Barry Jenkins and Ta-Nehisi Coates Reflect On 'If Beale Street Could Talk'
What does it mean to be born Black in America? In the 20th century, writer and cultural critic James Baldwin examined this question through his words and experiences. Today, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates is grappling with the very same subject. While Baldwin and Coates have managed to articulate the beauty and pain of being Black men in this country —Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins has succeeded in depicting the majesty and fullness of Black life on screen. In his latest work —an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins explores trauma, family, love, and survival in 1970s Harlem, a microcosm of Black America, that still powerfully resonates today. After all, the souls of Black folk still whisper to each other across generations; the specifics of our stories may differ, but the experiences are the same. Jenkins opens his film with Baldwin's quote, "Every Black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the Black neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy."
Shadow And Act attended the Baltimore premiere of If Beale Street Could Talk, where Jenkins sat down to chat with Ta-Nehisi Coates —a Baltimore native, and the man he says inspired him to tell this story.
"I’ve never seen anybody shoot Black people the way Barry shoots Black people," Coates marveled. "There's a kind of lushness, a beauty that he bestows on Black people, that we are really not used to seeing."
Continue reading at Shadow and Act.