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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

It’s October. October 16th to be exact. A new Marvel trailer is released and I don’t know if I can click fast enough to get it to my eyeballs. It’s the first official trailer of Black Panther and I’m stoked before I hit play.

Black Panther is going to be a game changer. I followed who would be directing as much as I followed the directors on Wonder Woman. Basically, I needed to feel that Marvel was taking this seriously. There were talks Ava DuVerney would direct which would have made me scream for joy, however, I know that a Marvel movie can break directors. It broke Joss Whedon and I thought he was unbreakable. I learned all too well how fallible we all are. I didn’t want them to break Ava. We need Ava.

Ava passed on the project. Ryan Coogler was in.

In my mind, “it’s gonna be perfect.” I was amazed by Creed by Ryan Coogler. There was so much heart in that movie. The story themes were on point, it had all the emotion of Rocky yet with a fresh breath of air. This would be the guy to watch. If Marvel broke him, I would never forgive them.

So I had seen the teaser trailer for Black Panther in June and I was already counting down the months to February but now it was time for the official trailer. One minute in, I hear, “The revolution will not be televised” and I freak the hell out.

Not only did they use one of the most powerful songs in the Black Power Movement but it used Gil Scott-Heron’s voice. Not a cover, a new base line yes, but they didn’t replace Gil. They sample and pace Gil’s voice to have the most amazing emphasis and power.

Once again this song will be an awaking.

I define The Revolution Will Not Be Televised as one of the most powerful songs in existence.  I was surprised to find out just how many people have never heard it.

I used to make mix tapes. I want to say mix tapes were cool once, but odds are they were never really cool. As birthday gifts to friends, I would make a mix of songs that I felt they would find empowering. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was on nearly every one of them. The comments I got back were, “Where did you find that song? I love it!”

I discovered on the Hurricane soundtrack. I wish I had discovered it earlier.

It’s a Jazz and Funk fusion song that commands you to listen. Gil, without mercy, brings you rapid-fire truth you might not know you needed to hear.  It’s a call to action. It’s a state of affairs in 1970. It’s still relevant today.

Listen Now

The lyrics destroy the pretty illusion of advertising, TV, and pop culture to show you there is a real world happening beyond the box in your living room. A revolution is happening and it’s not for watching, it’s for participating in.

He uses the popular advertising promises of the day showing you that the revolution won’t give you these things and neither will the products that promise it.

“The Revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal” is a reference to Ultra Brite toothpaste promise.

“The revolution will not get rid of the numbs” is a reference to Gillette Techmatic razor promising its product gets rid of beard stubble.

“The revolution will not make you look 5 pounds thinner” most likely a reference to Playtex Bras and girdle commercials but really it could have been most ads targeted at women in the 1970’s.

“The revolution will not be right back after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people” Ajax used the slogan “Ajax cleans like a white tornado” and white lightening is another word for moonshine.

“You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom…” is a reference to a Dove beauty products and their bird logo.

“…the tiger in your tank” is a reference to the then Esso gas slogan but now known as Exxon gas.

“….the giant in your toilet bowl” is a reference to the Liquid Plumr ad showing an animated giant plunging a toilet bowl.

“It will not go better with Coke” is a reference to Coke’s slogan at the time “things go better with Coke.”

“It will not fight the germs that cause bad breath” Listerine has the same slogan now.

“The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat” is a reference to a Hertz’s slogan “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat.”

I’ve always wondered Gil’s interpretation and meaning behind the repeating line, “The revolution won’t be televised.” I feel as though I’ve listened and comb through the song so many times and on different days I have different guesses, but at the end of the day, all I have is guesses.

It could be as simple as don’t be a side-liner, a silent observer. Be active, be a participant.

It could be a take on the laziness of our culture turning to TV for our empowerment and self-gratification, yet if you are a person of color you rarely see a reflection of yourself that deems authentic or empowering.

It also could be that a revolution of black brothers and sisters “looking for a brighter day” won’t air on TV because the white powers that control programming don’t care.

And there’s the rub.

I don’t like that reality but I do fear that was Gil meant – you have to participate in your own black awaking because it won’t be on TV in a truthful and authentic way because white powers don’t care and don’t always get it.

So it has to be live.

That’s why the fact that Black Panther even got to be on the slate of blockbuster movies is a big deal. It showed the gate keepers cared.

That’s why I needed a Black brother or sister at the helm so they would permeate in every decision an empowering and authentic spotlight on Black identity. The right director would take a popcorn-buying movie and give it the weight it needs, the weight it deserves.

I needed the game to change because the old game had gone on too long hurt too many. I’ve learned enough about white guy problems and how they solve it. Let’s get some diversity to showcase new ways to tackle life’s problems and have more lessons on empathy.

Gil’s first line is that a revolution has to be so powerful that, “You will not be able to stay home, brother.” Marvel movie promo, even if you’re not a superhero fan, is everywhere. It’s not hidden or limited on budget to a few theaters. You don’t have to worry if it’s coming to your town opening weekend. Add onto awareness and access, the ground-swell of love from the first eyeballs on this movie and we’ve got something that will change the game; a revolution that Gil talked about in 1970.

That’s why I freaked out that a song like Gil’s was included.

This moment gives me hope. I have hope we’ll see our brothers and sisters looking for a brighter day, represented, seen, and impossible to ignore.

The revolution will be live…

Author dr leah leach


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