I went to private and charter schools my whole life and not once did we learn about Nat Turner in school.
The story of Nat Turner is an important one. As a black person in America who is also a Christian, it feels good to know that there were black people who were not for the foolishness when it came to slavery and the word of God led him to this conclusion. This is why as soon as I heard that Nate Parker was doing Birth of a Nation, I got excited. That excitement was short lived though.
I am a person that if you've done something that I can't wrap my head around, I tend to stay away from your art.
I haven't intentionally listened to R. Kelly in years because we all know he's a pedophile.
I didn't go see Drake this summer because he was on tour with Future and I don't like the way he interacts with Ciara.
A few months before the release of the movie, we were bombarded with reports of Nate Parker and his writing partner being accused and tried for rape when they were in college. Parker was acquitted and so was his writing partner on appeal. I heard this pretty early on and my first thought was 'of course they want to say that. They're just trying to shut down the movie.' As a woman who has experienced sexual assault, I didn't want to believe that someone who was thoughtful enough to make this sort of movie would do something like that. I held on to this until two things happened:
1. I read the transcript of the trial.
2. I watched and read everything I could when it came to Nate Partner being asked about this.
In the transcript, the main reason he was found not guilty is because he had had consensual sex with the woman before...
That is extremely problematic.
After I read that, I thought, "Ok. Something clearly happened that night. He was 19. Maybe he didn't understand how consent worked, but as someone who is almost 40, of course his view has changed."
I read and listened to several interviews by him and when he's confronted with these questions, he tends to take a defensive approach and makes himself the victim.
None of this sits well with me. Because of the way our society is set up today, we tend to go hard when we believe that someone who looks like us is being attacked, but as a community sometimes we jump out the window for the wrong people.
With all that being said, I was torn.
It seems like Nate Parker is a rapist who got away with it and has no remorse.
How many times will we have the opportunity to see a story of this capacity made from our perspective? Especially ones that if done correctly, could help change the social climate of today?
I spoke to a few people who were on both sides of the fence. Some "didn't care about his past" and felt like this was too important to miss. Others felt like Nate's actions had drawn a line in the sand that they refused to cross, even for someone as important as Nat Turner.
Watching his Breakfast Club interview and listening to what he had to go through to get this movie done is what ultimately made me make a decision, so on the day the movie came out, I bit the bullet and bought the ticket.
Immediately after the movie, I was extremely emotional. I felt liberated. I felt vindicated. I felt sadness. My mind was running a mile a minute and all I kept thinking about was my family and my faith.
When I woke up and gave myself time to digest it, I felt....
Deflated but optimistic.
And I know it was because as much as I wanted to like the movie, I couldn't fully get past Nate Parker in my head. Don't get me wrong, overall the movie wasn't bad, but because of the apprehension I already had, it magnifies the issues I have with the movie.
Don't get me wrong, it's ridiculous to believe that our artists would be perfect. We all have a past and as we grow, we all evolve and our views tend to change. I think most people's issue in this case is the way he reacts when he's approached abut it. It's disheartening.
Nat Turner was an amazing man who did an amazing thing and who's legacy deserves to be celebrated and known. It's unfortunate that because of Nate Parker's actions, it won't get the attention it deserves right now.
What did y'all think? Did you see it? Do you plan to? Let's talk about it.