By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J
“1 Angry Black Man” tells the story of Mike Anderson, a senior at a New England liberal arts college. He’s eight weeks away from graduation. After an erroneous arrest for a crime he did not commit, Mike’s story transitions to a day on his college campus where, as he heads to his African-American literature class, he continues to grapple with his unconscionable arrest.
On this particular day while in class with his favorite professor, he is feeling much sadness. He’s feeling isolated. He’s feeling Angry.
Mike’s emotions threaten to boil over during a discussion that scrutinizes several prolific authors and activists, from James Baldwin to Zora Neale Hurston. The film becomes an existential conversation among college intellectuals about gender dynamics, racism and class, as well as an empirical study of the works of these iconic Black writers. It reveals boundary-pushing conversations college students are having today.
And coincidentally, it speaks to racism and the urgent need for decades-long sought after social justice reform—the kind that Blacks and their allies in peace and equality have been fighting for since I can remember way back in the mid-60s. And coincidentally, I was able to watch this film while sheltering at home during the weekend after the police officer in Minneapolis was insufficiently charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the heinous, calculated death of 46-year-old George Floyd.
Mike’s arrest turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, and when the cops figured this out, they released him with not much as an apology. This rattles at him and while he and his peers—both Black and white—are discussing the great wealth of valuable, bone shaking insight posited by the above-mentioned authors, he loses it. This relinquishing of feelings opens up conversations around the specific authors’ meaning in their writings, as well as instances of racism levied against the minorities at the lecture table.
One major point of the discussion compared James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” to TaNehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.” The former was written by Baldwin as a letter to his nephew in 1963. Coates wrote a similar “message of concern about growing up as a Black man in America” to his son in 2015.
There is the timeless comparison of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. How one started as a peacemaker and then turned radical in his views and how the other, Malcolm X, started out as a radical and then became more mellow.
The esteemed August Wilson is given much credit for his contributions to the literary canon for all America with his 10-part examination of Black life through his plays about Pittsburgh.
The words “trigger” and “privilege” are analyzed among the students, as those of color trounce upon the white students for their mere access to money and perceived indifference to issues of racism. “1 Angry Black Man” opens a pandora’s box of relevant topics. The students leave with a better understanding of classism and racism. Mike finally opens up about his earlier life experiences growing up in Chicago that negatively impacted him years later. These impressions may or may not have been connected to the feelings of misuse and disrespect he felt by the cops who initially made him “so angry” on this particular day.
The film is available everywhere on DVD and on-demand starting June 5. Along with Keith Stone as Mike, other actors appearing in the film include Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. (“Life”), Amanda Jane Stern (“Amish Witches: The True Story of Holmes County”), Tim Moriarty (“Manifest”), Ramon Nuñez (“New Amsterdam,” “Bull”) and Daphne Danielle (upcoming “God The Worm”). Visit www.soulidifly.com for more information.