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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4-Years!

4-years ago I graduated from college. Unlike my peers I was not happy about this accomplishment. During my senior year I applied to Teach for America and did not get in, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Teaching was not in my destiny in this context (I later became a Sunday school teacher which was more aligned with my purpose), but what the application process of Teach for America did reveal to me was how much debt I accumulated during my four years of college.

When I saw all those zero’s, I couldn’t believe it. I cried, screamed, yelled, and resented my degree. I resented everything it stood for because the knowledge that I gained in undergrad wasn’t worth that kind of money. I wrote to President Obama because the government was also on my angry list. I couldn’t believe we lived in a country where an education, to ultimately make a decent living could be so expensive, especially when there are countries like Sweden, Denmark, and even Germany that sponsors their citizens college education. The President responded but clearly there was nothing he could do.

When I walked across the stage I reluctantly took my degree. A few days later, I packed my bags, got settled back into my apartment in Brooklyn and began to search for jobs. I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I only had until December to figure out my life or else I would be in big trouble with those loan sharks. I applied to jobs daily. I was desperate willing to take on anything, but what I noticed was that a lot of these positions wanted people with 1-3 years experience. Immediately, I felt like I hit a wall. Finally I decided to put my life in God’s hands. I prayed for miracles, started going to church and most importantly living my life and taking advantage of this time off. I started to volunteer. I worked for Catholic Charities for 2-months until I was offered a paid position there. My starting salary would be $26k. I remember being so excited when they gave me my offer letter. I called my mom and told her my volunteering efforts landed me my first job. Continue reading “4-Years!”