Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Burning Spear. Light edits have been made to conform this piece to TF’s style.
This month, Regions Bank, a financial institution with branches in the U.S. South and Midwest, notified the Black nonprofit, African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF), that the bank was “exiting” its 20-year relationship, closing accounts, withdrawing lines of credit and canceling mortgage loans.
This assault on the ability of African people to build economic self-reliance was the latest in a series of actions revealing government and corporate cooperation targeting the Black community programs of the Uhuru (Freedom) Movement, including its popular Women’s Health Center, Black Power Vanguard Basketball Court, “One Africa! One Nation!” Marketplaces, Gary Brooks Community Garden, Uhuru Jiko Commercial Kitchens and Bakery Cafe, Akwaaba Hall events venues, Black Power 96 radio station, Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles stores, Uhuru Foods & Pies and Uhuru House community centers for Black people.
Facebook has blocked the ability for supporters to crowdfund for Uhuru programs through their personal pages. GoFundMe froze over $9,000 in donations for the Hands Off Uhuru! Legal Defense Fund for more than three months until the group’s lawyers took legal action to get the funds released. The Stripe payment processing company also blocked contributions to the group for a period of time.
On February 14, the Pinellas County Commission revoked $36,801 in funding that had been previously approved for WBPU 96.3 FM Black community radio station in St. Petersburg, Florida, after expressing political opposition to its association with the Black power Uhuru Movement.
These economic sanctions have come on the heels of a series of violent government-initiated attacks on the Uhuru Movement that began in earnest with the July 29 militarized FBI raid on seven Uhuru properties. That also includes two acts of arson, one arrest and interrogation, censorship in the removal of a change.org petition, and a U.S. State Department announcement of a $10 million reward for information that could tie Uhuru leaders to Russian government interference in U.S. elections and public opinion influencing.
Ona Zené Yeshitela, Board President of APEDF, says, “Our organization has built over 50 economic institutions, financed through our own fundraising work and the donations of thousands of people. These banks don’t want Black people to be able to feed, clothe and house ourselves. They do not want money circulating in the Black community.”
Omali Yeshitela is founder of the Uhuru Movement and Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party. He is considered the primary target of the FBI raids and reportedly pending indictments on charges of serving as a pawn of the Russian government. A 1960s field organizer registering voters with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the 81-year-old Yeshitela has fought for Black Power for over 50 years.
He charges, “These banks are collaborating with the government to deny Black people the right to have free healthcare, to have economic development in our communities, for our children to have safe basketball courts. They want us on welfare. But we’ve got a right to have our own power. These banks are imposing economic sanctions on our movement because we are engaged in unifying the African Nation that represents an existential threat to the continuation of the colonial mode of production on which they are built and maintained.”
Yeshitela likens the economic aggression against Uhuru Movement institutions to those the U.S. government and society made against Marcus Garvey and his United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the bombing of Tulsa’s “Black wall street” and the destruction of the Black Panther Party Black-community survival programs.
He accuses the U.S. government of imposing economic sanctions against the Black-led Uhuru Movement, as they do against countries that do not bow to U.S. world domination, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Afghanistan, China and Russia.
The actions of Regions Bank and other financial institutions come after widespread public exposure of the role of the slave trade in the birth of the U.S. banking and insurance industries and during a time of growing demands for reparations to Black people for slavery and colonialism.
A campaign has been launched to defend the Uhuru Movement, its leaders and institutions, chronicled at HandsOffUhuru.org. Supporters are raising funds for legal defense, mobilizing for protest demonstration at U.S. federal buildings, organizing call-ins to government officials and demanding “Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!”
Burning Spear is the official organ of the African People’s Socialist Party.
Mobilizations took to the streets of Colombia on April 28 in a national strike to protest social injustice and aggressive tax reforms proposed by the Iván Duque government. Student movements, trade unions, young peoples’ organizations, feminist groups, and indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ movements marched, blocked roads and held cultural activities in urban centers and rural territories throughout the country, exercising their right to peaceful protest. But the state wasted no time in responding with violent repression, especially in major cities such as Calí, Bogotá, Palmira and Popayán.
Although the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, isolated incidents of looting and violence have been used as an excuse for using excessive force against protesters. Media discourses around “good protesters” and “bad protesters” legitimize this response. Widespread reports of infiltrators are being used to provoke violence and looting, as has been the case in previous strikes in the country. Armed forces reportedly have stood by and allowed looting to take place, only to later respond to such incidents with violent repression.
