People Everyday - Arrested Development
I know this is two Arrested Developments in a row and I know this is their most famous song in the UK, but sometimes tracks are so important you just can't miss them out.
Back in 1991 I was part of the Islington Council Arts team that put on "Black to the Future" a film season at the Holloway Odeon that showcased the work of black filmmakers. Programme Director Stephen Philip, eschewed the normal approach for those days - worthy films about people from rural communities in West Africa getting lost in the corrupt cities, grass hut villages and the like shown in art house cinemas like Scene on the Green - in favour of going for the local fleapit, where North London blacks normally went, and mainly US and English language films The Holloway Odeon Manager, a Blofeld-like character, complete with a little white dog which sat in a corner in his office, refused to let us have anything but the smallest cinema of the four screen complex on Sunday afternoons 1.30 - 6.00 pm. So we took Sundays and spread the festival over two months. It was a success, with sell-out crowds, so we followed it up with a Black To the Future 2 the following year, this time also procuring the last screening time late Friday night going into early Saturday mornings. We launched it with the UK premiere of "A Rage in Harlem" which packed the main screen and had queues of black cinema goers stretching round the block with some not getting in. The season was such a success that by the end the obstructive manager was forced to give us the biggest screen for all viewings, even Sunday afternoons. Irony upon irony, as a result he was made UK Odeon Manager of the Year, taking all the credit, but at least it got black films such as John Singleton's "Boyz n the Hood" and Spike Lee" "Jungle Fever" onto the Odeon circuit on general release.
One Sunday afternoon, the series producer Trevor Mbatha wasn't there, and neither was Stephen Philip, and I was left in charge on my own.
It was a packed black audience, and I, a white guy representing the Council, had to go out front to say that the film hadn't arrived yet but was supposed to be on its way. They all booed, and there were angry shouts. I then said that until it arrived we had some of the latest ads and videos by black directors fresh from America to show them, and if they weren't happy we'd refund them. They booed even more shouting, "You're just palming us off with some advertising shit" and more of the like. I was sweating big time, and amid the mayhem the lights went down and this video - People Everyday - came on, big screen, full sound, and full colour. It may well have been the first showing of it in the UK.The audience certainly hadn't seen it and neither had I and by the time it had finished I was no longer a villain but a hero, or at least someone who was vaguely acceptable. They gave it a standing ovation and demanded we run it again. We did after the next video and they cheered again and by that time the feature had arrived. By now they were all happy as could be, full of the infectious good humour of the video.
And it's a great record, an irresistible vocal by speech, a great dance groove, and a wonderful steal from Sly and the Family Stne's 60's US number one "Everyday People".
But I think it was something more than that. This was the first piece of commercial film I had seen that took back the terrible heritage of the black south and took ownership, making something uplifting out of the Southern black culture and community, celebrating the strength of ordinary Southern black people. Whatever it was, it made us all feel good and saved may bacon. Maybe that's why it always makes me happy today, whenever I hear it.
Even though the story is a depressing one, about black gangsta types picking on a fellow black and his girlfriend, the tone is always upbeat and optimistic, and it does the business every time. As Dionne Farris says:
"The moral of the story is: you better look very hard at who you're stepping to, cause you might get killed or shot and it's not worth it. Africans need to be loving each other and unite."