Like many in my generation I was introduced to Gordon Parks as the Director of “Shaft”, the 1971 Black detective series starring Richard Roundtree. Remember the Isaac Hayes theme song,
“You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother--(Shut your mouth).
But I'm talkin' about Shaft - (Then we can dig it).”
"He broke ground for a lot of people” says Spike Lee, John Singleton.
Shaft movies were the beginning of what we identify as blaxplotation films; similar to what I love about the Black “B” movies of today. Love em! As a parent I didn’t allow my son to watch Shaft while growing up and honestly I‘m not sure how old I was when I first watched the movie. But, I’m certain that I must have snuck to watch it with my older brothers. My parents would have never allowed it at such a young age.
It was my mom who told me about, “The Learning Tree” a film adaptation of Parks life growing up in Fort Scott, Kansas. Fort Scott being is the hometown of my parents, a place we visited throughout my childhood. My late uncle E.A. Colum and his wife are one of the primary benefactors of the Gordon Parks museum located at Fort Scott Community College.
A couple of years ago while visiting my parents in Fort Scott; I took my kids to Gordon Park’s honorary museum so they could get a glimpse of his work and learn of this iconic historian. Parks easily integrates his vision through his work. Parks insight in subjects relating to racism, poverty and Black urban life inspired my teen daughter who is now interested in photography as a hobby. But this is what the works of a great humanitarian is supposed to do. Inspire the next.
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