Hey Prizms! I'm back today with a review of the new Rodney King documentary just released on Netflix. It was directed by the great Spike Lee and I can honestly say I was taken aback by the sheer genius and unique power of this one. Being that Spike is a fellow New Yorker, I always give him the most respect (and he be at all the Knicks games supporting HEAVY, so you gotta love him!). I should have known it was going to have a deep impact coming from Spike though. When you think "documentary", you usually picture a video account of someone or something packed with interviews from pertinent parties, riveting images, and thought-provoking statistics. I'm here to tell you that this documentary was anything but typical in that sense.
Spike Lee shot a video of actor Roger Guenveur Smith's performance of his piece on Rodney King. Roger has been in plenty of Spike's movies so it made sense that they worked together on this special. It was, in essence, a highly poetic monologue done with great precision and definitely gave viewers a biography of not only the beatings and the riots but also a view into his rough life before, during, and after the incident. You get a raw sense of the shock, turmoil and ongoing issues that Rodney (and the Black community) faced and...ultimately CONTINUE to face 25 years later. It also comes from a pretty conversational point of view - you feel as though he's speaking to Rodney from a reviewing perspective.
Roger takes us through intimate details from that incident - the night of the beating, the nights of the riots, and the aftermath of everything leading up to that now popularized soundbite "Can't we all just get along?" from Rodney's mid-riot speech. He also sprinkles other names in the poem (like Latasha Harlins, the 15 year old Black girl who was killed a couple of weeks after Rodney's beating, which also helped ignite the riots). Personally, I learned a lot that I didn't know before. In 1991, I was 2 years old and obviously didn't learn about any of this shit until wayyyyy later, so it helped put some of the pieces together for me.
I don't want to spoil it too much for you (if you haven't seen it yet) but I will say, it definitely sent chills up my spine. The delivery was powerful and of course, Spike added some special effects that were necessary to get the point across.
It's extremely disheartening though that such a monstrous event that happened 25 years ago is still entirely relevant today in the Black community. Now more than ever, we are being recorded being beaten, shot, and killed by police everywhere n this country. In this age of social media and "going viral", we have been forced to watch our brothers and sisters literally die at the hands of corrupt police forces and it's almost got some of us numb. Every single day it's something else. The hashtags aren't enough, the punishments aren't even CLOSE to being enough, and as of recently, our protests have been diminished to "togetherness festivals" in the eyes of our pale counterparts (ahem...Pepsi...lookin at YO ass).
Roger refers to Rodney as the "first reality tv star" a few times during the performance and it was a gruesome, but accurate comparison. He was the early Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Korryn Gaines, etc. and things like body cams do not serve to make police more accountable, but instead prove to be tiny movie reels of our genocide for the entire world to see. People say we still have a long way to go but often it makes me wonder...where the hell we goin??? Our pain is re-packaged and re-processed and doled out in different ways over time. Same shit, different year...
So yea, if you haven't already, definitely go and watch this Netflix special because it is eye-opening even for those who were around during the L.A. riots of '92. If you've already seen it, let me know your thoughts below!