I have not yet seen The Birth of a Nation
. But every time I watch the trailer
, I feel chills down my spine. Seeing beautifully filmed imagery of how the torment of our Black
ancestors fueled their courage — in a film with a mostly Black cast — feels nothing short of incredible. And while it's great that this is a much-buzzed-about answer to #OscarsSoWhite, The Birth of a Nation
has the power to be much bigger than one awards show. During a time when Black men around the country
are experiencing a modern form of lynching at the hands of police officers, the history of how we, as Black people, came together and put our bodies, families, and lives on the line for our basic human rights could not be more timely.
And yet, in the past week, a dark cloud has rolled in over the groundbreaking film. Though the case has been public knowledge for years, a recent Deadline report
reminded us that the movie's director and lead actor, Nate Parker, now 36, was accused of having nonconsensual sex with a passed-out college student at Penn State University when he was 19. He was found not guilty at trial. “I never felt the need to introduce all the obstacles in my past when I say, ‘Hello, my name is Nate,’" Parker told Deadline. "It’s tough reliving it, 17 years after the fact, but I never hid it from Fox."
When I was first reminded of the sexual assault case, I was deeply disappointed. How could someone who was once accused of rape create a film that largely centers on the plight of the Black body during slavery — that painfully, I hear, portrays the horrific, brutal rapes of many of our ancestors? Still, I tried to give Parker the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that he also once stated
that he will never play a gay character in an effort to "preserve the Black man."