I Am Not Your Negro

By Darleen Ortega

"I Am Not Your Negro" opens the festival on two screens on Thursday, Feb. 9 (it opens in broader release on Feb. 17), and I can't think of a year when I have been more excited about the opening night film. We in the United States have neglected the realities of racism and shut out so many voices for so long that we are essentially operating on the level of "alternative facts." Raoul Peck's passion project compiles the words of James Baldwin into a meditation on the history of oppression of black people, with a focus on the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.

James Baldwin (center) writer, social commentator, activist and humanitarian

James Baldwin (center) writer, social commentator, activist and humanitarian

Baldwin's perspective is uncannily sharp and offers such a needed broadening of focus on the truth of black experience. The previews have already moved me to tears, as Peck's artful juxtapositions of images, music, and Baldwin's prescient words expose harsh realities of violence, exploitation, dehumanization, and trauma that characterize race relations in the U.S. It is time we right-sized our assessment of these broken places, and Peck's careful rendering of Baldwin's legacy offers a profound step in the right direction.

3 Quotes by James Baldwin

  • It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
  • I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
  • When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living.