by Jennifer Parker
The Blackness Project, created by award winning film producer, Korey Green, seeks to rewrite America’s racial narrative. Two years in the making, the much anticipated production launched Friday, February 9, at screening of The Blackness Project was held at the Burchfield Penney Art Center on the campus of Buffalo State college followed by a panel discussion Green explained: “I was inspired to develop “The Blackness Project” after watching a similar film called the “Whiteness Project”, a multimedia documentary (produced in 2014), described as an investigation of how Americans identify with being White. Twenty-one Caucasians from Buffalo, New York, talked candidly about their race. ‘The film challenged me to open my mind and not simply judge the film by the title, especially without watching it first. I hope people will have the same open mindedness when watching my film. Although I was taken back by some of the shocking statements, I appreciated the honesty …”
The Blackness Project is a feature length educational documentary about culture and race from the African American perspective. “With this film we have a desire to inform, share voices that may not have been heard, elevate the power of inclusion, and encourage serious conversations. It is important to know that we do not seek to divide with this project, but to encourage serious conversations that lead to community led solutions,” Director Korey Green and Executive Producer Peter Johnson explained in a joint statement. The film’s narrator is Buffalo’s leading urban history academic, Dr. Henry L. Taylor, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning Director, U.B. Center for Urban Studies. Viewers will notice a vintage radio throughout the film in which Dr. Taylor’s passionate narration is heard.
To get a deeper understanding regarding the issues addressed in the film, we asked Dr. Taylor to respond to the following questions.
Q:Why do you think the Blackness Project is important?
DR. TAYLOR:These are difficult times for Black America. We are under attack everywhere. Housing is inadequate and often unaffordable. Most Black folks pay over 40% of their income on housing, and we are being pushed out of some of our neighborhoods, such as the Fruit Belt and lower West Side. A lot of people have to work more than one job just to make ends meet, while many others survive on low-wages or don’t have work at all. We have to grapple with police violence and inadequate school, while the very city in which we live is being rebuilt with Whites in mind. Buffalo is rising, but not for Black folks… Happy talk abounds, but not in our neighborhoods. Black voices are being muted in this period. In this Disney-like world of inclusion and diversity, people don’t want to hear from Black people. They want to hear “one voice” that speaks for the Black, Puerto Rican, Latino, and immigrant community. And they want to talk about our problems through the lens of “inclusion” and “diversity,” not Blackness. In this moment, the Blackness Project reasserts the importance of our voice. It symbolizes our right to be heard, and the importance of understanding our viewpoint on the burning issues impacting our community.
Q:What do you think must be done to improve racial acceptance in America?
DR. TAYLOR:This is not about “racial acceptance.” This has nothing to do with kumbaya. This is about economic, political, social and cultural justice. This is about recognizing that Black people have a “right”—a human right—to a good standard of living and quality of life. We have a right to employment that pays a living wage, quality housing that is affordable, an education that teaches life skills, the history of our ability, and that prepares us for active participation in U.S. life and culture. This means that we must identify friends and enemies and that we must act in our own interests. (1) We have to organize groups and pursue radical agendas that will improve our lives (2) we must develop political consciousness. That is, deepen our understanding of our position in the country and the forces that keep us there. (3) Build allies who support our activities and construct a broad united front of people who will fight to improve our plight.
Q: What Can African Americans do?
DR. TAYLOR: Organize around a common agenda and build a broad base of support for it. Storm clouds have gathered, and we need to prepare to fight. No one is going to give us anything, without a demand.
Q: The United States has never been entirely sure what to do about race. What do you think is the main obstacle? DR. TAYLOR:Economic egalitarianism is impossible under the racial capitalist system. We have many more people in the United States than good jobs and opportunities. Race capitalism means that “race” is used as the sorter to determine who gets the handful of good jobs and opportunities and who does not. The U.S. has always been clear about race. As the nation moves from one period in history to another, the methods of managing race change. Slavery required one system of race relations, while industrializing America required another. World War II led to a break-up of the colonial world, which required a new system of race relations. The constant has been Whites – as a group—get the best jobs and opportunities; and Blacks – as a group—get the worse. The other racial groups are typically sandwiched between the White/ Black groups. The new twist is to maintain stable racial ordering, White elites must have Black collaborators—people who will help keep the masses under control. This racial dynamic is new in the American context.
Q: Please comment on the following: Research by scholars suggests that the average white person now feels that anti-white bias is a bigger problem than other forms of racial discrimination.
DR.TAYLOR: Whites have a need to rationalize the racial hierarchy in the United States and deny their possessive investment in whiteness. Whiteness privileges Whites and provides them with protective shields and safety nets in the age of uncertainty. Yet, they feel threatened by Blacks, immigrants of color, and unexpected economic turbulence. “The Blacks and the immigrants want to take what you have” is an acceptable and plausible explanation of their plight. So, they embrace the anti-White bias, rather than flaws in capitalism or corrupt politicians. “Black folks, Latino and immigrants did it,” is easier for them to wrap their heads around.
To learn more about the film visit www.theblacknessproject.org.