Small Axe

Stars: 5/5

"Mangrove" is the first episode in the powerful five part "Small Axe" series on Amazon. The series of true events follows the stories of members from London’s West Indian community during the late '60s to early '70s. 

This episode highlights the struggles that these Black Londoners faced with the racist policing and justice systems, a subject that is still relevant today for all the wrong reasons. 

It is opening night at the new Mangrove Restaurant and you are given a glimpse into the daily life of the owner Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes). He is elated about the successful opening of his Black-owned business. A point is made to show all types of people enjoying themselves at the restaurant. Everything is going well at the Caribbean spot until Police Constable Pulley (Sam Spruell), fueled solely by racism, decides to pay a visit to the restaurant and make false accusations. 

Later on, police raid the spot to intimidate and try to make an example of the restaurant. "Black Panther" star Letitia Wright plays a Black Panther on the show and comes to offer support. Crichlow is no revolutionary and even attempts to rid himself of the restaurant with a terrible card game bet. He believes there is no way to win considering the courts and police being all pitted against the Black immigrant community. 

An important scene from inside the police headquarters depicts how racism can be a game played with the pain of Black people. A young officer draws the ace of spades and the senior officers quickly put their jackets on. The person who draws the ace of spades has to pick up a Black man and arrest them for no reason. This sadistic game results in Crichlow and an angry mother at the police station, picking up her son who has been beaten severely because of a card game and ultimately unchecked racism. “You devil,” Crichlow fittingly screams at PC Pulley for the first of numerous times. 

Numerous unjustified police raids lead to a unified community protest. The police show up to defend racist counter-protesting savages who show up to incite violence. When things turn sour, Black people are inevitably blamed and indicted. Thus begins the trial of the Mangrove Nine. The Mangrove Nine face serious jail time and have to take on PC Pulley in the corrupt court system that wants to see them fail. 

To learn their stories, you must watch the show. You will see vivid depictions of the vibrant West Indian London community, Also, the demonic ways of the police and the support they have from other institutions. 

My favorite scene is when Jones says to another Black person on trial, “we must have faith in the British Justice System.” The two break out into laughter. This scene is powerful because marginalized people are often told to have this imaginary faith in systems with deep roots in racism. Sometimes during local struggles we lose sight of the fact that stories of racial injustice are worldwide occurrences, and this show reminds us.

"Small Axe: Mangrove" is a depiction of a true story with appreciable acting and directing that captures the real emotion in these relevant reoccurring scenarios. It is yet another story depicting one of the far too many instances that Black people must go head-to-head with a system that hates them, for the ability to simply lead a normal life.

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