Preview: ‘I AM A MAN’ Puts You at the Heart of the Civil Rights Struggle

Latest news

    I AM A MAN is an upcoming interactive VR experience that lets you participate in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike and the events leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Created by Dr. Derek Ham, an assistant professor of Graphic Design at NC State University, I AM A MAN was a winner of Oculus’ 2017 Launch Pad, a program designed to help fund VR content from diverse backgrounds.

    It’s a natural thing to look at your own hands in VR. Maybe it’s to establish yourself in the virtual world, or maybe it’s just to see how the developers envisioned one of the most personal things in your possession. Appearing in an alley with two trash cans by my side, I peer down to see a pair of black hands. Of course, they’re no more ‘black’ than my physical hands are ‘white’. Outside of VR, my hands are actually a pale pink color, and my new ‘black’ hands are actually a soft brown that lightens near the palms and the finger tips. When it comes to race, I rely on the imperfect words that resonate with the historical context; both the laughably imprecise and shockingly hateful ones that existed both then and now.

    image courtesy Dr. Derek Ham

    I AM A MAN transports you to 1968 Memphis, Tennessee, where you, a sanitation worker, are put at the heart of the struggle for equality. Spliced within the interactive elements of the experience, which include dumping trash, reading news clippings, and watching historical TV broadcasts, I see photos and hear audio from an actual worker who speaks about how they suffered unpaid overtime, no sick leave, and how they were meant to feel utterly replaceable at every turn. I learned how the city’s sanitation workers, who were almost exclusively black, would routinely be relegated to the lowest-paying jobs and never given a chance to rise to the role of a heavy equipment operator, a superior, better-paying position reserved for whites. These, I would learn, would form the main arguments behind the creation of the sanitation worker’s labor union and the resultant strike that shook not only Memphis, but unwittingly played as backdrop to MLK’s assassination.

    Reading a few historical newspaper clippings in my kitchen, a TV program plays in the corner. I’m not sure where the program is from, but it feels like a public opinion piece on the nightly news.

    “If I’m a business man, and people who I do not want in my business insist on either coming in, or boycotting – which is in their perfect right to do – then certainly it’s not going to make me love them,” a well-dressed man explains.

    image courtesy Dr. Derek Ham

    “A lion might like another lion better than he’d like a bear. That’s just like white people and niggers. I mean, white people are going to naturally like white people better than they do niggers,” a young man says sheepishly.

    “It’s just not the things we’re used to down here,” a stone-faced 20-something says. “They come in and they sit down, and we’re not used to them sitting down beside us, because I wadn’t raised with ’em, I never had lived with ’em, and I’m not going to start now.”

    The screen fades to black, and I’m back in the void where historical photos spin around me. The un-named sanitation worker continues:

    “Sometimes you would get threats—’nigger, go back to work’—and this kind of thing […] all it means is a man is not a man. Whatever you say, or however you put it, when it comes down to that, a man is not a man, and he don’t have anything to say about his hours and working conditions.”

    More interactive vignettes show me the picketers wearing the movement’s iconic placards reading ‘I AM A MAN’. An armored personnel carrier rolls down the street, soldiers glaring at me as I pick up my own ‘I AM A MAN’ sign.

    Then MLK enters the story. “People had faith and confidence in him,” the worker says. I can see him placidly standing at the Lorraine Motel. I hear the gunshot of his assassin.

    image courtesy Dr. Derek Ham

    Now I’m outside of a busted-looking TV shop watching Bobby Kennedy’s speech where he eulogizes MLK and calls for peaceful demonstrations to continue in the light of the clear outrage that was sure to erupt from his slaying. What follows next is truly unexpected…

    The experience’s creator Derek Ham told Road to VR the free 15-minute experience is “on track to be available in April,” which will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of MLK. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis is also slated to feature I AM A MAN as a part of their exhibit starting in April. While he’s given the museum exclusive public usage rights for a year, he also hopes to take the I AM A MAN on the road to venues such as schools and libraries.

    View the original article:

    We’ll be bringing you a greater in-depth look at the making of I AM A MAN this month, so check back soon.

    The post Preview: ‘I AM A MAN’ Puts You at the Heart of the Civil Rights Struggle appeared first on Road to VR.

    In the same category are

    Hands-on: ‘Beat Saber’ on PSVR Makes a Promising Debut at E3 Beat Saber has been making big waves on the Rift and Vive since its early access launch back in May, having sold more than 100,000 copies in its first...
    Hands-on: ‘Firewall: Zero Hour’ Replicates a Familiar Shooter Formula in VR with Deadly Skill Ever since the early days of PSVR, fans have been hoping for games like Counter Strike or Rainbow Six—the sort of team-based shooters most gamers are ...
    Ready at Dawn CEO on ‘Echo Combat’, Growing the ‘Echo’ Universe, & the Studio’s Commitment to VR With the Echo Combat open beta just around the corner, we took a few minutes to catch up with Ready at Dawn CEO Ru Weerasuriya who filled us in on the...
    E3 2018 Pre-show Roundup – ‘Beat Saber’ on PSVR, Xbox Mum on VR, New Game Announcements & More While E3 2018 didn’t technically start until Tuesday this week, much of the big news comes during the pre-show period from Saturday to Monday. H...
    ‘Budget Cuts’ Release Date Confirmed for Tomorrow After Previous Delay Neat Corporation today announced that Budget Cuts, their upcoming VR stealth game, now has an official launch date after difficulties with framerate s...
    Twitter is making it easier to follow your favorite topics and events It's a feature designed for Twitter to be proactive about keeping you in the know about "what's happening now," and the hope is that as a result you'l...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.