End of Watch

As I have shared, I am a film buff…

The other day I watched the movie,
“End of Watch.”
I remember when it was first released in theaters, last summer. I didn’t go to the theaters to see it, as I  tend to be weary about films about police officers. The Hollywood Industrial Complex usually has an agenda with these type of movies. The films usually try to portray  police officers in a redeeming light.  This is not to say all police officers are evil, but when you are a person of color, the police are usually more of a threat than heroes.

But… the other evening I was bored, so I decided to give the film a try (it’s streaming on Netflix).  The film is basically an updated version of the 1988 movie, “Colors.”  The film has been tweaked with contemporary characters.  Instead of an older white male  cop trying to impart wisdom to a younger white male cop, both of the lead characters in “End of Watch,” are young men. One is a young Latino male, and the other is a young white male.

The second tweak, is that instead of  animal-like black gangbangers,  the violent gangbangers this time around are Latino/a.  The story takes place in Los Angeles, so right off the back you shouldn’t have love for these police officers. We all know (or should know) about the racist history/racial profiling that goes on with the LAPD.

SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!!

The movie is filmed in the documentary style that is popular these days with directors (the lead white character has film project for his class). While this tends to be an overused way to tell a story, it does allow for viewers to get more intimate with key characters. As the two young officers ride throughout the city, it’s hard not to connect with them on some level (even when you try to be cynical, like I did).

The young officers battle a black “hoodlum”, accidentally stumble upon a human trafficking racket, and anger a hard-core Latino/a gang. The last incident will turn out to be the undoing of the two police officers. The young two officers do all this with humor, fraternity male bonding, and a little loving from their ladies.

Of course, I always watch  films with a critical eye of black women characters. The black female representations are very brief in the movie. The first time we see a black female character, she is a crackhead. She is so doped up on drugs, she thinks she has lost her children. It turns out, she just left her baby and toddler in a closet. The baby is duct tapped to her car seat.

The next image of a black female character, is fleeting.  Her house is on fire. The two young police officers come to her rescue,  by saving her children, she left behind.  These black mothers are so  irresponsible!

As Latino/a gang members are the focus in this film, the Latina character is given a more prominent role.  She is shown as being just as violent (if not more cold-blooded), than her male counterparts. Heck, I almost expected her to say Keshia’s  famous lines from New Jack City, after she shoots a police officer in the back. Instead she says, “Rest in piss… bitch.”

The film also has some disturbing scenes of  violence. As mentioned, there is a scene of human trafficking. The victims are shown almost naked and locked in a cage. Also, dead bodies and dismembered limbs are shown, graphically.  The last half of the film almost plays out like a video game.  All you see are bullets flying and bodies dropping. The ending has the required twist, but the  person that survives is kinda not surprising (hint: who has a bigger image on the poster). 

It’s hard to recommend this film, because damn they’re cops! The film has an agenda. But I guess if you can put politics aside, it’s an interesting action flick.

DarkSkinRedLipProject

I heart when black women resist being oppressed by ignorant folks. A few months ago, rapper A$AP Rocky made disparaging remarks about dark-skinned black women. He stated that he didn’t think dark black women should wear red lipstick.
Black women bloggers have flipped the script and started The #DarkSkinRedLipProject featuring everyday black women sporting their favorite red lipstick (from their tumblr):

About the DSRL Project

You may think or have even heard someone say that girls with darker skin complexions shouldn’t wear pink or red lipsticks. (Most recently in the media ASAP Rocky) Some just state their opinion, but most times its said in a rude way out of ignorance. 
The key to rocking a beautiful red or pink lip is all in finding the right shade for your complexion.

So For Brown Girls will be putting together the largest collection of Dark Skinned girls rocking their favorite red lip to put an end to the stigma that exists with brown complexion and colors (makeup). 
There, a darker skinned girl hesitant to try a red lip will find confidence to step out of her comfort zone. She may also find suggestions on which shade she should try that will fit her complexion.

Ignorant males & people who have that belief in general will also be silenced to see so many beautiful dark complexioned women rocking their reds!

Reject A$AP Rocky’s colonized mentality by hitting him in his pockets and stop supporting him financially. He has since tried to clean up his comments, but it’s too late son.

As Maya Angelou so eloquently observed, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

AMEN

Genarlow Wilson

Back in April, I organized an event in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  I hosted a film showing of NO! The Rape Documentary.  The film looks at sexual violence/assault in the black community.  I believe it’s important to give space to how  black women  navigate differently around this issue. Whether folks want to admit to it or not, there is a lot of sexism/oppression of black women/girls in the black community.  There are many black women who willingly thrown themselves under the bus in favor of black men, when it’s often not reciprocated.

