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This book is worth the investment just for the opening chapter alone, in which the author

assesses the predicament of blacks in the U.S. through the prism of motion pictures. There,

she asks, “Why does a police officer feel he can get away with sodomizing us



We Gotta Have It: Twenty Years of Seeing Black at the Movies, 1986-2006

By Esther IveremReviewed by Kam Williams


We Gotta Have It represents twenty years of seeing a new generation of Black movies. Before this journey began in 1986, with Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, a Black movie meant one of the increasingly mindless productions starring comedians Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy…

Twenty years later- this era of film has created an explosion in the number of people recognized as Black movie stars. At the same time, there has also been a relative explosion of Black Film auteurs- director-producer-writers who, though toiling increasingly in the obscurity of the film festival circuit, have created and brought to the screen a fuller panorama of Black life.

What has happened between these two points in time is an amazing film journey referred to as the ‘new wave’ of black film… Included here are reviews, (many excerpted), interviews, and essays about movies that we sort of claimed as ours… Movies bring words and images to us but we also bring who we are to the movies- to laugh, to cry, to tremble with fear, to gaze in awe, to grow angry, to contemplate, and, hopefully, sometimes to learn and grow.

We do keep bringing ourselves to the movies in droves. It seems we gotta have it.Excerpted from the Introduction (pg. xxvii-xxx).


African-Americans comprise about a quarter of the domestic movie-going audience, which translates to over $2 billion at the box office alone. For this reason, one would think that blacks would exert considerable influence over the images of them fashioned by Hollywood. But according to Esther Iverem, despite the significant inroads made since Spike Lee’s arrival on the scene in 1986, the film industry has a long way to go in terms of presenting authentic African-American characters.

Iverem, a former staff member at the Washington Post and Newsday, is an iconoclastic film reviewer who writes from a point-of-view that is both black and female. We Gotta Have It is a collection of her insightful reviews, evocative essays and groundbreaking interviews with everyone from Spike to actors Vin Diesel and Danny Glover to author Alice Walker to director Julie Dash.     

This book is worth the investment just for the opening chapter alone, in which the author assesses the predicament of blacks in the U.S. through the prism of motion pictures. There, she asks, “Why does a police officer feel he can get away with sodomizing us with a broomstick; shooting us, as we stand unarmed, forty or fifty times; or beating us bloody on a crowded New Orleans street?”

She alleges that the answer rests with “the cinematic power of turning lies into truth.” For the dominant culture presumes to know black people as a consequence of watching flicks like Monster’s Ball for which Halle Berry won an Academy Award. However, Esther suggests that that accolade might have had a lot more to do with Halle’s fulfilling white male fantasies than her portraying a recognizably realistic African-American female.

Ms. Iverem concludes it is “the least attractive, the most criminal, the most seedy part of us, that is then made to become representative of us all.” Such astute observations abound in the aforementioned intro, and only lay the groundwork for the cornucopia of pithy comments contained in the chronologically-arranged entries which ensue.

On Soul Plane: “How many different ways can a film call me a nig. Will we ever learn the difference between a film laughing with us, rather than laughing at us?”

On Monster’s Ball: “Tries to convince us, in a raw, depressing Southern Gothic style that a Black woman in a small Georgia town will turn to a white man, who is an open racist, for sexual comfort and companionship.” 

On 8 Mile: “Blacks make an issue of race. B-Rabbit never does, and neither do the trailer-park White people he comes from. How real is that?”

On The Last King of Scotland: “It goes on, based on who knows what, to picture African women as easy and available sexual partners… What looks deceptively like history writ large on the big screen turns out to be, partly, some White boy’s wet dream.”

A critic who can skewer so succinctly and delightfully is rare enough indeed, but when you couple that talent with an uncompromising, unique black feminist perspective, now you’re talking about a sister with a seminal voice deserving of much wider recognition.

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Esther Iverem is a former staff writer for several newspapers, including The Washington Post and Newsday. Her reviews, essays and interviews on film and culture have appeared widely, in publications such as Newsday, The Washington Post,, and, which she founded in 2001. Iverem is a recipient of a USC/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship, a National Arts Journalism Fellowship and is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association. She is also the author of two books of poems, The Time: Portrait of a Journey Home  and Living in Babylon.

Kam Williams  is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications around the country. He is a member of both the African-American Film Critics Association and The New York Film Critics Online. In addition to a BA in Black Studies from Cornell, he has an MA in English from Brown, an MBA from The Wharton School, and a JD from Boston University. Mr.  Williams lives in Princeton, NJ with his wife and son.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
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#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
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#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 9 December 2007




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Related files:  The 10 Best Black Books of 2007   We Gotta Have It  Melvin B Tolson Chronology