In shadow, people march by a city hall.
Against an American flag background, Rihanna smiles.
In the historical footage, Michelle Obama beams as her husband Barack Obama is inaugurated as President of the United States. Soldiers raise the flag. In black-and-white, Dr. Martin Luther King walks. A teenage boy has written “Vote” on his forehead.”
Back in color, American flags line a rural area. A person holds a handmade cardboard sign reading: “A – Nation of Immigrants. B – Nation of Ignorance. “Box A is checked. The Saturn 5 rocket launches. John Carlos and Tommie Smith raise their hands in the Black Power Salute.
After Rihanna, shadowed against the flag, puts her arms up, the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. salutes his dad. In color, two little girls play. The Beatles wave hello on the tarmac. Bob Marley has a concert at the Manhattan Center. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wave, on their way to becoming the first men on the moon. The Statute of Liberty is shown.
A man, with a white kite attached to him, struggles to move. The stocks run. The traders make a sale. Currency is being printed. People waving an “Occupy Wall St” banner protest in the streets. A homeless man sits in the street, a cardboard sign next to him, pleading for help.
The screen splits into two, showing Fourth of July fireworks behind the Statute the Liberty while the other screen is ball of fire, a tragedy that someone will have to explain. A plane hits the World Trade Center. A man rubs his eyes. Firefighters walk through the rubble. A kid buys drugs on the corner. The police frisk a man.
Against the flag, Rihanna puts her arm over her eyes.
Mickey Mantle hits a home run in the 1952 World Series. Soldiers put up a flag at Iwo Jima. The moment, immortalized by a statute. Split screen of protests, with the right side showing a woman holding a sign reading: “We’re In This Together #Ferguson.”
Children look at the camera.
Footage is shown of a man waving a “I Can’t Breathe” sign during a protest for Eric Garner. The Ku Klux Klan burns crosses. Dr. Martin Luther King gives his “I Have A Dream” speech which is followed by Robert F. Kennedy informing people who King has been assassinated. His funeral is shown.
Rihanna stares into the camera, the American flag behind her.
While Occupy Wall St protesters sit in an oraganized line, University of California police officer John Pike pepper sprays them. During the 60s, police officers are shown pepper spraying civil rights protestors.
The man crawls on all fours to get himself moving.
Graffitied on city streets is Black Power. Police officers beat a man. A person holds a sign reading “We Owe Our Children A Just Society.” Immigrants get sworn in as citizens. Children sit on the lawn. People help the wounded.
Rihanna looks at the camera one more time.
What is America? It’s a question going through many people’s minds (not just in the United States but all over the world). It’s one I am unable to answer, as I learn to live in the new reality of what America has become. Today, I woke up in a New America, a version of that it is unfamiliar and seething with an uncontrollable rage.
America has had great beings in it. Barack Obama, who helped lead the way for universal healthcare and gay marriage). The Beatles crossed over and they were embraced. Dr. Martin Luther King fought for rights for African-Americans, sacrificing his life for it. However, it touches upon the dark parts of history: the civil rights protests, the riots in Ferguson, the Ku Klux Klan filmed burning crosses. It reminds the viewer that history repeats itself and people must learn from it, despite how hard it may be to see. The reality has to be faced. Evil is there and it has to be stopped.
Seeing the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center usually takes some time process. It’s been 15 years and the shock of seeing the footage will be there. There is no preparation for it.
The racism, prevalent in the 60s, is now at a current extremism level. Black Lives Matter gets diminished with All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. In today’s climate, there are fears that attacks are permissible on minorities and will happen to out in the open. Hate has become normalized.
Unlike September 11, the grief isn’t for what happened on November 8, 2016, but for what’s to come: Obamacare repealed, leaving many without insurance again, abortion rights being gutted as well as the First Amendment, gay marriage becoming illegal again. It doesn’t seem real. Then, I see Van Jones trying to find the words. Then, it becomes all too real.
Directors: Jonathan Craven, Jeff Nicholas, Darren Craig & Rihanna Year: 2015