Tonight network and cable television launch the new fall season of comedies, dramas, and [faux] reality. I chose to go to the vault this evening and watch a documentary produced by “then” National Educational Television aka KQED, San Francisco’s public television station (PBS). “Take This Hammer” documents writer James Baldwin‘s visit to San Francisco. These were the days when writers actually showed up on doorsteps and street corners. There was no “google” search for “community.” James wasn’t trending. He knew the price of the ticket.
Kudos to the people who took the leap to preserve this important piece.
KQED’s mobile film unit follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he’s driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service’s Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: “The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present.” He declares: “There is no moral distance … between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.” Includes frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview and Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that: “There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now.” The TV Archive would like to thank Darryl Cox for championing the merits of this film and for his determination that it be preserved and remastered for posterity.