I, Too a visual storytelling of Langston Hughes’ timeless poem was created by the actor, Roy Williams Jr. Roy can be seen in Blackish, Being Mary Jane, The Act and The Bold and the Beautiful.
I, Too a visual storytelling speaks to the desire for basic inclusivity during Jim Crow right up until 2020.
This 2-minute short film opens with piano chords and the simple wording on screen of the title and its inspiration. A single voice utters the words, “I, too sing America” and starts to slowly vocalise the poem.
What we experience from that point is a marriage of the words with powerful visual images along with the piano chords with a slowly increasing orchestration until the end credits.
As the narrator recites the lines of the poem we see the silhouette of a man walking down a road towards a setting sun. This image of a man walking with the sun slowly setting continues until before the end credits where other people of all ages are incorporated (more of this later). That the man is shown in silhouette until near the very end seems symbolic.
“I am the darker brother, They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes “ ~ Intercut between these scenes of the man and the sunset are still photographs and newsreels of America at the time of segregation, the America of Jim Crow. Images of drinking facilities marked with signs which say “White Men” and “Colored Men”. Newsreels of the police, the KKK, signs which say “No Integration!” protests about desegregation.
“But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong” ~ Here the images switch to a photograph of a young black girl eating an ice cream and a clip of food being cooked.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when company comes” ~ Here the sound and images segue way into the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. which is followed by a series of stills and film clips of famous Black Americans.
”Nobody’ll dare Say to me “Eat in the kitchen,” Then.” ~ At this point we see a clip with Mildred and Richard Lovings, an interracial couple who challenged the ban on interracial marriage in Virginia in 1967. They were successful. This is followed by further images of a variety famous Black Americans from different walks of life along with footage from recent Black Lives Matters protests, including a young girl.
“Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am” ~ this is matched to Roy and his young daughter sitting on the floor of her bedroom at home with soft toys upon her bed.
“And be ashamed-
I, too, am America.” ~ At this point the sun is almost set and the camera switches to the man with the voice saying these words. This is the point to which I referred near the start, where a series of individuals of all ages repeat these words in their own voices (as a voiceover) whilst smiling at the camera. This series concludes with Roy’s own daughter smiling and it is her voice that says, “I, too, am America.” By the time they speak the music has become more orchestrated and “inspiring”.
This is an important short film which coveys so much both visually and through sound, especially since it revolves around such a powerful poem. A poem which demonstrates a longing for equality and proving that patriotism has nothing to do with with race. It speaks to the desire of basic inclusivity during Jim Crow, a desire which still remains today.
Find Roy on: