The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: FUBU Movies, Remakes And Issa Rae.

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It is no secret I am a fan of the dynamic, richly talented, Issa Rae. I believe she is amazing, insecure is brilliant and I am here and present for her next movie.

Shameless plug: GO SEE THE MOVIE THE PHOTOGRAPH STARRING HER AND LAKEITH DAVID IN FEBRUARY 2020. BLACK LOVE MATTERS!

Now, with that said, let us continue.

Issa Rae is known for her quotes related to the power of the grind, how the hustle is ongoing, and sometimes the best networking is done laterally. She has said (as it relates to networking) to ”see whom is along side you, who is just as hungry as you.” With that mantra, she has taken her Awkward Black Girl series–originally on YouTube!–and parlayed this into a full-fledged acting/producing/writing career.

I am proud of her.

I am so proud of her.

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With that said, I am tired of the Black Culture Collective coming for her. The only offense she has committed is trying to redo a FUBU movie. For those too young to remember this acronym FUBU, it means For US By Us. It was a clothing company in the mid-late 1990s. The lovely Gabrielle Union used this phrase to describe movies that are created by Black folk, with Black folk in starring roles, which were made profitable by Black folk.

Issa Rae wants to redo Set It Off.  

Issa Rae wants to redo Set It Off. 

As a creative, as a writer, I understand the power of a vision; what it is like to see something, seeing to how to improve on something. I get (as a writer) how you desire to revamp something considered untouchable.

I get it.

In that ‘getting’, there is also room to create something else! Do I think Issa Rae should redo Set It Off? No. No, I don’t.  I think Issa Rae has enough talent to create something else! What I think is there is a rash of writers whom don’t believe in themselves. Recreating something someone else made, is lazy. Creating your own thing is something all together different. I think it’s flattering Issa Rae wants to revamp the movie, but this here ain’t it.

FUBU movies are a part of Black culture. Much like JET and EBONY, they record Black life through a Black lens. These movies allow Black culture to be celebrated, remembered and visible! It’s not the point that she wants to remake the movie–it’s why should she want to? FUBU movies are for visibility! If you remake it, you are altering that visibility. Don’t change what you see. See what you can change!

What does that mean? I’m glad you asked.

Jordan Peele said in a February 2019 Rolling Stone interview that he had ‘so many stories to tell.’ I venture to say so does Issa Rae! I would love for more Black writers to trust themselves and add to the *FUBU canon, rather than reinvent it. The world has enough revamping, Martin Scorsese can only make so many gangster movies, and Jordan Peele  can only scare us so often.

Issa Rae, add to the FUBU canon, sis. Don’t revamp it. You can do it.

[images from Amazon and Google]

 

*-Here are some movies that are a part of that FUBU film canon (Not an exhaustive list)

Set It Off

The Color Purple

Boyz In The Hood

Love Jones

**The Photograph

Love And Basketball

Brown Sugar

Menace II Society 

Bring It On

**Black Panther

(**-I’m calling these part of this canon.)

Tyler Perry Presents: The Elements Of ‘The Blackprint’

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I am in awe.

It has taken me three days to get to the point where I can put thought and excitement in the same space.

Tyler Perry has created the first Black-owned (and owned outright!) movie studio in this modern era. As a woman, as a Black woman, as a Black woman writer, I am in awe. I am overjoyed. I am overwhelmed…

And I am writing. Like mad.  Like. Mad.

Tyler Perry has said that Hollywood obeys the ‘Golden Rule.’

Whomever has the gold, makes the rules.

In the middle of the eras of #OscarsSoWhite, Malignant Racism, diet fascism, and  the otherworldly shenangians of Orange Thanos, Tyler Perry, born as a little boy named Emmitt Perry, Jr., has made space where there could be none–in front of a world Ralph Ellison revealed in his novel Invisible Man is determined to not see anyone Black.

To control how Blackness is perceived.  Or depicted. Or control.

In the creation of this studio, this legacy, you see that the hustle–when done consistently–is lucrative. It is sustainable–and there is something to work for and towards!

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Tyler Perry just proved the thing that I have wanted to do, knew I could do, have wanted to do, for the better part of a decade is not a waste of time. That the talents that I house, the stories I tell, the observations that I have are rich. They are worthy. They will be seen.

