What makes the life of Green Flake worthy of the new motion picture about his life and a Monument to his memory? The answer can be found in a very remarkable and profound way. He overlooked prejudice and discrimination because of an abundance of spiritual experiences, and through those experiences, Green Flake remained a faithful and trusted servant of the Lord until the end, despite his unfavorable circumstances.
Through the years many have been easily offended by the slightest of hurt feelings and have either left the church or used those moments to back away from full fellowship with the Saints. Green Flake could have easily done this as well, but because his belief and faith were steadfast and his experiences with spiritual things so pure, he chose to always remain true to his faith and his testimony. That is indeed worthy of a movie and a monument to not only him but all of those who he represents that followed a similar path.
There is not much written history about Green Flake, but there is enough to know who he was, some of the things he did, and what kind of person he was.
According to Wikipedia, Green Flake was born a slave on the Jordan Flake Plantation. At the age of ten, Green was given to Jordan Flake’s son James as a wedding present. James and Agnes Flake, their three-year-old son William, and Green (along with their other slaves) moved from North Carolina to Mississippi a few years later. In the winter of 1843–1844, a stranger knocked on the door of the Flake home. The visitor was Benjamin L. Clapp, a missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Although skeptical at first, the Flakes were baptized a few weeks later. Their baptism brought immediate changes to the James Flake plantation. James began sharing his beliefs with his friends, acquaintances, and his slaves. Green came to believe the words of the man who enslaved him, and was baptized in the Mississippi River on April 7, 1844, at the age of sixteen.
Mauli Junior Bonner chose to make a movie about Green Flake because he simply wanted to know more about him, and what began as a quest for knowledge quickly turned into a screenplay and a completed film of a man that had “unwavering faith and a pioneering spirit”, a man who knew hardship and faced it forward, never wavering.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to Mauli as he discussed the movie before and after a few of the streaming events. Here are a few thoughts that I took away after watching the movie and listening to the Q & A.
The film Green Flake takes us to a place and explores a somewhat obscure early church history that, until now, has not been captured with this much detail in film, except in Jane and Emma (2018).
Some of the moments in the selection of stories portrayed in the film may cause serious reflection along with a few cringe-worthy moments of anguish, pain and sometimes just pure head shaking to see and feel what many of the early enslaved Latter Day Saint pioneers suffered and tolerated.
Origins of Research and a Screenplay
In 2018, the LDS Church celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood with an event held in downtown Salt Lake City at the Conference Center. The celebration featured the Bonner Family who performed a combination of songs and made a memorable impression on all in attendance. Mauli Bonner performed with his family that night and what happened backstage during the evening festivities would go on to change his life.
The “Be One” celebration was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the priesthood ban being lifted and during the broadcast and while Mauli was backstage he began to learn about early black history in the Church and found it to be very interesting and even more importantly, inspiring. It made him want to go all in and learn whatever he could.
You would think that after learning about the enslaved saints he would say something like, “Wait, in the Church there were slaves? That’s it. I quit.” It just makes sense that could have swayed his testimony, and it did just the opposite. Mauli says “I didn’t know why this was building my testimony to learn of these enslaved pioneers who were a part of the early Church and going through those same struggles all while being enslaved? It strengthened me. It made me want to learn more about them, why they stayed, and what their experience was like. It did not shake me at all”.
Certainly, this moment and new understanding of church history could have gone either way for Mauli, but perhaps through a heavenly connection that only the spirit of the Lord can bring, he remained firm in his faith and testimony because maybe he thought to himself if these early enslaved saints can live through and tolerate these injustices and stay true, there must be something to this church.
In July 2018, Mauli dove in and began reaching out to some historians and asking many thoughtful questions. It was during that time that he learned about the many enslaved pioneers and about Green Flake himself. Soon, a screenplay began to take shape and from that screenplay a full length feature film depicting the life, struggles and triumphs of Green Flake was brought to the streaming screen and can be seen by simply going to the website www.greenflakemovie.com and ordering the virtual watch party for $43.00 in honor of the Priesthood Revelation 43 years ago. All proceeds will go towards the creation and construction of the Green Flake monument. This watch party will give you 24-hour access to the film for you and your family, as well as a Q & A with the director and special guests. Run time is 1 hour 45 minutes and can be seen Fridays and Saturdays through July 24.
Here is a peek behind the scenes in the filming of Green Flake.