EDITORIAL: Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” would make Oscar Micheaux proud!

Editorial/Op-Ed

(HARLEM) – Having watched Regina King’s adaptation of Kemp Powers’ “One Night in Miami” released on Christmas Day 2020 via Amazon, I was so marvelously inspired. The film, to say the least, made me so very proud on different levels: historically, cinematographically, and spiritually. Based in truth, the film was a fictional night featuring Cassius Clay (on the cusp of changing his name to Muhammad Ali), Malcolm X (on the verge of being assassinated), Sam Cooke (as he captured America in song) and Jim Brown, considered the epitome of Black male domination.

The film stars Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom, Jr.

Now, let me be forthright. I do not watch just any ol’ thing thrown at me, regardless of whom the creator is. I have my own personal standards, thank you.

Put differently, I’m not going to watch a film just because it was made by a Black person. I won’t!

There has to be a more compelling reason for me to see it, and I don’t care what anyone says. Actually, I have a long list of requirements. Hey, I was a media major!

In particular, I am opposed to racial stereotypes, including films where the Black man is the first one to get killed. In my household, that kind of movie doesn’t run long.

Further, I need more than just another movie about what I see in the City of Baltimore or any other major urban area on a daily basis. I need substance, depth, character development, lessons for the future, and an overall re-certification of my faith in humanity. Oh, and I also need top-notch and innovative cinematography.

Spike Lee, my fellow Morehouse brother, is known for his conveyor belt-type scenes where the person is seemingly transcending time before our very eyes.

Additionally, when my mind is made up about a film (I’m only human, don’t judge me), I rarely change my stance. Case in point: Quinton Tarantino’s “Django”. I’ve never watched it and I never plan to do so, primarily because I caught an interview of Tarantino and didn’t like what I observed.

That being said, King’s directorial debut was in no way, shape or form disappointing. Au contraire! I am so proud of this “sista” for pulling together Kemp Powers’ literary work into a cinematographic masterpiece that highlighted four “brothas” – each at the top of their game. That alone was mind-blowing!

The film was stimulating, encouraging, informative, and insightful. It did what few American made films do: it effectively inspired Black Excellence in any and all disciplines known to man. And the film was rooted in an agape love that was surreal. I felt the love coming through the screen. I felt the pain and the frustration with life for Black people in America. I was enlightened.

It touched my soul. The film pierced through all of the bullcrap we’ve repeatedly seen in films that so often downplay our struggle or marginalize our reality so far from the mainstream as if we do not exist. I thank Regina King, too, for having the wisdom, the guidance and the spirit to reach deep into the core of the Civil Rights Movement and all that America was experiencing at the time and produce a mesmerizing film that explained our fears but also captured our people’s glory in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

So, when I read LA Times columnist LZ Granderson’s opinion on King’s film (Column: ‘One Night in Miami’ doesn’t acknowledge Jim Brown’s history of violence. But we must), I was taken a bit. Somehow, this award-winning journalist turned “One Night In Miami” into a discussion on domestic violence. One thing though, that was not the topic.

Of course, domestic violence is a life-or-death issue! But this film was not addressing it. It was focused, thank God, on something bigger than any one of the characters. The film gives Black America something to be proud of, especially considering the daily attacks we, as a people, take in the mainstream media all day and all night. Just turn on the local news in any big city!

As a student of media, I pay attention to how stories are told on the local news stations across America all the time. For instance, if a white man shoots two sheriffs, his photo may never make it on the TV news. An incident not long ago in Harford County, Maryland comes to mind. On the other hand, if four Black men in Prince George’s County get into a shoot-out with Prince George’s County police, their photo is on the news instantly.

This, again, is in no way a slight on the issue of domestic violence. Truth be told, Black people are experts on the topic given this country’s long history of horrific violence against Blacks. Nobody in this nation can better speak to the atrocities committed against us than us.

And that’s what Granderson missed. This was not the film to take a swing at because King has been loved and adored for years by Black America. She has always demonstrated pure class and dignity, much in the manner of the Queen we just lost, Cicely Tyson.

Granderson’s piece, in my estimation, fails to make the case of how difficult it is for Black filmmakers in America to be successful in light of countering forces. Now, while my journalistic forte is not necessarily reviewing films, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that King “put her foot” in this outstanding work of art and I am confident that the average person of any race will come away with a deeper appreciation for the struggles and achievements of Black people then, before then, and now.

While some things have changed in America, the Trumpster seditionists scaling the Capitol Building’s walls was a lucid reminder that there is still a white terrorist element in this country that needs to be dealt with. At this point, it is a matter of national security. Further, institutional racism is so insidious in this country that it may take an exorcism to heal us. My only wish is that King and other talented and unapologetically Black directors could have produced hundreds more films like these years ago.

So, Regina King, keep on doing what you’re doing! I, for one, am ecstatic that you had the testicular fortitude to do something so delightful that we all need to see. Thank you for recognizing how to help heal not only our people, but the entire world from the putrid stench and seemingly indomitable rage of America’s original sin.

Further, I am also confident that Oscar Micheaux, the first Black filmmaker in America, is smiling in heaven. Like you, he fought to tell a better depiction of our people on the silver screen than his white counterpart at the time, D. W. Griffith. Like you, he had obstacles to overcome. Like you, he found a way to heartily overcome them and boldly claim his success. And like you, he created opportunities for Black actors and actresses, like America’s first Black film star Evelyn Preer. Lastly, while I hope this film and the amazing actors get every award under the sun, remember that no man can bestow upon you what God can. And I pray the Creator’s blessings continue to pour on you and yours so that you can make more spectacular films like “One Night in Miami.”

PS – We know we have the Holy Spirit when we help empower others!

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