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Earlier in the week, I had decided today I would treat myself to the movies. I’ve been like a mother hen all week, watching over the launch of my tenth baby, LOSING LAUREN. The second novel in my Detective Rachel Storme series is now available on Amazon. In addition to the launch, I’ve been ensconced in myriad activities involving my budding acting career. In case you didn’t know, after retiring from Corporate America this past February, I made a foray into acting. Actually, I’ve returned to acting after being away for two decades. Okay, let me get back to the movies.
It was a toss-up between The Girl on the Train and The Birth of a Nation. Like a true Libra, I vacillated more than what was necessary until I finally decided to see The Birth of a Nation. Regarding The Girl on the Train, I read the novel, so that kind of killed it for me (no pun intended) when it comes to any onscreen suspense. I know who did it and why. Regarding The Birth of a Nation, like you, I’ve seen the countless interviews Nate Parker has endured regarding the rape case. I’m aware of the dismal box office receipts, and I’ve heard the pundits attribute the later to fallout from the rape case. Now whether Nate should have been acquitted or not, only Nate and God knows. I was not there. I do know that he was acquitted and according to Webster it means a jury said he was not guilty of the crime. I decided to put all of that behind me and view the movie, in spite of me swearing off all slave movies after watching the in-your-face brutal 12 Years a Slave.
The movie starts out with a tribal ritual wherein Nat Turner is a child being ordained a prophet, someone appointed by God to do something incredible for his people. The scene is mysterious and intriguing. Then it moves from there to the plantation where the young Nat plays with the slave owner’s son. While the son of the slave owner goes into eat supper, Nat notices a book on a rocking chair that’s on the porch. He takes the book and begins to teach himself to read. The lady of the house finds out and tells Nat’s mother. She then proceeds to tell Nat’s mother that Nat is special and that she’s going to continue his education and that he will live in the “Big House.” When the husband subsequently dies, Nat is relegated to the field to pick cotton. We then see Nat go from a young boy to a grown man picking cotton. At this point, I’m taken by the cinema photography, the writing, the directing, the acting, basically the storytelling. I’m thinking to myself that this film and some of the actors are Oscar worthy.
One day there’s a slave auction and a young woman is being sold. Nat looks past her battered body and dirty clothes and sees her beauty. He convinces his slave owner to buy the woman who eventually he marries. The film goes on for some time before the horrors of slavery come into full view. Some of the heart-wrenching scenes include a man’s dead body on the side of the road covered in blood and gray matter. A woman is raped. Thank God we didn’t have to witness it. A man’s teeth or hammered out and he’s forced to eat something god awful. Those are just a few atrocities. However, it’s Nat’s role as preacher to the slaves in the area that sends him into action—that and his wife being attacked by five men. Times are hard and the slave owners are fearful of an insurrection. So they use Nat to preach to the slaves—telling them to obey their masters so that they can get into Heaven. You can visibly see this message destroy Nat from within. He finally gets enough and then decides to fight for his freedom and the freedom of his people.
Watching this film, I cried. I cried for my ancestors, I cried for Nat Turner, I cried for Nate Parker, I cried for the woman who committed suicide. What should have been a crowning moment for Nate Parker’s career is so bittersweet because of something that happened seventeen years ago. I also cried for our nation. I cried because of where we are now. It’s almost two-hundred years later and we’re still a country divided. The election speaks volumes to how wide the chasm is between the races. What is it going to take for us to become one nation? One people? Perhaps our nation needs to be born again. Perhaps our nation needs to ask forgiveness. Perhaps our nation needs to make amends. Maybe then the healing will begin. I pray that a change will come. I pray for the rebirth of our nation.