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Portland pastor on “12 years as Slave” film

September 23, 2013

Imago Dei Portland Church

A few words from Pastor Eric Knox on an upcoming film:

I’m excited about Brad Pitt’s film 12 Years a Slave for sentimental reasons. I was one of those athletes that did the bare minimum in college. If the academic standard to stay eligible was a 2.0, I’d shoot for a 2.25 and be straight! I was lazy academically, and then I got caught plagiarizing on a term paper in my black history class of all subjects (sheesh).

After this minor infraction, all that I ever worked for up to this point of my young hoop career hung in the balance. But the professor, who happened to be white, spared me. She said, “I’m giving you one more chance to right the ship, young man, but this is it. You will write a 10 page report, single space, 1 inch margins, on how this book impacted your life.”

I had 5 days to read the book and write the report. I knew this would be tough, because I still had other classes to handle and I was in the middle of an intense basketball season, plus we were leaving for a Bay Area road trip to play against Cal and Stanford. I was terrified and unsure if I could complete the assignment, but I was determined, knowing that my college career hinged on this one assignment.

So there I sat on that team bus, tuning out all my teammates, and I read 12 Years a Slave every chance I got–on the bus, in the bed, on the toilet, in the locker room, before the game, even snuck in a few pages at halftime. I read and read and read so much that I actually forgot it was an assignment. It opened up a new world for my young mind.

Once I handed in the paper, it wasn’t 10 pages, it was 17 pages – and a lifelong student was born.

The 12 Years a Slave movie comes out October 18th.  You’ll be able to find Portland showtimes here.

Eric Knox grew up in Inglewood, CA.  He completed his undergrad studies at Oregon State University, and earned an M.Div in Pastoral Care from Western Seminary. He joined Imago as an associate pastor in 2013, serving as Imago’s community, diversity and equity coordinator. He’s also the director of Imago’s church planting ministry, The Waterhouse Network (  He is the founder of the “Holla Foundation” and the “Holla If You Hear Me Tour,” a national tour that focuses on black male identity and mentorship. He has been married to his junior high and high school sweetheart for 17 years and has 3 beautiful children.

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Discuss this article

Kate September 25, 2013

Hey – I hear you! Wow – I actually flew through your article. I have to check this book out. My brother graduated from Western Seminary – you no doubt relate well to young people – are not square at all. My brother graduated from Western University. He’s a Dean at a Christian college in Canada.
Anyway – “12 Years As a Slave” it is – and if Brad Pitt is in it – because anything has to be better than Zombies. I want to read this book. Perhaps my grandson would be interested if I told him about this title ~ he’s 19. I appreciate you starting Holla ~ young men especially young black men, people of color are up against it in this day – and they NEED mentors and topics like identity dealt with friendly and familiarly. Been burned out on the establishment and still keep on ticking – like Timex – and they deserve people like you to tell them how good they really are.

Lisa Fuller October 18, 2013

From A.O.Scott of the NY Times to Henry Gates and now the charming Rev, I have become intrigued by this film, but I am crushed not to find it in any listings in any theater in Portland today!!! WHAT’S UP!!!???

Eric Knox October 19, 2013

Get out of my brain Lisa! I’ve been scouring the search engine looking for a theatre in Portland and of course no dice! I wanted to take my 3 children and their friends to it. Kate, thanks for the encouragement!

thirtyeyes October 19, 2013

Released in 19 theaters on Friday, not going nationwide until November.

Elizabeth Kline October 19, 2013

I’m very excited about this film as well, my son is a freshman at Howard University. This book was a part of his Summer reading for the honors program he is in. He left the book behind after he read it, so I picked it up and read the book in 2 days. I called Fox theater downtown and found out they will be getting the film in November 1st.

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