I know there are detractors who made fun of this better than six-foot tall Black man with wide shoulders in a dress, playing up the most common stereotypes of Black women: a mammy (mammie). I remember the Black professor from USC, Dr. Todd Boyd, speaking about this as well as the historical significance of Stepin Fetchet  (born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry).

However, I want to challenge Dr. Boyd.

Those tropes still exist in modern cinema. They exist, they are propagated, and perpetuated not just by Black actors. There are White actors, especially in certain genres (namely horror) Black actors and actors were only seen as either magical or sacrificial. American cinema has a century head start on how Black people and other minorities are depicted. With that said, this achievement cannot be taken from him–even from people that look like him.

You can hate this move if you want to! But if you do, I pray that you never encounter an artist.

Matter of fact: yes, I do.

I hope you fall in love with a writer, a musician or a photographer. I hope that you fall in  love with a person that sees what you don’t see, and begins to build it like Noah. I hope that you fall in love with a person that daydreams–and says they want to start production companies.

Or music conservatories.

Or that they want to travel the world playing trumpet or violin.

I hope you fall in love with someone that refuses to get the safe job to make you feel happy. Then you will see what it means to build something, dedicate time and skill to something that you–and maybe only you for a duration–will ever get to see.

Helen Keller said the saddest thing is not to be blind, but to have no vision.

What Tyler Perry just did–What he encouraged every Black artist to do?–is incalculable. The journey towards greater visibility is ongoing, it will not, cannot end with Tyler Perry Studios. Now, let us all go forward. Encourage one another. Writers. Painters. Musicians. Photographers. Directors. Set Designers.

Edify. Support. Encourage.

There is a power in the Put-On. Why? For the grace of God, go US.

 

Week 7-See You When I Get There

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“Big sh-t, poppin, little sh-t stoppin’ “

-Clifford “T.I.” Harris

 

This week? Mane. You remember the paper I told you about that I got a whole 60 on? Well, when I resubmitted it, I got a 92. A 92/100. Bruh. I shouted! I really did! I am now at a 83.5 in Prof. Welch’s class (this is a B-). And this week we started If Beale Street Could Talk? And we have to write a reflection on this? And I love Baldwin?

I am now in a sweet spot for this semester–at least for this week.

In my 4700 class (yes, with Dr. Wall!) we are discussing the poet/writer Tess Gallagher. And with any English class, there will be paper writing. We have a paper that is due in about two weeks. The cool thing is if we do this right, this paper can be used as a basis towards our final paper.

This paper has to be 5 pages. The final paper has to be conference length.  This means it has to be ten pages:  nine full length pages, with the tenth being for citation. I decided to do my paper on Lucille Clifton.

Dr. Wall had us to write a thesis and be prepared to discuss it in class this week. My thesis? Glad you asked:

“The relevance of Lucile Clifton is demonstrated in the canon of American writers because, in the words of Toni Morrison, she helps to decolonize the canon.”

I know, I know. It’s lit.

Not only did Dr. Wall validate my thesis, not only did she champion it, not only did she see how excited I was to write it, she helped to develop my thesis! She helped all of us develop my thesis! This middle-aged White woman, whom is a fan of African-American literature, told me–an African-American undergrad–to write this paper. Like lean into it an write it! She also gave our class this other tidbit.

Dr. Wall reminded us to keep all of our papers. In the case of Lucille Clifton, there has not been enough critically written about her. This just means there has not been enough people whom have engaged her work. There haven’t been enough people that thought enough about her work to ask questions about it.

Trust, I am already thinking about this final paper. I am already thinking about my analysis. I am already thinking about the contrast I want. I am already thinking about where I could send it if Dr. Wall gives her blessing that the work is good enough.

At this point? I’m counting the weeks. I am about 8 weeks out of completing my undergrad. And I get to wear the stole of my father’s fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi)? I can’t help but think that Daddy would still have to smile at all this.

As long as it took–I still did it. I did it.

 

 

 

 

For My—OUR—Mother, Diahann Carroll.

