It’s interesting to me that many people, mostly those in my community, are completely comfortable and at ease walking up to others, mostly in our community, and asking “have you seen 12 Years a Slave”, after which they proceed to go on for several minutes about how amazing the film is, and how exceptionally realistic the whipping scene is, and how magnificent both leads are, and courage, and you must see it, and Oscars, and…
I know someone personally, who just today indicated that they havent seen the film, but will tell anyone who asks them that they have watched, She stated that she did the same with Django, Fruitvale, The Help and anything else that people suggest “you have to see it”, without any reason other than they felt it was good.
Which brings me to where i find myself right now. I don’t want to see 12 Years a Slave, not yet anyway. i don’t want to drop 10 bucks to see that “realistic whipping”, I don’t want to cry tears of joy as he overcomes, i don’t want to reflect upon how far we have come as a nation upon leaving the cinema. I simply don’t. And I’ll explain why…
I’m burned out on blackness. At least the kind of Blackness that Hollywood, and popular music, and the news and authors and teachers and religious believe I supposedly want. I got my ticket to see Fruitvale Station and immediately thought “I can’t get popcorn and soda for this shit right. I’m supposed to go in there with shades on and a scowl and glare at White people during the film.” That pressure ruined my overall experience, though the film itself, was phenomenal.
But after processing that film, and many others, what I realize that I want more than anything else is to enjoy, publicly, a fuller experience of Blackness than I am allowed to enjoy.
I can’t expect that someone is going to make a biopic about Donald Glovers life as a little known screen writer who goes on to stardom. I know this already. But I would love to see it. I know that many in my community want to see a film about the water polo team from Northside Philly that went on to win the national championship against all odds with the wisened Black coach who always knew they could though no one believed in them. Oh, and they pray.
What is mising from the discourse, and from films, music, books, conferences, lectures and general everyday conversations is the overall reality of Black life.
We have invested ourselves in retelling misery, though true and real, without balancing it with a flavor of other aspects of our very real diverse lives. I don’t mean just poetry slam and wine and cheese, or “we are freaky too” Zane type shit. I dont mean the brother who looks like Idris Elba, but is poor and has a heart of gold but is poor and woos the girl from high society. Those are literally fairy tales, though there is a place for them.
What I mean is that kid from anywhere in the community who rides a skateboard, or that sister that has started her own company, or the BGSA’s and what they do on First Fridays, and rappers who want to convince you that they are full members of society, and not felons, and authors who care about all parts of their family, and not just the crazy hood facts who show out in front of company…
I’m not going to pay to see the Butler at the same theatre that i want to see Thor. And I want to see Thor at the end of a work week when I’m giving two hours of mu manlged nerves for entertainment. What I want, ultimately, is to see a Black film student make a sci-fi film with Black characters that are embraced by a Black film-going audience and made into a huge hit.
I’m burned out on seeing Black people “serve” in a most dignified manner. I’m burned out on seeing my people die and having art make sense out of it, so we can come together with White guilt ridden men and women and explore solutions. I’m burned out on seeing my folks sass their way through misery, and neglect. All I want, is some sense of normalcy. To see my entire community represented, flaws and all.
And I know what you are thinking. Well, Napoleon, get to work. Trust me I am already on it because I need to share this sci-fi piece Ive been working on, but I also need to see the Science Genuis documentary, I need to see the biopic of some absolutely exceptionally normal Black dude who did exceptionally normal things for normal people, I need to see Nerds of Color go viral, I need to see that our values come from one another and not just outside of our church.
I don’t know how I may feel in a years time, but refrain from asking me about the “powerful” works of art that lead to us all celebrating our 450 year old experiences. I’m lost in a haze of trying to discover where we are going, and I can only do that by examining the state we are actually in. Not how we’ve overcome, but how we are managing our lives, and skin, and difference, and sameness and brilliance, and pain, right now.
I watched a film with my lovely wife recently named “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”, made by a Black director about how he has fallen in love with this woman, and his meditation on what it is like to fall in love with her, and her response to him falling in love with her, and animation about his past loves, and his fear and insecurity about being so near her while she grows to love him…
…That was literally all it was about. Black people meditating on some love shit and being hippies. And I loved every ridiculous minute of it.
Oh, and fuck Kanye West for his Confederate line of clothing. There is no “claiming that symbol” for anything other than what it means. We are the idiots who have indulged this supposedly genuis child, so now he believes that any foolsih thing he does will be tolerated since he has the right to an artistic temperament. We have supported it by patronizing his product and arguing about “what he really means.” Dude is crying out for attention, and this latest is simply more evidence of that. As I’ve said, children typically stop acting out, when you stop responding so passionately to their antics.
Try listening to Robert Glasper, who last I checked, has never worn anything with a confederate flag on it.