Are You ‘Afraid of Dark?’ A New Documentary About Black Men Screens

Malik Yoba2By Ingrid Hadasa

Recent News Headline:
Javier Payne, a 14 year-old boy was shoved through a glass store window by a Sargent police Officer. Payne sustained critical injuries, received 50 staples in his chest and is set for additional surgeries to repair his sliced open chest from the glass.

He is black.
afriad of the dark poster

Are you Afraid of Dark? A standard cliché’ question about real fear planted in the minds of people everywhere but …..it’s not about the darkness of the night. It’s the black faces of African-American men across America and nothing is more evident than the unjustly slain lives of so many young men in recent years. Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin are just some of the recently famed martyrs who’ve echoed the iconic slaying of one Emmett Till; “How is it that a 14 year-old black kid could be a threat to a grown white man?” A question poignantly asked by the filmmaker Mya B who chronicles this puzzling conundrum in her new documentary “Afraid of Dark.”  It is a tragic puzzle that has an idealistically pictured box top of American justice contrary to the menacing reality of its many pieces. Those pieces are made up of black men incarcerated, harassed, racially profiled at every turn and brutally attacked by the police, not to mention killed at the random panic of any non-black citizen. What is the origin of the black-menace-to-society stereotype that has the whole country seized with fear?

In the film, Mya B examines this polarizing phenomena of the feared black man riddling American society with an over saturation of negative images.  She employs some of the most powerful voices in black diaspora to lend prospective on the assassination of the Black man’s image: Dr. Cornell West, Malik Yoba, Sam Greenlee, Dr. Khalid Muhammad, Tom Burrell and a host of other historians, writers, actors, rappers, and poets strategically placed because they represent the business of imaging which makes their testimonies apropos.  There’s even a surprise appearance by rapper Peter Gunz pre-Love and Hip Hop; which casts an interesting perspective on the transition of image through the media.  Mya B tackles all corners of social, political, even financial climate that influence how America sees black men and how they are now seen as public enemy #1. The film explores sagging, baby-daddies, black on black crime, unemployment and the various racial stereotypes from the shiftless Negro to scared coon. But the crux of her examination goes right to ultimate stereotypical threat to white Americans: The “brute” and “Mandingo.” Mya spares no expense or political correctness in pinpointing perhaps the underlying cause of the recent killings of innocent young black men.

 

Dr

As Curtis Mayfield legends his music throughout the film, perhaps the curiosity goes much deeper into the filmmaker herself.  A feisty Chicagoan from the Southside, she grew up watching her mother work for the Environmental Protection Agency for 30 years as everyone benefited from hard work as her mother remained that exception to her own corporate reward. “She trained everybody else to move up and never got her just due.”  Mya, whom her mother named after the recently transitioned Dr. Maya Angelou, knew she was destined for something beyond her mother’s 9 – 5 footsteps.  Burgeoning from the previous generation of being practical and realistic when it comes to vocation choice,  creative writing seem to take hold of her budding artistic mind throughout her youth.  An identity seeking quest into a punk phase and working with her brother for their entrepreneurial father seemed to shape Mya’s conviction that she ought to be the driver of her own destiny. But it was the suggestion of her mother, that she pursue broadcast journalism at Columbia University.  Mya entered as a fiction writing major which morphed into her making films on the inspirational strength of her telling her own stories visually.

General Steele smif n wessunShe soon becomes a traveling fiend, a single mom, and a documentarian all in one long maturing breath.  But if there is a growing legacy she is to leave her beloved son,  besides the time capsule of this film, it’s to expand his horizons through traveling  and the exposure to different worlds, cultures, and people: whether he wants it or not!  She attributes her constant quest to explore the world around her to her mother’s early commitment to exposing her and her brother to things outside their normal habitat. “Growing up on Chicago’s Southside was very black. That’s because it was very segregated. So my mother made sure we went ice-skating and bowling, which back then was something most of the people in my neighborhood weren’t doing. She wanted to make sure we saw beyond our current existence.”Mya is an artist, a teacher, a mother, and a writer with indelible electrifying spirit. Don’t be fooled however she has the heart of a revolutionary! An artistic warrior who intends to provoke action in the community at-large with her work.  A path no doubt paved by the rejection of all the major Film Festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and even ABFF! But to anyone who dare question her credentialed stance on being able to tell the plight of black men, she will quickly qualify herself by telling you “I’m a mother, the daughter, and sister of a black man. There are black men all around me so if there’s anyone who understands the soul and plight of black man it’s a black woman…..that woman also being me.

In fact “Afraid of Dark” was born from an outcry of men who saw her previous film Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America.  A graphically powerful account exploring black women’s experiences and opinions about relationships, sex and sexuality. Mya attacks the historical and cultural frameworks that produce stereotypical images of black females. Women candidly discuss the loss of their virginity, their religious views, family, desires and fears: and how these factors shaped their ideas about sex.  The impact of this film spawned a desire from brothers …… to do one about men.

So as Mya began to do research, she discovered the deeper issue facing black men as an endangered species which inspired a whole new territory to charter. “I was going to originally call the film Silence 2 but my research and interviews led me to the discovery of black men as targets of society. The psychological effects are astronomically turning our urban communities upside down.” So as you see this film you’ll see different pictures all jumbled and strategically laid like pieces of puzzles of dead black men who do have tales to tell and drive the heart of this film.

Lou Myers2

The screening will be held on Friday, June 13 from 6:30 pm-8:30 pm (doors open at 6 pm) at Kumble Theater, LIU, Brooklyn located on Flatbush Ave. between Dekalb Ave. & Willoughby St. – www.kumbletheater.org. www.afraidofdarkthefilm.com.  Check the film trailer here: http://youtu.be/Wh48R2NVS_8

Danny Simmons, artist and co-founder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, and Councilmember Jumaane Williams and other guests will join director Mya B. in a post-screening discussion. NYS Commissioner of the Division of Human Rights Helen Diane Foster, an AKA member, will moderate the panel.

Pianist/composer/producer Marc Cary will perform a sample from the soundtrack for Afraid of Dark in honor of the film’s premiere. His music is featured in the documentary.

Tickets: $10. For information call 212-865-2982.

LIMITED SEATING, PLEASE RESERVE YOUR SEAT NOW!

 

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