BENJI is a 30 for 30 film about slain Chicago basketball legend, Ben Wilson
When I think of Ben Wilson, Langston Hughes’ poem, A Dream Deferred comes to mind.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
When Ben Wilson, a star basketball player, was murdered on the South side of Chicago in November of 1984 the hearts of many exploded, or at least that’s what it felt like for me.
As a teenager, to experience the feelings of grief, loss and mourning over someone in your age group is difficult to manage and almost impossible to understand.
I remember riding in the car with my parents the evening he died.
On the radio they were talking about the shooting and how he was taken to St. Bernard Hospital; I also remember a live broadcast from the Simeon High School gymnasium that night, it was the school he attended, and I remember they played or someone sang Tremaine Hawkins’ Goin’ Up Yonder, and you could hear wailing and screams, and I laid down on the back seat and cried.
To this day, every time I hear that song I think of Ben Wilson, and I cry.
My vivid memory of this event should give you a clear indication of its impact on an entire generation of Chicagoans.
I didn’t personally know Benji, as he was affectionately called, but everybody in the city knew him. He was the 80′s Derrick Rose (who also attended Simeon High School), but unlike Derrick, we were not blessed to watch Ben’s dream materialize.
Now, the world will get a better understanding. Directors Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah (Kanye West’s Through The Wire, Erykah Badu’s Window Seat, and CreativeControl.tv) have created a documentary film about him, aptly titled Benji.
Coodie & Chike (pronounced “chee-k”) have been working together since 2003. I asked them about their inspiration for making this film (their first feature), and they said, “We want to save lives. We want kids to understand that a split second decision to shoot a person can destroy not only that life and their own, but an entire city. Put the guns down.”
The debut screening took place in April at the TFF/ESPN Film Festival in Tirbeca, NY, and early word is that it is EXCELLENT.
Benji will air on ESPN this fall.
Photos posted Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival/Getty Images.
For coverage and photos of the premiere’s official after-party, pop over to HauteLiving.com.