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BLACK POWER MIXTAPE: Recovery

The resounding voices of a magnificently defiant Black generation rise like ghosts from the spinning spool of “The Black Power Mixtape 1969-1975” documentary. Forty years later, their chants and demands for equality ring true even now.

Words: Zoy Britton
Images: Courtesy of DigiWaxx

Talib Kweli recounts an anecdote of a flight gone wrong as he is taken into custody by the CIA, TSA and FBI. He is questioned about the footage found in the basement of Swedish TV thereby authenticating the tapes, and the irrevocable, potent words spoken by the many orators of the Black Power movement circa the late 1960s through the 1970s.

The Black Power Mixtape 1969-1975 services to give voice to a magnificent chunk of history silenced by the overwhelming subversive force of that era, finally bringing to light an inside story of the Black Power Movement and its metamorphoses.

The latter part of the ’60s was a pivotal moment in US history. The rest of the world watched as the era’s predominantly racist ideology rose to quell the tides of revolution by Blacks, who loudly and rightfully insisted upon equality in the eyes of their White counterparts. A mass of Swedish journalists migrated to the US to film this epochal moment, capturing personal footage of many Black icons of the time. Today, with the help of folks like Talib Kweli, this generation’s Swedish journalists, Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson, co-producer Danny Glover and other important, activist voices in the Black community, this lost footage has been rediscovered and compiled with audio interviews of everyone from the Hip-Hop generation like Erykah Badu, Questlove and John Forte, to make accurate a timeline, who’s flaws were almost long forgotten.

The film opens with SNCC Chairman Stokely Carmichael as he sets the tone for the beginning of the documentary (1967), making clear in a speech that while he respects Dr. King he cannot necessarily adhere to the modus operandi of non-violence. Carmichael states “I am not as patient or merciful as Dr. King’…’their [Whites’] unwillingness to deal with MLK has made them have to deal with a younger generation.” Viewers are chilled by the impermeable confidence of the revolutionary representative, and charmed by his preceding moments of horseplay and contemplation which serve to highlight his duality—his humanity, mainly, which exists in spite of how the media portrayed him over the years. Carmichael’s interview with his mother also exemplifies his humanness as he gently, but relentlessly, questions her about their family’s socioeconomic status, encouraging her to admit that they lived poorly because of their race, not as a result of happenstance.

The years 1968-9 bring tragedy as the revolutionary movement sees the fall of many of its leaders— Medgar Evers, John Clarke, JFK, RFK and MLK—and the rise of Black militancy in the form of the budding Black Panther Party. Questlove surmises that MLK’s assassination was accelerated because he was one of the first prominent revolutionaries to speak out against the Vietnam War, and how those assassinations not only killed the icons urging freedom, but began to deflate the hopes of a generation barely risen from the trenches of Jim Crow and social, political and economic oppression.

1972-3 show Angela Davis’s fight against various government organizations seeking to drown her agenda via numerous arrests and accusations. Davis asserts that the government was doing everything in their power to make an example out of her as a warning to any other revolutionary figure. Assata Shakur becomes a fugitive when she is accused of killing five police officers. Says Badu,“The pain to stay the same outweighed the pain to change.”

The Black Power Mixtape 1969-1975 marches on like this in color and black and white. It cleverly articulates how drug addiction at the hands of Vietnamese heroine, the CIA’s crack conspiracy and new messages of unity under the almighty dollar completely shattered any notions of empowerment via Black nationalism. And while the film does a phenomenal job at providing access to these icons and lost historical data, Stokely’s words from the beginning of the film almost foreshadow the chaos—gang violence, greed and government misappropriations—that ensues today. Contemporary Black voices (Badu, Questlove, Kweli, etc) say it plain: it is essential that today’s children—of all races— see the importance of unity with other disenfranchised peoples of the world, and of having pride in oneself and culture as opposed to the seemingly almighty American dollar that amorally multiplies upon the labor-weary backs of those trapped in poverty.

Just as the revolutionary voices of the Black Power Movement featured in Mixtape cry for equality, so too must we cry for justice for the many who suffer at the hands of the greedy few. This film is remarkably crafted, a must-see, if only to remember that a revolutionary’s work is never truly finished.

Visit The Black Power Mixtape’s site for up-to-date information on screenings and locations the film is currently playing worldwide.

Images courtesy of Digiwaxx.

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