“Why?” A Small Word with a Powerful Meaning

The word “why” is small in letters but large in impact. We always apply it when we are trying to find out why a specific act happened. It can be defined as “for what purpose, reason, or cause, with what intention, justification or motive. Let me now apply the use when analyzing the sage advice given to us by a number of great historical artists and our failure to adhere to their very wise words.

Let’s begin with the wise words of the great Paul Robeson, undoubtedly a Renaissance Man. He made the following statement in his autobiography. “In the early days of my career as an actor, I shared what was then the prevailing attitude of Negro performers, that the content and form of a play or film scenario was of little or no importance to us. What mattered was the opportunity, which came so seldom to our folks, or having a part—any part—to play on stage or in the movies; and for a (Negro) actor (actresses) to be offered a starring role—well that was a rare stroke of fortune indeed! Later I came to understand that the (Negro) artists could not view the matter simply in terms of his (her) individual interests, and that he (she) had a responsibility to his (her) people who rightfully resented the   traditional stereotyped portrayals of Negroes on stage and screen.”

Given Paul Robeson’s assertion that Blacks should not play stereotype roles, WHY would Halle Berry play  Leticia in Monster’s Ball, a role that perpetuates the age old stereotype of the Black woman being a sexual object, who doesn’t know how to love but only have sex.

The next observation comes from the greatest Black poet and an icon of the culture, Langston Hughes. He wrote as part of his critique of Richard Wright’s novel Native Son and particularly the character Bigger Thomas. “Where are the Black heroes in our literature. Where in all our books is that compelling flame of spirit and passion that makes a man say, “I too am a hero because my race has produced heroes.” The great poet was expressing his disappointment with the manner that Blacks were depicted in novels at that time.

Given Langston Hughes’ suggestion that novels and for that matter, movies, should create more heroes, WHY would Denzel Washington play the role of Detective Alonzo Harris, in the movie, Training Day; a rogue cop who is as big a crook and bad guy as the men and women he is supposed to be arresting. His partner Ethan Hawke, Officer Jake Hoyt, is the good, honest and reputable policeman, the hero and of course he is white. I imagine, Langston Hughes would have argued that the roles should have been reversed and Washington play the part of the hero policeman.

The final observation is from Ralph Ellison. He wrote, “The solution to the problem confronting the (Negro) will be achieved when he is able to define himself for what he is and what he desires to be.” Ellison obviously was referring to the fact that Black Americans have always allowed others to define them.

Ellison is essentially asserting that Blacks must begin to tell their story their way. If that is the case then WHY is a Black Hollywood Producer/Director using the novel Holocaust in the Homeland: Black Wall Street’s Last Days, written by a white woman, Corinda Pitts Marsh, as the point of view story for a movie about the Tulsa Massacre of 1921.  That slaughter occurred when over ten thousand whites crossed the Frisco Railroad Tracks into the Greenwood section of the city, best known as Black Wall Street, and killed over 300 Black men, women and children, burned down 33 square blocks of businesses and homes. WHY use this version of the tragedy, which really is an insult to the Blacks now living in the Greenwood section of the city as well as Blacks from all over the country, when he could at least consider Frederick Williams (yes that’s me) novel, Fires of Greenwood: Tulsa Riot of 1921 as the point of view novel for his movie? Is he essentially telling Black America that the white woman can tell their story better than they can? Do you believe that Hollywood would allow a Black writer to produce a novel and also screenplay on the Alamo? Do you believe a white woman writer can get into the head of Black man and for that matter women who lived in Greenwood in 1921? No more than I can get into the head of an Italian woman living in New York City in 1921.

Do not take my comments as some kind of sour grapes, but only as another example of how we fail to adhere to the teachings of those who have gone before us.

I guess the answer to the three WHYS that I raise, is simply because they can and they chose to do so. Race pride aside, money and success reign.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sophisticated Mother

Sophisticated Mother

It is a very rare individual who doesn’t have a special place in his or her heart for their mother and if you happen to be one, then what I want to share with the world is not for you. I lost my mother last September 28. She was blessed with 96 years and her children were just as blessed having her for so long. So, for those who share the same feeling for their mother, who might still be here or gone on to glory, please allow me to express my articulation of the Sophisticated Mother.

