I feel this every time I run into a major moment in history about people of African descent. As I watched Mangrove, part of the Small Axe on Netflix I felt my history teachers had bamboozled me. It is one of a collection of films by Steve McQueen originally on BBC One.
This movie tells the story of a West Indian community in the Notting Hill section of London in the 1970s. Nine members of the community were arrested after their peaceful demonstration turned violent. They faced prison sentences in a system that didn’t want to see them as equals. It reminded me of the Chicago Seven, but apparently Americans were not the only ones stuck on stupid.
I was drawn to the story, but the telling of it put me off sometime. It tended to linger over elements too long. If I notice a scene is too long, it is way too long. I tried to resist the urge to fast forward (which is why I don’t go to theaters anymore.) Good stories can tell themselves, we artist just need to get out the way.
This movie stars Letitia Wright from Black Panther, Shaun Parkes from Lost in Space and Malachi Kirby from Roots. Wright is Althea Jones, a strong female urging the community to organize, while Parkes is Frank Crichlow, the owner of the Mangrove restaurant which takes the brunt of the harassment. Kirby’s character, Darcy’s Howe, is a bit vague to me until the end when he absolutely nails it in his closing argument.
McQueen did very interesting things with sound that helped me relate to the West Indian community in his film. It also added depth to the story for me because I had never imagined the 1970s in that way. Although the story didn’t need any help. There were difficult moments when oppression impacts the community. I found myself wanting to fight with them.
The real folks who fought this fight battle, did so for a while. This movie shows one battle, in a much longer war. Which brings me back to my history teachers. What I hate most about not knowing this struggle is that my brothers and sisters across the pond didn’t have the support they needed to stay in the fight. I mean they stayed in the fight, but did so alone.
It is much easier to stay in the fight if you know you have been seen. If you know others are in this fight with you, even if it is just spiritually. But I love that we tell these stories now and hope others find the courage to continue the march for justice. I hope you find encouragement here. I did.