While on a ritual Netflix binge, I stumble across my favorite documentary, “The Black Power Mixtape,” for what seems like the millionth time. Each time I watch it, I inevitably discover a scene I’d previously overlooked and find new meaning in that moment based on the progression(or lack thereof) my life has taken thus far.
This time, the scene takes place in Harlem circa the late ‘60s inside of a black-owned bookstore filled with towering stacks of what I like to call “vintage” African-American Literature: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and most infamously Langston Hughes. Lewis H. Michaux, a middle-aged black man with a spunky afro, stands in the center of the organized chaos as groups of little black boys and girls scurry in and out the storefront. The shop owner shares with the Swedish filmmakers that when he hears his young patrons shout,”black power,” he promptly corrects them.
“Black is beautiful, but black isn’t power. Knowledge is power,” Michaux clarifies. “For you can be black as a crow, you can be white as snow and if you don’t know and ain’t got no dough, you can’t go and that’s fo’ sho’.”