Friday, November 6, 2009

The Not So “Precious” Debate

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Three weeks ago, I was invited to a private screening of the movie Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. I remembered seeing the trailer for this movie back in January when I went to the theatre to see Notorious (there is no hidden anecdote here, this is REALLY the first time I saw the trailer). I could remember being so wound up by this movie that I could not wait for the day that it came out. Then I finally got a chance to see it and I was left speechless, yet with an eagerness to engage in a debate about the rawness of this movie and its reality for a population that is largely ignored and even relegated to simply a Black stereotype. Now on this day as theatres across the county begin to show this movie, and reviews come in I worry about what “we” will lend our focus to and deem the centrical theme Precious.

They say that people perish for a lack of knowledge. However, what about when people have TOO much knowledge. This is one of my main problems with the black “elite” and how I believe most of them will view Precious. Actually, this post came as a response to reading a article entitled “Pride & Precious” by Armond White. In his verbose rant, he lessens the film to the likeness of Birth of a Nation, and harps on everything that he believes is wrong with the movie INCLUDING the casting of actress Gabourey Sidibe, with whom he says is “presented as an animal-like stereotype” who is “so obese her face seems bloated into a permanent pout.” Crazy, how justified he feels in his hatred for this movie that he goes out of his way to insult the size and features of the main character as though her look was manufactured for the film, and not her everyday appearance. Colorist much?

The truth is it doesn’t matter whether or not the main character was a heavy set, dark skinned girl casted opposite to three biracial actors. Perhaps it would matter if the movie did not give a voice to Precious girls everywhere; girls, who are short, tall, light skinned, darkskinned, pretty or aesthetically unappealing. Unfortunately, while the message of Precious is staring us right in the face some of us are so concerned about imagery that we will refuse to believe the reality of this situation.

In the wake of Precious, it is times like these I scoff at the Black “educated” and their desire to label EVERYTHING as coonery and a perpetuator of stereotypes. Take the recent controversy between Tyler Perry and Spike “Do the Right Thing” Lee, in which Lee blasts Perry as a coon, in an attempt to revisit the message of his 2000 movie Bamboozled. Of course this is not the first time Perry has been called a coon, but I find it interesting how a Christian family on TV or a gun toting matriarch receive more flack from the general public than reality programs that air on networks such as BET and VH1. (Oh and if to this day you watch shows like Frankie and Neffe, For the Love of Ray J, and in the past you have denied your family quality time at Thanksgiving to sit alone and watch marathons of Flavor of Love or I Love New York then your right to offer a serious critique on what is or isn’t coonery has been revoked).

iDigress. There are times when I feel that the educated black mind, when it comes to issues of race and identity, offers itself up as a sacrificial racist’s playground. TOO concerned with what white people will think or how something looks in mainstream America, we tend to be overly critical of images while overlooking importance. The educated black person is too often concerned with proving how they are not like the rest of “them” that in their desire to assimilate they forget to give voice to the social ills of the marginalized population from which they are have escaped.

I wonder how it would feel for the “Precious” girl living in inner-city Chicago, or Detroit, or any other underserved urban community to be told that a movie reflecting her struggle is no more than a burden to the entire black race. Or to hear from someone that a movie that touches on the harsh reality of the incest, rape, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, hopelessness and despair that they may have gone through is SUCH an exaggeration because they’ve never witnessed it let alone lived it. However, when inner city schools can’t pass minimum standards tests and when Robeson High School on the South Side of Chicago has 115 teen moms, and when over half the percent of all HIV infections reported are amongst people aged 13-24 then Precious must be seen at as an intimate invitation into the lives of these girls.

Two years ago I volunteered in a program called SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths). On the first day, we went around and lit an incense in remembrance of someone we had lost. At 17 years old, a young girl lit an incense for her cousin who was found hanged in her bedroom, in an apparent suicide. After investigation, it was found out the 14 year old victim was killed by her stepfather after learned she was pregnant, by him. SHE is a Precious girl and if I never heard another story like that again, my arrogance would not allow me to believe that this movie is a fabrication of a author’s or a filmmaker’s imagination.

Precious girls are real and their story MUST be told, whether we like it or not.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jesus is My Homeboy

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Karl Marx once commented on religion as being the "opiate for the masses." This way of understanding religion, recognized the ways in which this ideology of a supreme being has been used to both usher and numb people through the pains of the world. Anyone who knows me knows that my relationship with religion, the church, God, and the entire concept has been off kilter for quite some time now. However, in all its coincidental glory, in the wake of my tumultuous relationship with the church, I have come to notice the interaction of others with the spiritual force that is supposed to control their lives.

A few years ago, I remember the slogan "Jesus is my Homeboy" came out. Started by a younger generation, who had grown up during a time where Kirk Franklin began to combine the secular with the sacred, this slogan appeared to make Christianity sound so appealing. While slightly combated by some who proclaimed "Jesus is NOT my Homeboy, He's My Savior," the preface behind the first slogan still proves to be prevalent.

Then Kanye West came out with "Jesus Walks." As a rabid Kanye West fan, this record can still do no wrong in my eyes. Yet, even before he interrupted Taylor Swift on stage, walked the red carpet with a bottle of Hennessey, and traded his soul for a blonde dyke started dating Amber "Catsuit" Rose, his actions were contrary to the lyrics he professed about in his song, or the Jesus piece he wore around his neck. Anyways, enough of Kanye West, after all the relationship between rappers and religion is sketchy by default anyway. Something like the rapper who thanks God at the Award Show after he wins an award for his LP "Big Booty H*es Talk A Lotta Sh**" o__O. However, I have to wonder about some of the people I see and talk to everyday.

