“trying to find a balance between these field nigger thoughts and this house nigger education” – darnell lamont walker
Me and Niema sat in the Magic Johnson Harlem Movie Theater paying attention to too many things; the old ladies beside us ooh-ing and ahh-ing ever 30 seconds, the ushers who walked in and out as though they were trying to watch the movie, too, and the white folks who sat uncomfortably each time the black folks cheered for Caesar and his motley crew. And of course we were paying attention to the film. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen, and that bold statement has little to do with the actors, acting, cinematography or the fact my ticket was paid for by someone else. Here’s why:
While a student at Bethune-Cookman College I changed my major from Mass Communications to Speech Communication once convinced I possessed a quality many lacked. Apparently, according to them not me, I’m a born leader, so I changed majors to better hone my skills. It didn’t take me long to take notice myself. Hindsight being 20/20, I think I’ve always known. In grad school I studied Leadership, specifically Global Leadership Development, to take my talents a bit further than the 3000-student campus, my hometown and social media. Leadership is everything. As one of the biggest fans of HBO’s The Wire, I’d watch, breaking down the leadership styles of Barksdale and Bell. Caesar the ape is by far one of the greatest leaders of all time.
Forced into a situation unlike any other he’d be exposed to, and far outside of the comfort in which he grew up, Caesar survived, but he did not merely adapt, as some will tell you to do. We often hear about the giraffe that once had a short neck, and lived around tall trees. That giraffe was forced to adapt to his environment. Caesar adapted his environment to him. Not to say the giraffe was no leader, because there are many great leaders who adapted to survive because they felt no other way, or their altruistic nature prevailed. Steering this boat slightly right, we can talk about Django was forced into two very different situations; slavery and freedom. As a slave, he adapted to survive. As a free man, he made honest attempts at making his world adapt to him. We see this several time throughout the film. But was Django a leader? Was he asked to be? Did someone see him as a leader?
At risk of going too far with these thoughts, let’s go a little bit left and see where we end. Both films, undoubtedly open several doors for us to discuss the then and current state of Black America.
Shafiqah Hudson says “It is extremely difficult to draw true parallels between the lives/experiences of Black people in the United States in the present,” so I won’t make too many attempts on it, but I will set up three groups:
Group One: Those who are ignorant by its true definition. They know little, have seen less, and have found a great comfort in that.
Group Two: Those who have been education by a system or a person, or taught themselves in an attempt to fit in with “normal” society. They were once able to relate to those in group one because they all grew up together, but because of what they now know, and have seen, it’s difficult.
Group Three: Those who find little no commonalities between themselves and those in group one or two. They feel they blend in flawlessly with who they believe to be the top tier of society. Typically known as “the sell out.”
Caesar and Django represent Group Two, but each film shows all three groups. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Group One is represented by the Apes, Gorilla, and Orangutan Caesar found himself locked up with, and the ones locked up in the zoo. Group Three is represented by the Dr. at the beginning who ran the lab where Caesar’s mother was kept.
In Django, we see Django starting with Group One, the slaves who accepted their situation because no other option seemed available. Quickly, he’s initiated into Group Two, being educated by the German who came along to help. Group Three is owned by Samuel Jackson’s character, feeling far removed from the “niggers” surrounding him. We even see him doing what the others aren’t allowed to do as advisor of Master Candy.
Where leadership and parallels are concerned:
Caesar, through a well thought out strategy and approach, made his environment adapt to him. He did this by developing his vision, sharing his vision, and made sure it included the people. Before he could share this vision with the people, we needed them to understand that he was in it with them. He made sure they, too, were eating. He was much like Ace in Paid in Full. He made sure everyone ate equally. Not only did the vision, but he equipped his people with the tools needed to understand that vision. He educated them. Perhaps he understood becoming a leader among idiots in too easy a task, but to become a leader among equals is great. There’s a parallel that can be drawn here showing Caesar and those who’ve tried to bring evolution to “the hood.”
Django became a free man and felt no concern with freeing anyone other than his wife. I am in no way saying this is wrong, but it’s certainly a parallel to those we see who leave Group One, join Group Two, and never reach back (cliché) to share what they’ve learned. Instead we hear Django tip toe between Group Two and Group Three with lines like “I’m one in a million.” Once Django left with the German, he never looked back. He was never able to fully relate to the slave anymore. In the end, we see Django kill the men driving him and the others to the next place, and he offers nothing to the slaves he was captured with even then. Another parallel. I have friends who’ve gone from the hood to Harvard and can’t hold a conversation any longer with the hood dwellers because their words have become too complicated for “home.”
I’ve written before, years ago, how dangerous education can be when there are so few seeking it. It splits families and blows up bridges between friends. Caesar’s a fantastic example of how to effectively use education. Teach others.
Yeah, I probably lost my point somewhere along the way…but I like my ending: Teach Others.
Two things I know for sure: Steve McQueen will never disappoint; and 12 Years a Slave is an Amazing film. I laughed at Bernard because he was crying, but I certainly made the wet spots in the corners of my eyes known as well.
It was pure. Nothing was added. Because of my strong belief and trust in McQueen’s vision, I knew exactly what to expect: a film carried by the outstanding talent of cast consisting of heavy hitters like Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamati, and the absolutely amazing Chiwetel Ejiofor whose career I’ve been following since Amistad, as well as actors off my radar, but now deep under my skin like Lupita Nyong’o. It was the actors who brought the emotion, not the score, though it, too, was well done. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance was worthy of every tear and applause from the crowd. Looking back while it’s still fresh in my mind, I can’t easily remember anything that was even visually stunning, though I’m sure there was plenty. But I remember the acting. I remember forgetting it was Chiwetel, Michael, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson. I saw who they were for those two hours, and heard them loud enough to be moved and angered.
Many times while watching, I wanted to shout to those around me who cheered for what they saw as a victory, but was nothing close. It’s a film that allows you (by “you” I mean “me”) to see into the mind and conditioning of those around you. Much like I do most movies that deal with race relations, Django Unchained being the last, I applied it to what I see these days. And was not happy with what I saw. I love when we’re forced to hold up a mirror, and fight and debate and argue, and possibly all be semi-right in the end.
In the restroom immediately after, I was drying my hands and the white man drying his hands beside me sparked a 20 minute conversation about the film. Of course it began with “what did you think?” We moved on to talk about Fassbender originally debating the role because of his fear of being hated by a large group of people. I brought up, jokingly, how Black folks are just beginning to like Danny Glover after his role in The Color Purple, and we laughed, but that was the beginning of something great the movie brought about: dialogue on race and entertainment between people who can actually make a difference.
(see this immediately after reading this post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG4ytB4z-WE)
This film will spark much discourse without a doubt. Just 3 minutes into it, and I was already leaning in o my neighbor asking questions, thoughts and opinions. I’d like to form a circle to talk about the characters, the implications, the intentions, the attitudes of the real people in the film, the leadership of Solomon Northup (aka Platt) vs. the leadership of others who have been faced with similar situations.
In all, this film was absolutely amazing. Steve McQueen, you, sir, have done it again. Congratulations, Cast!
“I’m Scared That I’m Not Myself In Here, And I’m Scared That I Am.” – Piper (OITNB)
When was the last time you felt pressured to become someone you weren’t, and became that, then feared you were facing who you really are?
It’s almost like losing yourself then given the choice to remain out there. But it’s all about you liking who you become, right? Or at least feeling more comfortable there than in the former space. Look at Caesar the ape. Forced to become someone he wasn’t, but finding his true identity in that. An amazing thing, sometimes, if you’re able to handle it. But what happens with so many is they become so comfortable in the one skin, they wear it til death. They look at those who’ve stared adversity in the face and showed courage, whether they accepted their new life and succeeded, or accepted it and failed, as heroes or fools, but never really equals.
I trust everyone until given a reason not to, but I trust those who’ve been lost and found their other person more. You’d be shocked at the amount of trust I’ve placed in the heroin addicts I gave needles to in DC.
I suppose this is why “Who are you?” is such a difficult question to answer.
we are at the age when all of our friends are getting married and/or having babies. Soon, though, we’ll be at the age when all of our babies are having babies and all of our friends are dying. It’s a sad thing waiting until you’re staring death in the face to decide to live. I wouldn’t know, I’ve been living since I was four.
One of the greatest things about the Huxtable household was seeing how Cliff and Claire maintained their friendships with so many people over the many years, and those people would come to town and come over and have dinner, and play with the kids and they’d talk about old times, and laugh. As a kid I was so impatient to get to that point in my life when I could make those friends that last throughout my life, and we’d separate for however long, then come back together and have those moments that make it seem like we’ve only been apart a day.
And I look at the life I have now and realize I’m there. Those amazing friends I’ve made who I don’t speak to everyday, but don’t need to, will still meet up with me anywhere in St. Louis, DC, NYC, Miami, Daytona Beach and come to my spot if they’re in Los Angeles. Hell, Last week I was in Belgium and called on Vernon, and he scooped me from Brussel-Centraal and we talked about old times, laughed over lagers and ales, steaks and tequilas, and realized we were a million miles away from where we started. This is that life Cliff and Claire introduced me to, and the life I knew I’d always have.
And because “reality” television killed any chances for the authenticity the Huxtables brought us, I’m here sharing this with you.
How vulnerable can I become without drugs? Looking back at one relationship in particular, it was the drugs that made us so close because of its ability to destroy (completely obliterate) inhibition. Essentially, it was the drugs that dragged us to this place we’re in that’s very reminiscent of Gotye’s hit. I ask because I want to write this film, and although it’s not about me, it needs to be real and personal to everyone watching, and I feel it may require me to walk to that place where scorned exes go when they text their past after midnight asking what happened.
I know what drugs do to the writer and it scares me. What if I do a few lines, and write the greatest lines ever read. What then? I maintain my place in that new society, and in my mind there’s only one way to do that. Amy left the drugs alone. We heard it in her music. We then begged her secretly to find a left behind bump somewhere in the bottom of her purse. Look at Mary J. Her sound, sadly, is the same, but the quality of her lyrics aren’t. I want to be consistent, but not consistently average. I want to be the Charlie Sheen of the writing world. Well, sort of.
So I need to write this screenplay. I watched Elizabeth Gilbert on Ted Talks and she talked about the writer and the issues. She talked about how she’s still relatively young, and the greatest thing she’ll most likely create is in her past. She has to live another 40 years or so know she can’t be better than she’s been, and with that she has to do her best to stay away from insanity. She probably did not drugs to write it, but she’ll need them to explain to others why every word she writers after Eat, Pray, Love failed. Or maybe not. She seems strong.
Consistent. Maybe that’s what drugs are for. Everyone I know on them have been consistent. Do not confuse consistent with ethical, legal, or the epitome of upstanding. But simply consistent.
I’ll write the first act and see what happens. After that, if you hear from any of my exes that I may have gone crazy, you know act one was trash.
Clearly I do not believe in a drug-free America.