Follow up to the Follow up with Michael D. McCarty
February 24, 2020 a follow up interview was conducted with Michael D. McCarty to get his perspective about his experiences and insights since the release of his Belonging in the USA: The Story of Michael D. McCarty. We appreciate his willingness, as well as openness of the view from his own eyes.
Q. What have been the most surprising or moving moments since your story has been shown during the festival circuit?
A. One that stands out the most was at the San Francisco Black Film Festival my friends David and Betsy Heller and one of his daughters Dahlia were able to attend.
David has been so much a part of my life, especially in 1982 when I went on my trip around the world where I would meet Sai Baba. That would change the course of my existence. David gave me this book Autobiography of a Yogi, that was a crucial part of the setup for the meeting of Sai Baba. This led to so much of the change that would take place in my life. Having David come to the screening in San Francisco was especially wonderful.
Q. What feedback have you received from the younger audiences that have seen the film?
A. While at my daughters class the student got to be part of the documentary, while I was telling them stories. That happened two years ago, and they had no idea they were going to be in the finished film. That was very touching. Wonderful!
Q. What has it been like to show your story to the men who are incarcerated?
A. Oh, that’s been amazing! During one of the first time showing the film, I typically have a q & a afterwards with them And one of the white inmates approached me separately and said that “initially he was uncomfortable seeing this whole thing about the Black Panther Party, because in his mind, he had the stereotype of what the Black Panther Party was supposed to be. And so, he was happy to see that he was wrong.”
Another story that comes to mind, I share my stories of my life in classes that I do in the prison. But for a lot of the guys, they got to see all these other parts of my life.
It was quite enlightening for them!
And in some cases, for some of the guys who’ve known me the longest it was just a reassurance that I wasn’t making things up.
Q. Would there be a place for a Black Panther Party in 2020? And if so, what would it look like? Would the objectives be the same?
A. Different time, different states of mind, different organization. The Black Panther Party was a product of its time. How it came, what it came to be. And this whole trajectory was a product of that particular time.
Now, what has happened is that because of the Black Panther Party’s existence, other organizations came to be, or individuals came to make moves inspired by the Black Panther Party.
Here in the Los Angeles area, we have breakfast with the attendance of members of The Black Panther Party, Black Lives Matter, Brown Berets, people from various organizations or conscious individuals. We are all taking action to come to this breakfast, but it’s sort of a clearing house. We can find out what’s going on? We find out where we can help and what to support. The Black Panther Party had its time, but still has its reverberations.
Q. Now that the documentary has been viewed worldwide, how do you think your story has impacted global audiences?
A. In several ways. There’s the information that’s in the documentary source, the information about the Black Panther Party and the black struggle, generally information about my life and responding to difficulties and challenges.
The joy of hope! The joy of hope that has been a result of people’s experience with watching the documentary and people saying, “if you went through that and you came out, good. I can!”
Q. Has there been a shift in consciousness in white people after sharing your story?
A. Well, I think there’s a shift in consciousness in people generally. Thinking back to the inmate referenced earlier, who made the commentary about seeing a side that he didn’t know. People have the insight that they can make a difference. It can be something as simple as handling out a little card to another person, a card can change someone’s day.
Q. How have you been able to navigate your sense of belonging in different cultures despite what you have witnessed by being a member of the Black Panther Party of the divide between the races.
A. My approach has been, what can I do? What can I do to make a change? What can I do to make an impact? My attempt to make change is by giving away books to children, and I have expanded since the documentary. At the end of each workshop if I had books leftover, I would typically pack them up now since I primarily have adult audiences, I give them books for them to give to a child. This is one way everyone can begin to make a difference.
Q. What are your hopes after having your story being shared for the future? What do you see your legacy being after sharing your story?
A. If I get someone to make a difference in a child’s life by giving them a book or anything along those lines. If someone says “hmm, maybe I will not be so quick to judge. Let me do a little research about something before I make a judgement”. If somebody shares a story with someone, with anybody, with their family, with the kids, or any of those things I would be a happy camper!