Film being made

Interweaving lecture, personal anecdotes, interviews, and shocking revelations, the documentary "Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America" draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America.

The main character is Jeffrey Robinson, a criminal defense lawyer in Seattle. Jeff is a storyteller who brings history to life, inviting American audiences of all races to view the history of racism in America, and the erasure of this history is a crime perpetrated on all of us. The ability to connect with almost any audience creates an electric atmosphere. The film choses New York’s Town Hall because of its anti-racist history and historical commitment to highlighting Black artists like Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Marian Anderson, and Billie Holiday, when many other doors were closed to them.

The film is like a Broadway show in six weeks, hitting the road and meeting with change-makers and eyewitnesses to history across this country whose lived experiences help bring history to life, and show us that our past is still very much a part of our present. It's a family affair, that at times includes Jeff’s wife, architect Carmen Valdes, Jeff’s younger brother Larry Robinson and civil rights attorney Margaret Ratner Kunstler.

The second character is his nephew Mathew. Mathew's mother died in 2011. He moved from Queens to Seattle to live with his uncle during the summer before his ninth-grade year. The experience of having a young black man in your home brings all issues of race to a very personal level. Matt is a young Black man stepping out into the streets of America, and we're afraid of what that would mean for him. We hope Matt lives his life in the world free from crippling pandemics. We hope he can live in an America that has taken strides toward racial justice that go far beyond what happened in our lifetime. We hope we get to a point where the narrative in this country about our past is one that is true, not to tear ourselves down, but to reckon with where we started, and how far we need to go to get to the true promises of our country.

Marquette University or Harvard Law School! You can have one of the best educations in America. But if you're a Black man raising a Black son, there is the struggle with what to tell your son about racism in America. How did we get here? And when we look at our nation’s history, we're shocked by what we not known. For the past 10 years, in community centers, concert halls, houses of worship, and conference rooms across America, we've been sharing what we learned.

"Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America" faces a larger audience, asking all of us to examine who we're, where we come from, and who we want to be. The film interweaves historical and present-day archive footage, capturing meetings with Black change-makers and eyewitnesses to history. From a hanging tree in Charleston, South Carolina, to a walking tour of the origins of slavery in colonial New York, to the site of a 1947 lynching in rural Alabama, the film explores the enduring legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it.

The film exposes how deeply encoded white supremacy and the oppression of Black Americans is in our nation's history. Weaving heartbreak, humor, passion, and rage, the documentary shows us how legalized discrimination and state-sanctioned brutality, murder, dispossession, and disenfranchisement continued long after slavery ended, profoundly impeding Black Americans ability to create and accumulate wealth as well as to gain access to jobs, housing, education, and health care.

The history of slavery in the United States is not Black history, it's American history; a history of white supremacy and white complicity as well as a history of Black oppression and resistance. "Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America" is a collaborative effort between Black and white Americans to get back our nation's stolen history, to accept our obligation to learn it and represent it, and to come to terms with it as our shared inheritance. It's also the profile of a man on a quest to share what he has learned and to go beneath that history to the lived experience of Black people whose lives have been shaped by a legacy that our country has largely forgotten.

It's a film that meets the historical and cultural moment in which we're living. It asks all of us to examine where we come from, who we're, and who we want to be. People aren't just good or bad. People are many things. Every person in this theater knows that's true because every one of us has been a saint or a sinner at some times in our lives. And you know what, countries aren't just one thing either. They're many things. America has demonstrated its greatness time and time and time again, and America is one of the most racist countries on the face of the earth. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. It's not an either/or. And the reason we ask are asked to think about this is that literally, the future is at stake.

Enslaved people would begin to learn a skill at the age of about six. And so, fingerprints, and handprints, and thumbprints exist all throughout the city. Because enslaved people built the city. And so on churches, on businesses, in alleyways, you see these, on theaters, you see these throughout the city in very subtle ways. And if you don’t know what you're looking for, you may not see them. Slavery had nothing to do with the war. That was not the cause of the Southern States seceding, that was not the cause of the first shot being fired on that fort over there. It was about money. And it was not about slavery. It was about moral tariffs, it was about more money. Lincoln wanted to impose 45% taxes on the Southern States.

George Orwell warned us that “Who controls the past controls the future.” Knowledge is power. A false narrative about the role of white supremacy and anti-Black racism in America has led to our failure to make significant, lasting progress on the issue of racial justice. Knowledge can change people’s views, people’s opinions, and their behavior. His words lay bare an all-but-forgotten past, as well as our shared responsibility to create a better country in our lifetimes.

It's a piece of art, as well as a tool that will help us advance the goal of the Who We Are Project, to correct the narrative about America’s history of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. There are many lanes to fill in the fight for racial justice. You're looking at 4,000 people that you cannot account for. So it's a genocide, it's an ethnic cleansing. Even to call it a massacre marginalizes it, because it's just too big. The Who We Are Project focuses on fierce, and factual engagement with America to advance education about our true history.

Early screenings Sat 15 Jan

AMC Dublin Village 18
18,1 km·6700 Village Parkway, Dublin, OH 43017, United States

AMC DINE-IN Easton Town Center 30
12,4 km·275 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH 43219, United States

The film opens at New York City Fri 14 Jan, Film Forum, 1,8 km·209 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10014

At Gateway Film Center in February!