I love slice of life films. So, my curiosity was peaked, after reading a review for Gimme the Loot. It’s rare that we get good black films these days, let alone about black teens. However, my eyebrows were raised after I watched the trailer). I wondered why so many young white women in a film about black teens. I researched the writer-director Adam Leon, and turned out he’s a young white director. The film has also been endorsed/presented by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme. It made more sense that two white male directors would feel the need to incorporate whiteness into black folks lives. To be fair though, the young white women do serve a purpose for one scene in the film.
SPOILERS !!! SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!
The two young actors (Tashiana Washington (Sophia) and Ty Hickson (Malcolm) were amazing. They portrayed Bronx teens, pretty convincingly. I am especially looking forward to more work from Ms. Washington. While her role was the cliché loud/foul mouth black girl, you understand why. As a young woman in the male dominated world of graffiti/taggers, she has to make folks take her seriously. Actually, that might have made it a more complex film, looking at her life from the perspective as a young woman tagger. There are a couple of sweet moments for Sophia, but overall, the character is the standard sassy black girl. I also didn’t care for seeing the black female character lamenting about possibly not being seen as beautiful as the white female lead.
My other concern was that Sophia and Malcolm engage in a lot of criminal activity. Okay, I’ll backtrack a bit. The storyline revolves around two best friends, Sophia and Malcolm, who are also graffiti artists. They decide they want to leave a mark on New York City (NYC), in a big way. The two teens set their sights on tagging a big apple, that pops up, every time a home run is made at Shea Stadium. In order to do this, Malcolm has arranged for them to pay $500 dollars to a security that works there, so they can get into the stadium. Of course, they are teens with limited funds, and need to get money anyway they can. So, there is context to their criminality, but I still didn’t care for it. The first scene starts off with them stealing from a store and progressing to a potential robbery .
Currently, New York City has been under fire for its Stop & Frisk law. The concern of racial profiling of black & brown folks, especially young folks, is very real. There have been several instances of unjust harassment of young people of color by the NYPD:
I know it’s just a film, but it made me uneasy to see young folks of color casually stealing, robbing, and selling drugs. It’s not an image that needs to perpetuated, when there is so much intense racial profiling, in areas like the Bronx. Leon does try to show the racial and class disparities in NYC, with Malcolm and the white female character, Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze ). It’s during the scene with Malcolm, Ginnie, and her white girlfriends where you feel for Malcolm (and Sophia) and understand how their lives have been framed, so much differently from these upper-class white girls.
I did enjoy watching the two charismatic teens zig-zag around their neighborhood. It was interesting to see all the many characters they interact with, during their harrowing weekend. The ending scene was also very heartwarming. It will be interesting to see other folks of color thoughts on this film.
Most folks have heard about the heroic efforts of Charles Ramsey. If not, here is a quick recap:
On Tuesday, Mr. Ramsey was eating at a McDonald’s in Cleveland, when he heard cries for help. When he went to investigate, he noticed a young woman screaming for someone to call 911, and trying to kick down the door of her house. It turned out the young woman was Amanda Berry. She had been kidnapped over ten years ago. There was also two other young women that had been held captive with Berry–Gina DeJesus & Michelle Knight. The young women suffered years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. It was the speedy actions of Ramsey (he eventually kicked down the door), that helped save the lives of all three women.
Of course, Mr. Ramsey became an instant media sensation. He was just an everyday guy having lunch and got involved. It was amazing, because there have been countless stories of folks that have literally stepped over a person dying on the sidewalk. Mr. Ramsey obviously is an old school guy, and presented himself as such. His words “I knew something was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into a black man’s arms,” is going down as the soundbite of 2013, trust me. There have been several articles written about Mr. Ramsey’s lively personality, and how it came across on the national news :
Some folks thought Mr. Ramsey’s heroic efforts were being mocked, because of his quirky personality. I have to admit, I chuckled when I heard Mr. Ramsey say what he said. I thought he was being raw and honest, and I got what he was saying. I wasn’t laughing at him at all. I am a black woman who comes from a black family sprinkled with Charles Ramseys. Like Ms. Sweet Brown before him, they represent themselves as they are, because they are not ashamed of who they are. Why should they be? They should not be defined by their dialect or that they have a head-wrap on their head or that they don’t give bland responses. Of course, there are those that are going to run with these images (memes). However, from what I can tell on the (black) blogs, black folks have much respect for Mr. Ramsey, and nodded their heads knowingly at his words.