Rather than heeding the demands of the citizens against the tax reform and social injustice, the state has responded with militarization, turning peaceful demonstrations into scenes of war. Helicopters circle above protest points and communities, while tanks thunder through narrow city streets.
Several cities are occupied by four armed state actors:
Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (ESMAD, or Mobile Anti-Riot Squads of the National Police),
military forces and
Grupo Operativo Especial de Seguridad del Cuerpo Nacional de Policía (GOES, or Special Security Task Force of the National Police Force).
Instead of seeking to pacify the situation and protect citizens, these forces have increasingly threatened security, peace and human rights.
Flagrant Human Rights Abuses
Countless videos recorded by protesters and onlookers circulate daily on social media, showing cases of police brutality, indiscriminate shootings, and the use of tear gas inside barrios that contain children and elderly people. Over the past few days, the violence has taken on a new face in Calí, with the presence of plainclothes police officers and reports of unmarked cars carrying out drive-by shootings against protesters.
Bogotá-based non-governmental organization Indepaz reports the following occurred between April 28 and May 8:
47 murders (the majority of whom have been young adults and 4 of whom were minors),
12 cases of sexual violence,
28 eye injuries,
1,876 acts of violence,
963 arbitrary detentions and
548 forced disappearances.
Reports are circulating of people being arrested and denied information of their destination, violating their rights to due process and exposing them to the risk of arbitrary detention, cruel and inhumane treatment, and forced disappearance.
Armed police have threatened lawyers and human-rights defenders when inquiring about missing people at police stations. The international community woke up to the seriousness of the situation when, on May 3, members of a humanitarian mission including UN and state representatives were attacked by armed police while waiting to enter a police station in search of missing people. On April 7, as a humanitarian mission was taking place north of Calí with the presence of Senator Alexander Lopez, a drive-by shooting took place, injuring one person and killing three.
The Racialization of State Repression
The violence and repression has a disproportionate impact on Black communities, only mirroring Colombia’s ongoing internal armed conflict. For example, 35 of the 47 murders Indepaz reported took place in Calí, home to South America’s second-largest Afro-descendant population. No surprise that structural and systemic racism are deeply ingrained in Calí. Many of the most aggressive cases of state violence have been carried out in neighborhoods with majority or significant Afro-descendant populations, treating communities as enemies of war. Historically, these barrios have suffered socio-economic exclusion, further entrenched by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism and state violence. Many barrio residents already were victims of forced displacement, having fled the armed conflict in the majority Afro-descendant regions of the northern Cauca Department, in which Calí is located, and the Pacific coast.
While official statistics do not reveal the proportion of Black victims in this current wave of police brutality due to a lack of disaggregated data, photos of victims clearly show the disproportionate impact on young Afro-descendant men.
Racial profiling not only underpins state violence, but is central in the denial of state responsibility and impunity. Already, discussions around existing gang violence and urban conflicts are being used to question whether many of these young men participated in the protests or were delinquents killed in the context of the everyday violence in their communities. This discourse no doubt seeks to reduce the numbers of protest-related deaths, simultaneously justifying the deaths of young Black men. The first death registered in Calí took place in the majority Black barrio, Marroquin II, where a 22-year-old man was killed. But the military later denied his death was related to the protests.
Militarization, Imperialism and the Protests
The current situation in Colombia cannot be understood in isolation from the wider armed conflict and the ever-deepening neoliberal agenda supported and sustained by the United States and multinationals that feed off Colombia’s natural resources. U.S. imperialist interests in the region have been clear since the late 19th century, with the attempted invasion of Colombia’s neighbor, Panama, in 1885 and the start of the Panama Canal project in 1904. In 1948, the Organization of American States was created during a meeting in Colombia.
Colombia has been the strategic point for Washington’s political, economic and military operations in recent decades. Thanks to U.S. technical and logistical support, Colombia is now one of the greatest military powers in the region. With the 1999 signing of Plan Colombia and the 2002 Patriot Plan, U.S. military presence and influence has only deepened.
Further, U.S. military support has always depended on state policies that benefited U.S. imperial interests. For example, in 2009 the United States signed an agreement with the Uribe Government to be able to operate from seven Colombian military bases. Although this agreement was blocked by the Constitutional Court, the Santos government later arrived at alternative bilateral agreements. These enabled access and use of the bases in practice, and further facilitated the fruitless and dangerous strategy of spraying the herbicide, glyphosate, on illicit crops. All of this sustains the ideology of the “internal enemy” and the terrorist threat that underpinned the original emergence and expansion of paramilitarism in the 1980s.
