Monday, October 23, 2017

Marshall: Howard U. Brilliance on the Big Screen

After a Howard University homecoming weekend celebrating 150 years of excellence, I could not think of a better way to conclude festivities than by supporting the cinematic release of "Marshall" and the two Howard alumni who bring the biopic to life: former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (the film's subject) and Chadwick Boseman (the film's lead actor).

Directed by writer and producer Reginald Hudlin ("Boomerang", "House Party", "Django Unchained") and also starring Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, and Sterling K. Brown, the film follows Marshall before he donned the Supreme Court Justice robe but was instead a young NAACP attorney traveling throughout the United States representing innocent men and women of color accused of crimes because of their race, while he was also striving to increase the exposure of the organization. The film, set in the 1940s, depicts the real-life case of wealthy white Connecticut socialite Eleanor Strubing, who accuses her black chauffeur Joseph Spell of sexual assault and attempted murder. When Marshall is denied a "voice" in the courtroom, he teams up with Sam Friedman, a local Jewish insurance lawyer who's never handled a criminal case, to work together to build a defense to save Spell's life.

Thurgood Marshall in 1936
Although Thurgood Marshall's historic acclaims have always been his successfully arguing the Brown v. Board of Education case that would end segregation in schools and, subsequently, his appointment as the first black Supreme Court Justice, Boseman fiercely portrays Marshall as a man who embodied confidence, courage and, dare I say, swagger, long before the world knew who he was. However, what makes "Marshall" a standout film, is the portrayal of Thurgood's life outside of the courtroom--a husband struggling with fighting for justice while being away from his wife when she needs him most; a verbal sharp-shooter who can deliver a quip or comeback to anyone regardless of race; a rebel who would not only use his Howard law degree to help others but who would use it to sue the University of Maryland law school, who denied him admittance because of its segregation policy; and a young socialite in his own right, who enjoyed a good bourbon and laughs with friends, whose names hold solid places in history as well but, to him, were simply his fellow alumni cohorts. In fact, one scene in particular mirrors the banter you can find at any HBCU soiree today, which will hold a sweet spot for any alums who see the film.

However, many of the film's poignant moments are those delivered as simple one-liners that punch you in the gut because of their continued relevance today regarding African-Americans and the criminal justice system: "If you want freedom, you're going to have to fight for it...the Constitution does not apply to us...don't take a plea if you're not guilty...can the cops even be trusted?" As I discussed in a previous blog post after viewing the film, "Detroit," many of our biopics remind us that although we've come a long way as a people, we still have far to go. And a heart-wrenching cameo in the closing scene makes this argument all too real. Yet, "Marshall" shows that even when those challenges are present, it should not deter us from the fight; it should only fuel it. As Boseman states in the movie, “We aren’t slaves, because we rose up and fought and fought and fought...and the only way to get through a bigot’s door is to break it down.” So, for those like Thurgood Marshall who continue to break down barriers as they fight for our freedom and for those like Boseman who are committed to telling the stories of our past, black America salutes you, Howard U. salutes you, and may we all continue to press on toward the mark in "veritas et utilitas," while standing on your shoulders. 

Photo Credits: N/A

Official "Marshall" Trailer

1 comment:

  1. This post reminds me of a statement Iyanla "Beloved" Vanzant made to a young brother. To paraphrase, she said that he is his ancestors' inheritance. It is our job to make good on their sacrifices. They survived the Diaspora, slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and a host of other things in this modern era. Despite all of that we're still here and are benefiting off the legacies left by people such as Thurgood Marshall. We should never count it robbery to manifest the hopes of the people who came before us. We need more movies like this!