“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (2011) is a film based on interviews and news stories done by Swedish television some 40 years ago on the American Black Power movement. It features Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers and Angela Davis. It shows film from that period with voice-over comments made in 2010 by Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Questlove, Sonia Sanchez, Miss Angela Davis herself and others. Swedish Göran Olsson directs, American Danny Glover co-produces.
It goes year by year. It starts with Stokely Carmichael in black-and-white saying that Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience will not work on those without a conscience. It ends in living colour with the CIA flooding Harlem with heroin and the rise of Minister Louis Farrakhan.
It has tons of scenes of poor black neighbourhoods, particularly Harlem in the early 1970s, with voice-overs from 2010.
It is not an “Eye on the Prize” sort of documentary history. They leave plenty out. For example, they say little about Cointelpro, Fred Hampton, the riots or why Carmichael and Davis were not Panthers. Some facts are got wrong, like the year of Medgar Evers’s death. I would not depend on it to learn the history, but it is certainly worth watching for the material it does have.
The Swedish parts are subtitled, but it is mostly in English since they let black Americans do most of the talking – from guest voice-overs to revolutionaries to a bookshop owner to a hospital doctor to people on the street.
The two best parts are in the Bonus section of the DVD:
- A half-hour interview with Angela Davis in 1972, the first she gave in prison. The most powerful moments are when she talks about the white violence and black poverty she saw growing up in Birmingham, Alabama.
- A half-hour piece on Shirley Chisholm running for president in 1972. It is especially interesting to watch now 40 years later in the time of a black president. Unlike Obama, no big Wall Street banks backed her. Shows you how far America is from being a true democracy.
There is also a Bonus piece on the landmark rape case of Joan Little.
A theme that runs throughout is the moral right of blacks to use violence, particularly when civil (white) society fails to protect them. Great quotes on that from Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis and Erykah Badu.
No White American gaze: They show Central Park as viewed from Harlem! They do not assume American society is naturally just. They picture Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis and the Panthers as heroes fighting for the American ideals of freedom and equality, not as dangerous extremists.
- Not: “We gave them their civil rights, it is not our fault now if they screw it up” – the White American and Rented Negro framing.
- Instead: What a shame America does not live up to its promise as a great nation.
TV Guide complained Swedish television was anti-American. In this film President Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI are the true anti-Americans.