The Corner

The Passion in Harlem

I just got out of a screening at the Magic Johnson Theatres up at 123rd and Frederick Douglass in Harlem. The theatre was packed, with an audience that was about 85 percent black, and included many seniors (of course: daytime). The response to the film was just about universal: Loud applause at the end, and vocal endorsements of the movie as we exited. One sweet elderly lady, I’d say about 80 years old, was shaking her head on the way out, saying: “If you read the Bible, that’s exactly what happened.” Another woman, in her 30s, was brushing away tears. “It’s not the movie,” she said,” it’s the reality of the thing.” During the screening, the man I set next to—a guy in his 20s, tall, strong, and vigorous-looking, nobody’s wimp—gasped at some of the cruelties inflicted on Jesus. (When Jesus’ cross is turned over on its face so He can be nailed to it more securely, this man blurted out, “Oh, s***, that’s too much.”) Before the movie started, there was a little film in which Magic Johnson explained the rules for his theatres: “No talking. . . . No hats or colors . . . . If you have a problem on the street, don’t bring it inside.” I couldn’t help thinking: There is a problem on the street, every street, and this movie is about the solution.


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