Shadow and Act's Tambay Obenson is Not Impressed

Shadow and Act's Tambay A. Obenson challenges readers to hold independent news sites that cover black film with the same esteem given to mainstream publications that acknowledge black film. (Google Images)

Shadow and Act’s Tambay A. Obenson challenges readers to hold independent news sites that cover black film with the same esteem given to mainstream publications that acknowledge black film. (Google Images)

If you haven’t gotten the memo yet, please stop sending Shadow and Act‘s founder and editor-in-chief Tambay A. Obenson articles about black cinema written by mainstream media. As Tambay has said before, he lives and breathes and reports on black cinema every day of his life. Tambay’s statement spoke to me as an expert in African-American film, who continues to get similar offerings from friends, colleagues and the like. Even though it is clear that the links to articles like the New York Times’ recent article on the coming “breakout year” for black film are sent with the greatest of intentions (information, enthusiasm, love of black film), it can be frustrating to those who work tirelessly on behalf of black cinema with very little fanfare. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just because the so-called explosion of black film is new to you doesn’t mean that it’s new; just because black cinema is covered by a mainstream publication every once in a while doesn’t mean progress or validation of an art form many of us know is valid year-round. Check out an except of Tambay’s ode to those in the trenches covering, critiquing, analyzing, creating, loving and breathing black cinema on a regular, on-going and consistent basis. After all, black cinema is more than a news article. — Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief, The Burton Wire  

EXCERPT from “Sorry I don’t need the New York Times to Tell Me What’s Happening in Black Cinema.”

“In the last 24 hours, my various mailboxes (email, Facebook, Twitter) have been flooded with messages alerting me to THIS New York Times piece, titled Coming Soon: A Breakout Year for Black Films, referring to the unusual volume of films by and about people of African descent, scheduled to be released theatrically in 2013.

It’s what I refer to as The New York Times’ annual ‘state of black cinema’ (broadly speaking) nod, and, each year, for almost as long as I’ve been running this site, I’m bombarded with messages linking me to whatever it is The Times (or The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, etc) have to say about subject matter that we cover on this site daily, and have been writing about for the last 4 years. 

I’m never sure what exactly my response is supposed to be to these messages, as well as the articles that I’m being alerted to. Is it Jubilation? I’m supposed to be excited about the *acknowledgement* from mainstream papers? Am I to fall all over myself and start singing Negro Spirituals?

There’s this euphoria that consumes *us* when these pieces are published, which I don’t quite understand – one that contributes to the idea that, for some of *us*, *our* endeavors aren’t worthwhile, until formally recognized in some shape or form, by mainstream (read: White) institutions.

So, The New York Times realized that this year will see the once-every-decade occurrence, when more black films backed by studios (as well as a few indies) enter the marketplace. 

So what? Why is this cause for celebration? Especially when I wrote about the same damn thing, right here on this blog, a few weeks ago, earlier this year. But I don’t recall seeing that piece shared multiple times on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, or heard about it being forwarded en masse via email. 

Or is it that we only *act* when it’s the The New York Times (or Variety, or The Hollywood Reporter)?

Read Tambay’s piece in its entirety at Shadow and Act.

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