Private Project

Conversations: The Black Radical Tradition

CONVERSATIONS throws the doors wide open for the dialogue Americans are having with history.

This epic documentary chronicles the African-American struggle for liberation in the United States from forgotten chapters of its colonial origins into a 21st century moment of mass reckoning. Conversations: first-hand accounts from legendary figures of the resistance who were driven by necessity to improve Black lives.

Radical? Yes. Simple? Not at all. The Black Radical Tradition includes everything from Pan-Africanism to Marxism to faith-based approaches. They all converge around the striving for freedom from the institutional racism and women’s oppression that is expressed in everything from class inequality to police brutality.

Covering centuries of struggle, Conversations unfolds in four parts:

1. Black Power

2. Revolutionary Review

3. Framed in America

4. Message To The Grassroots

Learn how it all happened from the activists, revolutionaries, artists, and teachers of America's Black resistance and community-building movements. Feel the passion and devotion, the heartbreak and fear, and the triumph and hope of those who risked everything to move history forward.

The Black Radical Tradition is the resistance to the oppression of Black people worldwide. Join these Conversations and make up your own mind about what to do next.

  • Edwian "Eze" Stokes
  • Edwian "Eze" Stokes
  • Edwian "Eze" Stokes
    Key Cast
    Key Cast
    Key Cast
    Key Cast
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Feature
  • Genres:
    Special Interest, Arthouse, Documentary
  • Runtime:
    2 hours 7 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    40,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Edwian "Eze" Stokes

A native of New York City, Edwian “Eze” Stokes attended Long Island University before his career in media production and film. CONVERSATIONS is his directorial debut.

Primarily an editor, he works in both narrative and documentary film. He worked on “Books Through Bars Brings Literature To The Incarcerated” (2018- BRIC TV) as well as "Black In The Holy Land" (dir. Marc Lamont Hill, in post-production) and “Something In The Trees” (dir. Alfonzo Johnson, in post-production).

Stokes’ work in media production has led him to work with or at companies such as ESPN, MSG, BLACK ENTERPRISE, Okayplayer, ARISE News, and other media outlets.

Edwian lives in New York and likes filling out scorecards at Yankee Stadium.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The United States from its inception has been a settler-colonial nation. The general notion of American exceptionalism, an image exported internationally and projected domestically, has been “Americanism” or a distinct mission to reshape the world. Domestically, African Americans were never brought here to be granted the unalienable rights of being an American citizen. Being an African American showed no benefit in the social contract of the United States. James Baldwin, a black radical and celebrated intellectual of the 20th century said, “To Be African American Is to Be African Without Any Memory & American Without Any Privilege”. CONVERSATIONS offers insight into black radicals who decided to do something, when given the chance, about the conditions of their people. What drew me to making this film was wanting to (selfishly) shake hands and hear first-hand stories from activists, thinkers, and freedom fighters who had either inserted themselves or been drawn into the black radical tradition as a tool of liberation. The modern-day manifestations of black liberation movements and the variety of actionable efforts to attain it--taken within my lifetime (I was born in 1986) in America—shaped the style (this film is made up of four chapters) of how this film would be told.

What drew me to interview many of the people in this documentary were not only the lives they had been through and were still living but the palpable resilience they maintained. Participating in and or defending the black radical tradition for some radicals in this film meant they had lost everything that was meaningful to them. For others, it has meant to endure a lifetime of financial uncertainty, long-term imprisonment, and being pushed to the margins of society. And for others, the movement pushed them into the spotlight and helped push forward the liberation agenda. The way many of the subjects in this film created meaning in their lives is inspiring.

One of the things I felt strongly about in making CONVERSATIONS is that I wanted this film to have its own articulation, from a structural standpoint. I could have made a documentary that was explicitly plain-spoken with a narrator weaving stories and timelines about black liberation movements in America. I didn’t want to go that route because I had seen films where I learned a lot from a historical moment context but didn’t really experience anything. I wanted to make a film that allowed the audience to feel what I felt when I was sitting for these interviews—the immense toughness, dynamism, and commitment that these individuals had to imagine a future for themselves and their country.

It was significant to me that the audience not get bored nor be desensitized in the watching of this film or be so frayed that they tune out and stop listening. Balancing between the desolation faced by some individuals and the staggering force of aspiration and desire that they embodied was something I wrestled with a lot. The shifting tones between tragedy, humor, contempt, and joy were something I aspired for, trying to keep the film deep-rooted and striking in its sentiment and bend.

Consequently, I found myself experimenting along the way. I looked at three films that I thought captured what I wanted to do with CONVERSATIONS: The Black List: Intimate Portraits of Black America (2009), The Trans List (2016), and Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement (1987). I tried to create the feeling of nostalgia working with visual elements that represented the time frame of the subjects in the documentary. I worked a lot with archival footage and music and the interactivity of the elements. At certain points throughout the film, American imperialism almost becomes a character, shifting its manifestations and we learn more of its wickedness unveiled to African Americans. It is my hope that an audience hears the demands of the black radical tradition and uses the radical tradition in the teaching and framing of black political history.