by Rev. Theon Johnson III, Associate Pastor
On Tuesday, August 11, I joined members of the GLIDE family for an advanced screening of Straight Outta Compton hosted by Ben and Felicia Horowitz and the team at Andreessen Horowitz.Following the screening, there was a special Q&A moderated by Ben with Director F. Gary Gray, Actors’ Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. and Executive Producer Ice Cube.
The film follows the journey of five young men who use the power of music to paint a powerful (yet painfully relevant) portrait of life in one of the most overlooked, underserved communities in America. These young black men stood up to the authorities who sought to use intimidation as a force to silence their voices.
Hailed as street poets by some and revolutionaries by others, the truth uncovered through their lyrics created a melody of resistance which sparked the conscience of so many with their backs against the walls of failed public policies and community networks. Watching these young black men get slammed to the ground, harassed, and searched for no reason by police is an all too familiar image. I sensed deep frustration within the theater as fellow movie goers viewed reenactments of events which continue to plague present day state of affairs in America. I (too) sighed as I watched these scenes.
Then, I saw black women devalued by black men.
Then, I saw a black man board a school bus filled with black and brown children to give a “motivational speech” which involved threatening them with a gun.
Even as citizens are enraged over an escalation of state sponsored violence against black and brown people (we should be enraged), I hope this film assaults our sensibilities by inviting us to consider the prevalence of violence against women (especially black women) and children.
Do Black Lives Matter only when they are killed by police violence?
Do Black Lives Matter only when white people perpetuate systemic injustices?
Do Black Lives Matter when black women earn less than any group of our citizenry for work?
Do Black Lives Matter when children step into un-underfunded schools?
Do Black Lives Matter when black lives threaten black lives?
When do Black Lives really Matter?
For the record, I believe this film provides a timely and relevant snapshot into one of the “Two Americas” about which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke.
Straight Outta Compton offers important vantage points into the lives of some of our most marginalized brothers and sisters. The above reflections are neither intended to discourage anyone from seeing the film nor criticize the realities which the film highlights. As a matter of fact, you should check the film out with GLIDE Folks next Sunday!
Watch Straight Outta Compton with the GLIDE Racial Justice Team
If you want to see this film with GLIDE Folks, join the GLIDE Racial Justice Team next Sunday, August, 16 after the 11 AM Celebration to watch Straight Outta Compton. Meet in the Sanctuary to walk towards the Century San Francisco Centre Theater (Westfield Mall) followed by conversation.
Black lives have always mattered. To be properly understood, this claim must be rooted in an affirmation that all people are of sacred worth. Black Lives Matter must be heard/understood with an implicit “too” at the end of the statement (Black Lives Matter, Too.) and not an implicit “only” at the beginning (Only, Black Lives Matter).
Black lives matter.
LGBTQ+ lives matter.
The hungry matter.
The homeless matter.
The addicted matter.
The forgotten and forsaken matter.
We. All. Matter.
What can you do to ensure that lives matter (even when it’s not the trendiest subject on social media)? How can we (GLIDE) do our part to create a culture which really celebrates life? Too many lives are being lost. There’s too much at stake for our community to sit back and do nothing. We must join the masses who are crying out for justice. We must advocate for our communities. Friends, love compels us to organize and mobilize!
Straight Outta Words- For Now
I’m straight outta patience for injustice and oppression. But, I’m not outta hope. Together, we can make a meaningful difference. Let’s make it happen.
See you on Sunday,
The Rev. Theon Johnson III is an Associate Pastor at GLIDE Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, CA. He came to Glide from Mississippi where he served as the United Methodist Campus Minister at Jackson State University. Theon believes that love is a revolutionary force which empowers people to transform the world. With a background in Philosophy, Religion and Education from Millsaps College, Theon studied Theology and Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. While in Washington, he served as an Advocacy Associate with the General Board of Church and Society on Capitol Hill. Currently, Theon is a doctoral student in Educational Leadership at Jackson State University.