It seems every single year since I have been old enough to be interested in watching the Oscars, I have heard the same narrative from Black America talking about lack of inclusion and how Hollywood has no respect for Black stories and Black actors, and how they choose to tell the same single story about Blackness and reward the same types of roles when it comes to Black actors. Well this year on the 84th year of the Oscars, the narrative is sadly no different. I have had to watch a Black woman defend herself to her own people & literally strip herself down to her bare essence of Blackness to take her power in claiming that her voice too is relevant in the bigger picture; and I must say Ms. Viola Davis has done it beautifully in making me a believer and pumping my fist in solidarity with her and the many others who have had to bare this cross & burden voluntarily or involuntarily in being the voice & hope of the much too often silenced people through the usual loud voices of our intellectuals in shaming, dooming & glooming future Blackness.
We fail to see the danger in our telling of our own single story of pain, slavery, colonization, disenfranchisement and blaming of Hollywood and everyone within earshot of our wrath for exclusion and lack of opportunity in being given the chance to tell our own stories and to claim our own freedom and destiny in progress and achievement. We continue this same narrative generation after generation wondering why we can’t seem to move forward in living up to and claiming our full destiny, while often forgetting the narrative of self determination that brought us out of slavery, colonization and having to beg for the crumbs off the table of those who once owned us and saw us as lesser than themselves.
Today, as I watch the people of Senegal & many other global Africans continue to fight for their freedom from within the confines of leaders who look just like them without a care in the world from Black media outlets consumed with the fight against Hollywood , The Help and Chris Brown and Rihanna- all I could think of is whatever happened to the days of Pan-Africanism , when we saw and believed that we as global Africans had one struggle and that our liberation depended upon the unity in the collective of our priorities in fighting against that struggle. As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift.Thy claim it as their own and none can keep it from them. We face neither East nor West: We Face Forward. ”
We as a community take every opportunity to tighten the noose of Black Liberation around Tyler Perry‘s neck in continuing to only see and to tell the narrative of the darkness of black without looking beyond our self righteous noses and personal disdain in seeing and telling the story of liberation brought on by a Black man who never gave up on his dream in order to get to the point where many had hoped our chosen one Spike Lee would have gotten by the same will and spending power of our people. Every time we choose to voice our disdain for Tyler Perry , we must remember that we are voicing our disdain for our own people in our own community because they willed him into existence, just in the same vain that every time we cheer on Spike Lee’s expletive driven tirades of disdain for Hollywood and Tyler Perry , we should remember that it is in calling and begging to be given some crumbs off of the table of the same master which we are told time and time again has to give us the green light to be able to tell our own stories and to do right by ourselves in freeing ourselves. As the saying goes “don’t bite the hand that feeds you“. If we want to be consumed with gaining acceptance and accolades from Hollywood instead of looking to our global billion plus selves, who have built industries in Africa and continue to get accolades throughout the world for their own self determination in building toward our global rise and recognition, then we must learn to fall back as the servants of those who we beg to feed us financially, spiritually , creatively and literally in attaining our daily bread- while dismissing the idea of what can be if we changed our mindset and invested in ourselves globally.
“Any leadership that teaches you to depend on another race, is a leadership that will enslave you” Marcus Garvey Jr.
Why did it take “The Help” to be written and put on an international screen by White people for Black America to all of a sudden realize that there had to be responsibility taken in telling the story of our domestic workers when we have had many platforms for many years to tell their stories locally and globally? Why did we have to wait for George Lucas to take 23 years to give us “Red Tails”, when we have had these stories and have been making films far better with lesser budgets than Red Tails? We fail to take ourselves to task in only utilizing our platforms as writers, journalists, filmmakers, investors, commentators, bloggers, pundits and town criers only when the time of outrage calls for it because we seem to be stuck in the narrative of our pain and struggle, which we are complicit in constantly selling to the world. Did these stories not exist before and will they not continue to exist long after “The Help” is nothing but Oscar’s past?
With all the Black millionaires and billionaires that we celebrate in the frivolousness of their expenditures, why do we not take them and ourselves to task for the fact that after so many years of slavery and Civi Rights- we are still begging for Hollywood and White people at large to give us the opportunity to tell our own stories? We refuse to take the Oprah’s of the world to task for having the power and platforms to do just that by saying they have done enough for Black people and that they can spend their money however they want and don’t owe Black people anything, yet we somehow feel justified in saying Hollywood and White people at large somehow should spend their money on us in giving us the opportunities to tell our own stories because of the free labor given by our ancestors and those who came before us- without ever seeing the fact that those who came before us also gave the Oprah’s, BET’s, Edmond’s Entertainment’s, RLJ Development’s and so many other Black owned platforms the same opportunity with their free labor and hard work toward change, freedom and progress to exist and to continue the work that they started in lifting our communities locally and globally by telling our own stories.
