For The Culture: Bedknobs, Bonnets & Broomsticks-Part 1

Follow my favorite cousin (one of them!) on TikTok —@cfstory—for all other history tea. Thank you for all you do, Sis.

I’m still fine with my head wrapped up.

What do you think about his grapevine a debate in 2021 it’s just how crazy it got! This conversation about whether not black women should wear bonnets outside has sparked conversations of tone policing, generational trauma, misogyny, misogynoir, and beauty standards as a Black women.

This conversation has also led to that five-dollar word for policing: respectability.

In seeing this debate play out in real time, I cannot help but wonder and think about what I grew up with. My parents are both Baby Boomers. I was taught to be pretty my hair had to be straight a.k.a. ‘done’ and I couldn’t leave the house with my ‘hair wrapped up’. That was not allowed! My father, the proud Black man he was, knew the value of imagery and projection! The unwritten rule of Black girlhood—you can’t do what White girls do!

My father knew that in order to equip me for the world to handle the conscious and unconscious White Gaze was to give me a name first off that did not sound intimidating (read: sounded white) and be able to sculpt my growing up, and my aesthetic in such a way that I would be more palatable to white folks around me.

In the raising of being raised as the Respectable Black Girl, they were certain things I just knew I couldn’t do. And not just wearing bonnets outside! When Brandy Norwood in the mid-1990’s came out with her braids (Brandy Braids or Box Braids) I asked my parents if I could have them!

I was told no. I’m still not quite sure as to why I couldn’t get them. The Paul Mooney quote about White people being relaxed when your hair is relaxed comes to mind…

But yet in the comments section of some of these TikTok accounts and DM’s of their creators, is the dirtiest kind of war! There are Black folk fighting other Black folk like Voltron! They are fighting each other with the same slurs and coded language racist White people use to describe, discriminate against all of us!

From being told that Black women look ratchet, tacky, ghetto, unkempt and classless, to name a few. With the idea being, “When we go outside with bonnets, who’s gonna take you serious?Which leads to the other great debate (as always): what Black women do with their hair!

It was devastating to see other Black people denigrate, pile on, and rip apart Black women just because we choose to wear what we were we go outside. It just confirmed my deepest fear: There is no safe space to truly we just Black and woman! Now, I understand that Black people in this nation have been in a place where everything about us has been police or controlled—including how we look and how we look at ourselves.

The one thing that needs to happen to come back to civility, there has to is the radical accepting of self! This can only be done one life, one generation at a time! Even if I as a Black woman choose not to go outside with my hair wrapped up in certain cases, and then cannot judge another Black woman who does.

The world judges us both when they follow us through Macy’s anyway.

For The Culture—Why DMX Matters

“To live is to suffer.” -DMX

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t wanna write this piece. Because I’m still quite upset that Earl Simmons is no longer in the world. I was a fan of DMX starting in high school in early college (late 1990’s, early 2000’s). I liked his gravely m voice, his linguistic dexterity, and he said exactly what he wanted to say! A trait every writer can get behind. But remember: rapping is still just poetry in its elements in at its function. Poems are just a form of quick storytelling – – so why would rap be any different?

And losing him, the world has lost something precious. We all know about the drug abuse, we know about all the kids, we know what the drama with his babies mothers—but he was talented!

He was worthy of love and to be appreciated just as he was. The one thing that makes me so irritated, that is so heartbreaking about his passing, is the world wanted to focus on his drug use, not his work. But this is always the case with Black artists who die before their primes—before truly realize their potential.

They are remembered for the tricks and traps of fame and fortune; those being used in trying to fill holes that they never fill, and didn’t cause. These traps are worse than anything the SAW universe could dream up!

But the one thing I can say that I miss about Earl Simmons, about DMX, is that they won’t be another one like him. And I’m glad things are being put in place now to put his work out. To release or we release songs in certain cases things to Swizz Beats.

Black artists matter. Rest in peace, Earl.

Did I Tell You About The Time I Almost Got Catfished?

Dating is dangerous, family!

In February 2020, I talked about how discouraged (read: afraid) I was to start dating after the ending after of this last relationship. Then…I got on Facebook dating on a whim. You favorite was (almost!) the victim of a catfish. So, I got brave and made a profile on Facebook Dating. I made one before, starting trying to date someone—and that fizzled as quickly as it started. After random men offering lackluster and fervent sexual favors, this guy calling himself Kenvy inboxed me.

