Thinking About Movies in Black History Month

Wesleyan students, staff and faculty have been mounting a series of interesting events and discussions to mark Black History Month. This week the College of Film and the Moving Image continues its film series Awareness 17 with a showing of 13th, a documentary by Ava DuVernay on the intertwining of race and mass incarceration. I first heard about the film from Jelani Cobb, who visited Wesleyan not long ago to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, freedom of speech and campus politics. Michelle Alexander’s work has an important role in the movie — the Wes class of 2020 read her The New Jim Crow before coming to campus this year. The film is being shown Tuesday, February 21st at 8:00 pm in the Powell Family Cinema. Prof. Charles Barber will lead a talk back after the screening.

I am traveling and will be meeting with many members of our Los Angeles alumni film community early in the coming week. Unfortunately, that means I will miss the campus screening of 13th. Kari and I did manage to see another powerful documentary on race, politics and social justice recently. I Am Not Your Negro is a searing film that is inspired by the life and work of James Baldwin. Wesleyan faculty member and New York Times chief film critic A.O. Scott had this to say about it: “Whatever you think about the past and future of what used to be called “race relations” — white supremacy and the resistance to it, in plainer English — this movie will make you think again, and may even change your mind.”

At Wesleyan, we have much rethinking to do about race —  about white supremacy and the resistance to it. Doing so will help us take concrete steps to make our campus community a more equitable and inclusive place. This would be the best outcome of Black History Month.


Black History Month

We’ve just passed the mid-way point in February, which means that there have already been a number of interesting events celebrating Black History Month. Students and faculty have been planning lectures, concerts, and social events that commemorate important events in the history of African Americans and other groups in the African Diaspora.  This Sunday at 5 pm at Crowell Concert Hall is Jubilee, an annual event that celebrates the talents of students, faculty and community members. Wesleyan’s Center for African American Studies has a long, distinguished history of scholarship and activism, and you can find out more about events in Black History Month by visiting the Malcolm X House at 343 High Street.

I had lunch today with Ann duCille, Professor of English, who for more than two decades has been teaching students about literature, race, history, gender and theory. We talked about the changing landscape for Black Studies, and about the potential for doing some exciting things at Wesleyan in this field, in creative writing, and in our diversity efforts across campus. Ann’s interests range from Barbies to black feminist theory, and she has deep roots in the arts and academia. Ann has decided to retire at the end of this year, and she will be sorely missed by students and faculty alike. Only after I left the lunch did I realize that it was Ann’s birthday! To make up for this gross oversight, I’ll extend these birthday wishes publicly!!