It is precisely this paramilitarism model the Colombian state is using in the context of the current protests, particularly in Calí, where state agents, often without proper identification, collaborate with civilians to shoot and kill protesters from high-end cars. The Indigenous Guard, accompanying the protests in Calí, have suffered several attacks of this kind, most recently on May 9, when eight people were wounded.
This violent state repression is yet another consequence of imperialist intervention and the extractivist neoliberal project that uses militarism to eliminate a historically racialized population it considers residual as well as a threat to the capitalist, white-supremacist order.
Esther Ojulari is a human-rights and racial-justice activist and sociologist. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of London, writing on transitional justice and reparations for the Afro-descendant people in Colombia. She worked for eight years as a consultant in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Afro-descendant rights. Esther is currently Regional Coordinator in Buenaventura, Calí and Northern Cauca for the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES). She is a member of several Afro-descendant and African-led international networks and coalitions.
Harrinson Cuero Campaz is a Afro-Colombian rights activist. He is a Ph.D. candidate writing on sustainability in urban and regional planning for biologically and culturally diverse territories. He is a social activist and member of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, or Black Communities Process). Harrinson currently works as regional representative of Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES) and as a coordinator for the formulation of the Special Territorial Plan of the District of Buenaventura 2021-40.
Ashley O’Shay’s documentary “Unapologetic” is an examination of the lives of Black women and queer activists in Chicago as they navigate the response in the streets to the police killings of Rekia Boyd in 2012 and Laquan McDonald in 2014. While the documentary provides a chilling revelation of just how long the process for “justice” for these two police killings took, it also, and perhaps more importantly, focuses on the struggles on multiple levels that the people who took to the streets and organized behind the scenes to demand that justice endured during that time. Two of those people are Janea Bonsu, an organizer with Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), and Ambrell “Bella” Gambrell, a scholar and raptivist (a rapper who is involved in political or social activism).
After an introductory soliloquy in which viewers are let in on the meaning behind the film’s title, footage appears from a direct action in what looks to be a ritzy eatery in one of Chicago’s whiter areas. Agitators—and I use that term quite intentionally and with the utmost respect—interrupt the relaxed regular dining of the mostly white patrons with a coordinated call and response, indicting the dismissal of the suffering of poor Black families struggling to put food on their tables, who were probably not far from where the visibly uncomfortable white folks were sitting. They all sat there and chit-chatted over meals that were probably overpriced.
Though some of the patrons tried to appear patient and listen attentively, many more tried even harder to ignore the agitators and get on with their meal despite them, which is the perfect representation of the way much of white U.S. society responds to Black suffering and death in general. But the comments of the testy restaurant employee, dressed in what appears to be an elf costume—which makes his testiness all the more comical and infuriating—really bring home the point that the documentary endeavors to make, but also the point that the agitators were making.
The documentary proceeds to follow Janae as she completes her doctoral dissertation while organizing with BYP100, and Ambrelle as she uses her talent as a rapper and her exposure to the criminal justice system through family incarceration as the foundation of her activism. One should not mistake the difference in these two women being one of class—both are residents of the Southside of Chicago, and both have attended and graduated college. The difference appears to be the paths each takes with that foundation that the documentary shows contributes to their organizing efforts in different ways. One pursuing a Ph.D. based on pursuing alternatives to the disastrous impact on Black women that social services and interactions with the police have. The other eschews pursuit of further education in the system that she excoriates in one of her poems recited at an early protest.
And this is one contradiction that the documentary raises, or should raise, among its audience regarding academia and organizing—how useful is academia in organizing? Because while Janae is clearly passionate about working to find solutions to the very real problems of the negative impacts of the social services system on Black women, can solutions be found inside the very systems that perpetuate those problems? There are already plenty of educated folks in the social work field and even in policing, many of them Black. When we see in the documentary how Janae’s doctoral chair counsels her that she doesn’t have to talk about everything in her dissertation, isn’t this a reflection of how the established institutions respond to Black people when we raise the alarms about that system and its impact on us? A question to ponder, but not with the aim of besmirching Janae’s pursuit of her Ph.D., because the contradiction isn’t one regarding personal choice, but it is about systemic realities and being realistic about them.