This handsome somebody I am positive didn’t inbox me.

I admit it:  He was handsome. He was sweet. But something wasn’t right. Now, I am a fan of the Alice In Wonderland live action movie. There is a portion of the movie, near the end, where before Alice can defeat the Jabberwocky, she has to believe 6 impossible things. Now, I had to notice those same impossible things in  order to not be swept up in nonsense.

This dude, Kenvy, told me that he was a “USA Marine” and he was in Africa at the moment (Impossible Thing #1). No Marine I know says he’s a USA Marine.

This dude told me that he had a daughter named Berry (Impossible Thing #2) and her mother was not in her life. (Impossible Thing #3). We talked for two days, and he kept repeating himself (Impossible Thing #4). He sent me pictures, and asked me to download WhatsApp—I did. I mean, my best friend is on it! The app is free, too! So, I acquiesced because he was cute.

Aside A: This is the fly in the ointment, with me and ‘Kenvy’. I’m a writer. I am a student of history. I also have been researching romance scams for the past couple years. I am also fan of the MTV show Catfish. I am also a year from 40. I am not that easy to fool.

Harpo, who this man?!

We exchanged pictures. He told me after talking to me two days that I was what he wanted (Impossible Thing #4). Kenvy told me that I was beautiful, and he could see himself getting serious with me (keep in mind, we were only talking like 2 days—Impossible Thing #5). In sending him pictures, he even started dedicating songs to me! Bruh, slow up! One of those songs being Perfect by Ed Sheeran (Impossible Thing #6)!

Curiouser and curiouser…

Keep in mind Perfect was a song that has significant meaning—by someone incredible! But let’s keep going. The whole conversation felt rushed! I asked him when his deployment would be over. He said, “Next month.” At the time it was late April—the month of May was in literal DAYS. When I pressed for details, he couldn’t give any (Impossible Thing #7). I asked why I couldn’t hear his voice—he told me some BS reason that was so convoluted that even I can’t match it (Impossible thing #8). He said the reason why he couldn’t call me was because it wasn’t safe or secure (Okay, maybe.). Then he asked if I would be willing to give him my number to give to his commanding officer to have it be verified (Hell Nall! Impossible Thing #9 and #10).

WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE?!

So, all my antennae are up at this point!  I can’t hear his voice, sentence structure is off, he’s repeating himself, and the pictures he sent don’t jive with where he is supposed to be in the world. My immediate thought—I am being catfished.

Wanna know what I did next? I waited on him to ask me for money. I felt that was coming and intuition rarely fails. In two days, this cat is talking about marrying me, kids, and wanting to always be here for me.

Aside B: I am secretly fascinated by romance scams! I have been researching them for a while, because I wanted to know just how victims are sucked in! From that research, from that second hand knowledge, I was prepared.

I. Was. Prepared.

He texted me through this shady ass app, and the dread was in my belly. I knew it was coming—this man only an illusion. But then, I realize what hooked these other women—attention. The overwhelming attention when there is nothing else granting it to you!

Then he had it…the audacity. He asked me to send him $200 on a eBay gift card to pay his Wifi (Impossible Thing #11). He said he would pay me back “when I get home (Impossible Thing #12).”

I told him to never contact me again. I told him how dare he ask me to send him $200?! He seemed hurt and confused, but he left me alone. Then, I felt the dread. Wondering about the pictures I sent, about whether my picture will be in this scam next time…and that person not be as smart.

Feeling stupid has a frequency, and other consequences…beyond screens.

Note: The pictures sent to me include a child who is probably his daughter. I don’t feel comfortable sharing them. He might be a serviceman and I pray his safety for him and his daughter.

In The Letting Go

For the sister I didn’t know I needed—Jahaira Balenciaga (DeAlto).

It took me a week to write this. It took that long to write this because I am still processing all of it. I am actively, equally outraged, heartbroken and in rolling disbelief. The woman I had watched on YouTube for the better part of a decade, who I connected with through the gift of social media–for the better part of a decade–was murdered in her house because she was helping a woman leave her husband.

I am devastated. And here is why.

