Take This Hammer (film)
It features KQED's mobile film unit following author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he's driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service's Executive Director Orville Luster and trying to establish: "The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present." He declares: "There is no moral distance ... between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone's got to tell it like it is. And that's where it's at." Baldwin has frank exchanges with local people on the street and meets with community leaders in the Bayview and Western Addition neighborhoods. He also reflects on the racial inequality that African Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man, by expressing his conviction that: "There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now."
A 16mm print of Take This Hammer was digitally restored in 2009 by the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive and screened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in August with an introduction by Moore, who discussed the film with his cinematographer, Academy Award-winning documentary maker Irving Saraf.
In January 2011, Moore pointed out that nearly fifteen minutes of somewhat violent statements from kids at Hunters Point were cut from his film. This was a concession that he deeply regretted. It was made following complaints from the KQED Board. They felt that the lengthy sequences with young Black Muslims were excessive and that the film should not be broadcast. Cutting the sequences shifted the attention to Baldwin and away from the Black Muslims. In the interests of getting the film broadcast, Moore agreed to the cuts. This cleared the way for both local and national broadcast. It also placed a great strain on his relationship with James Baldwin. He was genuinely surprised at the intensity of the anger expressed by the youth and felt that this should be the major emphasis of the film. The long monologue at the end of the film shifted the attention back to Baldwin. This may have made it more of an "artful" documentary but at the expense of, once again, ignoring the plight of young, urban African Americans.
Moore also noted that there are no full credits at the end of the film. The person who made the connection with Baldwin possible was Mary Ann Pollard. Those involved with the KQED Film Unit were Irving Saraf, Phil Greene, and sound engineer Hank McGill. It was McGill's Corvair station wagon that was rigged up for filming in motion. They didn't have a wireless camera and recorder, but did have Irving squeezed into the trunk (the Corvair engine was in the rear) and Phil was on his stomach in the rear sharing space with a Magnasync.
- See KQED's history of the station: http://www.kqed.org/about/history/1960s.jsp
- See the official SF MOMA program for this screening: http://www.sfmoma.org/events/1454
- View an interview with Richard O. Moore, who discusses the film production and working with Baldwin: https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/210522.