On Thursday, June 13, director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders presented the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am at NYPL.
The documentary film subjects included Angela Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Banks, Fran Lebowitz, Walter Mosley, and Robert Gottlieb, with panelists Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Farah Griffin, Sonia Sanchez, Jimmie Briggs and Asha Bandele.
Upon getting a closer look at Morrison’s literary influences, beginning with her childhood, we recount with her, the impact of creating in a white male dominated world, which she clearly found uninteresting. She fashioned a career derived from being viewed as a prop/joke and an unheard black girl who was not taken seriously. Morrison gave herself a voice in the presence of her counterparts, putting women at the center in literature.
Exploring more deeply, the idea of reinventing vs reimagining–where the latter is deemed appropriate–she intends to prove that one cannot understand America until understanding the history of African American women.
In the film, Morrison is described as the Emancipation Proclamation of the English language and one who is blessed, making us review ourselves so we can walk upright.
Between confronting race relations in America, the film left opportunities to celebrate Morrison’s victories: securing an editorial position at Random House–where her uplines sought the opportunity to publish her works, creating space at the table for other marginalized African American writers, winning her own fight for equal pay, and of course, earning the Nobel Prize in 1993.
Above all the setbacks, Morrison narrates her experience raising her two boys, while broadening the horizons for people of color, and maintaining the role as an editor and an award-winning writer.
In the film, Morrison gives herself permission to write freely, despite remarks from critics, and she gives the viewer the permission to do the same.
You will enjoy Morrison’s sense of humor used to tell the very tough narrative of what it means to be black in America with a voice and a story to match.
Toni Morrison: Pieces I Am is set to release in select theaters June 21.