It’s here. It’s something that I’ve never known about the actor, producer and director Nate Parker prior to the movie, although in times past, I followed the celebrity scene and everything in it like a bear in search of honey. If you have no idea what I am writing about when I stated my first, very short sentence It’s here, I mean the alleged rape is here. The alleged rape that Nate Parker was acquitted of when he was a young man while his friend, who also has a hand in the film, Jean McGianni Celestin, was found guilty and had his conviction overturned on appeal , which can be read at The Hollywood Reporter.
I won’t get into the details of the alleged rape of 1999, but I will allow you to read it all fair and square on your own via a clip of transcripts that have been released via Deadline. What I will say is that rape is one of the most horrific acts known to mankind, and it happens all too regularly around the entire world. When I state it happens all too regularly, I mean that one time is too many times because it shouldn’t happen at all.
Unfortunately, this is society. This is why I understand there are some who will never support this Nate Parker movie, The Birth of a Nation, due to the rape accusations held against Parker and Celestin because they are standing against all forms of physical attack that suck the life from victims and their peace of minds. My job isn’t to determine Nate Parker or Jean McGianni Celestin’s guilt or innocence. That job has already been taken and done. It also isn’t my job to hunt for witches or re-try.
I believe it is my job to write about what I believe is the Catch 22 of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation.
There was an alleged rape that happened in 1999 where both men were tried and eventually set free of charges based on evidence. There is a country actually founded on rape by the rape of another continent’s people. There was a full, evidence-backed and proven rape of a culture of individuals who were sold and stolen from their homeland, children whipped, scarred and hung from the branches that didn’t reach far enough back to their parents who could rescue them from the hands of the brutal “masters”. There were hundreds and thousands of women and men sodomized, destroyed over and over again, never to see the one thing they hoped for more than anything else - freedom - from their rape.
The people that I speak of are the African and African American people, although they weren’t even considered worthy enough of being called by their own names.
This was not the only rape. There was the rape and murder of a native people to the Americas. These people were horrendously depraved of the only life they had ever known when robbers came and shook the ground from underneath their feet. There was, figuratively, a huge, unforgiving earthquake brewed atop the land, brought in by the waters, that shattered their lives, and then it was gone - from disease, rape and war. These people are the Native Americans. They, too, hoped for their own freedom in their rightful land, free from rape.
All the written items above taken into account, it may seem exceptionally easy for some to turn their backs on Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation that showcases the history of a man and an African people who literally broke free and slaughtered oppressors and rapists to gain back what was rightfully theirs - their lives. It may also seem that those who choose to watch and support the movie are ignoring the story of Parker’s accuser who is now deceased over ten years after the alleged rape due to suicide in 2012.
I say neither situation is easy to digest and accept. As an African American and a woman, I myself am caught up in this Catch 22 where I find myself hurting for my people who came before me, my ancestors who were stomped on just because they were black while I also find myself hurting for women or men all around the world who have been sexually assaulted or even feel that they may have been. I am, however, an artist of the written kind, understanding that not all perfected art comes from a perfect people or perfect situations. Just like there is no nation that can honestly say they don’t have blood on their hands although they scream from the rooftops how wonderful and greatly majestic they are in comparison to other nations.
What we really fail to understand is how a nation that slaughtered so many people and robbed them of every single one of their birthrights can now lay claim and be hailed as the absolute best nation on the face of the earth. What really confuses us is how flawed individuals and situations can end up creating one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, maybe even Oscar worthy. In this lies that Catch 22.
It’s okay to care for rape victims just as it is okay to care for the victims of slavery and their descendants who have struggled with the ongoing stigmas of being who they are proud of being. All of them were and are victims of a rape, the same rape that Nat Turner decided he would “rebel” against, a slave culture he decided to fight against in bloodshed. It is for this reason that many people - African American and other races and cultures as well - will still watch this movie titled The Birth of a Nation because art truly does imitate life and what goes on around us every single day as we live under many good laws that were created by those whose hands were not so innocent, warm and cuddly as most people would have liked them to be. We still love our country.
This is the Catch 22.
We are in a particular time where a powerful and needed story is being told. The artists who created it happened to have been caught up criminally and accused of horrible actions, one acquitted (Parker) and the other found guilty but the guilty verdict later overturned on appeal (Celestin). All of this being stated, The Birth of a Nation is a story that needs to be told and seen. We never get to pick the storyteller.
It’s time Nat Turner’s story comes to life. This isn’t about Nate Parker. This movie is about The Birth of a Nation. It is our history...whether you can digest it or the history of those behind it or not.