I was introduced to Jahaira through the YouTube channel MuchLove From KY (Ms. Nina!) who I love like an Aunt also. I liked Jahaira because she was funny, smart, and she changed her hair like I did! I didn’t even know Jahaira was trans until disclosed that. Now, was I raised to be homophobic or transphobic? Not at all. So, Jahaira being trans, was a small part of who she was. What endeared Jahaira to me was her authenticity, her love for the people around her, and her steady committment to make the world a better place.

I followed her YouTube channel (JahairasMission) for years! I celebrated when she got her associates degree. I rejoice when she enrolled in Simmons University to finish her bachelors degree. I was so happy we won her award! She was doing so much good in the world and to have her life snuffed out like this? It is so unfair.

I am reminded of the statistic that she gave when excepting her MOVA award about 3 years ago now. She said that the average age that trans women get to especially transwomen of color get to, is only 35. At the time of her passing, Jahaira was 42,43 years old.

Foolishly, I thought that she was passed that danger point! I thought that she had made it over so to speak. And that all the good in the world that she was aiming to do, the children that she helped raise, the love and legacy that she left—she was going to be able to be one of those trans women they got to see old age and seen the reward of all her hard work. I wanted that for her…

It is being reported out of Dorchester, that The person that murdered her was actually staying with her! He’s now in custody, and I am enraged!

I have been watching her videos on YouTube for a week because my mind cannot wrap itself around the fact that this woman that I knew, who had gone through so much, who was destined to do so many good things is GONE!

It is being reported out of Dorchester, that she was murdered by the estranged husband of the woman she was trying to help to leave him. He wound up killing Jahaira and his estranged wife!

This ain’t right. This isn’t fair. And I don’t know how I’m coping. I can only imagine how her mother feels! Jahaira DeAlto is the 21st trans woman to be murdered this year. Yeah, even in all of my grief and anger, I’m choosing to do the very thing Jahaira reminded us all as her sub tastics told us do: LIVE.

And with that four letter word, let that be her legacy. She encouraged us all to live and live unapologetically. Owning every last piece of our truth, embracing every flaw that we have, and celebrating every victory!

See you one of the other side, Jah.

I Took The COVID-19 Vaccine–And I Have No Regrets

For my thoughts about working during a global pandemic, click here to purchase a copy of Thoughts In A Pandemic.

I am vaccinated and unbothered.

I have been in healthcare for almost a decade.

I am the daughter of healthcare professionals. Even as of this posting, thanks to the urging of my best friend, my mother (and all the nurses I work with at my day job!), I am pursuing nursing school again.

Let me insert a humblebrag here: it will be my second Bachelor’s degree. But, let’s move on.

I didn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine! I thought the process was rushed, I thought about the possibility of variants (and they are popping up now!), and I just didn’t trust the administration of Orange Thanos. On top of that, I remember my history. I know my history.

I know about the Black women that were experimented on for the sake of gynocology.

I remember the Tuskegee Experiment.

I know about the Freedman Hospitals.

I am aware of the history that medicine, under the guise and submitted to the full power of racism, has done to Black people: bond and free. I understand that my body, my sex, and my existence has been more valued as Guinea pig and corpse rather than sentient woman. I am keenly aware of this.

And yet, I called my mother the week the announcement was made at my employer that we would be getting the Pfizer vaccine (which is 2 shots). I remember thinking, “I don’t want to get this.” I was scared. I was unsure–and then I had to look on the flipside of this. If I didn’t get it and was exposed–what would happen?!

I am a single mother of two daughters. My oldest daughter, aware of my job, cried on my bed and thought I was going to die because I had to go to work! I thought about my mom, my friends, but…I truly thought about my daughters. And that was humbling. In calling my mother, I told her about the shot. I gave her all the information that I had at the time, and told her point blank that I wasn’t going to take it! I told her, “Mama, it’s too quick!”

Now, let me back up a little.

In December of 2020, the time after the election and before the Capitol Riot, Orange Thanos was trying to save face! He had gotten COVID-19 after denying it was real; after denying Dr. Fauci a chance to speak; after contracting COVID-19 AND ALMOST DYING–he put pressure on the FDA in order to rush the approval of the vaccine! I was not comfortable trusting the word, the motivations and actions of an administration that gutted the CDC and thought a drug to treat Lupus would help with this! My mother, the retired 40-year nurse, told me this: “Take the vaccine and pray about it.”

