Review: 7 A.M. Documentary

“If You’re Black . . . and Broke . . . It’s Time To Wake Up”

Some documentaries simply document events, acts, or experiences with little to no commentary. Others are a bit more involved, giving the viewer gentle nods at the filmmaker’s point.  7 A.M. – A Documentary is an unabashed gut check that asks and seeks to answer the question: “Why are [Blacks] the poorest people in United States?” 7 AM is polemics, the tougher kind of documentary that can be disastrous if poorly executed. The issues argued must be clear and the solutions should be fully supported with facts, experts, graphics that are not cumbersome. 7 AM executes quite well.

The smartly chosen title forces the viewer to consider what he/she does after 7 A.M. Are you going to work as an employer or an employee? The answer to this question and the number of people that respond “employee”is what the film contends determines the economic prowess of the Black community and any other group for that matter. As a child, I remember hearing that money circulates in the Black community for only an “x” amount of days, while in other neighborhoods money circulates for a much longer period. The point was obvious. We spend our money in other communities and rarely produce or retain resources ourselves. 7AM resonates with this idea.

To make its point clearer, 7AM employs the expertise of lesser known, yet persuasive voices like: Umar Johnson – a certified school psychologist;  Dr. Claud Anderson – author and economist; Don Peebles -real estate mogul; Shalimar Thomas – executive director of AACOC; and others. Each expert plays a role in furthering the film’s argument. Dr. Anderson and Johnson provide historical context of Black poverty, White privilege, as well as Black mentality toward empowerment. Peebles gives the viewer a firsthand account of real life instances of breaking the economic color barrier. Shalimar engages the viewer with examples of elements she has encountered combating poverty. The documentary is broken into seven sections, each exploring different aspects of the initial question posed, yet adding to the argument in succession.

Although a lengthy documentary, in excess of 2hrs, it moves with efficiency never leaving the viewer bored. One of the most memorable sections of the documentary explores the entrepreneur Madame CJ Walker, a self-made millionaire who came to wealth by selling her special formula hair care product.  Like many Black entrepreneurs before and after her, CJ Walker’s business eventually fell to big money corporations who made cheaper – albeit not as natural – products in large scale. Madame CJ Walker’s story, along with the history of the Negro League (the first to integrate White players and Jews as baseball owners) and “Black Wall Street” are important stories of Black entrepreneurship that deserve telling and 7AM hits the mark.

One factor that was disappointingly missing from 7Am was a counterpunch – an opposing opinion.  Although the film touches on the subject of failed Black leadership, the worst offenders being Black mayors whose leadership caused the community to suffer rather than prosper. We hear no voices that counter the films’ narrative. What are the opinions of other Black leaders? Are they dissimilar or merely in agreement as to the ultimate problem but differ in the reasons and solutions? Such an opposition would have made the film’s point stronger. That said, 7AM is a must see for anyone who cares about Black economic empowerment. Even if you think you know the answers, you should view the movie.

Mustapha Ndanusa, JD

Mustapha Ndanusa, JD Mustapha is a Brooklyn based attorney, practicing civil and criminal law. For more information about his practice, you can visit his LinkedIn profile and can be reached at

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