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The Blazing Facts


Discussed in this essay:

Call Me Kuchu, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall. 87 minutes.

God Loves Uganda, directed by Roger Ross Williams. Full Credit Productions/Motto Pictures. 83 minutes.

I have on my computer an eleven-second video to which I often return when I think of Uganda. I made it during a reporting trip a few years ago. What I see first are clouds, heavy ropes of twisted gray in an ashen sky, soon to unravel into black sheets of rain. At the center of the frame is a makeshift stage on which a crowd of black men raise their hands above a kneeling knot of whites. It is an anointing. A stringed instrument drones, languid and hoarse. A Ugandan preacher growls: “—this land! You will put a new fire in this life, may the new fire of travailin’, new fire of supplication, I call for the spirit of intercession—” The video ends.

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is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine and Mellon Assistant Professor of English at Dartmouth College. His most recent book is Sweet Heaven When I Die (W. W. Norton).

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