Title: See You Yesterday
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Director: Stefon Bristol
Production Company: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
C.J. (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) are a pair of nerdy teens who develop a device that allows them to jump into wormholes and travel back in time. Their rather modest goal is to win a prize at a citywide science competition but when the device actually works it opens new possibilities and deadly consequences. The movie draws on classic time travel movies like Back to the Future which it acknowledges with a cameo by Michael J. Fox as C.J. and Sebastian’s teacher (and in a double reference, he’s first seen reading the time travel novel Kindred).
The movie also draws influence from producer Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, as well as current events. C.J. lives in an African-American and Afro-Caribbean neighborhood at a time of heightened tension following a police shooting of a community member. The tension is exemplified in a scene where C.J. and her brother Calvin (Brian “Stro” Bradley) can’t even have an argument on a sidewalk without drawing harassment from the police. Another police shooting is a key event as C.J. and Sebastian use their time travel technology to attempt to prevent the killing but each time they go back they inadvertently change events leading to someone else dying.
This is a movie that deserves a happy ending. Instead we get an ambiguous ending as we see C.J. returning the past once again and running as the screen goes black. Perhaps her running represents the endless cycle of death she cannot break, perhaps this time she is planning to sacrifice herself to save the lives of others. Marty McFly was able to change events in the past to save the live of Doc Brown and inadvertently make his family happier and more prosperous. But there are no happy endings in Black and brown communities where children continue to be shot dead by the police with no consequences.
The movie is very short, which is a strength in tight plotting and scripting, although I felt a longing for more. Sometimes the messaging has an after school special feel to it. But the acting by Duncan-Smith, Crichlow, and Bradley is strong, and I hope to see more from them in the future.
Author: Chris Hayes
Title: A Colony in a Nation
Narrator: Chris Hayes
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2017)
Riffing off a phrase from Richard Nixon’s nomination speech, journalist Chris Hayes writes a series of essays about how African Americans have in fact become a “colony within a nation” in the decades since Nixon stressed the importance of law and order. The “colony” within the United States is denied the right people enjoy in the largely white “nation” and the nation is built on exploitation of the colony. Issues covered include police violence against Black Americans, and systems of police enforcement driven by drawing revenue from largely Black populations, the War on Drugs, the militarization of police, white fear, and Broken Windows ideology. Hayes notes that the “nation” requires that the “order” part of “law and order” be prioritized and thus law is often used as a blunt instrument rather than a tool of justice.
Hayes’ strongest writing comes in the analogies he uses to explain his ideas. The life for Black Americans in the colony is similar to Colonial Americans who rebelled against British rule. While unjust taxation is often credited with starting the American Revolution, Hayes traces the history of excessive force used by the British in an attempt to stop smuggling and make the Colonials pay tariffs being the real source of division. White fear that drives police officers and white gun owners to shoot Black people without thinking is similar to the siege mentality of early colonists living among Native Americans and slave owners who lived in constant fear that they’d be victims of violence from Native Americans and enslaved Africans. The idea of how community policing may work in comparison with the increasingly militarized and punitive policing in America today is demonstrated by how college campuses are policed. Colleges have a considerable amount of disorder and a high level of law breaking that is tolerated and even encouraged in a way that is opposite of how a poor, urban neighborhood is treating.
This is a well-written and thoughtful book and a good one to read to reflect on current events and how we can change things for the better.
Recommended books: Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Author: Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
Title: When They Call You a Terrorist
Narrator: Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio, 2018
This memoir depicts Patrisse Khan-Cullors life growing up in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles, where her family and community were under constant surveillance and harassment from the police. Her father was in and out of prison and her mentally ill brother was also imprisoned and tortured by the police. As Cullors grows older she also deals with her disillusionment with her mother’s church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and grows to understand her queer identity. She became an artist and an activist in her teenage years, advocating for reform and abolition of prisons. In 2013, responding to her friend Alicia Garza’s post about Treyvon Martin, she created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and has been active in shepherding the movement. This memoir is both harrowing and hopeful in depicting the lives of people of color and LBGT people in America that is under assault, but also the positive gains that come when people stand up for their rights, equality, and dignity. This is definitely required reading for all Americans in 2018.
“I cannot help think that the drug war, the war on gangs, has really been no more than a forced migration project. From my neighborhood in LA to the Back Bay to Brooklyn, Black and Brown people have been moved out as young white people build exciting new lives standing on the bones of ours. The drug war as ethnic cleansing.”
Recommended books: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Janelle Monáe brought together artists on Wondaland Records to record the stark protest song of our times.
Won’t you say their names?