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Guilty until proven innocent

By Sharon Washington I Staff Reporter
On February 7, 2019

Photo Courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net

The Grammy nominated rendition of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” has left viewers and critics in awe. Florida State University graduate, Barry Jenkins, finds himself in the midst of praise after another thought provoking production.

The film follows the tale of a young couple, and their families as they face an interference of heartache. They battle for justice for the wrongly accused “Fonny” who is imprisoned for raping a woman who fled the country.

This thematic injustice is also prevalent in a more recent film debut entitled “Canal Street” by an independent faith-based filmmaker Rhyan LaMarr. Which involves a familiar theme of “Beale Street” as the main character “Kholi” is wrongly convicted of murder and stirs a heated race debate within mainstream media outlets.

Both of the pictures take viewers on a journey of hope as the stories invoke tension. “If Beale Street Could Talk” takes place in the 1970s. “Canal Street” was written in 2005, but takes place in the present day.

After a screening premiere of “Canal Street,” audience members were in awe about the timelessness depicted.

Chelsea Maloney, a FAMU Theatre and Performing Arts student, said “It is astonishing that the story was written over 10 years ago, but we can find someone who is going through the same reality to this day.”

Although takes place in the 70s, the same can be said about “Beale Street’s” ageless presentation of love and struggle amidst an earlier time of socio-economic disparity for the Black American culture.

Fonny’s journey of hope is fueled by his family’s love and initiative to find the woman who wrongly accused him of rape. Sadly, the woman was too traumatized to comply which resulted in his continued sentence. The family couldn’t afford bail, nor could they afford an attorney who was experienced enough for a case of its magnitude.

All of the love in the world did not save Fonny. While the main character never saw his day of justice, the audience members still caught a glimpse of true love between a romantic family.

Florida A&M University alumnus and co-executive producer of “Canal Street,” Amir Windom, chose to work on the story due to its presence of faith amidst controversy.

Windom said, “This story can connect with almost anyone and that is what makes it so unique. There is a balance of faith, thriller and reality throughout.”

Love and truth saved “Canal Street’s” Kholi. With great prayer and sacrifice the true criminals who committed the murder turned themselves in allowing Kholi to see his day of justice. However, if it weren’t for the criminals own reflective heart, Kholi would’ve spent his life in prison for the murder of a white friend of his.

Bryan Anderson, a senior industrial engineering student at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering said, “I hope that our stories aren’t told in vain. The messages must be internalized so that we can produce change.”

The theory of a Black man facing false conviction treads reality and fictional spaces. The juxtaposition of both “Canal Street” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” reveals a constant battle of socio-economic class and truth that many Americans battle with today.

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