A film screening and mixer was held this past Saturday for the debut of Black Behind the Orange Curtain, a documentary partially inspired by a Weekly cover story on the embarrassing lack of African-Americans in OC. The goal of the film, as stated on its website, is "to help people understand that our diverse perceptions on social matters such as racial profiling and injustice, affects us as individuals and as a community."
For all those who didn't have the opportunity to attend the event held at the UC Irvine Cross Cultural Center, the half-hour short directed by Shandell Maxwell was made available yesterday in its entirety online!
Kala Lacy, who co-chaired the UCI Black Student Union during a notorious frat blackface video controversy, is first up in the film to be featured speaking on her experiences. Candid in her frustrations, she relays a message to a young African-American girl saying its seems crazy to say out loud, but that the reality is that black women must convince themselves that their hair is OK, their skin is OK, and that they're smart despite people who would have them feel otherwise.
The documentary then takes viewers to A-Unique Barbershop in Anaheim where an African-American patron speaks on the biases and prejudices he's experienced in OC in terms of housing. Outside the shop, A-Unique's owner, Pierre Dotson talks about the differences between growing up in Los Angeles and living in OC. "Out here we kind of can't 100% be ourselves as African-Americans," he says in the film. "The natural culture of which we have grown up in--loud, fun, just energetic and happy--you can't do that in Orange County. It's totally unaccepted."
Next, a multiracial panel of speakers dish on topics such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida to profiling of Muslims in the wake of 9/11 before Maxwell closes Black Behind the Orange Curtain on a personal note.
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As the documentary was in production, many of the issues it touches upon haven't abetted in OC at all. This is still very much a county where people dress up in blackface as Trayvon Martin for Halloween and a black woman will face housing discrimination in trying to lease a two-bedroom apartment in Orange.
As a first-time venture into the realm of documentaries, Black Behind the Orange County is rough around the production edges from transitions to mic levels, but all is forgivable. How often is it that black folk in OC have the opportunity to tell their stories in their own voices? That alone makes the film more than deserving of setting aside a half-hour in order to listen attentively to what they have to say.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz