UndergroundWGN is #Winning

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“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…one ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warrings ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torun asunder. ” – W.E.B Dubois

UndergroundWGN is Emmy worthy and I can’t wait to see how successful it becomes. Underground follows Noah, a slave on a plantation, who seeks freedom through the Underground Railroad. He realizes, that his goal may only be possible if he assembles a group of his fellow slaves to accompany him.Of course the show gets way more complicated than that, but that’s the general concept.

Double Consciousness

 Double consciousness or shifting among the characters is extremely prevalent, which is one of the reasons I watch the show religiously. I am intrigued by the writers use of this idea coined by W.E.B Dubois way back in 1903 in his book The Soul of Black Folks. Double Consciousness, is basically in layman terms the two faces black people put on in America. We have to be black, and we have to be American. We have to act one way among white people and another way when we are comfortable enough being our true selves. Essentially we have to shift to survive.

Spoiler Alert

Each of the characters in this show shift or have two-faces. You think you know who they really are at their core, but each week, something new is exposed and another layer is added to them. Right now, we know that Noah played by Aldis Hodge has a limp because he doesn’t want the plantation owners to know that he is a threat to them. We know that Rosalee played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell  is a contented house-slave, who is ready to run away by any means. We also know that August Pullman played by Christopher Meloni is a white slave catcher who pretends to be for black people but will turn them in for a cash reward instantly. There’s a lot of shifting going on as a means of survival and I am here for it all.

Why you should watch

If I can compare this show to anything else, I would say it’s like a Scandal, set in slavery times. The writers are superb. They keep me engaged and wanting more and although this is sensitive material, they find a balance and create some highs and lows in the episodes so you’re not emotionally drained by the conclusion. Sometimes I find myself so drawn into the story lines, I have dreams about it later on.

I know why people might want to avoid a show like this; who wants to be constantly reminded about slavery every  week? I thought the same thing initially, but these characters are humanized in this show, even though the actual system of slavery  dehumanize them. They have feelings, and dreams just like anyone else, which is the underlying theme.Also, we have to support these shows so it can open doors for more shows to educate and acknowledge our rich stories.  I am hooked and you should be to.Underground comes on every Wednesday at 10PM (EST) on WGN which is on Channel 82 if you have Cablevision. WGN is a relatively new network so don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it before. Since the show has so many twist and turns every Wednesday the cast does a twitter chat #UndergroundWGN which is awesome because you need someone to watch this show with just so you can say “Did you see that?”

You can catch up on this series by clicking the link and watching it online. Trust me, you will thank me later.

http://www.wgnamerica.com/series/underground

Black-ish confronts Police Brutality and I’m here for it

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I am not an avid fan of Black-ish on ABC, although after the episode that just premiered I want to be. Black Lives Matter and Police Brutality have been the top stories on the news lately. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and the list goes on, were all killed at the hands of police officers. When will it end? Why are innocent lives being taken by the very authority figures that are supposed to protect those lives? What adds more fuel to the fire is that these officers are taking lives without any repercussion. Nothing is happening to them. They are completely protected under the law. It feels like we are living in 1950’s Jim Crow South where you can take the life of a black man or woman and walk away free of criminal punishment. Like I said my biggest problem with these cases are these officers facing no sort of punishment. No burn. Not a suspension, not a mandate for community service, not 2-weeks in jail, not 2-years in jail, notice I am trying to list the minimum amount of punishment to be received and they receive nothing. They are completely allowed to move on with their lives while the families of these dead victims suffer. Black Lives Matter and this has got to stop.

