[Notes on Looking for Langston by Isaac Julien, USA/UK 1988]
Kobena Mercer whispers, identity is not what you are as much as what you do.
Isaac Julien replies, we are the hunger of shadows and we don’t have to say I love you.
I locate the birth of the film in between these two lines.
In 1988, British filmmaker, Isaac Julien, departs on a cinematic journey to US America of the 1920s. He revisits the Harlem Renaissance and reclaims Langston Hughes as an icon of gay history. There is no pretension to fulfill narrow definitions of historical accuracy. His film is a poetic meditation on the psychic reality of the political unconscious.
We tell history through poetry. Any non-poetry would sell false ideas of solidified identities. How can we represent ourselves? We – who grow in between representations? Black queers locate themselves at the intersections of power relations determined by race, class, gender, and sexuality. Hurtful experiences of racism in white communities and homophobia in black communities – and nonetheless, rather than building memorials for double, triple, quadruple oppressions – we choose to submerge in hybridized politics. We swim freestyle, and our clusters are constantly in flux. Liberation also means liberation from the burden to represent oversimplified concepts of community.