The Black Power Mixtape

I recently splurged on Netflix streaming, and in addition to watching every dance drama I have ever wanted to watch, I have enjoyed having access to every documentary I never even knew I wanted to see. At the top of this list is “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.”

From 1967-9175, a crew of Swedish reporters captured key moments and revealing interviews with leaders in the Black Power Movement. Their film had languished undiscovered for 30 years in Swedish Television’s cellar, but was thankfully made into a documentary in 2011.

The content of this documentary presents a rare window into the lives of leaders of the Black Power Movement. I delighted in observing Stokely Carmichael’s calm yet rousing demeanor giving speeches, also present in his own home chatting with his mother. The unfolding of Angela Davis’s conviction, trial, and effect on the African American community was incredibly visually powerful as well.

But what transforms this illuminating historical footage into a “mixtape,” is the overlay of contemporary insights shared in the form of audio interviews with leading African-American artists, activists, musicians, and scholars. An additional layer to this spectacular cultural collage is the perspective from the other side of the lens, belonging to the Swedish filmmakers.  The cohesion of all these elements has yielded a fantastic documentary, and like a beloved mixtape, I plan to watch it again and again–divining new insights with each viewing.

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The poster for “The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975” features Angela Davis.

Watch The Black Power Mixtape

1. Olsson, Göran Hugo. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. 2011. http://blackpowermixtape.com/ This link is to the official website for the documentary. The documentary is available for purchase on the website, and also available on Netflix streaming.

Learn more about some of the activists who participated in the Black Power Movement

1. “Stokely Carmichael: Inventor of the Black Power slogan and concept.” April 22, 2013. http://stokely-carmichael.com/ This website shares information regarding the life and career of leader of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Black Panther Party Stokely Carmichael.

2. Lynch, Shola. “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners.” 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh49nbTq268 This link is to the trailer for a recently released documentary about Angela Davis.

3. Lynch, Shola. “Angela Davis Film Explores the Terrorist and Scholar.” April 18, 2013. http://www.npr.org/2013/04/18/177765543/angela-davis-film-explores-the-terrorist-and-scholar  Here is a link to an informative interview with the Director of “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” which gives great insight into the making of the film.

4. Joseph, Jamal. ” NPR Tell Me More. “‘Panther Baby,’ From Prisoner To Professor.” February 22, 2012. http://www.npr.org/2012/02/22/147257222/panther-baby-from-prisoner-to-professor Jamal Joseph was 15-years old when he joined the Black Panther Party. His 12-year sentence in Leavenworth Penitentiary for helping fugitive Panther members, is alluded to in the film. I caught this reference having listened to his interview on NPR and read his compelling memoir “Panther Baby.”

Learn more about some of the musicians interviewed in the film 

1. Kweli, Talib. 2013. http://www.talibkweli.com/ This link is to rapper/R&B artist Talib Kweli’s official website. I greatly admire his abilities to blend rhythm with lyrics that reference literature, politics, and everything in between. From the first time I heard his song “Miss Hill,” I felt giddy when I caught his reference to science fiction heroine Lauren Olamina from Octavia Butler’s novel “Parable of the Sower.” Watching the film and listening to Talib share his insights about Stokley Carmichael, Barack Obama, and the Black Power Movement’s influence on the Stonewall riots, truly echoed his musical stylings, and brought to life the “mixtape” quality I so love in this documentary.

2. Kott, Lidia Jean. “Tall Glass Of Rock Star-Ness: A Q&A With Questlove.” NPR. April 15, 2013. http://www.npr.org/2013/04/15/176061633/tall-glass-of-rock-star-ness-a-q-a-with-questlove Journalist Lidia Jean Kott recently had a phone interview with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, drummer and co-founder of The Roots. In addition to providing an interview, Questlove produced music for the documentary. He is also publishing a memoir in June titled Mo’ Meta Blues, which according to Ms. Kott, is “intimate and funny. Plus, you’ll come away with a crash course in hip-hop history.”

3. Pleasant, Maranda. “Erykah Badu: Interview With Origin Magazine.” Huffington Post. February 8, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/erykah-badu-interview-origin-magazine-february-2013_n_2638886.html Editor of Origin Magazine Maranda Pleasant interviewed musician Erykah Badu regarding her life, music, and work as a doula in the February 2013 issue of Origin Magazine. This interview is very interesting, but I really loved listening to Erykah Badu in “the Black Power Mixtape,” where in addition to sharing her articulate views about America’s race and class systems, she sings!

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