Why Black America Must Support the ‘Big Screen’ Debut of August Wilson’s Fences

For far too long Hollywood studios have either hesitated or been outright resistant to offering a wide-array of African-American stories on the big screen. One of the reasons is a deep-embedded racial bias that the relatively recent hack of Sony Movie Executives e-mails revealed to the world. Despite the ridiculousness of a weak and easily refutable argument that black films fail to earn money, relatively few authentic stories depicting black life have made it to the ‘big screen.’

One of the most common refrains of every dangerous Black Nationalist leader or adherent is that the primary goal for our people must be independence and ownership of everything that occurs within and around our lives. History reveals that failure to control one’s community and establish independence comes at a steep price of only receiving the scraps that their superiors do not devour.

This issue of freedom has been one that a vast array of African-Americans has talked about for decades. However, those discussions rarely made it past a basic level. Black Nationalists have hoped that things would change with the ascension of a sizable portion of African-American millionaires from the entertainment and sports worlds. We collectively hoped that at least a portion of these individuals would lead the way in putting monies behind a worthy project that offered promise for Black America.

A few of these self-made millionaires, most notably Oprah Winfrey, have done this very thing. LeBron James is the most recent individual to put significant money behind a good African-American cinematic venture, on this occasion, it is August Wilson’s Fences. Make no mistake about it, James’ investment is a financial decision that he expects to secure a monetary return. Rest assured that other potential investors are closely monitoring the economic realities that will result from James’ decision.

As I am confident that you can ascertain, if Fences is a box office success, we will most likely see similar stories on the ‘big screen.’ If it fails, we will not. It is that simple. At this moment, it is imperative that African-Americans go to the movie theater and vote for films such as Fences by purchasing a ticket.

This moment is even more tenuous when we consider that Fences was released early in two theaters (New York & Los Angeles) and failed to meet expected ticket sale projections of $50 – $75,000 per theater by garnering only $32,000. Such limited opening sales do not bode well for expectations that the film will earn $9,000,000.00 during its first two days.

The issue facing Black America is simple; they will either make the conscious decision to purchase tickets and thereby throw their financial weight behind good projects such as Fences or they will stay home and send an unmistakable message regarding future cinematic endeavors. The choice is ours; I shudder at the thought of what people such as ours will do.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2016.

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