The Invaders “Feature Documentary”
Directed and Edited and Co-produced by Prichard Smith
1310 Florida St. Productions 2013
1968. All over the planet – Paris, Belgrade, Mexico City, and a thousand other places – young people are screaming for change. Riots and bloodshed are the byproduct of a revolutionary new activism; but so is progress. The Invaders are young intellectuals, Vietnam vets, Beale Street hustlers, and musicians with hits on Stax Records. The Invaders are Black Power. They’re from North Memphis, South Memphis, Klondike, Dixie Heights, Smokey City, and Riverside. These neighborhoods are only miles apart but might as well be separated by oceans. Memphis seems as divided within itself as the rest of the world – Black and White, rich and poor, young and old. But when two young black men, Charles Cabbage and Coby Smith, are inspired by militant black leaders Stokely Carmichael and Malcom X, they join forces with the likes of John B. Smith and others in the name of a radical new approach to Civil Rights. Their friendship forges a bond that unites themselves as well as their city.
The rise of the Invaders signals the decline of neighborhood gang warfare. But unifying young blacks in Memphis through militancy is dangerous. The Invaders inhabit a world of ministers and thugs where the F.B. I. is always lurking and James Brown bails them out of jail. Their young minds are sharp and their tactics innovative. Mao Tse Tung, marijuana, Isaac Hayes, and cough syrup – they’re all part of the Invaders experience. Feeding breakfast to poor school kids and fighting for the rights of sanitation workers happens in the same day; but so does cutting secret deals with Dr. King in order to keep things cool after violence breaks out at the first march he leads in Memphis. They don’t see the world in the same way. A generational shift has changed their point of view. To King, non-violence is a way of life; to the Invaders it’s a tactic. But, so is violence.
King needs a peaceful march and The Invaders need money to fund their projects. Can they meet in the middle? The world will never really know what happened at the meetings between The Invaders and Dr. King immediately before his assassination. It depends on who you ask. Some say he felt “hoodwinked,” others say he hired their services. But one thing is certain, the Invaders held up their end of the deal while King’s assassination may have prevented him from doing the same. Some went to jail, some went to school, some went to Washington, some just went home – but they’ve never forgotten the struggle. And although the Invaders were unable to fully realize all their community goals, for alienated black Memphians in 1968 they instilled a true sense of black identity, consciousness, and pride.