I don’t know why this helped, I cannot explain the magic of the assurance of your mother when you are almost 40, but that helped! And what also helped is knowing that Black women we instrumental in getting this vaccine created. That helped. Immensely! So, about a week after Christmas 2020, I went to get my shot. I had symptoms for 2 days, and was fine. I had fatigue, body ache, a headache–and even a quit bout of diarrhea (it’s true!). My arm hurt for 2 days, and by Day 3? I felt better. I took my second shot about 3 weeks later–and had to go to work that night!–and only had body aches.

For 8 hours.

But my symptoms were mild compared to other people I knew. But I don’t regret it. I don’t regret being scared. I don’t regret questioning. I don’t regret researching! I don’t regret calling my mom, even!

I understand vaccination of this sort is personal to some people–and I even understand people who don’t want to wear masks after vaccination. I don’t agree, but I understand. But just know, decisions–good and ill–have consequences. Masks shouldn’t be political–they should be preventative! Vaccinations are meant to serve the public good and public health!

I applaud what President Biden is doing. I am grateful for it! I just want–for once!–the American people realize that hubris is murderous at this point. And who wants to be that person not invited out because you won’t put a mask on? That just makes us think you don’t wash your hands either.

Don’t be that person.

Wash your hands. Wear your masks. Get your shot.

Your future self will thank you.

God & Lil Nas X-Part 2: Takeaways

For my overview, click here for Part 1.

I write this part as a cis-het, Christian, woman whom is a mother, and hope hustler (minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ).

With that established, let’s get it!

1.) You cannot tell me that this young man is not hurt and isn’t lashing out. I have heard the hellfire sermons as it relates to homosexuality. They have never sat well with me. This is the only ‘sin’ there is no grace given to or for. The gospel of Christ is a hammer, yes—but it was never meant to massacre! Imagine being told as you live your life, the source of all things will turn His back on you. That is a nightmare! People forget that love draws, hate divides! Guess which was the last thing Christ told us to do? I’ll wait.

2.) This video was meant to be divisive. The vibe I got watching this video was to make people mad. He fully embraced this identity as a pariah. Completely and utterly outcast from society as Black, gay man—the video celebrates everything in his reality that will ostracize him elsewhere! He is celebrating the fact that “all gay people go to Hell” and pole dancing the whole way there! That is a boldness without equal. Then to simulate sex with Satan, only to murder him(!) and take He’ll over?! Like Crowley on SUPERNATURAL?! Fam!

I don’t think y’all get that: He. Just. Trolled. God. That is a different kind of hubris, I don’t have—or could ever want. His arms are too short for that smoke.

3.) There is an artistry to this video that is undeniable. It’s a pretty video! Very avant-garde! And the creativity that went into it is amazing.

4.) The ownership of your complete self is a process—and when done well? It is incredible!Since Lil Nas X came out, he has made it his mission to accept himself—regardless of who said what! With the state of the nation being what it is, he fact he has been able to do this, done this work to ricochet out into the world? You gotta admire that.

5.) It is a middle finger to heteronormativity. As the transactivist Diamond Stylz says, “It’s gay as fuck.” This video was a treat for the eye, with no video vixen in sight! His self-love, acceptance, with no need to compromise. Bruh.

6.) The video is a demonstrative of the cost to of living the life you want! This young man is a successful, openly, gay Black rapper. I cannot imagine the smoke that came from just that! And peep the double entendre: call me by your name! Basically, call me what you want—it doesn’t matter! Whew!

7.) The game is afoot, Watson. Understand (again) that this young man is playing a role. Understand this is about money, clout and marketing! The more pressed you are, the angrier you are, the more he cashes checks! I refused to be pressed about this because I know the agenda! The world said/says he is a demon destined to go to Hell? Bet! And made a sneaker line to boot? Chile! You better understand what the real issue is and how to handle it! Not sure what the issue is? Re-read Part 1, and all these pieces again.

I’ll be here when you get back.

