I have to structure this review of the newly released film Detroit around the words and Divine Guidance given to us by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan published nearly five years ago when the movie Django Unchained released. In his interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins, Minister Farrakhan gave his detailed review and prophetic perspective about what he concerned himself with when watching this film. This was the filter by which I watched Detroit as well as other films that followed his interview.
In response to Dr. Boyce Watkins’ question about Minister Farrakhan’s take on the film Django Unchained, he responded stating, “I always try, Dr. Watkins, to ascertain ‘What is the motive of the writer? What is the motive of the producer?’ Not ‘What is the motive of the actor’, because actors as their job if they like the script, try to play the part. Every actor in that film, in my humble judgment, played their part. Now, looking at motives is what concerns me.”
Before setting out to see the movie Detroit, I re-familiarized myself with what took place during the Summer of 1967, not only in Detroit but in other cities experiencing unrest. I was particularly partial to the account detailed in The Final Call Newspaper, published by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, because of its unshakable track record of delivering uncompromised truth, especially when it comes to telling our story. The account expressed in the Final Call Newspaper was inclusive of quotes from those who were present during the uprisings of 1967 and details regarding the onset of the unrest. After my research, I bought my ticket and took my seat in the theater to see how this story would be told by Hollywood.
The beginning of the film is captioned with diluted language to describe the Black experience of injustice in a “bean shell” leading to 1967 uprising. Shortly after, it pans out to a party that is mentioned in various articles at an after-hours nightclub. Police raid this club and evacuate everyone inside through the front door to create a scene in front of the community. It is alluded that there wasn’t a liquor license to serve alcohol, therefore, just about everyone present was arrested and loaded into police cars. There were verbal protests of the arrests from bystanders, and then the police vehicles departed with many of the party-goers inside.
Then, all of a sudden it shows the bystanders loot and set fire to stores. Then, all of a sudden it became a war-zone. No exaggeration. It was quite obvious that major pieces of the story were missing. It depicted Black people as senseless and destructive for “no reason”. This was how the tone was set within the first 20 minutes. The remaining two hours got worse.
It flashed to scenes with police officers driving around harassing and beating those who lived in the community, some for just walking around in their own neighborhood. One of the first disturbing scenes was seeing the National Guard arrive with tanks. There was a little Black girl looking through the blinds of her window, when suddenly one of the guards yelled, “Sniper!” and several of them fired unceasingly into that window, where that little girl stood.
There were no real narratives, only randomly placed footage that seemed to be from that time repeating how out of control things were. It was made to appear as though the riots happened out of nowhere. Again, although some aspects were captioned in the very beginning, if you blinked you missed the fine printed “history lesson” of what sparked the rioting. Movie goers would have been lost if they failed to do research ahead of time. More visual and cinematic emphasis was placed elsewhere. What is the motive?
Things escalated from there when a White cop sees a Black man coming out of a grocery store with food. When he saw the police he began running. The cop shoots the brother in the back, severely wounding him. His partner checked him saying that they don’t shoot people who are looting. The cop replied that it was his way of sending a message to the others. Wow…doesn’t that sound familiar?
When the White cop returns to the police station a detective investigating the shooting questions him about it. The cop lies saying he knew nothing about a shooting. When caught in the lie, after it being revealed the Black man he shot later died, the detective recommended murder charges and for that cop to not return on patrol. That cop leaves and returns to the street against those instructions.
After shots were heard coming from the direction of the Algiers Motel, the troops storm the establishment, and for the next hour and a half movie viewers watched in horror the vivid torture, antagonistic, blood thirsty beasts in blue uniforms, with that particular cop as the ringleader, beat and murder the young Black men.
We watched, for what felt like hours, how the story-line was lost. At what point were the Civil Rights and Black Power activists going to be mentioned? If this was about the 1967 uprising of Detroit, where was the coverage of the outcries for justice that spilled into the streets? The scenes that were sprinkled here and there of rallies appeared more like afterthoughts. None of WHY the uprising began was focused on. For those like myself who watched the trailer, we wondered at what point was the Black security officer going to be brought in to tell what really happened on behalf of those who were murdered at the hands of the police?
For what felt like eternity, we watched dehumanizing acts against those young Black men. It was as if we were fooled into believing this was a movie discussing the historic accounts of unrest brought on by the unpopular military draft that targeted the poor and Black youth, the lack of adequate education, voting rights, etc. It was a reel of endless brutality against Black lives without a pause.
Those cops were, of course, using every racial slur in the book, therefore, the film stabbed and ripped at the psyche of the Black experience in America 1000%. The sister sitting a few seats down from me got up and left. Honestly, I wanted to do the same thing on several occasions. The scenes were nothing short of emasculating for these Black men. It was very clear that a message was being sent. I have to mention the two White women who were friends with some of the Black men that were also being held and beaten, according to the film. This had more to do with them being there with Black men. The cops asked them, “What’s wrong with us?” to imply those women were choosing to “be with” Black men over White men.
The Black military Vet was among the men tortured, which clearly showed they didn’t care about how our people have honorably served in this country. To them he was still a n*gger. Again, as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan asked, “What is the motive”?
It wasn’t until about the last 15 minutes that scenes from the trailer of the Black security officer being questioned, actually interrogated and accused of the murders, began. It wasn’t until then where scenes from the trial and the verdict took place. Again, activists such as Kwame Ture were only mentioned once, in which it seemed more like a late addition. The activists were not the focus. It was nearly two hours of torture and 20 minutes of being shown how those cops got away with it, even after they confessed to what they did.
The whole film drew on rage, pain and strove to implant fear and hopelessness surrounding our experience in America and our suffering at the hands of police. It was the perfect illustration of what domestic terrorism looks like. It was showing what’s in the minds of those who are charged to serve and protect us. It showed how little our lives matter to them.
There were occasions throughout the movie where a few National Guards disagreed with what the police officers were doing, but they chose to turn away and do nothing.
There is absolutely nothing for Black people to gain from watching this film, NOTHING!
To add more insult to injury, at the very end it was captioned that the details surrounding this event were inconclusive at the time the movie was being produced, therefore, the scenes were dramatized. So what we watched wasn’t necessarily a true account of what took place or how it actually happened. Usually they put statements like that in the very beginning of a movie. So for those who don’t do research, who look to movies to teach our history, will be totally misguided as to what Detroit 1967 was actually about. This is why we have to teach our history so that no one else can re-write it. This is why we must read and research for ourselves!
Minister Jabril Muhammad wrote in an article published in The Final Call Newspaper entitled, History is best qualified to reward our research, “History is above all our studies. The most attractive and best qualified to reward our research. As it develops the springs and motives of human actions, and displays the consequence of circumstances, which operates most powerfully on the destinies of the human being.”
Some may attempt to argue that the movie Detroit tells the account of what happened as a way of exposing the evils and corruption within the police department. Quite frankly we already know this, very well. According to reports taken as recent as 2015, an unarmed Black man is murdered by police every 28 hours. One may say the movie was to illustrate the truths of what took place as a way to vindicate the survivors. Maybe, but why now? If that were the case, it would have had an entirely different approach. It would have focused more on the activism and the reason for the uprisings. What is the motive of the writers and producers of this movie?
Just a few months ago the series Underground was cancelled. Why? It also told the horrors of our history in America, but the difference was that the uprising was against the slave masters in a way that empowered the slaves. There were conscious jewels intertwined within each episode that enabled the viewer to line up what was with was it. It caused many to do research on Harriet Tubman and her role in fearlessly freeing slaves. It showed how we were builders and architects of every structure, vehicle, tool and garment. It showed our resilience and strength when we united for the pursuit of freedom. Was the show’s cancellation really an issue of funds, or was it about the uprising of the slaves against the slave masters that some didn’t take too kindly to? How is it that Underground was cancelled, but HBO is expected to release a new series entitled Confederate, a drama based on an alternate reality that slavery still exists in the South? There are those who seek to put out the light of knowledge to keep a people blind and slaves to ignorance.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, in his interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins, points out that there are nearly 88.8 guns for every 100 persons in America, and he poses the question that if we have well regulated law enforcement officials, why are there so many guns in the hands of Americans? He states that at the time of that interview there were over 1,200 militias. He raised the question of what affect movies (as well as television shows) like this would have on the minds of those watching and how the masses are being groomed for a race war.
I thank Allah, Who appeared in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, Who made His appearance in Detroit, which is no coincidence, and for raising One Who would teach us the Truth and the Knowledge of ourselves and our open enemy, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad! I thank Allah for Their Divine Servant, Warner, and the embodiment of God’s Mercy in The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan! He has been working tirelessly to serve and free all of humanity, especially and specifically the Black man and woman, for the past 62 years! If it were not for Them, I would be in total loss and without the proper lens to view what is taking place in our world.
We must heed the Guidance of Minister Farrakhan if we are to survive this dark hour. We must understand who we are and Whose we are, as well as who our open enemy is. Unity is now mandatory. Separation is no longer a suggestion.