I say this all to say that I am a personal believer in people using their platforms to address these issues. I am proud of Black-ish for using it’s platform to illustrate the reality of how black families react every time the justice system that is supposed to protect us, fails us. This episode was so multifaceted and the writers used each of the characters to share a different perspective on this issue of police brutality. Bow and Dre struggle with how to explain to their two young children what the state of America is, without taking away their innocence. Bow wants to protect them from the reality of being black in America, while Dre wants to expose this reality to them so they have no surprises later on. Hence, the dispute of the episode is unleashed. What comes out of this episode, is great conversation and dialogue, discussions about Ta-Neshi Coates book which is taking the world by storm, and real life, tear jerking reactions to how devastating it is every time a police officer walks away Scott Free after killing a black teen or adult. The best part about the episode was that the writers were able to mix humor with real life stuff which made it one of the best television experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Without giving too much away, I encourage you guys to watch the episode. I found it on Hulu.

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Movie Monday: Lee Daniels The Butler

z6-shoji-butler-interview-a-20140214.jpgThese are our stories. OUR stories. The Butler is based on a true story of the life of Eugene Allen who was a butler for over 30-years in the White House. This movie resonated with me from the opening scene. The scene is deep although not based on Eugene Allen’s real life. A young Cecil Gaines, his mother, played by Mariah Carey, and his father played by David Banner are taking a picture on the cotton fields of the deep south when suddenly his mother is raped by an overseer. Cecil encourages his father to speak up on his mother’s behalf. His father tries to address the rape but is shot dead on the spot by the crazed overseer in front of his young son. This scene illustrates so many things but what rings out to me most is the dehumanization of black lives. Our lives meant nothing back then and it hurt watching.

Ultimately Cecil’s mother goes crazy and Cecil is taken in by the Madame to be a house boy/ house slave, which sets the tone for his career. Cecil works hard and eventually lands a job in the White House as a butler, which he takes very seriously. Simultaneously he juggles being a husband and a father to his two young sons. One of his sons being a revolutionary who is deeply apart of the struggle for Civil Rights, a far cry from  Cecil’s temperament.

This movie tugged on my heartstrings for many reasons. For one, it does a great job with representing the times and the tones of the day, from Emmett Till’s death to the Civil Rights Movement, to the Black Panthers Movement, to the Apartheid struggle in South Africa, and it does it so well. Secondly, one of the most defining moments for me in the movie was Cecil finally coming into consciousness. He realized that after years of playing the “contented negro” he deserved more for his life and he needed to fight for it. This movie resonated with me in my own life. Never be afraid to demand what you want and never settle for a situation that you know you deserve more for. Always strive to be your very best self but also remain humble. Cecil was a humble and a hard working man and I admire his work ethic and his contribution. He broke barriers and paved the way for us which is a powerful thing.

This movie is currently playing on Netflix which is where I watched it if interested.

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Confronting My History

This is what happened when I decided to confront my history in one day.

January 18th 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I had the day off and decided I wanted to watch all the black historical films that I’ve been avoiding since 2012.

First, let me explain my avoidance. These films as a black person are just hard to watch. They are completely necessary to watch but hard nonetheless. I take on the emotional burdens of these historical films depicting Slavery or the Civil Rights Movement. My mind does not allow me to separate between this being a movie, made by Hollywood, from the fact that this Hollywood made movie is a depiction of actual events and occurrences that took place in the past and so I watch these films as if these movies are real and I am  emotionally burdened by it all.

In spite of this, I just decided I wanted to be radical and not just watch one of these movies but all of them in one sitting. I wanted to watch D’Jango Unchained, 12-Years A Slave, The Butler, and Selma (if I had time, I would throw in the Malcom X movie). I dived headfirst. I started with Selma because it was MLK Day. Selma had a few rough scenes that shook me to my core and made me cry. The police ruthless beatings with the batons, the violence, the hatred, the disrespect, it messed with me but I kept on going.

Next up, I tried to find 12-Years A Slave. I couldn’t find it on Hulu or Netflix. My friends later told me, God spared my mind because that movie is a hard one. One day I will come back to it.

Then I watched D’Jango which was interesting. I liked it. It showed a black man empowered during slavery even though he was a murderer…hmm. What I hated most about this movie was the dog scene where a runaway slave was torn apart by dogs. This was a practice of slave masters during slavery, it just hurt so bad to watch.

