America in Film, Street Demonstrations and Unpaid Labor Contribution
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film about James Baldwin. Baldwin is black. He was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. Hidden Figures is a film about Katherine Johnson. She is black. She was a scientist in America’s space program at a time when blacks in America were legally discriminated against. She was not allowed to drink out of the same coffee pot that White employees drank from. She couldn’t go to the same restroom. But she did the math that allowed America to send a man into space. She did it without a computer. A few of the other recent films commenting on the experience of Blacks in America are Twelve Years a Slave and Roots and Moonlight and Fences, starring Viola Dave and Denzel Washington.
Not to be outdone, the networks and systems like Netflix are producing such programs as Atlanta, Insecure, Luke Cage, and Queen Sugar starring African Americans. The films and the productions by the likes of Netflix and HBO are commenting on the past and present Black experience in America. By and large they are an answer to the absence of rights for Black Americans. This seems like an explosion following 2015. In 2015 there was an outcry because no Black actors or actresses were nominated for Academy Awards.
This explosion is happening at the same time that another explosion is going on in America. The other explosion is an explosion of street demonstrations all across the country against Donald Trump. That explosion is about rights. They are about rights people have or want. They are about rights they don’t want others to have. We’ll miss some but the list would includes Women’s rights, Black rights, Immigrant rights, Abortion rights, Children’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Alt Rights, Labor rights, Speech rights, Political rights, Religious rights and Police rights.
And what do these explosions have in common? They are part of the constitutional right to protest in America. They call out for acknowledgement. They call out for equality. But they all borrow their significance from America’s most significant unresolved rights issue. That issue is race relations in America. More specifically it is the festering sore of slavery and its aftermath that remains unresolved.
For all of the rights causes that have exploded on the scene nothing compares to the violation of rights of 12.5 million Unpaid Laborers working for two and one half centuries (250 years) for nothing. In that process an attempt was made to strip this people’s entire humanity. But it was their contribution that made America the most successful nation in modern history. It is the goal of the Unpaid Labor project to honor them and to see to it that their contribution is known. After all, the rights we all enjoy and are demonstrating over come as a result of their efforts.