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NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Hosts If Beale Street Could Talk Screening

Writer-Director Barry Jenkins and NAACP LDF Prez Sherrilyn Ifill discussed James Baldwin’s work

On January 10th The NAACP Legal Defense Fund was proud to partner with Annapurna Pictures to present a special screening and conversation of IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK. Writer-Director Barry Jenkins and President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund , Inc. (LDF) Sherrilyn Ifill discussed James Baldwin’s work – a Harlem love story set amidst the backdrop of systematic racism and false incarceration. The film is honest and raw in its portrayal of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), two young lovers expecting a child, who’s courtship and lives are thrown into upheaval.

Ifill led the discussion by noting that the film shows the love and humanity of its Black characters in a way that LDF and other civil rights legal advocates are often unable to show in their advocacy work. “We have to work through the legal arguments and we often can’t build out the character of our clients in the way that you have done in this film. Often, the artist can tell the part that we can’t,” Ifill said.

Ifill and Jenkins spoke about a particular, pivotal scene, where after running into his friend Daniel Carty (Brian Tyree Henry) on the street, Fonny invites HIM to his apartment to enjoy dinner with he and Tish. What starts as a catch up (Daniel has been in prison) turns into a powerful exploration of Black masculinity, the unjust system and fear – a raw and frank conversation we almost never see on-screen between Black men. Barry mentioned that during a Q&A with Stephan James and Brian Tyree Henry, Brian said something that shook Jenkins to his core. “There are three Black men on this stage, one in three black men will spend some time in incarceration over the course of their lives – so one of us up here, is destined to go to jail.”

If Beale Street Could Talk is in select theatres now and everywhere January 18th from Annapurna Pictures, Plan B and PASTE. The cast includes KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Beach, Ed Skrein, Diego Luna, Dave Franco, & Pedro Pascal.

Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the African-American family’s empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne). A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

Established in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 75 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.

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