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"Afraid of Dark": A Review by Olivia Okocha

The following review was written by Olivia Okocha, a Chicago high school student, as part of Columbia College Chicago's Columbia Links journalism program for high school students. RogerEbert.com has partnered with the Chicago Urban League and Columbia Links to mentor these students and to give them a platform for their writing. Read more about the program here.


"Afraid of Dark"

Directed by Mya B.

3 stars

"Afraid of Dark" establishes the history behind the stereotypes that distort what it means to be a black man in today's society. The audience can definitely see that filmmaker Mya Baker, from Brooklyn, N.Y., did a significant amount of work in this film to show the world the problems of being a black man in America. 

A lot of creativity went into the movie. It includes segments in which people talk about being a black man in America. The filmmaker cleverly includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This adds content and gives the movie a different feel, especially as Dr. King made such a great contribution to black men in America's history. In these segments, Dr. King makes important observations about the definition of "black" in the dictionary and how that corresponds to how black men are treated in reality.  

The film explores the history of being a black man in America, from the days of slavery, to the civil rights movement and, lastly, to the present. By giving examples of the stereotypes throughout history, the audience sees how beliefs changes but that change occurs slowly. y. In the first half of the movie, Baker includes images and footage from the slavery/Jim Crow era that are disturbing to the audience. This part of the movie is important because it reminds us all about the painful history and obstacles black men as well as the nation have had to overcome.  

Kenya K. Stevens, a relationship and self-help coach and founder of the JujuMama website, gives examples of various roles of the “black man” in the family--the planner, the leader, the warrior and the negotiator. Although these are roles she claims a black man should assume to run the family, they sometimes cannot fulfill them.  

Educator Cornel West, advertising pioneer Tom Burrell and rapper Sadat X add to the discussion about being a black man in the United States, including negative aspects such as sagging pants, having many children but not being a father, going to prison and being intimidating to others who dare to do something as simple as reading the newspaper. These segments inform the audience about the struggles black men go through every day.  

Overall, "Afraid of Dark" is an entertaining and inspiring movie that gives the audience insight into the black male experiences in America. Instead of seeing them, or other people in general, as human beings identified with the stereotypes and characteristics that society gives them, the audience learns about the struggle of creating a separate, personal identity and pushing away from the stereotypes. As Dr. King reminds us: We should judge people by the content of their character rather than skin color, race or gender. Also, Baker’s editing of photos and historical and contemporary film footage make this documentary a great visual experience.

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