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'Our method of trying to create change': Local filmmakers talk series centered on race in America

Korey Green

The conversation around race, racism, and this country’s handling of race relations has been a topic which continues to gain steam. As protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor continue and Confederate statues fall, two local filmmakers continue to move the dialogue forward.

Korey Green is the filmmaker of 2018’s "The Blackness Project," a film exploring race and racism in the United States through the lens of African Americans. He said he felt an obligation to make the film.

“It’s like being pro-Black or for Black, they kind of make it look like you’re anti-white,” he said. “No, we’re just looking for equality. We want to have a better country and a better place for our children. I have sons and I want them to see that their father was a fighter.”

The film features notable Buffalonians, including Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. This past Friday Green and collaborator Peter Johnson released the film series "Black Fridays," which uses the unedited material which didn’t make the original film, plus more recent interviews.

While "The Blackness Project" was developed in 2016 and released two years later, the filmmakers said the racial issues today are the same, if not more prevalent than they were four years ago. For his part, Green said opening a dialogue of differing opinions is something the "Black Fridays" series is trying to do.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Filmmaker Korey Green filming a Facebook Live at WNED in September of 2019.

“We’re at a point in time right now, just with everything that is going on,” he said. “You have to be very, very direct. So, I’m always thinking action, what can I do to help the cause and help fight injustices without having me try to beat it into someone’s head because you can’t change someone’s upbringing or environment or the way they were raised.”

Johnson said at this critical point in our nation’s history, the voices of the oppressed are being heard on a large scale.

“We wanted to continue the conversations to bridge these gaps in racial disparities,” he said. “And one of the positives is that we feel as if right now, due to the protests and things that are happening around the country and worldwide, is that people are open to listening.”

The first "Black Fridays" episode features the full, unedited interview with Brown, who has come under fire recently with his police department’s response to the protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. In the interview, Brown talks candidly about how he dealt with racism while campaigning to be the first Black Mayor in Buffalo’s history, thoughts on affirmative action in the 21st century, and how Buffalo’s Black youth can rise above racism. Other interviews include Ujima Theater Founder Lorna C. Hill and actor Stephen McKinley Henderson.

As to what Western New York can do to affect positive changes to racial equity, Johnson believes it’s more than just having a seat at the table, its every voice at the table being heard.

“What I believe is that change has to be inclusive,” he said. “Which means that we all have to be a part of that change, and as a filmmaker this is our method for trying to create change.”

"Black Fridays" can be found on The Blackness Project’s Facebook page and through the SkoVu TV streaming network.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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