This past Friday night MSNBC broadcast the documentary film Meeting David Wilson. David Wilson is a 28-year old African American man from New Jersey who, in researching his ancestry, found another David Wilson–a white man from North Carolina whose ancestors once owned his ancestors. His film follows David from New Jersey on his journey of discovery of his own past, his connection to David from North Carolina, and his roots in West Africa.
It’s a thought-provoking and heartfelt documentary. There are common themes between Meeting David Wilson and Traces of the Trade (as well as Inheriting the Trade) particularly the call for further, deeper conversations in the United States about race. One of the “take away” messages for me was seeing that David Wilson from New Jersey went beyond some of the preconceived notions about white people he’d grown up with to try to understand how David Wilson from North Carolina–and other white people–think about race. We all have much to learn from each other as we step out of our comfort zone and approach “the other.”
I don’t believe in coincidence. Meeting David Wilson and Traces of the Trade are having their national television broadcast premieres within 10 weeks of each other at this moment in history for a reason. One reflects on the legacy of slavery from the perspective of a young black man; the other from that of a young white woman. The uniqueness in content, style, and focus from these two filmmakers of significantly different backgrounds leads to a similar conclusion: we’re all in this together and we have a lot to talk about.
Here’s a wonderful interview with the two David Wilsons that offers insights into their thoughts about both their journey together and the legacy from the past that we share. To order a DVD of Meeting David Wilson, click here (I believe this will take you to the “about the film” page and you’ll need to click on the “order DVD” on the right side of the page).
In this year–the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the United States–remarkable events are raising the conversation about race to an appropriately higher level in our country.
It is time…