Watch A Throwback: 'To Be A Black Man' By Nelson George Ft. Chris Rock + More
Directed and written by Nelson George, To Be A Black Man is a succinct and honest exploration of what it is to be black man in a society that despises you, hates you, fears you, loves you, and wants, desperately, to be you — all simultaneously. Released in 1997, To Be A Black Man utilizes the backdrop of NYC, one that’s changed dramatically, to deliver the biting words of Nelson George, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, to convey these difficult truths. The music, provided by Maxwell and Stuart Matthewman, is amazing and makes the piece whole. The piece was inspired by a column Nelson George did in the Village Voice. Photography was handled by Lee Davis while editing was done by Jeff Cooper. The visuals were shot in Fort Greene and Greenwich Village.
James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” The visual poem that is To Be A Black Man encapsulates these very real emotions and the indignation that arises from the hurdles of wading through life with black skin. The visual poem does this while not neglecting to mention the joy and beauty that is blackness. The haunting yet beautifully shot visuals begin with a hooded man, played by George, and the voice of Jackson opening with, “To be a black man is to be a shadow, a nightmare, a statistic. It’s being brown in a society that loves pink and pale it’s being nappy in a country of blow dryers, it’s being Nat Turner…”
The issues raised in the visual piece are strikingly relevant to today. In the wake of the most recent high profile cases of police terror, the executions of 37 year-old Alton Sterling and 32-year-old Philando Castile, this video is necessary viewing.
A host of folks are in the video too. See if you can spot Greg Tate, Touré, Deane, Russell Simmons, Joseph Simmons, Mujahid Abdullah, Abdur Rahman, Nefertiti Guariello, Tahir Rahman, Piper Murphy, Chris Rock, Tony Rock, William Stephney, Dan Stephney, René Assenault, Rob, Carol Duke, Dwayne Bailey, Damon Bailey, John Paxton, and of course Nelson George, but you won’t really see him, cause he wearing the hood and all.
Watch the visuals for To Be A Black Man below.