THEN I'LL BE FREE TO TRAVEL HOME: Documentary Guru Eric Tait Celebrates 40 Years of Telling Our Stories
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I received an invitation by NYABJ (New York Association of Black Journalists)from several sources to attend a screening of "THEN I'LL BE FREE TO TRAVEL HOME". I first saw it 15 years ago, when my friend Eric Tait, one of the finest documentarians on the planet, first premiered it. He had left his position with ABC News to focus on completing the documentary -- a move most friends thought was either foolish or genius, depending on which side of the line they were standing.
Eric is currently celebrating 40 years in the realm of telling our stories.
They may or may not have remembered that I was there for the premiere of this fine production. What a day that was! It was there that I met the great Ms. Lena Horne and her daughter, a historian in her own right, Gail Lumet Buckley -- who had just penned her book "The Hornes." Ms. Horne was absolutely gorgeous at 80!!!
Interestingly enough, it that screening of the film which introduced me to the genius that is Eric Tait some 15 years ago, as well as the musical genius, Noel Pointer, who volunteered his time and talent to the preservation of those ancestral remains and the hallowed ground that had been desecrated by steam shovels and cranes. Noel is no longer with us on the physical plane, but his inspirational music lingers on.
Eric first premiered "THEN I'LL BE FREE TO TRAVEL HOME" at Borough of Manhattan Community College. The thoroughness, love, detail, and diligence with which he put this monumental piece together was and is absolutely awe-inspiring! Noel played his "magic" violin; his mother's chorale sang several Black (Negro) Spirituals
Eric Tait is a brother driven by perfection; by love of his people, by the need to know and the necessity to debunk distortions cover ups by a government and individuals whose interests are other than the well being and respect of a group of people who have long suffered under unorthodox reporting methods by the so-called 4th estate.
I absolutely love this film!! THEN I'LL BE FREE TO TRAVEL HOME is definitely not a sound bite. It goes into forensic detail about the people who were buried in those graves at the tip end of Manhattan. It introduces you to your brothers and sisters who would not sit idly by and allow them to sweep those remains under the proverbial rug. This was the precursor to the African Burial Ground memorial and commemoration.
It shows by graphic example what happens when you take a stand. Had it not been for the principled stand taken by David Paterson, who went against all the big wigs, all the investors, and stood for those bones, slapping an injunction on the construction company, and effectively preventing them from any further incursions on their last resting place, it would have been little more than an interesting headline.
When it was later showcased in Harlem at the Schomburg Library, it was well received by a relatively small audience - not the turn out one would expect in a predominantly Black community.
However, after that it seemed to have dropped off the map, out of sight until very recently. I kept looking for it on PBS, or the History Channel or (dare I hope, BET). So I am so glad to see that it's getting the attention and buzz it deserves.
This is a treasure that must be seen by adults, children, educators, students, elected officials -- nationally, IntraAfriCaribiNationally(just made that title up; it's another way of saying Eclectically Black. Try it on and see if it fits). There should be no one Black that has not seen this documentary and understands, chapter and verse exactly what the dynamics were surrounding the excavation and preservation of our ancestors. It should be required in schools - especially those with a majority of Black students.
I also absolutly treasure Eric Tait. Not only is he a fine Black man, he is a brain. He is a brain that whites try to say do not exist among us. He is the news man most mainstream media won't hire because he is dedicated to telling the truth. We all know how much they hate having all those lies debunked -- especially if it's one of our own who's doing it.
So for the first part of your Friday, before you go to hang out for the evening, strongly suggest that you go to Harlem Gateway at 135th and Amsterdam Avenue on the campus of City College (CCNY) and catch THEN I'LL BE FREE TO TRAVEL HOME. It's an eye opening masterpiece.
The age of Black re-awakening and enlightenment are slowly dawning; the light of truth is being shed, and it is up to us to avail ourselves of the opportunity.
Stay Blessed &