Conversely, rather than go the academic route, Ambrelle took to the streets in the pursuit of organizing her own space, especially on behalf of Black women—and particularly queer women—who have experienced victimization by the carceral state. Clearly a skilled wordsmith and masterful with rap technique, she also draws upon her own experiences with multiple generations of family exposure to incarceration, using the experience of her mother’s incarceration and then her brother—still incarcerated at the time of the making of the documentary—to help other Black women deal with the trauma of that systemic victimization.
Both women actually have experience with the carceral system impacting their families, and both connect the repression of the state as part of the “War on Drugs” to the ongoing war on Black and poor people, and how this repression destroyed the stability of even economically struggling Black communities like in the Southside of Chicago.
That both women highlight the need to elevate the voices of young, Black and queer women in the new efforts at organizing is a central theme in the documentary. The role women play in organizing—that has been too often overlooked throughout the historical reflection of the long fight for liberation for Black people—is an important and well-highlighted discussion that both women and others throughout the documentary raise. In organizing meetings and in the streets, the documentary points out several instances throughout when Black men literally take the mic from Black women while they were speaking or talk over them, thereby dominating the discussion. It seems the film focuses on the organizing that occurred after Rekia Boyd’s killing precisely because few outside of Chicago probably understood how much focus the people in the streets DID pay to her killing, despite people outside of Chicago saying that the movement writ large doesn’t pay much attention to Black women killed by police.
However, there are contradictions even in these discussions in the film, as Ambrelle particularly describes Black men as being only interested in their position to power and as oppressors of Black women. But even with this troubling discourse about Black men, other voices in the documentary point out other possibilities, chief among them that Black men who exhibit misogynistic behavior toward Black women are largely unconscious of how some of their behavior negatively impacts Black women because they, too, are oppressed and do not realize the depth of their oppression. Just as in the questions surrounding the utility of academia in the movement, raising this contradiction is not a dig on Ambrelle, but an occasion to examine how we all talk about Black men in the spaces we all occupy in the movement.
Those contradictions that we all must wrestle with aside, the documentary delves into the hectic, exhausting, emotionally taxing life of Black organizers, activists and agitators—whatever you want to call them. The work that is done to confront city councils that refuse to listen to the demands of the people most impacted by police violence that is literally funded by their tax dollars, the difficulty balancing organizing and personal lives, the importance of strong family ties and support, and the difficulties even pursuing romantic interests are all issues among several others that remind the viewer that organizing is not a hobby. Nor is it a lifestyle. It is—for many of us—our life, our whole life. And it is such because our lives depend on it. But as the two women show in the various ways that they stay connected and grounded when they are not organizing or agitating, the necessity of having those connections and making that time for them outside of organizing and agitating is critical to their survival, too.
The documentary also presents a detailed timeline of the response of the Chicago Police Oversight Board and the mayor’s office to the police killings of Boyd and McDonald. In that timeline, we see the way now-Mayor Lori Lightfoot conducted herself in the presence of these agitators as they demanded the cop who killed Rekia be fired, but also the cold detachment as Rekia’s brother testified before the Chicago Police Board that Lightfoot presided over as president.
Watching it, you wonder how in the hell did she get away with presenting herself as a progressive after the despicable way in which she responded to these incidents and the people in that community demanding action be taken against the cops who committed them. Lightfoot’s recorded comments from that time period, and those of Rahm Emanuel, are repulsive and one wonders how the hell Lightfoot was elected mayor after the revelations of her boss Rahm Emanuel’s attempts to cover up evidence of the McDonald killing and the corruption of the Chicago District Attorney’s Office that was connected to Emanuel’s shady dealings. The politics of identity divorced from class analysis and good ol’ Democratic lesser-evilism are at play here, but it is not pointed out in the documentary. That is unfortunate, because these issues are critical drivers behind continued political malaise and stagnation among the very community the agitators are agitating on behalf of.
“Unapologetic” is a much-needed exposé into the actual lives of actual activists. It reveals that the “people in the streets” are ordinary folks struggling with ordinary life, but they also have the extraordinary desire to challenge and change this system because, as Black women and Black queer people, they also struggle with the extraordinary burdens heaped upon them by this society. That seems to be the primary focus of the documentary, though it also looks at how those ordinary people are pushed to be unapologetic about their activism and agitation—and that is a good thing. However, it leaves out the deeper discussions we need to have about the gender relations between Black men and Black women, classism, and identity reductionism that exist within this important work, all of which we cannot afford to ignore if we ever want to be healthy enough—mentally, emotionally, and as a community—to endure this continued struggle.
