'Little Brother' Series Says Tucson's Black Boys Are Love, Too

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MANCHILD IN THE PROMISED LAND/ PATREON
  • Manchild in the Promised Land/ Patreon
Filmmakers Nicole Franklin and Jai Tigget premiere the fifth installation of their race narrative, Little Brother—which was filmed right here in the Old Pueblo—at the YWCA Tucson this Monday, Feb. 29. The documentary's goal: to remind people that black boys are more than societal stereotypes. 

Filming of Little Brother started back in 2010. Each 15-minute chapter explores black boys' lives—as well as their fears and hopes for the future in various communities, ranging from Camden, New Jersey, to Chicago, to here in Tucson. Franklin says the documentaries highlight race issues in wake of recent police violence aimed at black boys and teenagers, but that she and Tigget didn't originally want to tell these boys' stories for that reason. 

"We gotta give everyone a chance to be aware of their humanity," she said. "We have to give them that acknowledgement—you know, that, 'I really need to understand who you are,'"

Little Brother: Manchild in the Promised Land, set here in the Old Pueblo, tells the untold history and present of Tucson's black boys and illuminates southwest race relations at large, according to Franklin, who directed this chapter of the docu-series. She says people often forget that black men and women in the southwest were pioneers and conquistadors, but that Tucson Heritage Tours teach this to the local young black community. 

"Our history doesn’t have to be one where we’re just slaves—which is true—but there's so many different aspects to our history. Different colors, different riches. It's just something we can highlight, especially in this chapter." 

Regardless of past stereotype-perpetuating violence Franklin herself encountered at the hands of black boys, she says it's our duty to clarify that black boys are love, too, regardless of their apparent or more hidden flaws—they are whole people who often lose this respect, as the United States is a country built on race, and therefore racial hierarchy. 

"I've been physically attacked twice by black boys, but I could not allow myself to harbor that resentment forever," she said. "I do see both sides—there are dangers out there. But there are dangers out there from every community. 

Franklin says chapter screenings of the series have generally sparked insightful conversation and realization in the audience about how black boys themselves say they feel and are, and she assumes Chapter Five's premiere will do the same. 

"It was just really wonderful that people wanted to see these [films], and the reaction when they were watching these young, innocent, honest voices in front of them—they were paying attention," she says. "You're paying attention, and you're biased, but there's this collective focus and you're listening. And the problem is, a lot of these young [black] men haven't been listened to. These people actually listening, after the film goes off—the room is never quiet. There's always a discussion and you hear 'I never knew' or 'It was so good to see them smile,' something." 

Overall, Franklin hopes the film's Tucson screening will cause locals to question the current state of overlooked race relations in their own town, as it's an issue that many of Tucson's "Little Brothers" fear. 

"I hope the Tucson community is proud of the environment that they have, with black boys growing up [there]," she said. "Tucson is not cut off from the socials ills of the U.S.—there was a concern expressed by a couple of boys about being profiled. Even though there is a diversity initiative that may have just happened by circumstance, these boys still have their concerns, and they're still running into [racist] attitudes." 

Little Brother: Manchild in the Promised Land will screen at YWCA Tucson (525 N. Bonita Ave.) at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. 

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