What Has Always Bothered Me About 12 Years A Slave

First let me say that I have not seen the movie. I have a copy of the book that I haven’t read yet. So I am not commenting on the acting at all. I’m quite sure it’s a magnificent film. 

A friend posted the following article on FB:  Lupita Nyong’o And What It Means To Be Black

This was my response in her status:

This is a great article. I must admit that while I’m thrilled that Lupita won, it makes me feel some type of way that it took a British director, a British actor and a Kenyan actress to tell a Black American story about slavery. Other blacks in the Disapora love to look down their noses at us ‘regular Blacks’ without acknowledging that they were the ones who sold us down the river. Then they come the US and don’t bother to understand the racial dynamic in play while they benefit off the sacrifices on my ancestors. I’ve written a book. I shouldn’t have blogged in your comments! Lol!

As a descendant of American slaves, this bothers me. A lot. It’s like having a small pebble in your shoe while you are walking down the street. And I probably sound petty but were there no Black American actors and actresses who were considered for the roles? Maybe there were..maybe there weren’t, I don’t know. And yes I realize that slavery existed in quite a few places, like the Carribean and Brazil, but this ain’t about those places. I’m glad the movie got made, I’m certainly glad Solomon Northup’s story was shared with the masses but still…it just doesn’t sit too well with me.

4 thoughts on “What Has Always Bothered Me About 12 Years A Slave

  1. I don’t think its fair to wonder who was up for the roles. If we (Black Americans) want the story told, we should have done it. I am not in the industry…but I bet “we” shied from pursuing telling the story because “we” don’t like talking about slavery.

    When I visited Nigeria, we visited a slave port…and the Curator clearly considered me an American (ie white) than a long lost relative that was sold off. I actually said to my sister…”Do they consider me white?”. I was shocked. And they don’t teach American slavery in schools there…they teach Nigerian history. I gather that people outside the US are so disconnected that its easier to talk about, etc.

    HUGE sweeping generalizations but I hope you understand what I mean.

  2. I get where you are coming from. And you definitely bring up a good point. Shoot it seems British actors are taking over American roles period between David Oyelowe, Idris, and Chiwetel. From what I understand about Patsy’s role, it was an open call but they didn’t want to see anyone else after Lupita auditioned. Some Africans and West Indians do look down on African-Americans. However, I put them in the same category as ignorant African-Americans….ignorance is ignorance. Intelligent folk elsewhere in the diaspora understand slavery especially since it had some similarities to colonization…so you’re better than me because I was enslaved but you were colonized, etc. yeah…no…..I think they understand the dynamic. Would you feel different if the actors and director were from South Africa? What about Americans playing Africans? Does it go both ways? Last King of Scotland, etc.
    I visited the international slavery museum in Liverpool and I was surprised to see such a thorough coverage of slavery there, outside the states. I learned more about slavery there than any exhibit I’ve seen here in the states, not that I’ve seen every single history exhibit related to slavery. But I think I’m more interested in slavery than the average African-American and you probably are too. And as successful as this movie was for every person I know who saw it was another one who says they don’t like to watch slavery stuff-this probably includes some filmmakers.
    America is the primary film market in the world. So if you want to be a big star or put out a big film you come here. McQueen went to film school with Malcolm Lee. Malcolm is gonna stay in his Best Man lane and I love it. We can only wonder how an American Black filmmaker would have done with this story had he come across it. We have enough American Black film makers for one of them to decide to make a movie about slavery, but they haven’t. Okay now I’m preaching to the choir and dissertating in your comments.

    • I agree with Yoruba’s comment! And to add to that I have Liberian friends and I’ve been told that in their Country descendents of American Slavery are look at as ABOVE those who are were colonized. They are called something like “kunta”, Most of us of African descent were all victimized by either Slavery or Colonization and it is perpetuated till this day!

  3. II don’t know who they considered or didn’t, but why does the origin of the actors matter? We’ve developed and acted in lots of movies… just not this one. I’m trying to think about Joy Luck Club and if those women were first generation or Chinese born … and did it matter to the Chinese community.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s