“Black history is Black horror.”
This documentary was reviewed in February of this year. I invite you to re-read it, and then come right back.
For those whom have known me for some time, especially off-line, know that I have a soft spot for horror. I just do, and always have! I can remember how freaked out I was about the Headless Horseman. But I also remember loving vampires. I remember the first horror movie I watched–Children of The Corn 2, if you must know. And I remember thinking why it was these seemingly normal people wrote such off stuff! I remember my father lecturing my sister and I about the things we were reading.
I remember Christopher Pike’s Fear Street books.
I remember reading R.L. Stine.
I remember pleading at 13 for my mother to take me to see Interview With a Vampire. Read this here to find about just how long that love affair with vampires has gone on.
However, it was in finding this documentary, in engaging with it, sitting with it for better than six months, that I can give true thoughts on the documentary (which I believe still is on the SHUDDER app).
First, there cannot be enough said about the author of this book. Dr. Robin Means Coleman is not pulling punches with this book, or it’s subject matter. One of the reasons the horror genre exists is examine the things that scare us from a safe distance. From the vantage point of lore, dogma and the strange happenings of everyday life, horror is there! Horror helps us to examine what we fear or don’t understand from a safe distance (I got this quote also from Tananarive Due!).
The job of horror is to scare you, to make you examine yourself and make you pay attention. In this particular book, which was the basis for the documentary, you see Dr. Coleman parallels the atrocities of chattel slavery, black codes, Jim Crow, with and within American history. Dr. Coleman wants us as the literate, melaninated audience to take a look around us–and see ourselves as both citizen and alien! Why? This is how the genre itself has seen us.
Example: Birth of a Nation by DW Griffith is the movie that set the tone which has demonized every Black man and male child whom will ever walk the earth. The movie is pure propaganda. It is movie by which gave further basis for the Klu Klux Klan to begin a reign of domestic terrorism in this country–which has not ceased against people of color!
Even in the horror genre itself, I am of the age where I remember when no Black person really lived until the end of the movie! Or they were only a prop or fodder for the killer or a the plot. The first person I remember really surviving until the end of a horror movie was Rachel True in The Craft.
Imagine being a little Black girl who likes dark literature, and only seeing yourself as fodder? Or not seeing anyone that looks like you?
Worse yet! You never see yourself as sentient: always subject to what the White protag needs. Or never special (Oh, the Magical Negro troupe is alive and well though!).
Now imagine knowing you have a talent to write.
Then being told that you shouldn’t write this genre because ‘it’s evil.’
What could possibly be more evil that telling a child whom has vision, time and talent, not to follow that through? History has proven that the ruling classes would love for Black people to fade away–yet we haven’t. Even with a genre that has not always honored or seen us–till now.