Take for instance the guy whose profile I visited on Facebook yesterday who had a status message asking if any ladies received "fallacio" last night. After being corrected that women give and do not receive fellatio he re-asked the question as to whether any women had received or wanted some "cunnalingus" <-------head in hand. I promise I have a point and I'm not just writing this to poke fun at his stupidity, lol. Flash forward to this morning and a status of his pops up in my newsfeed:


Ya'll know I was giving the o__O. I mean the sentiment was BEAUTIFUL really, but c'mon dude. I can't take you seriously. Like you need more people. Preferally, yes preferally, Jesus, Joseph, Mary (both of them), AND the twelve disciples. Under his status someone commented "If you keep this up, I'm gon have to start calling you Rev." REALLY??? The same dude that was asking people about sexual actions not more than 20 hours ago?

Or what about the chick whose status read "God Forgive me, but this fat b**** is getting on my nerves!" To which I asked her... "o__O sooo do you really think he'll forgive you?" I mean I just think that at some point in time people need to stop with the "God know my heart" excuse.

I know, I know. The relationship that a person has with Christ is a personal one, we aren't supposed to judge, and so forth. However, when I was a little girl there was a simple little song that said "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." However, nowadays I don't see much of that anywhere and I have to wonder how did this happen?

*Black is Breezie Disclaimer* Now this post is not to be judgmental, it is just to point out what I have been noticing lately about the way people, specifically African Americans, treat religion as some sort of scapegoat to do the same mess that non-believers as though their proclamation of a relationship with Jesus overrides their foolishness. How did there become such a disconnect between the reverence and representation of the God that people claim they serve?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Age Ain't Nothing but A Number???

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The other day, as I was on my way home, I was on the bus sitting across from a couple of urban youths. They seemed to really be into each other and for a moment the thug in me died as I remembered my days of puppy love and being boo'd up. You know, before I became a cynic, everything became so complicated. As the ride continued, the couple got into a conversation in regards to a friend of the young lady. From what I heard, the friend was eighteen and her boyfriend was twenty eight. Of the young couple, the girl expressed strong dislike for the relationship stating "the man was too old," and "ten years was too big of a gap." To this the boyfriend responded "yea, but she's legal she can do what she wants. If you don't think that what she's doing is right, what does that mean for us?"

*leans in*

"How come she can't date an older man, but you can?"

Defensively the girl responded "that's different, we're only five years apart."

"Yea, but I'm twenty-one." STOP!

That would make her sixteen. STOP!

What the hayle is a sixteen year old girl, doing with a twenty-one year old man? Nevermind the fact that as a twenty three year old woman, who was once twenty-one and thus dated twenty-one year old men, I found them to be nothing more than fifteen year old boys on steroids. However, the law says otherwise. I sat in my seat giving ALL kinds of mental side-eyes o__O ... O__O ... O__o Just judgmental! Until I remembered, I was once a seventeen, sixteen, fifteen...(o__O, yeah you get my point) year old girl who thought I was super grown. I was the girl who thought I was mature enough to talk to a man that was five years my senior, just like the girl across the aisle from me.

Too often we focus on the role of the predators males in these situations, and not enough on the young girl who has a skewed view of beauty, love, and womanhood. Or when we do focus on the role of the female, it is not one of compassion, but one of criticism. "She's fast," "she's a ho," or "she wanted him to pee on her." o__O (Please don't get me started on the Robert "Define Teenaged" Kelly situation). Yet, to fully grasp the issue of loss innocence we must understand that not every sixteen year old dating a twenty-one year old is a victim, but not every one is a vixen either. Nevertheless, it's easy to place blame upon the young black girl, and not on the society that rears her.

At sixteen years old, I'm sure she can recite every lyric from Lil Wayne's "Every Girl." I'm sure she's sat hours in front a mirror perfecting that hypnotizing hip roll done in Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video. At sixteen years old, I'm sure she's leaned on her girls for support, while she grinded her ass into the pelvis of a sixteen year old boy, at her high school dance. More importantly, I'm sure this didn't start when she turned sixteen. See, from an early age, particularly in the music we listen to, black girls are cultured by an image that paints them as deviant and oversexualized.

Yet, the focus of this media that has been debated by black political scholars, music artists and even congressional panels, often leaves out the effect that this music has on young black girls. The conversations often dwell on how this music perpetuates misogyny, thus its affect on males. Ironically, like the music and the media in general, these conversations rely upon the existence of black girls while rendering them to the position of spectator.

As an adult I can sing every lyric to Lil Kim's Hardcore LP. Ask me how many of those lyrics I learned AFTER I was an adult and the answer is... not one. I learned them, in 1996, when the album first came out. I was ten years old singing "Big Momma Thang." o__O

"I used to be scared of the d***, now I throw lips to tha sh**, handle it like a real b****."

What did I know about that!?! NOTHING. Yet I thought it was appropriate to sit in my room with my headphones on and listen to it. Nevertheless, these lyrics in all their vulgar glory, speak to the interaction of black girls with society. These lyrics speak to the right of passage for black girls that comes at the expense of being recognized and accepted by our male counterparts.

A sixteen year old, dating a twenty-one year old, has undeniably traded her innocence for acceptance.
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