The Black Power era in America has been sliced and diced by so many people and in so many ways. In a lot of ways the Black Power movement in this country has largely been vilified and condemned as a period of unpatriotic militancy rebellion by a group of people acting out against the laws of the land for their own self purpose and to the detriment of their communities.
A new, riveting documentary presents a more empowering side of the movement that was ushered in as the Civil Rights Movement was in its last throes. That film, “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975”, connects richly and powerfully, as it depicts a part of black history that often gets overlooked or has been mostly misconstrued by the media, elected officials and political and academic experts.
What “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” does is give a refreshingly, positively energized view on how a group of people like Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers were able to infuse and indoctrinate black Americans into believing their self-worth and to take back the power within their communities.
It is a uniquely complex period as black Americans went from “We Shall Overcome” to transitioning to a time of uncertainty, where riots and anarchy raged and self-identification as a people became more jargon than reality. During that time period, drugs became rampant in urban communities, the Vietnam War was in full force and the struggle for equality was still a major hurdle for black Americans to climb over.
“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” examined thoughtfully and eloquently by a Swedish film crew and executive produced by actor Danny Glover, gives audiences an unapologetic and unbiased look of the complexities of issues facing black Americans during that time period. There’s the Vietnam War veteran struggling with the fact he how he was honored to go fight for the United States, yet had to deal with the reality that he was still shown the same disgrace and indignant treatment as other black Americans were given in this country.
The year of 1967 marked a turning point for black Americans as the passive, no-resistance reaction to segregated Jim Crow laws and hate crimes committed against them gave way to a more defiant, militant stance against oppression and suppression. The fiery Carmichael, along with Davis, Malcolm X, Huey Newton and the Black Panthers were certainly at the forefront of that push.
But more than anything, what “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975“ docu-drama shows us is the human element side of these men and women that is often times lost in the portrayal of them. It also re-captures a time where a fashion statement seemed to be made every other day and afros were the strongholds of representation of Black Power.
The film, masterfully cutting in and out of cues from Carmichael, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X to Davis to Black Panthers’ leaders Irene Brown and Eldridge Cleaver, recalls an era where America and its people were struggling to find common ground in race relations and equality. With a focused directive, the film leaves out a lot of the nuances surrounding the Black Power movement. That was done by design.
What the film does artfully is stay on track to tell the story of a movement that burned with enthusiastic ideas about the progression of a people who fought back against the lairs of an oppressed history to be seen as equal citizens of this country. One of the more compelling storylines is following Carmichael in a self-depreciation, warm moment as he speaks and interviews his mother about her life. That scene is the essence of the film and a reflection of ordinary citizens in the Black Power movement revealing their humanity.