A scene in Nia Dacosta’s film, “Candyman” (2021), might go unnoticed, but it signifies the theme of representation appearing throughout the film. Representation refers to oppressed people being seen in media and politics, but it does not mean they wield power in those sectors.
Actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays the central character “Anthony McCoy,” whom we aren’t sure can be called a protagonist or an antagonist, even by the movie’s end. In the aforementioned scene, he stands at the intersection of a long-abandoned neighborhood, which is composed of former row-house apartments that used to surround the high-rise tower of Cabrini-Green, a public-housing project in Chicago. The street he is facing is empty of typical neighborhood life—adults going to and from work or errands, kids playing, teens hanging out. But remnants of their neighborhood, including the doorless, windowless apartment units that offer nothing but a foreboding darkness, stand as empty, haunting reminders of a people who used to live there but are long gone. The street is marked by a sign for “Mohawk St.”, and as he walks around the corner, another street sign reads “Locust St.” These are actual streets in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood in Chicago, lending credibility to the storyline by anchoring the tale in the actual remains of the infamous neighborhood, whose residents had been long displaced through gentrification.
But the street names seem to also juxtapose the disappearance of Indigenous tribes, like the Mohawk. They are relegated to outposts that are out of sight, out of mind for the rest of us. The impetus behind the mass displacement of both the Black and poor residents of Cabrini-Green and Indigenous people is the locust-like swarm of gentrification, which could be argued is a modern day form of settler-colonialism. It might be a stretch to make this kind of observation of this scene. It might not have been one that DaCosta might have been intending to make. But it is a connection I couldn’t help making, considering “Candyman” is less of a horror film than an indictment of white supremacy and the terror that it inflicts upon the communities it ravages.
I will try not to provide many spoilers in this review. I will say seeing the first “Candyman” (1992) is critical to understanding the expansion of the story and themes in the current iteration. But those themes that are outside of the conventional horror narrative are as important to the experience as continuing the urban legend of “Candyman.”
Abdul-Mateen is convincing in his portrayal of “Anthony,” a young Black aspiring artist struggling to make his mark on the art world. Ebulliant actor Teyonah Parris plays McCoy’s partner, “Brianna Cartwright,” also a young Black up-and-comer working as a curator at the gallery where her partner’s work is being shown.
The characters live together in one of the trendy, expensive apartments in the gentrified Cabrini-Green neighborhood, long after the towers had been torn down. Brianna and Anthony appear to have a loving, committed relationship, a lovely expression of Black Love that we all enjoy seeing so much, and we need to see more of. That is until Anthony learns about the legend of Candyman from Brianna’s brother, “Troy,” played by actor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. Anthony is fascinated with the legend and pursues inspiration for new art by visiting what is left of the old Cabrini-Green neighborhood. He meets one of the last remaining residents, seemingly neighborly “William Burke,” portrayed by veteran actor Colman Domingo.
Here is where I’ll leave off describing the timeline of the movie, because how things happen almost take a backseat to what some of those things seem to represent.
Anthony slowly transforms into… something, and his physical transformation coincides with what seems like the fraying of his mental state. Anthony attempts to protect his partner, Brianna, in a pivotal scene that exposes something far more sinister in real life than a horror movie boogeyman: The horrifying and lasting effects of trauma and the unaddressed mental illness among Black people, particularly how Black men are misunderstood or ignored when they suffer mental health crises and trauma.
The tendency for many of us to dissociate ourselves from mental illness and trauma is touched on in a seemingly disconnected flashback that Brianna has of a traumatic childhood experience with her father. No, it’s not sexual abuse, but it is traumatic. But because she never confronts what happens, when her partner, Anthony, begins to display behavior that suggests his mental health is fraying, Brianna responds with less and less understanding, and more and more hostility. Focusing more on moving up in her career than her partner’s obvious growing difficulties, she ultimately leaves Anthony alone to face whatever he is experiencing.
Brianna’s brother, Troy, is also pointedly critical of Anthony as the Black Man Living Off a Black Woman. But Troy himself is settling into a relationship with his new partner, “Clive” (played by Brian King), who Brianna accepts and notes is a welcome change from her brother’s usual unsavory choices. It is another interesting play on the trope of listless Black men being leeches on successful Black women that doesn’t sting any more or less because the one employing it in this case is a gay man. Rather it seems that this represents the pervasiveness of the deadbeat Black man stereotype—even other marginalized Black men believe it.
