Jimmy Baldwin’s Eyes!
His eyes are scary, cold black and piercing; an example of that all too familiar line, “If looks could kill”
His eyes slice surgeon-like through the brutality, the lies, and the facade, the guilt that exemplify and comprise the sordid racial history of the United States.
And as those eyes peered out from the screen clouded by a haze of acrid smoke and a lighted cigarette, the latter his constant companion, little death warrants lodged between bony fingers, a chill ran down my spine.
His were eyes that could turn on a dime and switch from laughter through a toothy grin, or anger on stage or college lectern, to fear and terror as he hunched down in the backseat of a Chevy driving through Birmingham, Alabama.
His were the eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses among the many in the church pews during Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta, eyes that darted nervously from side to side.
Now I said all that to say this: The film, “I Ain’t Nobody’s Negro,” debuted in downtown Atlanta recently. My wife Karen and good friends Wanda and Bernard occupied one row, and were among the seven folks who sat there in absolute silence in an otherwise empty theater.
In a true masterpiece the filmmakers weaved through and connected the times and lives of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X and ultimately the bullets that snuffed out their young lives way to early, leaving widows, newly fatherless offspring and an African American (strike that, American) leadership gap that remains unfilled to this day.
Yet in the end, Brother Baldwin was able to say resolutely in words real or feigned, that he remained optimistic about the future of America, the nation he fled from to France into a self-imposed exile but returned to add a powerful voice to the struggles for black equality in America.
And if on cue, he looked down and away, his voice trailed off as the screen darkened and the seven of us slowly rose from our seats, quietly left the theater and walked across the parking lot…into the reality of Trump’s America.
Yes, Jimmy Baldwin’s Eyes!
© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, story teller and senior associate with Diversity Wealth. He also serves as a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, New York-based Catalyst, The American Diversity Report, The Huffington Post and the Atlanta Business Journal. He can be reached at (470) 558-7310. See also mystoriesonlineblog.com