 

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Diahann Caroll (born Diahann Carol Diahann Johnson) has left the world.

I heard this news after getting the best news in regards to my youngest daughter. I cried tears of joy for her. Then my heart broke knowing that a woman that I had respected, saw myself in, had left the world.

We go a long way back, me and Diahann. My middle name is actually a take on one of the characters that was on Dynasty. I remember my mother and godmother talking about this woman named Dominique on the show. And how she was always getting into it with Alexis Carrington (Note:  I never thought Joan Collins was particularly pretty or talented). But I remember the first time I saw her.

She was immaculate. Like something out of a dream. She looked like a Barbie doll.

She was in his fur (as always) and makeup brilliant, and her hair was down, and she had slapped the stupid off somebody!

She was poised. She was audacious. She was Black.

I remember her being on A Different World as Whitley Gilbert’s mother. I remember her on Grey’s Antatomy. I remember the guest spots. I remember there was no other woman I thought was or could be prettier than my mother–other than Diahann Carroll.

It wasn’t until I had gotten to college that I realized how dynamic, how special, she was. I hung on every word she had ever said. I made sure I studied her mannerisms, her voice–and when I found out she was in Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge? Chile, it was over!

There was something about her that I was drawn to.

My mother has this intangible class about her. Like Phylicia Rashad. Like Diahann Carroll. They were Black, moving through these hurdles life threw at them. Without becoming a stereotype, a mammie or a wench. I loved Diahann Carroll the way I admired my Mama. I have always said I wanted to age like Diahann Carroll. I saw her in me and me in her.

I saw me in her. 

 

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This mixture of grace, class and tenacity–I saw that in myself. I saw that being both Black and girl, not Black and woman, these stereotypes thrown on me were–were wrong. I was more than what I saw in North St. Louis.

There was more to this being a Black girl than what I was told I had to be.

I saw me in her. 

My grandmother died 6 years ago–this year she would have been 90. I find it interesting Diahann Carroll, too, was 84 when she passed. Realizing that she was gone, is gone, was like losing my grandmother all over again! My younger sister told me that I am too emotional when people die. That I am too emotional. I’m too passionate.

That is a slick way of saying I am doing the most. But you know? Most artist do the most.

In her passing there was a quote that she said which I will add to my own cupboard of wisdom. In pursuing acting, she had naysayers. She had detractors. She had people that thought she should most definitely do something else! But she said this:  “I didn’t want to be afraid of anything.”

This is what I will learn on, what supplements my desire to write and create. I don’t want to leave the world having been afraid. Having been subject to the opinions of other people. Having held on to things which will never add to me or the world around me. I do not want to live this life afraid of what it is I am supposed to and mean to do.

I want to live this life fearless, and flawed and loud. I will not leave it with a whimper or whisper. The crucial thing I learned from Diahann Carroll (even Jenifer Lewis), is to keep going. That nothing will be given to me–and it will be hard fought for in some cases. But it’s worth it. Just because people can’t catch up doesn’t mean I slow up.

Thank you, Diahann. Thank you.

Words To Music Are Always Lyrics

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I have always been a fan of music, all kinds of music. And for this semester–if you have noticed–I’ve woven in lyrics and hip-hop lyrics into this series. So, in typical Jenn Harris fashion–I decided to create a playlist for this last semester of undergrad studies.

Look for that at Week 10.

It will be available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Title of the Playlist:

SABEM–How I Made It Over

 

From Nas to Duke Ellington, to Stevie Wonder. From G-Eazy to MTS and Hozier. Music helped me get through papers, study and even press my way through to get through these last weeks.

 

Enjoy!

This is my graduation gift to you all.

 

Love you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Course ‘They’ Snubbed Beyonce! And Here Is Why.

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Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is becoming a force of nature, with her Sara Baartman hips. From a pretty young woman with this power in her throat and heart, to this dynamic, sentient, vibrant, and culturally aware and present Black woman. Isn’t this what an icon is supposed to be –and become?

I have watched her progression from Destiny’s Child to her own grown woman. While not signing on or applying to the Beyhive, but I do work PRN for it. I have cheered her, been a Stan of hers–officially–after the release of Lemonade. After the experience of listening to Lemonade.

