The Fire This Time

PBS has refused to show Randy Holland’s powerful, illuminating feature-length documentary video (1993) about South Central Los Angeles, no doubt because it offers an analysis of unemployment and oppression that implies an active conspiracy–an analysis offered mainly by people who live there. If this sounds dubious in a few particulars, it’s still the most cogent and persuasive portrait of this ghetto and its determinations that I’ve seen, and unless the Republicans come up with a better explanation this one will have to stand, with or without PBS’s dubious seal of approval. The video traces the rise of the ghetto gangs to the destruction of Black Panther leadership by the police and the FBI in the 60s, to the continuing preference of the white community for building prisons (the one government program they still support) rather than hospitals, schools, parks, or recreation centers, and to the refusal of local building crews to employ qualified blacks. It’s worth adding that the gang members argue that the ready availability of drugs and firearms is largely attributable to the police and that the unvoiced agenda of the white middle class is that ghetto residents should destroy one another. This agenda is remarkably close to that of conservative filmmaker John Carpenter in his SF thriller They Live. It’s hard to shake off some of the supporting evidence offered by responsible and articulate adults, including Andrew Young and Betty Shabazz, among many others. This screening is cosponsored by the Coalition for Democracy in Public Television, one of whose representatives will be present to speak about what they describe as WTTW’s “lack of openness, accountability, and representation.” Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Wednesday, November 30, 7:00, 384-5533.

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