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'Broken Strings': A Film Defying Racial Stereotypes

The Martin Luther King oratorical contest deadline is fast approaching, so students K-12, especially in the Akron area, had better take advantage of the contest and get their speeches in in time before February 10th.

Clarence Muse, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Tommie Moore, Bernard B. Ray: 1940

Seeing how it is African American History Month, not only is it the time for commemorating the contributions and recognize the American history of Americans of color like Dr. King, but to also expand upon that knowledge. In an earlier article, the author mentioned the race film, Broken Strings starring Clarence Muse and Matthew "Stymie" Beard, and gave a brief synopsis of the film, but it is a film to revisit again and again.

The film also stars Sybil Lewis, Tommie Moore, and Jess Lee Brooks. For recollection, a "race" film was a film made and centered around African American life as mainstream cinema did not show, as they are dimensional, equal human beings with complex, dramatic stories. This film is no exception.

The film argues against stereotype as the main character, Arthur Williams, is a classically trained violinist, and not a talented fiddled stereotype of a musical African American. His son, Johnny, played by William Washington, is into jazz, and moonlights at a jazz club much to the disgrace of his father. But, there are layers to this story as well, as Arthur's daughter, Grace (Lewis), works to provide food and roof for her injured father and her brother. But, she is sexually harassed at work by her boss (Edward Thompson), and when she tells him she's engaged to his son ( Buck Woods), her boss then tries to frame him for thievery and fires him, tells Grace, and she quits as she doesn't like that. Contrary to belief at the time, Lewis plays her character with gusto and grit and defies the stereotype that an African American woman is submissive and exotic with her sexuality. Instead, like any woman of the Depression era, she is assertive and making her own way in the world. But, like any woman of the Depression, she has to choose between the love of her life, and her responsibility to care for her father.

This film is wonderful to watch not only for this month, but any time you want to see an independent film that is against the grain.

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