I wish Mr. Ramsey well…
Yesterday, on my favorite entertainment blog, images popped up of celebrities at the MET Costume Gala 2013. Most were jokes about how terrible everyone looked. I mean the point is they are supposed to look outrageous, not a hot mess :)…But, what really caught my eye, was this photo of Nicki Minaj:
I was shocked at how pale she looked. It’s obvious she has been lightening her skin. It seems par for the course these days, that black women can no longer look black in the media. I wrote a bit about this in my latest zine issue. In the piece “the destruction of the brown skin diva,” I looked at the marginalization of the black female soul singer, in favor of white ones (e.g. Adele). Besides their music, black women are being white washed in other ways, and that’s how they look. They now have to be the white standard of beauty. I have nothing against black women wearing blonde, changing hairstyles/colors, because some black women can rock the style. But, it’s a bit disconcerting when the majority of our black women celebrities, are blonde. It’s also disturbing so many are whitening their skin.
Nicki Minaji just a few years ago:
As an almost forty-year old woman, sometimes it’s hard for me not to get suckered into this white supremacist imagery. So, I can only imagine the impact it’s having on young black women/girls. Our Lauryn Hills, are far and few these days. As a 90’s high schooler/young adult, I remember all the popular dark/brown women singers, at the time. Brandy, Monica, Tanya Blount, Brownstone, Jade, Total, etc. I remember when Lil Kim, was a cute brown girl. Their style was attainable to me, because they looked like me. Because of the whitewashing of black women celebrities, black women must work even harder to provide alternative images for our young women.
UPDATE: just saw this new single cover for Tamar Braxton…sigh
I’m sure most folks have heard/seen this racist ad courtesy of Las Vegas.com…If not, here ya go:
The Sapphire stereotype is an image mainstream media loves of black women. They can project all of their hatred of blackness/women on this caricature. The loud black woman rolling her neck with long acrylics at her customer service job, dehumanizes black women who work in these positions . The Sapphire stereotype has been around forever.
As noted on the website, For Harriet: celebrating the fullness of black womanhood:
“Hard, strong, emasculating, overbearing and controlling are all characteristics of the traditional Sapphire stereotype. Sapphire was created to threaten the power of the black male and to place a negative gaze upon any black woman who dared to critique the horrible conditions black women had to face. The Sapphire stereotype was popularized by the character, Sapphire Stevens, in the mid 20th century television show Amos ‘n’ Andy. Today Sapphire has evolved into the angry black woman. This stereotype is probably the most popular characterization of black women today. This woman is always yelling, starting fights, and insulting men. Reality television is perpetuating this stereotype more than ever by highlighting fights between black women and failed relationships with black men. This stereotype has become such a popular way to view black women that our first lady, Michelle Obama, who exudes grace and class has been classified as a modern say Sapphire.”
An Open Letter from Assata Shakur: ‘I Am Only One Woman’
I recently watched “Luv” on Netflix. I remember hearing about the film, a few months ago, but lost track of it. So, after watching the movie, I am surprised it hasn’t received more buzz. The film offers great performances from folks like “Allstate” man–Dennis Haysbert, new/young actor–Michael Rainey Jr, and rapper– Common.
The representations of black women are brief (although it was great to see the underrated Lonette McKee), but that’s okay, as the film is about what it is to be a man/(black)masculinity. It’s disturbing to see what the young boy witnesses, as he spends a day with his rough/around the way uncle, Wood.
However, the film is surprisingly moving, I teared up a few times. I would recommend it. The film offers a fresh take on an “urban” story.
I am the founder of monthly zine workshops for women of color. The purpose is to encourage women of color to write, engage in cultural criticism, and self-publish.
Stay connected to us via our website: http://wocpdxzines.wordpress.com/
This summer, we are hosting our 2nd Women of Color Zine Symposium. Saturday, Jun 8th, 2013 @ Portland State University/Smith Memorial Student Union. 10am-4:30pm. The schedule is still being determined.
The event is free and open to the pubic. Allies are encouraged to attend.
I heart the POC Zine Project…it’s a great way to learn about the history/work of women of color/people of color zinesters and artists..
From their website: Our mission is to make all zines by people of color easy to find, distribute and share. We are an experiment in activism and community through materiality.
you can go to their tumblr to learn more: http://poczineproject.tumblr.com/