The Butler, was next on my list. I was surprised by how great this movie was. It’s really powerful. The opening scene is a tearjerker. The rape and murder of Cecil Gaines parents illustrates how dehumanized black lives were during this time. Cecil Gaines worked hard and made his way into the White House, but he resented his eldest son who was a part of the struggle. His son was apart of the civil rights movement, the freedom rides, the Black Panther movement, and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. These historical references added so much substance to the movie and illustrated just how challenging the times were. Certain parts of this movie hurt to watch. Cecil constantly fought to get paid equally as the other white butlers and was shut down and told he could quit. His work as a domestic although underestimated and looked upon as “uncle tom’ish” made a huge contribution to the plight of our race and I thank him for his work and the work of many black domestics of our times just trying to make a living for their families.

January 19th 2016

By the time I watched all three of these movies I was emotionally beat. I tried to go to sleep but I couldn’t. Continue reading “Confronting My History”

Movie Monday: Selma

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Ava DuVernay! You did great work with this movie. The first 10-minutes captivated me. You see a well-dressed Martin uncomfortably receiving a Nobel Peace Prize award, but what comes next sets the tone for the whole movie. We are not sugar coating anything with this film are we? Its clear this movie is addressing the reality of black lives in the 1960s, south. Four little girls walking down their church steps, talking about things that these girls would most-likely be talking about and then the bomb goes off, and their pretty little shoes, their hair bows, their dresses, blown away like vapor. Their lives taken from them because of the brutal hatred for their black skin. This scene is followed by another very powerful scene with Oprah Winfrey attempting to gain her right to vote. We see how demeaning those voter registration tests were and it brought on the first of many tears in my eyes. Watching this movie, I had a cathartic cry. It was one of the most emotional tears I’ve ever shed, filled with pain and peace at the same time, I can’t describe it really but it was different. It was brought on by a scene where a black man trying to protect his mother and grand father was killed by police while protesting. I had to turn the movie off and just cry. This stuff really happened back then and it’s happening today, but why? Why are these senseless acts of violence so prevalent? Why is human life devalued so? Selma had an affect on me, and if you haven’t watched it as yet I encourage you to. Nothing that Martin Luther King did was in vein. He sacrificed his life so we could have the freedoms and liberties that we too often take advantage of.

Right now the movie is on Hulu, which is where I was able to watch it.

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Movie Monday:Why everyone should see Dear White People

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Sam White is a bi-racial student activist who has a radio show called Dear White People. She’s working hard to implement change at Winchester University, starting with her appointment to Head of the all black dorms Armstrong/Parker. A huge racial divide is brewing between the whites and the blacks at the school.

The movie simultaneously follows the lives of three other black students attending the university, including Coco, who comes off as an Uncle Tom, Troy Fairbanks who is the son of the school’s dean, and Lionel Higgins, who is the nerd, stereotyped and bullied mostly because of his sexuality. Sam and Lionel along with a group of other racially diverse students ultimately work together to ignite the biggest race war in their school’s history as a result of a racist Halloween party thrown by a popular student magazine.

This movie hit home for me in more ways than one. If you went to a PWI, then you know what it means to be an “other.” I spent a majority of my college career, but specifically my last two years feeling like an outsider. I just didn’t feel like I was in an environment that understood me. When I saw this movie, I felt like I wasn’t alone. Someone had to feel the same way to create such a real and culturally poignant movie for my generation. I say my generation; because this movie deals with the individual and institutional racism we encounter at the most prominent universities in America today. It also channels a modern day Spike Lee Joint. This movie isn’t an attack on White people but indepthly illustrates the experience of what it means to be black in America or in a smaller scope what it means to be black in a university where the majority is non-black.

Without giving too much away, I encourage you to watch for yourself. I found it on Hulu

 

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Movie Monday: What Happened, Miss Simone?

