Melvin Van Peebles wrote the do-it-yourself playbook for Black filmmakers
“Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” opened in 1971 at only two theaters, one in Detroit and the other in Atlanta. The Motion Picture Association of America gave it an X-rating, the kiss of death. Van Peebles hopped a plane into Detroit, where he held a news conference. “I charge that your film rating body has no right to tell the Black community what it may or may not see,” Van Peebles told reporters. “Should the rest of the community submit to your censorship that is its business, but white standards shall no longer be imposed on the Black community.” The reporters shook their heads, bemused.