Story and photo by D.L.White
America in comparison to nation’s and countries around the world is still a relatively “new nation.” In 1915, the country was grappling with growth issues, an influx of people coming from all over the world to the new nation to experience the freedoms and opportunity they could only imagine in their native country’s.
It was in 1915, when the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), a home grown terrorist and hate group created following the Civil War to threaten, intimidate and keep those freed from bondage in their place, that the original “Birth of a Nation” debuted to glorify the KKK and to send a message to all that would seek safe harbor in these United States, to seek refuge else where.
While the original film did do some harm in spreading its message of hate, new film director Nate Parker, of Red Wings and Great Debater fame took on the challenge to present the story of activist Nat Turner through a different theoretical lens. Parker through the collaboration, interest and trust and many, wrote, directed in and produced the 21st Century version of Birth of a Nation and in doing so, expose the real-life story of challenge and intestinal fortitude to a new generation of curious viewers, many who were not aware of Nat Turner or his exploits in 1830 Virginia.
The men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, through the Omega Youth Leadership Academy (OYLA) recently sponsored a screening of the film that has gained rave reviews and has garnered talk of a possible Academy Award for Parker.
Interested movie goers packed into a rented theatre at the Arizona Center recently to support the efforts of the Fraternity in its development of youth and continued interest in presenting positive community events to empower, engage, and explore meaning dialogues.
OYLA founder and lead spokesman, Larry Ross, brought greetings and introduced ASU faculty member Alonzo (AJ) Jones to set the stage and prepare the table for what those in attendance were about to witness.
Jones, took the audience on a 22 minute review of history going back to the motherland as he noted, “the glorious and proud history of our ancestors did not start in bondage. The fact so many generations of Africans were able to survive the horrendous voyage to America and continue to survive on the foreign shores against their will, was because of their great resilience and desire to live and thrive.
“Those in bondage did many things to show their displeasure,” noted Jones, “from breaking machinery, working at a slow place and revolting – which Nat Turner did after witnessing so much abuse and dehumanization.”
There were more than 280 documented revolts, but history only speaks of only a few. The revolts often cited include the Gabriel Prosser revolt, Denmark Vesey, and the Nat Turner revolt.
Parker did an excellent job of providing a visual picture for the audience that allowed those unfamiliar with the story to comprehend and visualize the build up of events that lead Turner to act.
For the youth and many adults in attendance, it was a Saturday history lesson. “I don’t recall learning about or even hearing the name of Nat Turner in school,” was a common echo in the theatre as those in attendance departed talking about and processing a critical bit of history.
If you have not seen The Birth of a Nation, make plans to see it. (Note: this film is rated for audiences at least 13-15 and older.)