Cultural Proficiency Ambassadors Host Screening of “I Am Not Your Negro”
With Cheltenham Cultural Proficiency Ambassadors serving as hosts, students from Lower Moreland, Abington and Strath Haven High Schools convened at the CHS Little Theatre on Friday, Feb. 18 for a screening and discussion of “I Am Not Your Negro.” The session was part of the Montgomery County CPESA program, a pilot program with the goal of developing student ambassadors with the skills to become resilient social justice advocates.
The Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, a radical narration about race in America using the writer’s original words, as read by actor Samuel L. Jackson. Utilizing archival material, the film pulls from Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of close friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh perspective to America’s racial narrative. When Baldwin died in 1987, he’d only written 30 pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin didn't complete.
Following the screening, students had their voices validated with a frank talkback session and exchanges of dialogue meshing the students’ experience and using the historical context the documentary provided. Students shared their experiences related to race and feelings brought about from the movie. Student feedback about the times the film described included the portrayal of white heroes, Black people being shown with little sympathy, the exhibition of white power, and the lack of a Black perspective in books.
Students noticed the film was told in the first person and shot in both black and white and color, and commented these techniques were used to bring the viewer closer to the story. One student commented the use of first person, versus third person, made the Civil Rights struggle seem further away, metaphorically and chronologically. One student took away the fact that no matter one’s race, we’re all connected.
The talkback session ended with a question about being moved to take action and students from each school spoke about what they could do in their own schools to promote equity.