Oak Park native and director discusses HBO Film in discussion funded by Healing Illinois

"I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The dream is treehouses and the Cub Scouts. The dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies." -Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between The World and Me: From Book to Stage to Screen (Promo) on YouTube

At age 15, children start to form their identity in relation to the world. In the process, they have conflict with their parents.

For their part, parents hint at the frustrations and fears of raising a teen wherever they find themselves in conversation with other parents. Even in a Zoom discussion.

This particular Zoom discussion delved into the film production of "Between The World and Me," a New York Times' best-selling book that is a 176-page letter from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to his 15-year-old son.

Oak Park native Kamilah Forbes discussed the film she directed during Chicago Media Project's Best Seat in The House event. As a Healing Illinois subgrantee, Chicago Media Project (CMP) held this event as a healing conversation on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, at 7 p.m. Central Time.

That 15-year-old boy is also Forbes' godson. She and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates have been friends since college. So, when Forbes read the lengthy letter to her godson, she said the words, "weighed heavy on me." She said the weight reflected the fears "that we as parents, grandparents and people in the community have."

In the book, Coates laments being unable to shield his child from the horrific legacy of race and caste in the United States. At the same time, he paints vivid pictures of horrors for his son to prepare him for the world in which he will soon come of age. Somehow, the work is inspirational as it inspires catharsis. With phrasing such as, "They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people," Coates makes the readers hopeful in their struggle for racial equality and self-determination.

The film version premiered on HBO Max in November 2020. The film broadened the written work by including cisgender and trans women voices. Ta-Nehisi Coates praised the adaptation on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah."

"It's a beautiful film," Coates said. "I had complete faith that [Kamilah] was gonna do something special."

Chicago Media Project's Best Seat in The House discussions have become popular lately, said Sammi Verhey, chief of staff at CMP. "Since so much of the conversation this year has revolved around our country's racial injustices," she said, "we wanted to be more intentional about featuring BIPOC filmmakers and projects that speak to the Black experience."

Join the upcoming Best Seat in The House discussion on January 27th, 6:00 PM.


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