God & Lil Nas X-Part 1: Overview

“The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.” -James Baldwin

“You can’t live without crossing somebody’s line.” -Lafayette (Nelson Ellis), from TRUEBLOOD

The people I know cross genders, expressions, and religious backgrounds. I mean, my own father told me that there was no God! One of the closest men in my life is actually an atheist—married to my best friend whom is a recovering Catholic (her words, not mine). I, myself, I came to believe in Christ at 8, baptized at 16, called to ministry at 30, and believe in Christ (born of a virgin, crucified and coming again). In the midst of that faith journey, let me be a little more transparent.

I’ve had premarital sex. Been divorced. Had impure thoughts. Stolen stuff. Lied. Lied on people! I have a past and a God that understands! But God that at my lowest points, when I called Him—He answered me. It is with they adage, and familiarity with my own shortcomings that I make it a mission to not “take God” from people. I don’t have that right—neither do I want it!

Enter Lil Nas X.

With full transparency (and age) I had to admit the reason I didn’t listen to him was he took a piece of Nasir olu dara Jones’s name as his. I knew then I would be too old to listen to him! Yet, in the interest of being an involved parent, when my kids starting singing ‘can’t nobody tell me nothing’? I had to know who this child was!

Enter CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.

I saw the video on YouTube after seeing segments of it on TikTok. After watching it, I won’t lie—I was unnerved! I looked at it through the eyes of a concerned Mama Bear. I thought, “This child is really content on going to Hell, huh?! Why?!”

Then, I took a deep breath…and looked closer.

Who buying these? Not I.

As pretty as the video is, my takeaways are here. But let’s get back to these observations.

The video is unapologetic. The video is trolling Christianity and Christians. It is a middle finger to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It just is. However, beneath the trolling, there is more there. And it is indicative of Newton’s third law of motion:

“For every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction.”

This video is just that. Am I bothered by the video? No. Did the video shake my belief in Christ? No. Would I let my kids watch it? No. Lil Nas X is trolling Christianity through making himself a Satan caricature the vehicle/ vessel to do it. Why? Look at what he said (first image)! How would you feel if an institution with so much power and influence continued to condemn you, and others like you, because its doctrine said it could? Conversely, offering grace, love and hope to everyone else—BUT NOT YOU?

I’ll wait.

He got the entire planet pressed in less than five minutes—literally! He, through the vessel of art, is owning all that he is, and embracing the dogma of homosexuality being equated to the only irredeemable sin worthy of Hell! The only one we need to clobber on, be the only concern the church has. He has fully embraced this and declared (through his art!), “If imma go to Hell like y’all say? I’m going to do what I want, and when I get there? Imma take that bitch over!

With that level of don’t careish, he has declared what he wants and marketing it as such (see the the limited edition numbers blood Nikes which are $1000!)! This is game, and Lil Nas X is looking at all these pressed Christians…and laughing! It’s classic rage farming—and trolls do this!

The question we need to ask is, what is the church going to do? Not about Lil Nas X, but how the church treats ALL God’s children we are supposed to love, teach and instruct?

This is bigger than a video.

Thoughts From A Marvel Girl…

*Note: These are only my opinions. Powered by the love of these ink and paper people—and my love of a good story.

I know that the world is in complete awe of the Justice League and the brilliance of Zack Snyder. Even at the time of this posting, the overlords of DC Comics have decided that they have no interest in developing a Snyder-influenced DCEU.

This is why DC will never be as good a MARVEL.

Period. Full stop. *Here is why.

Aside from DC’s most powerful character having roots in a Nitzche ideology, the character development you see in MARVEL COMICS is not seen here. The most developed character is still Batman—and what a dope character he is! Yet, what other character has more development?

Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

Even with the success of Wonder Woman, unless you are a student of the source material and history, you would know two things:

One. Wonder Woman is also Black. Her name? Nubia. When will she be introduced? Don’t worry. I’m still waiting.

Two. The Amazons as a culture are not real, but there were fierce female warriors all over antiquity. As dope as this is, it only points to the casual erasure of women all over the world!

The affinity I have to and towards MARVEL is based in storytelling. I have always loved the storytelling! I loved the development, the continuing of story—I was invested (moreso!) after seeing characters that looked like me. Or felt as I did! Black. Awkward. Outsiders, even! I mean I cannot tell you how my ex boyfriend Dominic called me, Rogue—and himself, Gambit. And when a young man I was in love with nicknamed me MJ (after I nicknamed him Peter Parker!)? It was over.

