Cultural awareness is something that many black people are deprived of. It’s always been a touchy subject, and a tough one to explain the answers to all of the who’s, how’s, and why’s. Questions like: How did things get like this? Who’s responsible for allowing these things to continue to happen? What are some plausible solutions to ending this systematic oppression? Since 2011, Tariq Nasheed has assembled a team of esteemed scholars and historians to breakdown nearly every imaginable facet of life in which the system has been designed to create the conditions that many of us either see on a daily basis or grew up seeing.
Tariq wasn’t always the conscious brother that we know him to be presently. There was a progression of learning experiences that happened over time that woke him up. Tariq was born in Detroit, Mich., before moving to Alabama where he remained until the age of 17. Growing up in the south was a bit slow, so he started traveling the world and studying other cultures and customs, specifically how people interacted in relationships. What better place to get a good feel for multicultural studies than Los Angeles?
While in LA, he studied relationships between men and women, and he also studied psychology. He formulated a technique that he says helped both men and women to deal with and understand one another while dating. The technique may not have been the most traditional way to go about things, but the results were hard to dispute. In 1999, Tariq wrote a book as a guide to dating using his technique titled “The Art of Mackin.” Of course the book was targeting a younger crowd, but the success of the book led to a follow up geared more towards his female supporters, and several books within that same realm. He has since continued to write insightful pieces focusing on the dating game, but his material has also progressed in a sense to where he now talks about marriage and monogamy as well.
While that may be what got some folks’ attention, and even got him in the public eye, it isn’t his greatest contribution to today’s society. The Hidden Colors docuseries is undoubtedly one of the most important sources of knowledge for anyone that checks the “African-American” box on applications. Hidden Colors was a classic, powerful film that came out during an incredibly vital time for a lot of people, myself included. For me, I was entering my senior year in college, now fully attentive to the world around me and how it felt like history was repeating itself. As I’d began to feel this way, August 8, 2011 happened.
Just a week before school was about to start, a bunch of my Alcorn friends and I were at my house in Chicago. After the entire summer of celebrating freedom from the country life, a news story came on that left us all angry and confused. Normally I would not even have the TV on ABC around the time the news was coming on because the news had always been depressing to watch. But it was just meant for us all heading back to Mississippi to see what happened that night down there. James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old plant worker, was robbed and brutally murdered by a group of hate filled white teens. I told my friends, “I don’t know what this means for us, but y’all be careful going back. And make sure y’all leave early enough to make it back before it gets dark.” Normally that’d trigger the “You don’t even drive” jokes, but this time it was just a bunch of head nods in agreement.
People often talk about how racism and/or white supremacy is a thing of the past. You’ll often hear or read the question being asked, ‘How can America be racist but yet they have a black president?’ Well, as Tariq explained in his interview with the Huffington Post, “Just look at people’s outcry against him (President Obama). People putting up signs with pictures of monkeys, Jim Crow and other racist remarks. We see that racism is still alive in America and that is truly hasn’t gone anywhere. It merely became more covert because it became illegal to be overtly racist. Essentially, it had to be changed and refined and that’s what Hidden Colors 3 is about, the rules of racism.”
Almost all of us have moments where we realize change is necessary. No matter how much we’ve heard it before that moment, or even if we haven’t, something clicks and it becomes the primary focus. For Tariq it was his studies of relationships in different cultures that actually led to his wake up. In an interview with the black women’s lifestyle magazine MadameNoire.com, Tariq talked about just how it happened. He said “A lot of people wanted to know what was the correlation between relationships and history. I always tell people there is a direct correlation between relationships and race/racism.” He continued, “I wanted to dive into that (racial) side because we ignore systematic racism so much, because it is such an uncomfortable thing to talk about. Aside from my relationship books, I saw how certain people in the dominant society and especially the dominant media would deliberately omit the African influence in history and that made me want to get into this.”
Coincidentally, this train of thought and ability to notice complete omission of the African influence is what led to one of the most impactful movies I’ve seen to date. I watched the first installment on Christmas Day 2011. It explained the history of people of African descent, how the customs were tied to nearly everything we do. The movie detailed the original image of Christ, the truth about the Moors, the great west African empires, and the presence of Africans in America before Columbus. It was an eye opener for me, and to have it in my possession was like having one of the keys to life.
Soon after my first viewing of the first , the second one followed and was released in 2012 . Like the first one, Hidden Colors 2: The Triumph of Melanin further went into detail about the miseducation of the black race. You can’t help but to feel empowered by further learning the history of where you come from. Amongst his team of profound scholars in the first two movies are the likes of the late Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and Dr. Umar Johnson who are both very well known for their work as psychologists, authors, and their activism as well. After the popularity of the first movie had spread like a wildfire, his team of experts grew, as there were more levels that needed to be discussed. There’s a ton of information to be retained, researched, and validated within the docuseries. So to attempt to binge watch? I wouldn’t recommend. For anyone truly interested in learning what these movies have to teach, my suggestion is to treat it like a class, take notes, do some outside research and validating on your own, and you’ll be amazed at what you find out.
The third and fourth installments are no longer focusing on the history of the people, and more so on the issues we once faced and are still facing today. Hidden Colors 3: Rules of Racism and Hidden Colors 4: The Religion of White Supremacy are very boldly titled. This time the crew of people included rappers David Banner, Nas, and Killer Mike, as well as comedians Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney, and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
As the names got bigger, the message got stronger and more upfront. The words being used were no longer whispers for change, but now come from a demanding standpoint. Tariq and his team went from limited theatrical showings of one show time on one day in select theatres, to now having an entire weekend of multiple viewings. Personally, I think the growth is outstanding, however seeing the movie(s) in theaters would be kind of difficult for me to follow.
In addition to his work on the Hidden Colors films, Tariq is also a well-known internet radio show host. “The Tariq Elite Show” is a show in which he talks about hot topics in popular and urban culture, as well as has guest hosts to chime in or debate him. He also talks about the socially hot topics in regards to race here in America. In between Hidden Colors 3 and 4, he wrote and produced a horror film, The Eugenist. This film is a teen horror flick about a group of kids trapped inside an abandoned school where they’re going to encounter flesh eating zombies that live there. A far cry different from his documentary film experience.
The events taking place over the last five years or so, and the media coverage of these events should be enough encouragement to watch these films. Knowledge of self cannot be replaced. The men and women that speak throughout these documentaries do so in a fashion that hadn’t been done on a large scale ever. They not only broke the mold and set the tone, but have become one of the single most influential series of this generation. Not everyone will be receptive of what they have to offer, but those of us who are will definitely appreciate it. While I’ve only seen the most recent installment one time so far, I’ll be sure to watch it again before the summer is out.
We are currently living through an extremely pivotal time in America. A time where social injustice in the black community is getting national coverage. A time where the next leader of this nation whether Trump or Hillary Clinton is almost certain to further complicate an already complex war on race relations. Talk about picking your poison. The solution or counter to these things is group economics, which is a recurring theme in the docuseries. As Tariq said in the interview with MadameNoire.com, “We have to practice group economics because when we do we can counter situations like our brother Eric Garner getting killed. We can create a political platform to get cops like that off the streets. We use our money to take in and take out. The problem isn’t the people, black nor white, the problem is the system that the people are subject to that has resulted in the approval of one race being systematically deprived, miseducated, and ultimately exterminated. Just make sure you check it out too, if you haven’t already. And start from the beginning, don’t cheat. There are no shortcuts in the process of waking up.
– Blake Holmes