For the generation of Americans who vividly remember the Civil Rights Movement, headlines of today are nothing new.
Police brutality, an unjust judicial system, prison and poverty have long been used to oppress Black people, and a new movie hopes to remind viewers that the battle for equality has been a long journey.
Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s film DETROIT, tells the gripping story of a group of young African-American men and two young White women who seek refuge in the Algiers Motel while the city was in flames. A report of a sniper in the area led police to the hotel that resulted in a fatal incident.
Starring in the film are Laz Alonso, John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Samira Wiley and Miguel Pimentel. We spoke to Alonso about his role as Congressman John Conyers, who first received reports of the assault four days later.
What prompted you to be involved in this film versus other atrocities of the ’60s?
The theme of universal injustice, so central to this movie, was what made me want to be a part of it. DETROIT was a reminder that our people have been fighting for justice against some of the same issues for quite some time, and that we can’t forget our history, it connects us to those that came before us.
Were there any similarities between the Detroit story and things going on in current headlines?
Despite being a movie based on a tragic moment in the history of our community I think DETROIT shows that some of the same things our parents and grandfathers fought against 50 years ago have not changed, what has changed is the ability to film it and/or stream things live as they happen. This has been what I believe has changed the narrative, and given most people a look at what really happened vs.only hearing one side of the story. In many ways, this was the only way to show how bad the problem is.
When it comes to civil unrest and protest sparked by systematic racism, can we ever push too hard? Is there a line not to be crossed?
I believe that the protests over the last three years have shined a necessary light on the problem. They have also helped bring the problem to a national stage and not be isolated incidents that can be brushed off as criminal behavior. There are a lot of lines these protests today should never cross. They can be angry but should remain peaceful and stay away from violence and destruction anywhere, especially in our own communities.
DETROIT opens in theaters August 4.