What I wish the DCEU would realize is that character development matters! Affinity to characters matter! Representation still matters (shouts to the great job they did on Cyborg!)? You can’t compete without good story! It’s it’s not possible! You can’t just make ALL the Batman movies, man! It’s not possible (or desirable!).

Character development still matters. Storyboard artists still matter! The fact the DC overlords haven’t gotten that yet, after damn year being a century old? And just now discovering the contribution of Bill Finger (Bob Kane didn’t create all of Batman alone! Did you know that?! Thanks Hulu and Hollywood Graveyard on YouTube!)?

The writer, Kevin Smith, said comics are our modern day mythology. And I agree! The fact this industry has lasted this long is monumental! There are generations who have bonded over the lives of these ink and paper people—whether they are born of DC or MARVEL. Story still matters! Engagement of the audience still matters! Even reimagining of characters matters.

DC has the potential to do so much better. But will they? I’ll wait.

Remembering ‘BLACK PANTHER’

Image result for black panther

It was three years ago this week that I saw Black Panther on Opening Night. I saw it with my second husband, and sat in the push AMC seat with him and was transported to Wakanda for the very first time. There was magic seeing Chadwick Boseman on screen as T’Challa–I had never seen a Black superhero on screen before! I had seen Blade of course, and Wesley Snipes owned all pieces of that role! But this, this was different. It had an ancestral feel, and during the middle of the movie, I almost cried. At the end of the movie after hearing young Black men discussing fan Marvel Comics fan theory? I threw my arms around them! It was glorious. Simply glorious.

One of the last things we did as a family was take my daughters to see this movie. The complete delight on their faces as they watched, I cannot quite describe. It indeed was a cultural moment worthy of all hype and celebration!

Then, Chadwick Boseman died.

Image result for black panther
Long live the [our] King.

This is after telling my daughter after she was so distraught after watching The Avengers: Infinity War, “No one dies in the Marvel Universe.” I told her that to dry her tears, only to have her collapse in my bed almost three years later, knowing that the actor who brought him to life is dead. How do you reconcile that?

As a mother, I need what to say to make her okay. As an artist, I am still grieving. When this reminder came through my memories, I was taken back to Opening Night. I remember getting ready to music, thinking about my outfit, and even what earrings to wear. I wanted to be pretty and pretty effing hot. What strikes me now are the hidden conversations: recasting, the sequels, plans going forward. In the comics, Princess Shuri takes the mantle of Black Panther. There was even talk of Black Panther (T’Challa) should not be recast. And I won’t lie to you, I was on that same bandwagon! I wanted the role to stay sacrosanct! Don’t cast anyone else as T’Challa! Then, I ventured into one of my Blerd groups. Those hidden converasations ceased to be whispers, and I realized how silly (and selfish) I was being:

“But, there have been how many actors who have been Batman? Superman? How many have been Spider-Man?”

The Extraordinary Journey of a Black Nerd Group

When I sat and thought about it, and thought about it as a writer? The creator of that post and those commenting on it were right. The best way we honor Chadwick is to make sure the character doesn’t die with him. Chadwick is immortal and integral to the MCU, and with still so much left to do–but he left us so much.

The little girl in me is grieving, but the writer in me is elated. I want to see what more can come from these characters! I want to see what Ryan Coogler or even Nia DaCosta come up with as possible directors for these new movies! I want to see what the writers, storyboard artists, CGI teams come up with. I want to see what happens next. As the old hymn goes, “I feel like going on.” I want to see what happens next–I must see what happens next. My hope is the staff and all teams involved will honor the source material, current standards and push past all doubt and give us he sequel we all need! I for one, cannot wait.

[image from imdb.com and mediavillage.com]

‘Malcolm & Marie’-Part 2: Woman Thoughts

Reminder: These are my thoughts and my take on the movie.

There is a sweetness to this movie that makes me sick.

I have been in a relationship where I have tried to be a support to a man that seemed to think my presence was only an extension of himself or not needed for the gains he wished to make. I have been Marie. More than once.

When I saw her hit that cold butter with the Chef’s knife to make him macaroni and cheese–that he asked her for? I knew what it was. And I almost started crying. I have been a Marie.

Is this a ‘struggle love’ movie? No, I don’t think that it is. It is a movie that is long overdue to be told from the honest pen of Black writers. The movie displays exactly what it looks like to try to be with someone who may not know what that means; conversely what it means to try to stay with someone that doesn’t think you will ever leave.

