The Invaders ~ Directed by Prichard Smith

The Invaders‘ is a documentary film about a particular movement of young people fighting for civil rights in the late 60’s. This is an important story about what activism looks like.

‘The Invaders’ tells the story of how a civil rights radical youth group (called The Invaders) came to be and helped support the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. They aligned themselves with philosophies comparable to The Black Panthers and were willing to use force by any means necessary to obtain basic human rights for black folks in their community. At the time, this was a point of departure for a lot of activists; many groups believed in using only peaceful methods of action. This particular strike was one of the rare times that peaceful protesters, namely Martin Luther King’s organisation, the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) collaborated with young militants to ensure a successful demonstration.

Using interviews with original founders/ members, alongside stunning archival footage, and original soundtrack by King Khan this movie, stylistically speaking, has got it goin’ on. It captures the essence of Memphis; a truly radical city, giving a home to such musical canons such as Sun Records, Stax Records and its many artists to note, not to mention Gangsta Boo and La Chat. It has historically and consistently been a cultural hub of the south; a town so cool that Al Green has a church there. Beyond the aesthetic though, this movie reminds us the power that can be built on a foundation of community action.

Invaders still 2

Everybody is fired up. It’s a tense time. Somehow it feels like we’re standing on the edge of precipice not knowing what the other side will look like; particularly (as an American) living in this wake of the Trump Presidency, things look pretty bleak. Historically though, America has overcome many atrocities from the power of the people, particularly the power of the people who are seen as ‘marginalised.’ What civil rights groups in the 60s did to dismantle Jim Crow, is akin to what gay and trans folks did during the Stonewall Riots, and what First Nations people did at Standing Rock last year. America stands on the backs of those who struggle and fought for their own safety within their own communities. Two sanitation workers in Memphis died because the work conditions were so dangerous, yet these were the jobs delegated to the black community. ‘The Invaders’ takes a look at this community who stood up and said “Nope…not today” and created a national campaign that directly improved the conditions and lives in their own city. It’s important to have a reminder of what that looks like and how we can all directly contribute to make a difference by just sticking up for our own damn selves.

I believe too often stories like these get tossed out of history, or are only available to a privileged few. It’s important to include these narratives, make them culturally relevant and accessible. I was lucky enough to see this film at a screening at Humboldt University in Berlin that was sponsored by the US Embassy, an event I actually wouldn’t have been aware was happening unless I was told by a friend who worked on the film. I hope the next few years I’ll see more of this movie playing around, and outside of academic institutions and film festivals because I want the uneducated people who voted for Donald Trump to see this. I want them to see how close this history is to us, I don’t want this story abstracted, obscured, lost.. I want to see this movie on the ABC network, Disney Channel…at the mall. AT THE MALL GIRL!

Trailer for film:

The invaders

By Nadia Buyse

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