There is so much to see and hear and think about at "We Wanted a Revolution." But only one work has made me cry in the dark: Camille Billops's extraordinary film about meeting her adult daughter Christa, whom she had given up for adoption when she was four. I've watched it twice - by myself in a corner of the exhibition. It's painful, fearless, eccentric, beautiful. I've never seen anything like it.
And I had almost forgotten about it for 25 years.
In another life, I helped create a production fund for the PBS documentary series POV. "Finding Christa," which premiered in 1992, was one of those films. I was startled and thrilled to see a film again that I played a very small part in getting on television a quarter century ago.
I've never met Camille Billops, but I owe her much of my understanding of the American artists who made and keep making the culture of our times. It's almost impossible to describe the great history that Billops and her husband James Hatch have spent forty years collecting, documenting and sharing with artists and scholars. Their famous archive has 1200 (!) oral histories and interviews with African-American artists. One afternoon in Atlanta several years ago, I lost all track of time reading transcripts and listening to tapes of Count Basie, James Baldwin, Owen Dodson - and many of the artists in "We Wanted a Revolution." Billops and Hatch weren't and aren't alone. One of the most striking things about "We Wanted a Revolution" is the clear sense these artists knew they themselves had to document the history they were making. No one else was doing it. The Establishment didn't want their revolution.
But here it is. Eloquent, angry, fragile, fierce, urgent and glorious. #wewantedarevolution #brooklynmuseum #camillebillops