Field Niggas (2015), dir. Khalik Allah

I have walked down the midnight streets of New York. The pizza parlors; the 99¢ stores; late night Subway stops; the neon lights of every vehicle and every shop corner.

But I have never walked those streets as an African American. I’m White British. I can react viscerally; emotion; shock; anger, but I can never respond in the same way as the voices of those in the street.

I can walk past the men and women on the street. Judge them. Dismiss them. Ignore them. But I can never live their lives.

Reflection. Spirituality. Social commentary. The omniscient eyes of the NYPD ready to jump at any given moment. Prepared. What could easily be a Vice documentary is transcended beyond. Allah could present us with interviews with a couple of homeless people. Contrast it with an interview with an NYPD officer, or a senator, or another person of authority. Prepare for a comments section full of downvotes.

But there is authority. Creative authority. Authority of voice. We see black faces in slow motion; hear black voices. Because for the duration of the film, one is transported onto the streets of Brooklyn. One is no outsider, one is within the moment. The multiple protagonists of Spike Lee films; the faceless summaries of newspaper articles; the solitary voice of a journalist is not here.

We see many faces, many black voices, many black lives from the kings and queens to today, and yet all are one.


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