Have you ever heard of the Mangrove 9? I haven’t. These were activists and British citizens who were swept up by police in 1970. This was part of an ongoing scheme to shutdown a Black-owned restaurant in the community. their trial was important, but their works were swept under the rug by British polite society. When I sat down with Letitia Wright, who plays Altheia Jones a British Black Panther activist in the film, I was surprised to find out that Black Brits knew as much about the Mangrove 9 as Americans do. Here’s the interview.
This is why Director Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series is so important and so riveting at the same time. It Black history that we need to know, but for once, it’s not us. The intrigue is also in seeing how the Mangrove 9 had to subvert the British court system in order to get racism recognized as an actual problem. Mangrove is just one story of four in the series about that era in 1970 when police brutality was rampant and the people were ready to rise against it. This time in Britain mirrors the current times in the US, another selling point for this film to American audiences.
In Mangrove, Shaun Parkes plays Frank Crichlow, a man who sets up a Trinidadian restaurant in the Knotting Hill area of London. Immediately, the police begin to bother him, eventually raiding his place and destroying valuable property. Frank rebuilds and it becomes a game. They would raid and arrest him. He would rebuild. Meanwhile, young Brits like Altheia were trying to activate the people for what was bound to be a fight. Darcus Howe and Barbara Beese, played by Malachi Kirby and Rochenda Sandall are others who are fighting the struggle and then join a protest in the community. These people are rounded up and arrested. Together, the nine were on trial for 55 days.
McQueen weaves a riveting drama that provides so much historic information that it should be taught in schools–British and American. These characters are real, but they seem more powerful and mythical than life. They should not be forgotten. Other films in the series, like Lover’s Rock are like poetry. That particular film is full of soulful songs that are already humming on my Spotify playlist. McQueen’s style is to call attention without calling for a race war. However, he does not get lost in the rigid need for education. The popularity of this series could start a revolution on its own.
You can watch Mangrove and the rest of the ‘Small Axe’ series on Amazon Prime starting November 20.
Rating 4.5 of 5
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