                

       Sophisticated Mother

        You’re the heart of this earth

               Sophisticated Mother

        You’re why God created love

               Sophisticated Mother

     You’re the reason for our beginning

               Sophisticated Mother

  You’re the permanence in our existence

               Sophisticated Mother

      You’re the endurance of our culture

               Sophisticated Mother

You’re the humanity in a world of impiety

                Sophisticated Mother

        You’re the alleviator of our fears

               Sophisticated Mother

    You’re the conciliator of our troubles

               Sophisticated Mother

     You’re God’s special gift to the world

      HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

   SOPHISTICATED MOTHER

         

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Cousin’s Daughter Aramis and the Beauty of the Black Woman

Aramis Donnell Ayala is a young, beautiful, intelligent, and powerful Black woman who has come under attack from racists, who disagree with a decision she recently made as the State of Florida’s District Attorney in Orange and Osceola Counties. In many ways, Aramis is just the direct opposite of what has, over the last decade, become the media perception of the Black woman. She didn’t spend seventeen years in prison for drug distribution, and then come out as part owner of a music empire. She spent her years in the university pursuing a law degree. She doesn’t sleep with the man who has power so that she can have power, she has power of her own making. Like Michelle Obama, she contradicts the white media’s perception of the Black woman that has a very long history in this country. The Black woman has been less than the stellar representation of grace, beauty, and dignity. That role has been reserved for the white woman.

empire-leopard

There is precedent for the media’s distorted myth of the Black woman. It began as far back as the early Nineteenth Century when racist theorists found it necessary to demean the African in order to justify their sick system of slavery. One of those early distortions was the concept of God’s chain of beauty. According to this formula, God had created the white woman as the personification of beauty, and every male regardless of race craved her. According to this theory, at the bottom of this chain was the Black woman and no male actively sought her, not even the black man. So who was left to be with the Black woman? Again, according to this theory, the suitor for the Black woman was the orangutang, and she would be just as happy and satisfied with his company. (Please note I am articulating a sick theory of racism)

Then there was the Thomas Jefferson’s scientific study printed in his book Notes on the State of Virginia, where he claims to have carried out an examination of the nature of the Black man and woman. One of his findings was that the Black race lacked loving compassion, and were more animalistic in their sexual behavior. All these racists theorists claimed that the woman was sexually driven, and constantly seeking the sexual favors from the white man. This was so prevalent that when a white rapist was brought before a white judge in 1900 Alabama for raping a Black woman, the judge dismissed the case because, according to him, all Black women craved the white man so it couldn’t have been rape.

Notes On The State Of Virginia

Even though every sane, rational thinking human being, recognized this distorted perception of the Black woman it continued to exist. Fast forward to the contemporary roles that Black women play in many movies and television programs. These roles are not stellar portrayals of her, in many of these shows. And these distortions reached its lowest level of absurdity in the movie Monster Ball, a story that features a Black woman willing to have sex with a racist pig, who I believe was her husband’s executioner in prison. How low can you go?

But Aramis and Michelle negate those false portrayals through real life examples of the modern Black woman. Still the perpetrators of these distortions continue. Michelle was compared to an ape and the legitimacy of her accomplishments were challenged, and she was referred to as the “angry Black woman,” on numerous occasions.  And just recently, a racist in Florida suggested that Aramis should be “tarred and feathered” or hung from a tree. In his mind, this is something you can do to a Black woman, but he would never dare suggest that as punishment for somewhat white.

On a personal note, I am so proud of Aramis, who is my cousin’s daughter. I have known this bright young lady all her life as well as her sister Amber, who also is quite accomplished and their only brother Glenn, who is the oldest of the three. Their mother and father are great examples of parents, who worked hard to make sure their children received the best education, understood their ethical and moral responsibility as young Blacks, who often would be judged on the distorted definition of black and not on their own merits. Their grandmother, my Aunt Ellen, also set an illustrious example for them to follow as a strong Black woman, who loved her family and worked very hard to make sure they always had the best she could offer. Aramis, her sister Amber, their mother Natalie, and my Aunt Ellen are strong contradictions to what we often see portrayed on television and in movies about the Black woman. And they are only the tip of the iceberg. Black pride and womanhood runs deep in the Black culture and is the strength on which that culture has been sustained over the centuries. Any other projections of Black womanhood are serious distortions of reality.download

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized