I'm always feeling so blessed when a new netflix arrives! I remember living at a time when I would have to literally borrow, beg and steal to get access to films that weren't Hollywood action films. So now that I can list docs that get mailed to me automatically (my waiting list is hundreds of films long) and then a send one back and a surprise arrives (cuz I've forgotten what's on my list).
Today's surprise - what a blessing! A Panther In Africa
On October 30, 1969, Pete O'Neal, a young Black Panther in Kansas City, Missouri, was arrested for transporting a gun across state lines. One year later, O'Neal fled the charge, and for over 30 years, he has lived in Tanzania, one of the last American exiles from an era when activists considered themselves at war with the U.S. government. Today, this community organizer confronts very different challenges and finds himself living between two worlds - America and Africa, his radical past and his uncertain future.
I just finished watching the piece and so many things are floating in my head, in my body, in my heart - love, committment, heart, relationships, community, struggle. This is the story of a Kansas City man who once aspired to be a street hustler. In the piece he speaks very candidly about his former life as a pimp exploiting young women, his life (shotgun in hand) with the Black Panther party, his conviction for transporting guns across state lines, his flee to Africa, his life in Tanzania as a community organizer...
There are some scenes that stay with me. His beautiful wife, Charlotte, left the US at 19 with him. She seems at peace and at home with him in Tanzania now 30 years later. She runs the whole organization, and acknowledges her blessings. In one scene she is ill, with bronchitis and malaria (they contract malaria 2-3 times per year) and still she sees the positivity and wouldn't trade her life to go back to Kansas City. They left loved ones, he has children, and a life but they have built something transformative together.
In another scene they bring two young African-American men from Kansas City (one says something like, "I didn't think I'd get this cuz I didn't have the best grades, I was in jail...". They seem overwhelmed upon arrival. After some days they seem to find their rhythm, rapping for the African audience, and teaching them to ball. There are many things said and also much that goes unsaid.
Later in the film Geronimo Pratt arrives, builds a house with his beautiful wife and has blessed the O'Neal farm with a deep well that gives water to many. The Panthers mission to build and transform communities is there.
I sit and meditate on what we can do to build, rebuild and transform ourselves. How can we live and breathe positive energy? How can our education (and my own role as an educator) be transformative? I used to read bell hook (critical and feminist pedagogy - Teaching to Transgress, Teaching for Community, and her inspirations like Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed - and try in my everyday practices to teach to transform here and now. This seems increasingly difficult as the structures around me (yes the U) becomes increasingly corporate.
Unfortunately, many of my students run through the classroom with a checklist (you know the list of requirements to graduate), enrolling (for the most part) to get credit and keep it moving. The motivator is only money. I love expensive things (and things more expensive than most) but money is not my motivator, it is simply a means to an ends.
I am alive, living and breathing to be taught and to teach. In tenth grade a teacher, Fred Isseks, saw something in me. He cared enough to tell me to take his class. He put a camera in my hand and I've never put it down. I do what I do because I want to tell stories that haven't been told (or at least told the way that I see it). I try to listen for the silences, the pauses, the screams, and the energy of luv life.
So being on spring break - vacation?!? - nope. I'm hitting the Final Cut Pro. It's getting close....