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”