Y’all, listen. As much as I try to not use y’all when I write or speak in formal settings (i.e., interviews, when I first start teaching a new group of kids, etc…), now is the time.
Y’all, I went to bed feeling solid yesterday. I think I was closer to a state of bliss than a state of happiness.
Because I propped up in my bed and watched Lee Daniels’ The Butler for the first time. The movie’s opening scene traumatized me (because in some ways I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the brutality and oppression that was American life) while the entire film healed me with its stories of struggle, love, and tenacity.
After watching Whitaker, Oprah, Oyelowo…everyone’s beautiful performances, I turn to the internet only to see that Lupita Nyong’o won the Academy Award.
And then bliss set in.
Of course, I had to YouTube her speech.
I don’t have a TV here, or I would’ve definitely been glued to the set to watch this year’s Oscars.
Whenever I am feeling down, whenever I am feeling low, being reminded of those who came before me brings me strength every time. I know you’re not supposed to use every or always when arguing a point, but thinking about my history has never failed to empower me.
Now Ava DuVernay, a black writer, filmmaker and producer who I highly respect (Middle of Nowhere is one of my all time favorite films), made a profound statement in Essence when she said “I think Hollywood is comfortable with Black people in hindsight, because they don’t want to deal with us right now.”
I paused after reading that, but had to agree.
Why talk about police brutality (like in Fruitvale Station—another movie still on my to-watch list) or the women left behind because of the prison-industrial complex (Middle of Nowhere) when we can point to other stains on our history and say that we’ve attempted to wash them away via hate crime laws and affirmative action?
Side note: I don’t even like the term affirmative action. When people “doubt” my validity to be anywhere because of my race my response is always that white people were beneficiaries of affirmative action for centuries. In other words, it’s a debate I’m not even willing to engage in because it’s purely ridiculous when people look at history and current day statistics for…ten minutes.
Yet, I digress.
I’m hoping that this Year of Black Film in the Media will become the new norm because, as far as I’m concerned, we have always had stories to tell, and we’ve been telling stories. Hollywood and the formal establishments are just now beginning to listen a little more. Yet even if they don’t, we’ll still tell our stories to each other like my grandma tells her stories to me.
Because we know we’ve lived. We know we’re a diverse group. And we know that we will continue producing art for ourselves and for us all.