by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey
The Second Annual Matatu Film Festival started today, July 16, in downtown Oakland and will continue through Saturday, July 19. There are a number of great films playing Thursday and Friday, like “The 12 O’Clock Boys,” a documentary about Baltimore’s dirt bike and four-wheeler culture in the hood.
The story is told through the eyes of a Black teenager named Pug who yearns to be a 12 O’Clock Boy. In other words, he wants to join the growing pack of 50 or so dudes who regularly ride dirt bikes or four-wheelers throughout the city at high speeds. They have the balance and strength to raise their machines vertically, to the 12 o’clock position.
In Oakland, this phenomenon can be compared to the sideshows, except here cars make the maneuvers instead of bikes. Just like in Oakland, the police hate on the young Black people in Baltimore associated with the group, dedicating an enormous amount of resources towards fighting, arresting and killing them instead of negotiating with them and giving them somewhere they can do this in the city. Digital Underground said it best, “All around the world same song.”
Alongside the political and class contradictions that you can see in the documentary about how Baltimore police – and police all over the nation – treat Black youth, it is a very human story about a young Black man trying to survive in an environment not meant for his survival, but for his capture and/or his extermination.
“The 12 O’Clock Boys” is a very human story about a young Black man trying to survive in an environment not meant for his survival, but for his capture and/or his extermination.
He grabs on to the only positive thing that he has in his environment that can give him a sense of pride, a sense of resistance against a system that offers him literally no hope to get out of his family’s impoverished situation. And it gives him a sense of freedom, even if it’s just momentary, in yelling fuck the police or whatever, and getting away from the licensed killers, who, if they catch you, will happily take away your breath for such an infraction like they have before.
It’s one story about living caged in a social experiment called a project or ghetto. You can catch “The 12 O’Clock Boys” tomorrow, Thursday, July 17, 8:45 p.m., at Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway in downtown Oakland.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’“ and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2“ and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe“ and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.