The dialogue is honest, the emotions are raw, and several times I wanted to slap fire from Malcolm! There were several times I wanted to snatch Marie and tell her to shut up! There were times in the movie where I thought they both went too far–where I thought for the ‘good’ of the relationship Marie should hush! Yet, in examining that—isn’t that the same feeling that makes struggle love possible? This idea that one has to be lesser than the other for the sake of peace.

She doesn’t let Malcolm get away with talking to her in a way that makes her shrink.

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After the bathtub scene, the two are outside, smoking. Marie plays the song GET RID OF HIM by Dionne Warwick on her iPhone. She so badly wants Malcolm to look beyond what he feels–and see her.

He doesn’t allow Marie to talk to him any kind of way either, but he believes he knows her well enough to talk to her like he does. It is this knowingness that Marie calls narcissism. I’m not sure if it is, but it definitely arrogance.

They go at each other, and circle the idea of reconciling but then they remember why each of them is mad, and that someone that they love hurt them that badly, and they come out swinging at each other again.

And what is the beginning of this argument about: Malcolm didn’t thank her. He sees that as an excited oversight, but Marie sees it as one on top of another set or slings and arrows! But in an attempt to remind Marie that she is loved, he brings up what he did. Even supporting her through addiction and suicide attempts. The bathtub scene was hardest to watch because you could tell Malcolm’s intent was to truly ‘snap her like a twig.’ He belittles her, humiliates her, and Marie forces herself not to cry. And later in the movie Malcolm tells her how in love with he is, and even tells her this as the movie opens. The one thing I will continuously give Malcolm credit for was being in-tune enough with her know she was not alright.

He tells her how talented she is, but also calls her on her inability to do something else–like go back to acting. In calling her on her own insecurities, he exposes her to what she hadn’t done–and he won’t let her weasel out of that. Which causes Marie to be upset moreso! She wants him to see her, and see all of her. I mean, they even fight about how she didn’t/wasn’t cast in his movie IMANI. Malcolm tells her that he wasn’t going to beg her to audition–even though he said with the right part she would be outstanding!

Marie also won’t give into having sex with him–she doesn’t want to give him the comfort of her body. She wants him to hear her, rather than feel her. Which I thought was pivotal–that goes into the power dynamic of a relationship! Sex is often transactional, and used to diffuse certain situations. It doesn’t really solve them. Is it manipulative? No. If I’m mad, then why should I give you the comfort of my body!

They are truly a mess. But they love each other. Yet, its not struggle love. Marie doesn’t shrink, she refuses to be steamrolled or bullied. Marie tells Malcolm that he steamrolls over everyone because he cannot conceive that someone else is more interesting than him. She tells him as the movie ends:

“Your lack of curiosity is an extension of your narcissism. You never stop to ask, ‘How can I be a better partner?’ ” Marie then says, “I am the last one standing, who is not scared to tell you to ‘up your fucking game’.

As complex and layered as this story is, I am still stewing on it. Even as the movie ends, there is no clear cut happy ending. We don’t know if Malcolm really sees her. We don’t know if Marie has enough in her to forgive him to do better. We are given the scene of them outside, from the vantage point of the bedroom window, and see them together. We are given the illusion of hope. Nothing else.

And that is what all relationships have behind doors, isn’t it? Hope. We hope that we can pull it together. We hope our partners can do better. We hope they see us, and we don’t want Marie’s words to haunt us:

“I feel like once you know someone is there for you, and once you know they love you, you never really think of them again. It’s not until you’re about to lose someone that you finally pay attention.”

After Marie tells him why thanking her was imperative, Malcolm seems to understand! It’s not an oversight–it was him ignoring her for his own gain and ends. Even if he did it on accident. Marie desires to be seen and heard, and demands the man who loves her to do both! Malcolm is a good guy, but he has to understand that relationships are effort. Marie has to understand that you cannot put your life inside of a man–you need to be brave enough to exist without him, or his approval.

Malcolm & Marie will make you think. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you laugh and remind you that love is a choice. Staying together is a choice. And leaving is also a choice. They stayed together to try again. Isn’t that what love does–give hope? And the hope to be seen? I believe so, even in a place with all windows.