M.V. Film Center screens groundbreaking “I Am Not Your Negro”


Novelist, playwright, and activist James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, “Remember This House,” is reclaimed in filmmaker Raoul Peck’s documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” Baldwin died in late 1987, leaving 30 pages of the manuscript, which was to be a personal account of the lives and assassinations of his three friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center will screen “I Am Not Your Negro” on Tuesday, July 11, at 7:30 pm.

In “I Am Not Your Negro,” Peck takes the book Baldwin never finished, using the writer’s words and archival footage to tell a story that is as relevant today in the era of #BlackLivesMatter as it was in the civil rights days of the 1960s.

The Oscar-nominated film will be followed by discussion with author and educator Jessica B. Harris, who knew Baldwin in her early Greenwich Village days. Ms. Harris’ latest book, “My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir,” gives readers an insider’s look at ’70s-era New York City, where she was part of a circle that included Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and other artists and activists.

“They were already icons when I met them,” Ms. Harris said. “I met him [Baldwin] after everything in the film had happened. And I met Maya after ‘Caged Bird’ and Toni Morrison after ‘Sula.’”

Ms. Harris stayed with Baldwin in France, a place dear to her heart as well. She delves into her travels and the people she met along the way in her memoir. A noted African American culinary writer whose articles have appeared in Vogue, Food & Wine, Essence, and the New York Times, Ms. Harris was inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America, and recently helped the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture conceptualize its cafeteria. She holds a doctorate from NYU, teaches English at Queens College, and lectures internationally. An Oak Bluffs summer resident for more than 60 years, Ms. Harris will also be part of “Islanders Write,” which will be held on August 14 at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.

The film screening is co-sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the U.S.


For tickets and more information on other films and special events at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, visit mvfilmsociety.com.