Actor Will Smith has produced a new series with Netflix called “Amend: The Fight For America.” The star-studded docuseries addresses the 14th Amendment, mixing in a variety of social justice issues such as Black Lives Matter and ostensibly the “defund the police” movement. The premise of the production is equality but it has heavy political undertones as well.
Smith made the announcement about his upcoming project on Instagram Tuesday and sent a press release to “The Root.” He showcased a trailer as well where he stated: “What does it mean to be an American?” He produced and hosted the docuseries which will be aired in six parts and is meant to delve into the language and intention of the 14th Amendment.
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 and states in its first clause: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” It has been a source of great contention among constitutionalists and liberals concerning citizenship in the United States.
According to the ACLU, the 14th Amendment was meant to achieve racial justice. At the heart of the discussion is ‘equal justice under the law’. Enter Will Smith who is an ardent supporter of Black Lives Matter and racial/social justice. Whereas most conservatives view the amendment as guaranteeing equality and having to do with the legitimacy of birthright citizenship, liberals view it as a racial mandate with equality and social justice mixed in for good measure.
“We are in a circumstance that we’ve never been in before,” Smith said concerning the protests that came after the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, and others. “The entire globe has stood up and said to the African American people, ‘We see you and we hear you. How can we help?’ We’ve never been there before.”
Smith also went on to say he understands the anger and rage that has driven the protests against “systemically racist institutions and individuals.” His political opinions over race appear to be what has spurred the docuseries and the conversation concerning the 14th Amendment.
The series trailer utilizes American and historical imagery in a flashing parade of political discourse. Some of the images include the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, apple pie, and baseball. Others show Martin Luther King Jr., the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Presidents John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson as well as Frederick Douglass. Topics that are alluded to include Black Lives Matter, the “defund the police” movement, gay rights, women’s rights, racial equality, and more.
“What about a citizen?” Smith asked. At issue is the claim that the Constitution did not actually state who is and who isn’t a citizen and that allowed racism to take hold. Many, including constitutional scholars, would fervently disagree with that assessment.
“The heart of the 14th Amendment is the definition of citizens in America. It is through this definition that all the rights we cherish are granted and defended,” Smith proclaimed. “The Fourteenth Amendment is a promise of equality for all. It says we are all deserving of empathy and dignity.”
Among those taking part in the docuseries are Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mahershala Ali, Samuel L. Jackson, Pedro Pascal, Diane Lane, Yara Shahidi, and Laverne Cox who recite various speeches and writings that pertain to the 14th Amendment. Executive Producer Larry Wilmore also makes an appearance.
“I hope families can watch ‘Amend’ together and have the series be a compelling conversation starter,” said Wilmore. “Everything we’ve seen happen in America in the last few years is about what Black people and other marginalized groups have always wanted: to make sure that we are really part of America and have everything that’s been promised to us by the Constitution. I think it’d be really fantastic if ‘Amend’ helped people to better understand how special the bond can be between each of us and our country.”
Will Smith has approximately 51.3 million fans on Instagram. He told them that he is honored to present the trailer and to be part of the documentary.
“We are living in unprecedented days as a society, as a country, and as a human family. I believe that the cultivation of personal and historical understanding is the imperative spark igniting the flames of desperately needed compassion and healing,” Smith stated.
“As Americans, we endeavor to form a more perfect union that truly establishes justice and equality for all. I believe a deeper understanding of the 14th Amendment is a critical jumping-off point,” Smith continued.
“Our hope with this series is to illuminate the beauty that is the promise of America and to share a message of connection and shared humanity so that we will be able to better understand and celebrate our different experiences as Americans and promote progress toward the true equality promised to all persons under the 14th Amendment.”
Smith ended the trailer by saying: “I’m grateful to @netflix and the phenomenal group of people who came together both in front of and behind the camera to help us tell this story. We thank you for watching.”
“Amend: The Fight For America” is premiering on February 17 on Netflix.
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