“Losing Just the Same” documents the life of a West Oakland family in 1966. Two other seminal events in Bay Area Black history took place in 1966 shortly after this film was released. In September, the Hunters Point neighborhood (featured in “Take This Hammer” filmed three years earlier) rebelled after San Francisco police shot 16-year-old Matthew Johnson in the back and killed him. It was the second, following Watts, of the “riots” of the ‘60s. And in October 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in West Oakland.
This documentary reflects on the lives and aspirations of an African American family, the Johns, who moved to West Oakland from Louisiana, focusing on Robert Lee Johns and his mother Agnes. A voiceover prefaces the film with a statement that it presents “a story of people caught in a lifelong struggle between their hopes and their abilities and their discovery that no matter how hard they try they will be losing just the same.”
The film includes views shot around the streets of West Oakland, public speaking by Curtis Baker (Black Jesus), meetings at the Oak Center Site Office and excerpts from a graduation ceremony at McClymonds High School. Also featured are scenes of Robert attending a job interview at a garment factory in San Francisco and a fantasy sequence in which he imagines himself graduating successfully from high school.
“Losing Just the Same” was written and produced by Richard Moore and Saul Landau and directed by Richard Moore and Irving Saraf. It was originally produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor of WNET, and first aired in 1966. The copyright is held by WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved. WNET.org is the premier public media provider of the New York metropolitan area and parent of public television stations WNET and WLIW.