Much of the first third of the film revolves around Anthony’s transformation. That is where the trauma of centuries of racist violence against Black men emerges.
Much of Anthony’s transmogrification occurs in front of mirrors. That is obvious to the storyline and the myth of Candyman, but it doesn’t quite apply to Anthony because he isn’t sure if he is hallucinating or not. When he realizes that what he is seeing is real, the scene conveys less horror movie scare than a deep reflection into what happens to Black men’s souls living in a white supremacist system that loves their culture, their swag, their art and anything else from which society can profit. But this society doesn’t love them, and it will not hesitate to express its disregard for Black men in the most violent, inhumane ways possible.
That long history of racist violence against Black men is told in cleverly laid-out shadow puppetry, which simultaneously removes the physical gruesomeness of the acts portrayed while delivering their inhumane brutality. Each shadow-puppet story relates to a different iteration of Candyman, and the collective trauma of centuries of violent racist brutality against Black men turns the Candyman figure into something other than a villain. Terrifying in his visage and actions, certainly, but the question emerges as the connections are made between this history and the urban legend come to life: Is Candyman the monster, or is the monster what created Candyman?
As viewers hopefully make this connection, they are invited if they are thinking further to ask a larger question: Are Black men, who lash out at a society that finds every way imaginable to destroy them, the monsters society says they are, or is the monster really society?
Indictments of white supremacist society and privilege, and the impact of the trauma of community having been erased, are woven throughout the film, reflecting ways Black people are either dismissed or used before being discarded.
The contempt and condescending paternalism of society’s gatekeepers is represented by the gallery owner and the art critic—and even the Black major-gallery curator—as they have little regard or use for Anthony as he struggles to produce content that will elevate his profile. They do not hesitate to disregard him when he is no longer of use to them.
The ease with which an oblivious white society appropriates Black culture, traditions and even urban legends—believing no consequences exist for that appropriation because they have no connection to the community those things come from—is reflected in a scene that is on the surface typical horror-movie, high-school kid hijinks.
The crushing trauma of surviving the systematic eradication of one’s community, and the desire to get back or revive what was taken or destroyed, is an underlying aspect of the actions of neighborly-seeming sole survivor/resident of Cabrini-Green, William Burke.
The way society is more accepting of a Black women’s efforts to climb the ladder, and how easily they dismiss Black men as they fall down it—even as they watch—can be extrapolated as we witness Anthony’s growing instability as it manifests itself when he and Brianna are trying to court a renowned gallery owner.
The way that our parents may have been doing the best they thought they could by moving their children out of the ‘hood and into “better” neighborhoods, encouraging them to forget where they came from in an effort to give them a better life, seeps through the cracks as Anthony confronts his mother about a past she has kept from him. The toll of keeping that secret trauma seems to have weighed heavily on his mother, as well, as family secrets are wont to do…
The running theme of racist police violence in the film—from beginning to end—is reminiscent of… well… every story we know about racist police violence. Brianna is ultimately put in a horrific situation, and then cynically used against Anthony in a way that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to our real-life experience with racist police terrorism. Brianna realizes then who she is, who Anthony is, and that he is the only one who can save her.
I have noticed among online fan reviews wildly divergent reactions to this movie, almost strictly along racial lines. If the reviewer is a white person, they almost unanimously and unequivocally hate this movie. I see these people as those who do not want to face the traumas and horrors of the history and continuing legacy of racist violence against Black people, which I believe this film effectively expands upon from the original “Candyman.” Although, I find it odd some who have seen this film say they loved the original, but hate this one because it’s “too political,” because they clearly missed the political history of Candyman in the original. They’re mad Candyman only kills certain people, but aren’t bothered at all by the historical track record and legacy of the broken bodies and souls of Black men, women, and children that created Candyman. So they do not see the connection between real life reflected in the film’s themes. But selective memory is what this society is great at, so this response is actually not a surprise at all.
But for others who understand what DaCosta’s “Candyman” is trying to say and why, it may not be scary in the traditional slasher/spine-tingler sense, so it’s hard to say whether or not the movie is “good” as a traditional horror film. However, the real-life nightmares and horrors reflected in this film are what many Black viewers will be all too familiar with.
As Brianna’s brother, Troy, says early in the movie, “Black people don’t need to be summoning shit.”
We don’t have to summon supernatural boogeymen. The horrors we live are real.