The starry political-crime-drama documentary screening about social activism icon Angela Davis took place at a place that is very familiar with Black star power as it houses many Black stars of today and yesterday, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, Harlem, New York. The museum which is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world was founded in 1926 by bibliophile Arturo Alfonso Schomburg.
Festively dressed guests were greeted by the Schomburg’s handsome director Khalil Muhammad and welcomed into the Center that has seen its share of illustrious events. Now, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners can be added to that distinguished list of iconic events which have taken place at the museum. Executive produced by Overbrook Entertainment and Roc Nation, the historical documentary marks the 40th anniversary of Angela Davis’ acquittal on charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy.
Directed and written by Shola Lynch, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners was acclaimed by the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival as “a fascinating chronicle of justice and strength.” The hotly contentious film tells the dramatic story of how a young professor’s social justice activism implicates her in a botched kidnapping attempt that ends with a bloody shootout, four dead, and her name on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.
In this historical, reality styled documentary, Davis recounts the politics and actions that branded her a terrorist and simultaneously spurred a worldwide movement for her freedom as a political prisoner. At its core, the story wrestles with the meaning of political freedom in a democracy negotiated between the people and its government. Strong, attractive, and engaging, Angela Davis is one such person who became a symbol at the center of this still relevant power struggle.
At the end of the screening and after many ovations, Davis and Lynch were joined on stage by the film’s producer Sidra Smith, executive producers and Overbrook Entertainment’s Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith, Codeblack Entertainment’s Jeff Clanagan and Quincy Newell. Davis then expressed her gratitude for those who stood by her through thick and thin with a special shout out to her sister Fania Davis Jordan and Charlene Mitchell who alongside Kendra Alexander and Franklin Alexander helped organize the campaign to free her. Davis then dedicated the film to Mitchell.
The star-studded guests in attendance included Rhonda Ross Kendrick & Rodney Kendrick, Michaela Angela Davis, Ruby Dee, Bradford Young, Bethann Hardison, Liya Kebede, Common, Kid Capri, Omarosa Manigault, Stacie J, Tamara Tunie, Flo Anthony, Jamie Foster Brown, Lisa Cortes, Terrie M. Williams, Marvet Britto, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Kasi Lemmons, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Eisa Davis, Kysha Harris, Harry Belafonte, Kevin Powell, Curtis Martin, Vy Higginsen, Melvin Van Peebles, Roland Martin, T.J. Holmes, Kim Walters, Lewis Erskine, Kathleen Cleaver, George Alexander, Margaret A. Burnham, Erika Munro Kennerly, Stephen G. Hill and many more.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is distributed by Codeblack Films, a Lionsgate company, and presented by BET Network. Codeblack Films acquired the theatrical rights to the film and through its partnership with AMC Theatres. The film was released exclusively at select AMC Theatres in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago Washington D.C., Oakland, Philadelphia and Atlanta to favorable reviews on April 5, 2013. The executive producers are Jay-Z, James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith & Will Smith; Suzannah Herbert is associate producer; Judy Aley is archival producer; and Sidra Smith is producer.
Following the stellar screening, guests gathered at a post party celebration hosted at Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant, Ginny’s Supper Club, a private club located in the chic Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem sponsored by D’USSE Cognac, Jay-Z’s cognac of choice. (Photos by Johnny Nunez)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.