Though it discusses an oft-overlooked history of African-American displacement during the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction, Marco Williams' documentary Banished has obvious resonance for contemporary audiences. It served as a point of departure for David Murray's 2007 album Sacred Ground, in which jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson sang from the perspective of someone who'd been forcibly removed from her Southern hometown by a white vigilante group. In the song, she returns, presumably after several years, to reclaim an ancestral burial ground: We've come back to claim our very own/To you, they're just a box full of bones.
Racially motivated "banishment" is a powerful concept, indeed, and many argue that it still happens today. In fact, Williams states that part of the impetus for his film was a personal experience of mob violence, when he was chased out of a majority-white neighborhood in Charleston, Massachusetts.
Activists with Just Cause Oakland — whose members demand that East Bay landlords always present a "just cause" for evicting their tenants — believe that the mob violence of yesterday has now been supplanted by insidious zoning and prohibitive housing prices, often associated with the onslaught of gentrification.
This Tuesday, January 8, members of Just Cause Oakland join forces with ITVS Community Cinema, KQED Education Network, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Color Lines magazine, and several other organizations for a special screening of Banished at the Oakland Museum (1000 Oak St., Oakland). The event will open with The Apollos, a short documentary by the Bay Area Video Coalition, which talks about an Oakland Technical High School class from the early '80s that lobbied for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to become a national holiday. Banished will cap off with a panel discussion of displacement as it relates to gentrification, segregated housing practices, and the post-Katrina right of return. 6:30-9 p.m., free. MuseumCA.org
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