Movies + TV

Literally the Best Thing Ever: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

When you’re feeling powerless, just ask yourself, “What would Angela Davis do?”

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is Swedish filmmaker Goran Hugo Olsson’s brainchild. He unearthed obscure footage filmed by Swedish reporters in the U.S. during the black liberation movement and the Vietnam War era and breathed life into it by cutting it together with contemporary musical grooves and commentary. Olsson notes in the beginning of his film that “it does not presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power movement, but to show how it was perceived by Swedish filmmakers” who were trying to “understand and portray America through sound and image—as it really is.” And while I wasn’t there to live through that movement, weirdly, this non-American version of that moment in time feels and sounds much more balanced, thorough, and honest than most of the domestic portrayals I saw in school or on TV.

There’s footage of the author and activist Angela Davis’s unjust murder trial, a tender interview with Stokely Carmichael’s immigrant mother about her experiences with discrimination, and other stuff that shows you the soft, human, nonviolent side of these leaders of the Black Power movement—a side that’s often diluted or left out of mainstream stories that want to portray them as just angry all the time.

A few weeks ago, I found myself wandering the streets of New York en route to the hospital, sick and disoriented, with no offers of help from onlookers who just stared at my vomit-soaked dress. At the hospital, I saw stretchers lining hallways like cars in congested traffic, and people begging for blankets and food. I was filled with anger that I live in a country with so much abundance, but so little compassion for human dignity. As soon as I got home I grabbed my Pedialyte and applesauce and sat down to watch The Black Power Mixtape on Netflix Instant. (OK, I watched a few episodes of America’s Next Top Model: British Invasion first.) The movie reminded me that even though we’ve come a long way since 1975, the American Dream of equality still hasn’t come to pass.

Afterward, I stared for a while at this adorable picture of my parents, who were married in a Black Power-inspired wedding in 1974. Their wedding album is full of brightly colored clothing, huge afros, and headwraps.

The Black Power Mixtape gave me a new appreciation of what my parents and their generation went through and how they fought racism so hard so that I could have more rights today. The movie made their struggles and their principles feel so real and immediate that I started to cry. I wonder if my hypothetical future children will ever feel that way about the activism that I’m doing today.

Even though it depresses me that racism still exists and that a lot of the social problems shown in this movie are still around, The Black Power Mixtape fills me with hope about what can and will happen when the Black Power message ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE comes true.

In short: watch this movie! It’s not just IMPORTANT; it’s also inspiring and emotional and just damn great. ♦

26 Comments

  • Flower May 9th, 2012 3:13 PM

    Ive been obsessed with Angela Davis since I saw a picture of her in an pottery workshop funnily enough and looked her up. I am definitely going to watch this movie.

    And I feel for you about walking to hospital. I went through something similar when I had food posioning and threw up in a street and people were just glaring at me. I can’t believe people sometimes.

    Flower x

    http://www.bobblyrainbowsocks.blogspot.com

  • Anna F. May 9th, 2012 3:26 PM

    That photograph is so beautiful.

    Thanks for writing about this. I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but I did have the privilege of hearing Angela Davis speak a couple of years ago, and she was incredible. My favourite part was at the end when the audience was allowed to ask questions, and one little girl asked her what her first moment of activism was. Angela replied that when she was a kid, neighbourhoods were still segregated. She and her friends would sneak into the white parts of town, ring the doorbells, and run away.

    Afterward, she signed posters and people had a chance to meet her. I waited in line and thought to myself “You are about to meet one of the most amazing people who ever lived. BE COOL.” I was super nervous and she signed my poster and then I reached out to shake her hand but she was still holding the Sharpie and the one thing I said to Angela Davis (I kid you not) was “OH. SHARPIE IN YOUR HAND.” And this is why I shouldn’t be allowed to talk, ever.

  • R. May 9th, 2012 3:28 PM

    There is no Netflix where I live :(

  • teenager May 9th, 2012 3:53 PM

    I’m tearing up already, and am so thrilled to watch this movie! it really looks wonderful. and what a beautiful picture of your parents that is :)

    http://interstellarsuburbia.wordpress.com/

  • suburban grrrl May 9th, 2012 3:56 PM

    This weekend I volunteered at a local film festival where they had a documentarian panel where one of the filmmakers, Shola Lynch, was working on an Angela Davis documentary that I’m now really excited for. It’s not coming out for awhile but I thought I’d share that!

    http://sub-urbangrrrl.blogspot.com/

  • Lurkingshadows May 9th, 2012 4:39 PM

    This is so amazing. And ironic because I just started reading the book Witness by Karen Hesse in class

  • thefondest May 9th, 2012 4:40 PM

    So this is probably really bad but I honestly can’t ever think about this movie without thinking of the time my crush who totally acted like he liked me invited me over to get stoned and watch this (THAT IS A TICKET TO MAKE-OUT TOWN, RIGHT?) and I paid no attention because I was waiting for him to touch me in some way and then we never did anything even after I told him I liked him and I’m still bitter.

    BUT COOL JUST THOUGHT I’D SHARE THAT COOL EXPERIENCE

  • SWIZZLEFAIRY22 May 9th, 2012 5:30 PM

    I watched this on Independent Lens during Black History Month and was blown away. Angela Davis is a boss and this movie sheds the black power movement in a whole new light.

