*In an exclusive interview with EURweb, actor Trai Byers talked about his explosive and compelling film, “The 24th” and Black Lives Matter.
Well-known for his role in “Empire,” Byers stars in the little known story about “The 24th” Infantry Regiment. A must see film for all, “The 24th” is especially required viewing all those opposed to “taking a knee.”
“The 24th,” a riveting depiction of how black soldiers, who sacrificed their lives fighting overseas for the United States—and its flag—were killed, peed and spat on by racist whites right here in America just because they were black.
Based on true events, Vertical Entertainment’s rendering of the inhumane, horrific treatment of blacks in “The 24th,” is timely. The all-Black 24th U.S. Infantry sparked the Houston Riot of 1917, when members stationed at Camp Logan in Harris County, Texas, rebelled against harassment from the local police department, and members of its white community. The soldiers marched on Houston and initiated a deadly shootout.
Directed by Kevin Willmott (who co-wrote “BlacKkKlansman” and “Da 5 Bloods” with Spike Lee), he also co-wrote “The 24th” with Byers.
Trai, how relevant is this film, written about events in 1917, to what’s going on now with Black Lives Matter?
As you see in the film, there is one police officer who sparks the entire thing. Just like now, there is one police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. There’s one police officer who just shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times. And I could go on and on. I really believe if you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it. And there’s something cyclical about this violence in terms of maintaining power that is inflicted upon people of color in this country. It’s just like today unfortunately, and it’s sickening.
How aware were you of this part of our history?
I had no idea about the Houston race riot. I didn’t even know about the East St. Louis riot. Or the Atlanta riot in 1906. There are so many riots around that time. Kevin Willmott calls it the Black Holocaust for people of color at the turn of the 20th century, where there was just event after event, after event, that ended up in black people’s demise. It’s just ridiculous that we’re not taught this in school. It’s almost as if we went from slavery to now without experiencing the heart of Jim Crow as free people, but not really free. It just frustrates me that I hadn’t been taught this in history class. How dare anyone question that Black Lives Matter.
This is not only a much needed story about black history, but a love story?
Yes, the film is multifaceted. There’s a warm love story between my character (Boston) and Marie (Aja Naomi King). It’s cute and sweet, right? This is also a story about brotherhood. The story is about honor. There are so many stories of our history that are just buried, not only the devastating acts but the heroic deeds. And these men in particular, despite Jim Crow, despite having a background of slavery, wanted to fight for this country, and for the honor of their people.
“The 24th” is available now on demand