To somehow have greater expectations of those outside of ourselves than those within ourselves is by far the epitome of the dangerous depths of mental enslavement. Continuing to make the narrative about how racist Hollywood is and in the same breath begging them for inclusion to me is pretty much the same as talking about how racist the KKK is & then trying to change their mindset by begging them for Black inclusion. Would having Black membership change the fundamental business model, practices and foundation of the KKK? Business is about competition and in business you are only as good as your lack of competition in alternative choice in whatever you are selling to potential customers, so let’s focus on getting in the race for what we feel we deserve and truly competing instead of hoping for our competitors to somehow go out of business or change their business model in order for us to be able to survive and to have an opportunity to reach the top. Team Work Makes the Dream Work. Why should it ever be OK for someone like Oprah to create a whole network and have Black people as an after thought when ratings are down, and somehow have her partners blatantly say that they will not be “selling out” by totally investing all efforts in targeting the Black community; yet it is not OK or somehow racist when Hollywood and White people at large say and do the same?
“We’re not going to sell out and just chase one demographic or segment,” he said. “We’re going to nurture the success we had with “Sweetie Pies.” The Oprah brand is very broad. How we translate that to the screen is the challenge we have.” READ MORE
This is not by any means an indictment on Oprah personally because we all know that she has and continues to do her part for the advancement of our community; Rather this is a wake up call for us to realize that Hollywood and White people at large have always been consistent in their narrative toward us just as much as we have been consistent in our narrative toward ourselves and them. We are the ones that have become disconnected, confused and inconsistent in being the change we want to see not Hollywood or White people at large because they are just fine with seeing us where we are because it is often beneficial to them. We somehow find it OK to be disrespectful of our elders like Bill Cosby who gave the entire world a different narrative of the Black family and Blackness that was foreign to many, without realizing that we are the ones who dropped the ball from what he and many others like him started in putting in the work and according to conspiracy theorists going even as far as having his only son inadvertently as the sacrificial lamb in silencing him to make sure his dream of wanting to see us reach higher heights by buying NBC to make sure we had a seat at the global networks table was never realized.
As we come to the close of Black History Month in America, I hope Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer both win the Oscars for “The Help” and that it continues to eat up the souls of all those who are completely against this Oscar narrative to take personal responsibility in doing better by knowing better because more often than not in our history our leaders who we now admire, celebrate and quote had their dreams and missions of empowerment and advancement of us as a people taken down by their own in being the perfect pawns for those who continue to benefit from the danger of our own single story. I hope before all of you watch the Oscars today that you listen to the words of Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis to Tavis Smiley and look at the bigger picture by looking at the man and woman in the mirror, whether you agree with them or not and make that change that you want to see because if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed…“Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Black man, you are on your own…” Stephen Bantu Biko
“Emancipate Yourself from Mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” Bob Marley
“Show a people as 1 thing, as only 1 thing over & over again & that is what they become. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story”
“And that’s what people want to see when they go to the theater. I believe at the end of the day, they want to see themselves – parts of their lives they can recognize. And I feel if I can achieve that, it’s pretty spectacular.…And this is what was fascinating to me about ‘The Help’; they were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.…Can I just tell you, I think it’s the most beautiful thing about young people today, it gives me so much hope for the future, that they don’t really recognize race the way my generation does…” Viola Davis
“We don’t have to wait for someone to greenlight our projects we can create our own intersections..we don’t just have to act in the sitcom, we can own the show & the network..we don’t have to be at the end of the line waiting for a hand out, we can be at the front giving a hand up..we don’t have to wait for somebody to give us 40 acres & a mule we can buy our own.. U can b born into a whole lot of a nightmare but God can usher u into a dream” Tyler Perry
“We will never survive as a group until we get into communities & not neighborhoods…We’ve been so busy dealing with the hurt & pain & the misery & glamorizing a hand few that have made it, that we have never really looked at like the say your role model ..if u haven’t got a role model in ur house then u should fall on ur knees & pray to God because something is wrong” #ItTakesAVillage….