Free screenings of “His Name is Green Flake” at BYU celebrate Black History Month
SALT LAKE CITY — The 2020 film “His Name is Green Flake” is an award-winning movie about an unsung hero of Utah’s pioneering past. Based on the true story of a Black man of faith, the film is shown at multiple departments at Brigham Young University. And starting today, writer and director Mauli Junior Bonner will host free screenings of the film along with a Q & A session afterward throughout the month of February.
“His Name Is Green Flake” is also available at Deseret Book, Amazon, and similar sellers. While not rated by the MPAA, the film should be considered a soft PG-13 due to subject matter and thematic elements.
The BYU Screenings
These screenings are part of the Perry Film Series hosted by BYU’s Ballard Center for Social Impact. Each month, the center focuses on a different social issue believing the first steps to solving a social problem is learning more about the issue. February 2022’s theme is “Diversity and Belonging.” This theme fits well with the “His Name is Green Flake” and raising awareness of Black voices for Black History Month.
The screenings are as follows:
- Wednesday, Feb. 9th at 8 pm at the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater.
- Thursday, Feb. 10th at 8 pm at the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater.
- Friday, Feb. 11th at 12 pm at the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater.
- Wednesday, Feb. 16th at 6 pm at the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater.
- Thursday, Feb. 17th at 5 pm at the BYU International Cinema, Spencer W. Kimball Tower room 250.
- Friday, Feb. 18th at 4 pm at the N. Eldon Tanner Building, Room 151.
His name is Green Flake
Based on the true story of enslaved pioneer and early member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Green Flake, the film explores the courageous story of faith.
Green flake was an enslaved person who joined the Church at the age of 16 in 1844 when his North Carolinian Plantation owners household were baptized. The converts moved with the saints across the nation as they pursued the practice of religious freedom in the great Mormon Migration. His life continued as a slave and a man of faith along this path. In Nauvoo, Illinois, he served as a bodyguard to Church founder Joseph Smith Jr. And he likely performed manual labor for the Church as a form of tithing for the Flake family.
When the Saints decided they needed to leave Nauvoo in 1846 due to persecution, Brigham Young assigned 19-year-old Green Flake as well as two other Black men to forge the path to Winter Quarters. The men trekked the 300-mile journey through bad weather, harsh conditions, and dangerous territory. They became the vanguard of the pioneers who found refuge at Winter Quarters before continuing their path West.
Green Flake continued West himself as part of the advanced party tasked to break the over 1,000-mile-long trail to the Salt Lake Valley. By the time Brigham Young set foot in the valley and declared, “This is the place.” Green had already started the work of building shelter and planting crops. By the time his owners arrived in 1848, he had already helped establish a home and farm in what became the Cottonwood area.
Green Flake continued to play a pivotal role in the establishments of the settlers in Utah and the greater West. He married fellow slave Martha Crosby around 1850 and started his own family. In 1854, he was freed by Brigham Young. Following the death of his wife in 1885, he moved to the Idaho territory to be close to his children and grandchildren. He was celebrated as a vanguard pioneer, speaking at Pioneer Day celebrations in 1894 and 1896, and the Utah Semi-Centennial Pioneer Jubilee in 1897, where he was presented a Jubilee pin. He passed away at the age of 75 in 1903 and is buried next to his wife in the Union Cemetery in the Salt Lake area.
About the film and director
Mauli Bonner is a Grammy-award-winning songwriter, music producer, and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He first learned about Green Flake while performing with his musical family at the Church’s Be One celebration in June 2018, commemorating 40 years since the Church’s priesthood ban on Black members was lifted. As he learned about Green Flake and other early Black Church pioneers who felt it was his duty to share this history with others.
It took Mauli Bonner two years to produce and film “His Name is Green Flake,” with most of the filming here in Utah. Along the way, the issues surrounding diversity, representation, and the role of Black history in American History have taken center stage with the Black Lives Matter movement. With the help of fellow creatives, Church members, historians, and Black peers, Bonner’s film has debuted at film festivals around the world to great acclaim. “His Name is Green Flake” has been awarded Best Film at 10 different festivals. And it continues to add to the critical conversation about diversity and belonging.
While discussing the upcoming screenings Bonner said, “We find ourselves continually grappling with our history of race and how it affects us today. The film “His Name is Green Flake” offers a historical and artistic peek into what life may have been like for our black brothers and sisters who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1800s. There are three tough questions that continue to surface. How do we explain the past as it pertains to the priesthood ban and slavery? How do we become more united today? And how do we lead the future generations? There is one answer for all three questions. Honesty, transparency, and compassion.”
The message and the monument
Bonner’s commitment to the message of “Honesty, transparency, and compassion,” has been shown by not only raising awareness of the lesser told stories of Black pioneers. But the campaign to create a physical monument to them. The film has allowed Bonner to fundraise for a monument celebrating the Black pioneers who helped settle the valley. The monument is currently under construction at This Is the Place Heritage Park featuring pioneers Jane Manning James, Green Flake, Hark Wales, and Oscar Smith. Even the descendants of Green Flake have gotten involved in the monument; Kellen Perkins and Tamu Smith helped contribute to the molding of the base of Green Flake’s statue.
The monument will be dedicated on June 22, 2022. Celebrating the 175th anniversary of the day the advanced party entered the Salt Lake valley.
While the history of slavery in America, and Utah, is complicated and emotionally charged, Bonner believes it is a conversation we need to continue to have and revisit often.
The Green Flake Movie website declares in bold writing, “We cannot change the past, but we can change the way we celebrate all who came before us.” Bonner hopes to inspire that not only with his film, but by offering free screenings and discussions like the ones at BYU. He stated, “I just hope people’s hearts will be open to receive it. And hopefully it takes them to a better them.”
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