  • Tyknos93 May 9th, 2012 6:02 PM

    Angela Davis is my favorite person ever!!!
    Black Women were often treated like doormats within the Black Panther Party usually with approval from the leaders. So, it was nice to see women like Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver who worked just as hard towards equal treatment for people of color, in spite of it being overtly misogynistic at times.
    This documentary was cool because it talked about how regions outside of America were effected by the movement as well as a modern perspective. The Pruitt Igoe Myth is another excellent documentary dealing with many of the same issues.
    Thanks a million times over for this feature!!!
    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

  • lorobird May 9th, 2012 6:23 PM

    Thank you so much for this! It looks like a great film, and actually really relevant in the Swedish scene too, considering the awful manifestations of racism that have taken place there recently.

    John Carlos is speaking here in London in a couple weeks about the Black Power movement and his and Tommie Smith’s gesture of defiance when they won medals in the Olympics of 1968.

    He will be joined by Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen, who was killed in 1993 in a racist attack here in the UK, and Janet Alder, sister of Christopher who was left to die by the racist police in a police station in 1998.

    For all UK-dwellers: it’s on the 21st May, at the Friends House (Euston Road). Details here:

    Share the love! Thanks x

  • willow May 9th, 2012 7:20 PM

    whoa, it’s so trad that y’all did a piece on this! I watched this documentary on netflix a little while ago, and while it’s definitely not the best or most analytical documentary about the black power movement, it was still really good and I enjoyed watching it a lot. thanks rookie! <33

  • TheAwesomePossum May 9th, 2012 7:43 PM

    aghuwsbjkadsguifbjhkcgviwu ejgfkcvgwue jkfc

    Ok, I’ll go read the article now.

    • TheAwesomePossum May 9th, 2012 7:51 PM

      Sorry, I kind of spasmed when I saw the picture, and was all OHMYGOODNESS ANGELA DAVIS. But yeah, this was a pretty good documentary. I’d watched it over the winter break, and the scene with Angela Davis was so incredibly amazing. Both intellectually and in a way that makes me want to pick out my hair and wear orange tutlenecks.

  • fishintheC May 9th, 2012 7:49 PM

    this seems like an amazing film, and I’m so excited to watch it. I have so much respect and thankfulness towards those who fought the moral, societal, intellectual, and physical fight for human rights. I feel the effect that these people have made today, in 2012, as a young white girl in high school. I hope their tenacity is never forgotten. I know it won’t be, because their actions are immortalized in every single human rights act past.

  • myy May 9th, 2012 8:14 PM

    Watching this tonight! Thank you for this post. Truly. Angela Davis is such an inspiring individual. Rookie your’e the best!

    http://highway61vintage.blogspot.com/
    http://mygenerationmusic.blogspot.com/

  • WinnieB. May 9th, 2012 9:15 PM

    This is SO GREAT! I heard Angela Davis speak at The Evergreen State College graduation last year and she was so amazing and articulate. A true inspiration.

  • Caden May 9th, 2012 10:26 PM

    What a fantastic and unique article! Wouldn’t ever find an article like this in usual magazines.

    Ps your parents are beautiful!!

    Caden x
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/pinkpoppies1991

  • jamielovesbrit May 9th, 2012 11:14 PM

    IM SO HAPPY YOUVE WRITTEN ABOUT THIS. one of my favorite documentaries period… so powerful

  • rubyhobbit May 10th, 2012 1:10 AM

    I saw this not that long ago and I had no idea most of the things they showed on the documentary happen. I didn’t know much about the black power but this film defines it very well. It’s on Netflix!!!

  • Runaway May 10th, 2012 8:55 AM

    I haven’t read the Hunger Games and hadn’t heard about the racist reaction of some movie-goers till I read that article from Jezebel…Honestly, I’m shocked.

    PS. The picture of Jamia’s parents’ wedding is pure love.

  • Elun May 10th, 2012 12:03 PM

    I loved this movie so much – incredibly inspiring.
    Right after I saw it I sat down and wrote a story on the importance of how the resistance dresses – how to show resistance, what kind of message you put across through your clothes and how dressing a certain way affects your sense of belonging.
    It’s in swedish only, but at least there are two more pretty, pretty pictures for the film!
    http://bon.se/#/go=article;link=%2F2011%2F11%2Fpower-dressing%2F

  • sea_animal May 10th, 2012 3:33 PM

    YES!

  • Jamia May 11th, 2012 2:24 PM

    Thank you so much! I loved writing this piece. The movie is amazing. For those of you who just watched it, let me know what you thought of it. I’m enjoying checking out all of your blogs and tumblrs. xx <3

    PS. I LOVE that you enjoy this pic of my parents as much as I do. They are still super cute. ")

  • falkor4eva July 1st, 2012 2:58 AM

    I really appreciate this post, I’m definitely watching it. I didn’t know where to start with Angela Davis’ work after briefly learning about her in feminist philosophy, so thaaaanksssss <3

  • LunaBT August 11th, 2012 8:14 PM

    Gotta see this movie! I got to see Angela speak recently ( maybe a year and a half ago) up near Colombia. It was the first time I ever really saw “Angela Davis” and not just Angela, and it was so exciting and invigorating and inspiring. If you haven’t read/heard her more recent works, you should! I felt like I wanted to read everything and watch everything and learn everything. I think I’d better start doing that!