When we realised that The Wiz was released 40 years ago it seemed like a good excuse to screen it as one of the BlackOut films at this year’s Fringe! Film Festival in East London.
And then we watched it again . . .
. . . we watched it again and realised that 40 years on, this Sidney (Twelve Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon) Lumet directed, Quincy Jones produced soundtrack, with songs written by Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross, and cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne was what we needed right now.
Exhausted by the narrow posturing of our politicians as we slope out of Europe; entering a tenth year of public spending austerity that is leaving our brothers, sisters and family underemployed and their livelihoods even more precarious; living with the impact of a lurch to the right in public attitudes that has created a hostile environment for us that has made some of our elders stateless and those seeking refuge treated worse than animals; and squeezed out of many spaces in our great city in the name of gentrification – WE NEED A BREAK!
As well as an escape, we need to build community among queer people of colour. We need to see each other and encourage new habits of solidarity. We need to stand together, wallow in Black excellence, and remember to smile, sing, dance and laugh together.
In response to the exclusion of Black people from the Hollywood that embedded Judy Garland singing ‘Over The Rainbow’ into the queer imagination via The Wizard of Oz 40 years earlier, The Wiz and its creators decided to ‘be better, not bitter’ and made a film that is both unapologetically Black and quintessentially American. In response to our exclusion and needing to create the future that we need, starting right now, we too are creating spaces that reflect us. Learning from Black feminist futurity and building on the radical thought of our queer elders, online, on camera, on stage, in zines, in recording studios, galleries, ballrooms, sports fields, nightclubs, carnivals and theatres, queer people of colour in London and across the UK are creating the new – by us and for us.
We need to take time to celebrate this and each other.
So on the 16th November, for one night only, Black Oz comes to Dalston.
Get your tickets for the chance to join the party hosted by the incomparable Rhys’s Pieces
We’ll be recreating Black Oz in the auditorium, so come as one of your favourite characters from the movie, or as one of the residents of Emerald City. However, in this Oz, the Wizard encourages you to pick . . .
There’ll be prizes for the best costume, a dressing up box so that everyone can get into the spirit of OZ, and surprises galore. All that’s missing is you – so get your tickets, and tell your friends, as this will be a night not to be missed.
Until then ‘Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News’