There was a great audience for the two screenings of the first night of The Black Rock, Blacks on Alcatraz at the Red Vic Movie House on Haight St. in San Francisco last night.
It was a followup on the massive premiere for the documentary by filmmaker Kevin Epps at Alcatraz last week.
Eager viewers lined up as soon as the box office opened. As the historian supporting the project, I joined Kevin in the discussion afterwards. The questions illustrated that they understood the gravity of the topic.
Alcatraz is a metaphor for the dramatic turn towards a corrections-based culture that has practically bankrupted most state governments, including California. I pointed out the absense of privacy for prisoners that was pioneered at Alcatraz by spelling out the detail of information on prisoners.
In most cases, it is difficult to find primary source material on African-Americans. That is not the case for prisoners. There is an immense amount of material that Epps found on each of the 282 black prisoners incarcerated at Alcatraz through annual reports, incident reports, correspondence and legal briefs.
The movie continues at the Red Vic through Black American Day, March 5. Screenings are at 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at 7 and 9:15 p.m. evenings.
Don’t miss it.