This choice is not necessarily a movie, more of a documentary but I enjoyed learning about the life and times of Nina Simone, one of the most influential singers my race has ever had. At the height of Nina Simone’s career she began to take part in the civil rights movement, which some say jeopardized her career because she became radical. What I loved about this documentary is that it humanizes Nina, and shows her vulnerabilities and quite frankly her demons with growing up in an American society that devalued her because of her blackness. Unlike many other entertainers, she couldn’t sit back idly and do nothing. She was very involved in the struggle.

If you have Netflix, please watch What Happened, Miss Simone?

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Talks at the Schomburg: Portrayals of Black Women in Media

IMG_0007The Schomburg hosted a Women in Media chat a few nights ago and I decided to attend. I believe this is an extremely important conversation, especially for someone like me who wants to break into the field. The panelist consisted of one of my favorites, Demetria Lucas of Belle in Brooklyn blog and book; she’s also on Bravo’s Blood Sweat and Heels; Vanessa K. DeLuca Editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine, Farai Chideya journalist and host of One with Farai and moderating, journalist Akisa Omulepu. So many interesting topics were brought up and I would love to share some of their discussion points as well as my takeaways.

Misogyny: Do men hate women? After watching shows like Love and Hip Hop you begin to ponder this. Sometimes it makes my heart jump when I hear a man use the B-word to address a woman, attack a woman, or even as a term of endearment. These shows allow women to be disrespected like such all the time. Being called a B**** is degrading. Historically, especially in the hip hop culture, women are not viewed as queens, we are viewed as a man’s B****, their subordinate, or sexual object. Women like Joseline Hernandez, allows her partner, Stevie J to degrade her because of her past as a stripper or Mimi who allowed her boyfriend to exploit her by releasing their sex tape when she has a little daughter at home, are just some of the examples of misogyny illustrated on main stream television, and its detrimental to our image as a whole.

Modern Mom: Sitcoms are a prime example where you see black women in modern mom roles. Most famous Claire Huxtable, yet most recently Rainbow Johnson played by Tracee Eliis Ross on the ABC hit show Blackish. She’s an eccentric and corky doctor, and I can almost see her being that type of mom in real life. But is that the only story we have to tell? Is the modern African American mom, a pretty and a professional doctor or lawyer, with 4-5 children? Continue reading “Talks at the Schomburg: Portrayals of Black Women in Media”

Why Black Girls Rock Is Necessary!

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“When Black Girls Rock, Stuff Happen…”

Young girls, especially young black girls need to be empowered, plain and simple. I grew up during a time where I looked up to video vixens as the woman I would want to become. There were very little positive female influences that looked like me in the media and on tv. Everyday, I would turn to BET and watch these beautiful and exotic women in music videos, with assets you could envy, collecting cash from rappers and shaking their butts in the camera. I thought they represented the ideal; the type of women guys wanted. The type of women who could get anything they wanted from a man, just by being beautiful. I believe this type of representation had a huge affect on me and my perception of black womanhood. My behavior as soon as I was able to enter a club was evidence of this. I had a skewed sense of what it took to get the attention of a man. I had a skewed sense of what it took to keep my man. I had a skewed sense of feeling like I was never enough or never doing enough. I had a skewed sense of what it meant to be a woman of integrity.

Black women are plagued with HIV/AIDS, STDS, drugs, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, prostitution, stripping, sexual abuse, poor choices in men, self-esteem issues among other things. Sometimes we fall victim to these things because we are not shown an alternate route. We are fed misconceptions of womanhood and end up with diminished self-esteem and a series of poor choices. I am so proud that there is an award show that highlights the brave women who have made a difference in the world. Our girls need upliftment, our girls need an education, our girls need a chance and Black Girls Rock along with many other initiatives including Reserved, see that we need to take action now. Continue reading “Why Black Girls Rock Is Necessary!”