Knowing our past helps us understand our present to be better for the future. Communities have been protesting, donating, and voting to seek change after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and countless others. For those seeking to learn more about racial injustices — now is absolutely the time. The history and lessons behind films, documentaries, books, articles, and other resources can help learn how to be a better ally and support the Black community. The RMCAD Library compiled a list of films on demand that will give you a closer look at the history that has led us to this moment.
Talking Black in America – The status of African American speech has been a topic of discussion for more than half a century, suffering from persistent public misunderstanding, linguistic profiling, and language-based discrimination. This documentary dives into the incredible impact this has had on American life and language.
Why are period dramas so white? – Have you ever noticed that in film and on TV, period dramas tend to have almost entirely white casts? It’s almost as if, at least in film and TV land, black people do not feature in British history at all. The Guardian’s Josh Toussaint-Strauss finds out how accurate costume dramas are in terms of racial diversity, and looks into the reasons why period dramas might get whitewashed.
Target: Philadelphia – In 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a military-grade explosive on a residential building to end a standoff with Black liberation group MOVE, setting a new standard for institutionalized violence and the dehumanization of Black bodies. 11 people, including 5 children were killed. Target: Philadelphia explores the rise of police militarization within the parallel contexts of Black Nationalism and the systemic disenfranchisement that incubates movements like Black Lives Matter.
Selma – In 1964, the Black community was still seen as “less than.” Discrimination swept the country, Black people were kept from registering to vote, and racially motivated murders were rampant. This movie shows the post-Civil Rights Acts suffrage efforts led by Dr. Martin Luther King to get the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.
13th– This Netflix special takes a close look at the 13th Amendment, and how one sentence caused not only exploitation of that “loophole” but allowed society to further enslave Black Americans through mass incarceration.
The Talk – Race in America – “The Talk” is a documentary about the increasingly necessary conversation taking place in the homes and communities across the country between parents of color and their children (especially sons) about how to behave if ever stopped by the police.
Race Matters – America in Crisis – This special focuses on the frustration and outrage pouring out into American streets about police brutality. It explores America’s deep systematic racial disparities in education, the criminal justice system, the economy, and healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whose Streets? – This documentary is about the Black Lives Matter momentum following the Ferguson uprising. Filmmakers were on the ground during this time and created a very raw record of activism and community building in the process. It spotlights the women and queer people who were central organizers in the movement and making sure their stories are not erased from the history of Black Lives Matter.
Stream each of the above-mentioned films on demand on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and RMCAD’s database list of films on demand, which is constantly being updated. For more information on how to get involved in different forms of activism, check out this link.
This article was written with the help of Martha Neth, head of the Learning Commons at RMCAD.