Tag Archives: response

“The Help”: Is it just me or…

…are black people not feeling this movie trailer?  I’ve witnessed a very conflicted reaction to the trailer of the new movie “The Help” recently, in a movie theater that was filled with black folk.  Conflicted is the best way I can describe the mix of disgust and curiosity.  Am I surprised? No. It’s 2011, but the subject matter and images still sting.  Nothing like a dark-skinned black woman serving white folks in a maids uniform…in a period movie…set in the deep south.  Sigh.  Especially when it centers around a classic white savior character.  Since it takes place during the Civil Rights era, I think the author could have done a better job of developing the black lead character.  However, would Hollywood even make such a movie if it didn’t have a white lead?  I don’t know.

Unlike a lot of people I know, I read the book last year.  I can see how the movie trailer is off-putting without the book as reference.  I had some problems with the book, but overall I thought it was a decent read given the full context of who wrote it and the back story presented.  At times, reading it was heart wrenching for me as a black woman whose family is from Mississippi (mom’s side) and who’s great-grandmother was a maid for several white families.  Parts of the story were plain old scary, as racism sometimes is.

I don’t know for sure how this movie is going to be received by the black community.  I think Michele Wallace’s recent review in Essence is dead on (if they post it to the site, I’ll link to it).  In my opinion, this is not going to be a celebrated movie (like “The Color Purple”), but I’m glad that great actresses like Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson are taking on the roles in this film so that they are played with dignity.

One more point that doesn’t help: A Maid Sees Herself in a Novel, and Objects – Yep, a black maid, named Ablene, that worked for Kathryn Stockett’s older brother is suing her.  Dag! At least name the main black character in your book something other than your brother’s REAL, black maid’s name.  Come on!  To add insult, the woman says that part of the storyline was taken from her life.

NY Times | “Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old woman who has long worked as a maid here, has filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, the author of the best-selling novel “The Help,” about black maids working for white families in Jackson in the 1960s.

In the complaint, Ms. Cooper argues that one of the book’s principal characters, Aibileen Clark, is an unpermitted appropriation of her name and image, which she finds emotionally distressing.

It is more complicated than that. For the past dozen years, Ms. Cooper has worked for Ms. Stockett’s older brother, Robert, and sister-in-law, Carroll, and still does.

“Ain’t too many Ablenes,” Ms. Cooper said at a law office after a day’s work at the Stocketts, for whom she has helped raise two children. Ms. Cooper also said that she had their support in her legal quest.

“What she did, they said it was wrong,” Ms. Cooper said of the Stocketts, members of a prominent Jackson family. “They came to me and said, ‘Ms. Aibee, we love you, we support you,’ and they told me to do what I got to do.””

Quote from Viola Davis in the August issue of Essence magazine:

”Of course I had trepidations. Why do I have to play the mammy? But what do you do as an actor if one of the most multifaceted and rich roles you’ve ever been given is a maid in 1962 Mississippi? Do you not take the role because you feel like in some ways it’s not a good message to send to Black people? No. The message is the quality of the work. That is the greater message… As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences – experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.”


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Erykah Badu: We love your nakedness

I was really, really shocked at the negative response that many Black people have had to Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” video.  Outside of the fact that filming was done without a proper permit (which could bring some legal heat from the City of Dallas), I really didn’t understand the drama.   Then I remembered that she’s a black woman.

  • She is a black woman who has not allowed her image to be over-sexualized in the media.
  • She is not Trina or Lil Kim.  She’s not a video vixen
  • She is a “natural sista” and “earth mother goddess” whom many have put on a royal pedestal to be held up as an example of truth and light
  • She’s done something shocking and many are not comfortable with it.

How dare she make you uncomfortable?  How dare she try to do something different and strange?  How dare she be so “out of the box.”  Right?

This is all about the boxes that Badu is metaphorically evolving from in the video.  The boxes that say in the Black community only video hoes, strippers, female rappers and the like can take their clothes off in public.  It’s ok for them right?  The boxes that are at work right now telling us that we should not THINK that this video is ok.  We should think what THEY say we should think, right?

Of course, sisters with wisdom and truth, who wear their hair without chemical straighteners and understand mathematics would never expose themselves to make a point, right?

If you agree with that, I’m sure you’d  agree that Black people don’t do performance art anyway?  We can’t possibly understand all of the symbolism in the video because we are so caught up in the “groupthink”.  The same groupthink that says Waka Flocka Flame and Soulja Boy make good music.  Isn’t that right?

So let’s all just take this video at face value and join in the chorus of people who don’t get it and can’t accept it.  Let’s stay on the surface and not dig deeper.  Let’s assassinate the character of the beautiful black sister who is trying to speak to us from a place of vulnerability in her art.  Let’s do to her what she’s already symbolically done to herself…strip down her motives and assassinate her character.

“As soon as the thought came to my mind, I decided to assassinate myself as a gesture. Because it was going to happen anyway. The video is a prediction of what is happening now. […] I would like to say that it was a protest to awaken a term called ‘groupthink.’ It’s a term that was coined in 1952. It’s the recognition of a state of being for humans. It’s human nature for a person to be afraid to express his or her self in fear of being ostracized by the group or general consensus,” the singer explains.  – source

I don’t know about y’all, but I’d rather see a video like this, something risky and artistic, than 90% of what I usually see in the media.  I’d much rather see nakedness with a point than random booty shaking and bikinis.

Erykah Badu, I love your nakedness, your vulnerability, and your strength.  I hope you sell lots of downloads and CDs.


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When campaigning for a black man you will face racism…duh

I just read the Washington Post piece “Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause” and I just have to say DUH!!!  I’m mean really???  Really? People are surprised about campaign offices being defaced and people calling teens the N-word?  Have we all bought into the whole “color blind America” concept?  Really?

The article notes that Obama’s camp hasn’t publicized the racial incidents that have occured.  You want to know why?  You want to the reason they weren’t bold enough to print?  Can you handle it?

Because white people don’t want to hear about that stuff!!! It makes them fell bad.  That kind of news doesn’t make white people want to vote for “Barry.”  If his name is too black, too African/Muslim thus they’ve given him the nickname “Barry”,  then they damn sure don’t want to think about racism and injustice when they think of him.  White folks will not be motivated by guilt, shame, or America’s racism when voting for Obama. That much guilt doesn’t exist in America…ask a segregationist about the civil rights era, they’ll tell ya.  The things that people in Obama’s camp have suffered are nothting compared to things that protesters endured in the Civil rights era.   It took years and years and years of seeing that for white folks to get behind the cause and help move the government.

It’s better that Obama stick with connecting himself and his image to middle of the road concepts…hope…change…etc.  White America doesn’t want to see oppression and the legacy of slavery when they look at a potential candidate.  They want to feel good about giving their “black friend” a chance.

Yes…I said it.


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