I will preface the heart of this letter by saying that though the words within may appear harsh, they are words laced with the same determination for which you continuously attempt to get your point across. These words will in no way change how I feel about your genius on or off the screen, rather…a delayed response. A response that I would love to engage with you in-person to cut down on misinterpretation and offense of tone, but we do not have that luxury. I must say, when proving a point I am rather sarcastic…unfortunately I cannot apologize for that in advance. I ask that you look past that fault and understand the point in which I am trying to make.
Shall we continue?
Upon watching your comments on Roland Martin’s show News One Now (video below) I immediately decided that I needed to respond. What started out as a Facebook response morphed into a full blown blog post and open letter. Please excuse any grammatical errors that may distract from the point and/or my passion.
I shall begin by saying that I was $13 of the $7 million that was reported for the viewing of Birth of a Nation. Before seeing the film I had the pleasure of visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture and History and stand before Nat Turner’s bible. You want to talk about a moment to behold. It was powerful. My friends and I organized to buy out a theater that seats 50 people to watch the film and have discussions afterwards. With that being confirmed I must say that I still stand by my original feelings. In response to the critique my friends filmed immediately after the screening I said that I think people should see the film but only if they knew the real story, they needed motivation to rise up, and wanted to compare then to now in a general sense. The there were two reasons that caused me to see the movie: 1. Gabrielle Union’s op-ed for the LA Times (linked HERE) and 2. Wanting to have a first hand account of what it is that I do not agree with. I have never been one to go off of other people’s opinions, just as my first instinct has NEVER steered me wrong. If there was a way in which to refund my $13 I would but I am choosing to give my opinion instead.
On the segment you mentioned that you were concerned that the boycott of the movie stole an educational opportunity for those who are less privileged educationally and may not have been afforded the opportunity to learn of Nat Turner before the movie’s release. The immediate anger there should not that they did not see the movie but that the educational system is set up in such a manner that your statement is even true. Thus, I’m not convinced that your concern is purely educational. Most of the outrage and call to action for a boycott was in financial support of the movie as it was Nate Parker and Jean Celestin’s. We’ve accomplished that; the financial boycott. Now, when it winds up on Netflix or Hoodflix people can watch it for themselves and gain a rather distorted introduction to Nat Turner. So why are you really angry? The lifecycle of movies typically are film festivals, viewings, public release, DVD, streaming. There are more opportunities to see the film and gain an education. So I repeat, why are you really angry?
As mentioned, it is a distorted view of Nat Turner’s life. There are facts we know. Why change those for cinematic effect? Nat did NOT kill his own owner. Why change that? Nat’s wife was NOT gang raped by overseers. Why lie about that? Nat did NOT make it to Jerusalem, nor was his rebellion betrayed by a child. You ain’t got to lie, Craig!! Nat himself said he got a vision about the rebellion a religious sense NOT that it was in retaliation or a representation of a black savior complex. Why lie about that? We know what we know, there is no need in misinforming the masses on those facts. Theatrics should come in the portions that were left out by the history books. If we’re going to educate, educate accurately. Perhaps even here Nate “should have used better wisdom”. Don’t continue to send out a miseducation agenda for profit. We have a system in place already for that. Perhaps you need to be further educated on the facts we do know of Nat Turner or are the purse strings too tight around the neck for one to notice the difference in facts filled in with theatrics or all around misogynoir embellishment?
Perhaps when the check clears in your account we can revisit the power that is the black woman’s dollar and the exclusiveness it had on the movie’a aim to falsely educate in one hand while blatantly asking us to pay for the right take a dick and be quiet in the other. I shouldn’t have to worker harder, to get paid less just to spend it on a work created by males who are not the least bit remorseful that they were even placed in a situation that could be misinterpreted in the first place. If God wanted us to see the movie. ..we would have seen it. Don’t blame the masses, blame Nate Parker’s PR management team.
My attempt to respond here is not to attack another black woman due to my disdain for the actions of black men; that would be too simple. It would cheapen our intelligence. Yet, even the title of the post on BlackAmericaWeb.com reads as ” Must Watch: Birth of a Nation'[s] Star Aunjanue Ellis Slams Black Feminist“. I don’t think that was your intent. I think your intent was to inform those who were in opposition having an insider’s viewpoint. Unbeknownst to you, you became the face of the opposition. It is so easy to be distracted from who we should truly be mad at. We are like the main chick and the side piece fighting over a man not worth fighting over. This, too, shall pass. However, you have chosen to lay on the tracks of an oncoming train and I am afraid you refuse to remove yourself. Acquitted does not mean innocent, nor does overturned. I don’t want to attack you but I do want to make an attempt to point out that while you are yelling the sky is blue just because you see it in the daytime and we yell the sky is black because we understand what can happen in the dark doesn’t make either of us wrong. However, it becomes a tense moment when trying to tell people what time of day or night it currently is. You are not wrong, the sky is blue and people should be educated. However, please don’t All Live Matter our midnight sky either. Something needed to happen. We didn’t mean to make your blue skies black, you were the byproduct of what happens when the sun has to face the moon.
We can’t hate actions and accusations in the like of Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, and Ben Rapersburger (Roethlisberger) and not have any reaction to or sweep under the rug a gut instinct for Nate and his past which so graciously came back to haunt him. Be it the press, the man, or pure karma there was a way that he should have handled it that would have turned the tides….but that ship has long since sailed.
The irony is lost in the fact that there was a rebellion in response to Birth of a Nation. One must be honest and admit that the disdain is that it was led by black feminist against a black male. We said enough is enough. The problem is that the rebellion started in house, and ego is not allowing anyone in opposition to accept that because it was not a foreseeable outcome. The counter culture to “the slave man will kill whitey in your honor” took a stance and said…it didn’t and won’t happen again on our watch. You wanted a reaction? You got one. You wanted an outcry against the status quo? You got one. No sense in pouting that it wasn’t the one your accountant would have dreamed of.
In conclusion, nothing is stopping you from continuing to educate. Stop using this movie as a crutch for that. nothing is stopping those uneducated individuals you so adamantly aim to teach about Nat Turner from watching the movie. The only difference is not in the education . ..it is whether or not you can now profit from it. And for that reason alone . ..the rebellion is making it closer to Jerusalem than even Nat Turner himself could have dreamed. Nat Turner stood up to his oppressors with a vengeance. Black feminists and the sisterhood of assault survivors stood up to one of ours. Not our fault he came in the dead of night wearing the same skin. If there is anything that I could apologize for, it would be that you can’t see the picture that is bigger than the movie and whether or not it made a profit. There will be more movies. There will be more roles. The message is clear now… we can have an effective rebellion. You don’t have to agree with it, but you must respect that we had our reasons. Just as we respect your choice to join the cast. No one faults you for that. You were rather joyful to watch, as was everyone else. Don’t let the box office distract you from the fact that people did take a stand and more will learn about Nat Turner when it is their turn to learn. God will see to that. I’m sure of it.
It is with a genuine heart that you continue on with your success and continue to cross the small and big screens as the years go by. I will keep you in my prayers and I am going to take it on as my personal mission to reach out and educate as many people as I can about the real Nat Turner. Thank you for sparking that within me.