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Nat Turner’s story is way too important to be lost in Nate Parker’s past

Before Nate Parker’s film “The Birth of a Nation” hits theaters in October, there is something we must get straight. Rape and sexual violence are epidemics we must address now.  Yet, boycotting an important film about Nat Turner will not push that debate forward, but it will help to silence the issues of our country’s legacy of systemic racism and #BlackLivesMatter that the film dares to broach.

The film–which Fox Searchlight bought for $17 million at the Sundance Film festival, depicts the 1831 Nat Turner slave rebellion– was being promoted as an Oscar contender.  And then came the controversy about Parker’s past, specifically a 2001 rape trial arising from a 1999 incident as a college student at Penn State, for which he was acquitted.  The film’s co-writer, Lean Celestin, was found guilty initially, and the conviction was overturned.

Meanwhile, news that the woman who accused Parker committed suicide in 2012 surfaced in recent weeks. The compelling accounts of her struggle with trauma in the wake of the incident suggest the legal system failed this woman.  After filing complaints with both the police and Penn State alleging she was raped by Parker and Celestin, she filed a Title IX sex discrimination lawsuit charging the school with failing to properly respond to her harassment. “Our client took the actions she did with the goal of protecting other women from sexual assault and harassment, and to do what she could to ensure justice for rape survivors,” said theWomen’s Law Project, which represented the woman, in a statement.

 

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