The Inkwell (1994)

Rated R

This title of this film is a moniker given to Town Beach in Oak Bluffs, the area populated by African-Americans at Martha’s Vineyard of the Cape Cod islands of Massachusetts.  The beach, frequented by Blacks since the late 1800s, was derisively called “The Inkwell” by Whites and it was in reference to Blacks’ skin color.  According to the submission on “The Inkwell, Martha’s Vineyard” of BlackPast website, Town Beach “is the most famous of beaches across the U.S. to transform this odious nickname into an emblem of pride.”

The Inkwell is a coming-of-age film that centers upon the themes of race pride, first love, adolescence versus adult responsibility and family.  Set during the summer of 1976, Drew Tate (Larenz Tate) accompanies his parents, working class and Black militant Kenny Tate (Joe Morton) and Brenda Tate (Suzzanne Douglas), to visit the affluent family of her sister, Francis Phillips (Vanessa Bell Calloway), at Martha’s Vineyard. 

The primary reason for their visit is that Drew’s parents worry that he, a shy, 16-year-old, is emotionally unstable and immature, especially since his best friend is a doll, Iago, with whom he converses.  Drew also set a fire at their family home in upstate New York so during his visit to the Vineyard, he has counseling sessions with Dr. Wade (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney).

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