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‘It Is a Detriment to Us’: Co-Creator of ‘Antebellum’ Says Black People Shouldn’t Contribute to the Erasure of Slavery Stories

Filmmaker Gerard Bush and his partner Christopher Renz are currently promoting their newly released slavery-themed horror film “Antebellum,” starring Janelle Monáe, and Bush responded to some saying they’re tired of seeing slave movies.

In a dual role, Monáe plays a slave woman named Eden who’s battling for freedom, and Veronica, an accomplished author living in modern-day times who fights racism with her writing. The film switches back and forth between both eras, and some Black people have trashed it on social media.

The co-creator of “Antebellum,” Gerard Bush (right), said that Black people shouldn’t contribute to the erasure of slave stories by not watching films like his latest release. The film stars Janelle Monáe (right) in her first leading role. (Photos: @gerardbush/Instagram/@janellemonae/Instagram)

“Y’all can have all those slave movies and the police killing movies,” one person tweeted on Friday, Sept. 18, on the same day “Antebellum” was released on-demand. “I saw Roots & 12 Years & a police killing movies. I’ve had enough of watching us get abused. Some like to wallow in that stuff.”

But Bush told The New York Times that despite some people saying they don’t like seeing Black people being mistreated in slave movies, such films are necessary to watch.

“For me, it’s really uncomfortable seeing people that look like me in bondage,” he explained. “But what I’ve come to understand is that it is a detriment to us when we are participants in the erasure of the truth because of our discomfort with confronting it. I look at our wonderful Jewish community and how they are vigilant in the protection of the truth and making sure that the horrors of the Holocaust are examined and re-examined.”

A big debate on whether Black people should keep supporting films about slavery surfaced in October of 2019 when Tyrese Gibson criticized releases like “Birth of a Nation,” “Roots,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “Harriet.” The actor and singer was promoting his film “Black and Blue” at the time, which he starred in with Naomie Harris.

“How many more slave movies?” said Gibson on Instagram then. “When you support these movies that highlight us about things that happened in our history, is that the sum of what you know of Black people? How many more nannies? How many more butlers? How many more slaves? How many more movies that’s going to project this energy off on to us, as if that’s all we ever was?”

Monáe also spoke about “Antebellum’s” subject matter and seems to agree with Bush that re-examining the history of slavery is critical to Black people’s future success.

“I think that this film did such an important job reminding us that the past is not the past,” she told The New York Times.

Bush stated something similar and said it can be harmful to Black folks if they decide to no longer watch slave films.

“We do ourselves a gross disservice in our unwillingness to explore these stories,” he explained. “The past is going to continue to haunt our present and rob us of our collective future if we don’t confront it.”

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