Movie lovers will have an opportunity to tour a walking exhibit chronicling the history of Black film now on display in Leimert Park. Blacks in Cinema, sponsored by Community Build Inc. is part of the commemoration of African American Heritage Month and features over 100 photographs, posters, newspaper articles and documents recognizes the contributions of filmmakers, actors, stunt men and woman and pays tribute to the Pan African Film Festival.
The free outdoor self-guided walking exhibit is currently on display at the corner of Degnan Avenue and 43rd street and in the courtyard adjacent to Community Build Inc., 4305 Degnan Avenue, in Los Angeles.
“The role Blacks played in American cinema is a very important part of our history,” said Community Build Inc. President Robert Sausedo. “I remember watching movies with my mom and her sisters. Seeing Blacks on screen was powerful and gave me an image that has stayed with me. This exhibit is a reminder of where we came from and shows the foundation of how Blacks are portrayed in films today.”
Blacks in Cinema covers over a century of Black film. Highlights of the exhibit includes recognition of Oscar Micheaux, considered the first major African-American feature filmmaker in 1919; Pioneering black films, Car Wash (1976) and Black Panther (2018); Pan African Film Festival and co-founders Ja’ Net Bu Bois (“Good Times”), Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon”) and Ayuko Babu (Executive Director) ; Academy Award Winners Ruth Carter (best costume design) and Hannah Beachler (best production design) for their work in Black Panther; 1970s television and film actors including Marla Gibbs (“227,” “The Jeffersons”), Glen Turman (“Cooley High”) Ted Lange (“Love Boat,” “That’s My Mama”), Rudolph Frank Moore (“Dolomite”), Dwan Smith-Fortier (“Sparkle,” “ House Party IV,” “General Hospital”) and many more.
A major part of Blacks in Cinema covers the “Blaxploitation” films of the 1970s. According to the Separate Cinema Archive, a key resource for the exhibit, the late 1960s and early 1970s ushered in a new trend of Black action films. Violent and racially motivated films such as Shaft and Superfly emphasized rebellion against authority, the films created a black hero on screen that, in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, African-American audiences needed and welcomed.
These films featured former professional athletes like Fred Williamson, Carl Weathers and Bernie Casey and launched the career of actress Pam Grier (“Coffy,” “Foxy Brown”) who became known as the queen of black action genre.
The exhibit also spotlights the rise of Black stunt men and woman. Prior to the 1967 establishment of the Black Stuntmen and Women’s Association, stunts for Black actors were done by White men “painted down” to a darker complexion. Change occurred when the organization filed lawsuits against several major movie studios and Black actors refused to have white stunt doubles. Some of the early television shows and films that featured Black stuntmen include “Mission Impossible,” “The Mod Squad,” Dirty Harry,” “I Spy” and “Across 110th Street.”
“What’s interesting is in 2019, the number one movie, Black Panther, was almost a mirror image of the films from the 70s,” said Albert Lord, vice president of Government Relations and Arts Programs for Community Build Inc., who is responsible for the exhibit.
“The 70s recognized Black power, the Vietnam War, the hippy generation, the fight for gender equality and of course, the [Black] Panther Party, all the general themes of Black Panther. I thought it would interesting to highlight both in the exhibit.”
Blacks in Cinema is the second Leimert Park Village walking exhibit written, curated and installed by Lord in honor of African American Heritage Month. Lord served as L.A. City Council President Emeritus Herb Wesson’s deputy for 16 years.
From 2006 to 2020, in his capacity as deputy, Lord produced Los Angeles City Hall’s African American Heritage Month exhibitions which were displayed each February along the bridge leading to the Council Chambers. The AAHM exhibitions reflected social, cultural and political occurrences in American society and were the brainchild of Wesson, who was seeking a way to commemorate Black History Month.
“The AAHM Legacy Project shines a light on Black history, and showcases the City of Los Angeles’ recognition of the incredible achievements African Americans and the role Black culture has played in shaping America,” said Lord.
In addition to L.A. City Council President Emeritus Herb Wesson District 10, special thanks for the Blacks in Cinema exhibit goes to Curren Price Councilmember District 9, Marqueece Harris-Dawson Councilmember District 8, Eric Garcetti Los Angeles City Mayor, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles Association of Black Personnel, Our Authors Study Club, and Los Angeles Association of Professional Black Managers Association.
For more information on Community Build Inc. and the Blacks in Cinema visit Communitybuildinc.org or call (323) 290-6560.