I must admit that I went to this movie expecting to see a story covering the true horror of slavery. For that story is one that needs to be told over and over again until America recognizes the single greatest crime in the history of mankind. I've read Andrew Jackson Brown's comments about Schindler's List. (See the article referenced on the Home Page of our website.) He makes it clear that it's past time that Africans tell their own story to the world.
I applaud Debbie Allen and Steven Spielberg for producing Amistad. I suppose they could have focused more time on the way Africans were kidnapped, the horrible wars, the long marches to the sea, the miserable detention in the slave forts on the coast, the wretched conditions on the floating shit houses called slave ships, the murders, the rapes, the degradation of the auctions, the "seasoning," the whole despicable story about the slave trade. But that would be a different movie and frankly most Americans are not ready for that much reality. This was a story about the Africans who were aboard the Amistad, a ship and their quest for freedom. Incidental to that story, the viewer is exposed to brief and clearly brutal depictions of some of the worst horrors of the slavery business. Furthermore you are shocked into the reality of the prevailing attitudes that our people were not human but "goods." Just like horses, cattle or chickens.
America needs to see Amistad, several times. And apparently without the tenacious perseverance of Sister Debbie Allen we would never have had this movie in this first place. Apparently she stayed on Spielberg until he finally agreed to pursue the project. We should be grateful for her effort. However, I hope it doesn't stop there. We need this subject to be seen from many points of view. Keep in mind that there are millions of stories from this tragedy that lasted for 1000 years between Africa and countries to the east and 400 years between Africa and the Europe/Americas. It affected hundreds of millions of our ancestors. The movie Sankofa needs to be seen all over the world. We need so many yet-to-be-made movies to tell our story — written by our bright, dedicated, young producers that feel our pain. I agree with Brother Andrew Jackson Brown, Africans must tell their own story. And tell it often.
RC - 12-14-97
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