There was a pure pride I carried for her. Not a worship, not a reverence. But a pride. The same pride I felt when I learned that Cleopatra was Black. That Queen Nzinga was not a figure of my imagination. That Queen Hatshepsut became a Pharaoh due to sheer wit and brilliance. It was a sense of knowing there is a woman who looked like me–not bound by narrow societal imagination.

Although she wears the privilege granted to the beautiful, the cis-het and wealthy, Beyoncé is still a Black woman in an industry dominated by White men. The people that create award shows like the Emmys and Academy Awards, do not resemble the men that look like Beyoncé’s father.

For all her achievements, all her influence, for as far as her reach, she is still a Black woman. Playing a rich, White man’s game–laced with avarice and malice. Which chokes out love.

Knowing this, I am not surprised she was snubbed for an Emmy this hear. I am not, was not, shocked when she lost the Grammy for album of the year to Adele!

For all her power, the industry fears her. Those she inspires behind her. They fear her.

This light-skinned, country-talking, beautiful Black woman, descended from slaves, Texas plantation soil and Louisiana Creoles–is one of the most influential Black women in history.

In. History.

And money has not taken her Blackness. It has not refined her speech, vision or daily reminder that she is both Black and woman.

Why would the owners of the master narrative acknowledge such an accomplishment? The fierce representation and preservation of culture!

Why would the master acknowledge the slave?

The worlds and spheres Beyoncé’s inhabits, that she orbits, she spins, are still determined to remind her of limitations. Her weaknesses. How Black everything about her is, and how detrimental Black motherhood and mogul persists are!

How acknowledgment is equivalent achievement. That should be good enough.

Separate, but equal.

In the face of that, Beyoncé still creates. She still makes space. She now Mama and Nala and the creative power of The Gift. This is the resilience of Black women. The wisdom of the artist is what James Baldwin admonishes: “The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.”

The wealth and worth of an artist is, nor will ever be, measured by people to whom they differ. The value of their work will not be held on the high esteem of people–haters and critics–insistent on ignoring it.

The wealth and worth of artists is most often awarded through the grace of time. The earnest nature of creativity. Through harsh critique becoming acknowledgement. As it was said by John Wilmot, the brilliant (and debauched) Second Earl Of Rochester in the movie The Libertine (portrayed by Johnny Depp):

“Your critics will come in two forms. The stupid and the envious. The stupid will love you in five years. The envious never will.”

Let time factor which we all will become.

[images from Netflix, Apple Music and Pinterest]

SABEM-Week 3: Aight, Den

 

“Success is it’s own language.” -LL Cool J 

 

This week was fortifying, family. It affirmed my gift and this talent and this knack I have for language. My 4700 English class has gotten through the marshy nature of Robert Frost, we are moving on to Lucille Clifton. In my 3800 class (the class where I has to finish the last 160 pages of BELOVED in 10 hours complete with reading notes), we are moving on to Ellison and Baldwin. I damn near wept in my Thursday 4700 class.

The representation, the claiming of that free self as Morrison says, is monumental.This week encouraged me that I and do this—better than I thought I could. Better than I thought (thought!) I ever could.  I have been analyzing words, work and language my entire 38 years! This degree is a culmination of this. No more, no less.

But one thing I had to confront was being vocal in class.

I had an issue in class where I knew answers and had keen analysis to several topics, and remained silent. Why? I didn’t want to be seen as the smart (read:  uppity) Black girl. Now mind you, I have been the smart, uppity, Black girl for my entire education. But this time, in my 3800 class–I said nothing. I had internalized that processing which said “don’t show off, don’t answer everything.” Not quite a dumbing down, but damn near!

When I recognized that, I had to snatch it from my psyche! I had to uproot it because it was, IS, toxic to anything I could and would create. I had to remind myself that I was worthy to be visible in this space–intelligent enough to be intersected in this space.

I can be Black.

I can be woman.

I can be vocal.

I can be seen.

I can be intelligent.

I told myself I would never do that again. I vowed I would never humble my tongue in this class again–the white girls didn’t! Even when they were wrong!

This week reminded me as free as I like to think I am, I have to remember I still have a way to go.