Talib Kweli (hip-hop artist): "There would be no gay liberation
or feminism without the Black Power Movement."
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a chronological visual story
of the Black Power movement as seen through the eyes of Swedish
news and documentary filmmakers from 1967 - 1975. The Swedes were
given access to Black communities of protest possibly because they
were not white Americans and were also not threatened by
socialism as a political strategy.
The film uses voice over commentary from present day icons such as
Erykah Badu, Angela Davis amd Talib Kweli, however the magic
of the film is how the filmmakers bore witness to the intimate
lives as well as the rhetoric of people who are now iconic figures
from the fight for Civil Rights in the USA. Where the The
Black Power Mixtapes shines is when we see the Black Power leaders
who at the time were painted as Enemies of the State painted as
warm, sexy, passionate, idealistic young men and women. We see
Stokely Carmichael the leader of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee giving fiery speeches of inspiration yet
taking the microphone out of the Swedish reporters hand to conduct
a touching interview with his own mother. We see Harry
Belafonte as a beautiful young man flirting playfully to the
However one of the most arresting pieces of footage was
seeing Angela Davis in court defiant and strong even though
standing trial as a dangerous terrorist and an accessory to a
murder simply because of circumstantial evidence. Her extraordinary
uncompromising militant interview from her prison cell made even
more remarkable because had she been found guilty she would have
been executed. Her Black power salute to the cameras a visual
reminder of her politics and echoed by many people in the film. It
was potent symbol of Black resistance. having reached an
international audience two years before when Tommie Smith and John
Carlos gave that same salute from the podium at the Olympic Stadium
in Mexico City. The film shows us that as the men became imprisoned
the women took centre stage in the struggle for liberation.
What will resonate with modern audiences seeing the footage of
protestors in the 1960's being fired on by American soldiers in the
1960's is how reminiscent it is of the footage we now see on
YouTube or the television of the Arab Spring in Libya, and Syria,
where the governments sent out an armed response to quash
Black Power Mixtape is also compelling when it shows that the
Black Power activists were the biggest threat not when they fought
for the equal rights of the "Negro" but when they opened up the
struggle to include a critique on the Vietnam war like Martin
Luther King Jr, and the class struggle for all poor people
irrespective of skin colour ( Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael).
This threat led J Edgar Hoover the Head of the FBI to
formalize a covert "dirty tricks" program under the name COINTELPRO
to destabilize the radicals. This led to the assassination and
exiling of many of the leaders and weakened the movement.
The film presents a powerful statement that in tandem with this
destruction of the Liberation Movement was a mass flooding of Black
inner city areas with drugs by the CIA causing the next generation
of African Americans to be turned from articulate activists
into cowed crackheads.
However we know the spirit of that time inspired the Gay
Liberation Front UK who disrupted the Church-based morality
campaign, Festival of Light in 1971 to the present day
glitterbombing of homophobic bigots.
Göran Hugo Olsson
The Black Power is screening at the BFI Southbank as
part of the 55th BFI London Film Festival on Fri 14 Oct, 9pm, and
Mon 17 Oct, 3.30pm
More details and booking information here.