This has never been more telling, than in the recent case of Genarlow Wilson.   I learned about the case from one of my favorite blogs, What About Our Daughters.  I have been keeping tabs on the happenings of Genarlow Wilson, via the website. Recently, the blogger posted more detailed information about the assault of  the 17-year-old black girl, that Genarlow Wilson participated in (from WAOD website):

LM, went to a party with her fellow athletes and when she fell unconscious, possibly after they drugged her, Genarlow Wilson and his buddies raped her, repeatedly and video taped it. That’s not what I say, that’s what the Georgia Court of Appeals describes in Wilson vs. State of Georgia.

A group of teenagers rented adjacent rooms at a motel and held a raucous, unsupervised New Year’s Eve party.  Among the participants were 17-year-old Genarlow Wilson, 17-year-old L.M., and 15-year-old T.C.   The next morning, L.M. reported to her mother that she had been raped.   Police were notified, and the motel rooms were searched.   During the search, a videocamera and videocassette tape were found. The tape showed Wilson having sexual intercourse with an apparently semiconscious L.M. and T.C. performing oral sex on Wilson. Wilson v. State.

I was floored after reading this.   I had tears in my eyes. It’s disturbing to me what happened to these young women. It’s not only that the black community has turned their backs on these young victims, but that Genarlow Wilson  has been given support and perks not available to his victims. While he has been able to make the media rounds, his victims can’t even show their face in public. While he was given a free scholarship for college, they probably fear going on a college campus. While he gets praising articles, they are written with scorn and disregard. 

Some folks say, well he was a young kid too. He made a mistake. Sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman, is not a mistake. Genarlow Wilson and his friends, videotaped the incident. Ain’t no mistake in that. Also, the fact that Genarlow Wilson doesn’t seem apologetic about it. If he were more genuine in his horror of his behavior/worked with other young men about this issue/offered some of his perks to his victims, than maybe one wouldn’t be as disgusted.

I lamented on the WAOD website what can we do to support these young women? She stated by helping her get the transcripts of the Genarlow Wilson case. She wants to make a film about this incident from the young women’s perspective.  Please donate if you can:

http://www.gofundme.com/genarlowwilsontranscript

Kenyan model Ajuma Nasenyana fights skin lightening

There has been an ongoing agenda in mainstream/black media to wipe out images of darker skinned black women. In the 70’s and 80’s dark/brown women were frequently featured on magazine covers, television, and in movies.  Who woulda thunk that in 2013 representations (or lack of) of dark/brown women, would be worse 30-40 years later?    There has been a white supremacist push to encourage people of color to lighten their skin. As I noted in a previous post, the lightening of black women celebrities, is disturbing. It’s not just women, though:

Reggae artist Vybz Kartel lightened skin
Hip Hop artist Vybz Kartel lightened skin
Sammy Sosa lightened skin
Sammy Sosa lightened skin

“They” have worked diligently to make us hate ourselves. It takes a consistent conscious effort to resist being colonized mentally. It’s worse for black women,  because women in general, tend to be judged/have more valued placed on their looks. Since black women are regularly placed on the bottom of the lookist social ladder, it creates an urgent need to be accepted, even if it means bleaching one’s skin.

That’s why I was happy to read these comments from Kenyan model, Ajuma Nasenyana:

“It seems that the world is conspiring in preaching that there is something wrong with Kenyan ladies’ kinky hair and dark skin,” Kenyan model Ajuma Nasenyana told the Daily Nation. Nasenyana wonders why European skincare companies that push lightening creams are entering Kenya marketing the European standard of beauty. “Their leaflets are all about skin lightening, and they seem to be doing good business in Kenya. It just shocks me. It’s not OK for a Caucasian to tell us to lighten our skin,” she said.

Ajuma Nasenyana
Ajuma Nasenyana

Read the rest of the article at Clutch Magazine: http://thegrio.com/2012/06/27/kenyan-model-ajuma-nasenyana-fights-skin-lightening-and-european-standards-of-beauty/

Mo’Nique

Recently, a photo of a slender Mo’Nique (actress/comedienne/Oscar winner) made it’s rounds on (black) blogs:

Mo'Nique 2013
Mo’Nique 2013

Folks noted that she’s now the evil skinny woman, she used to make fun of in her stand up routines.  Many stated she probably feels ridiculous that she used to clown skinny women. How it was disingenuous of her to have led “fat women astray” about loving their weight, but then goes on to lose weight herself.

I disagree. I hope Mo’Nique stands strong on her earlier resistance  of being pressured to look a certain way.  I think Mo’Nique was making a cultural observation about how it was okay for folks to make fun of “fat” women, but folks got all defensive when she poked fun at skinny women.  In the Hollywood Industrial Complex, I’m sure as a full-figured black woman, Mo’Nique had to deal with people taking issue with how she looked/not taking her seriously as a budding actress.

There is a myth in white feminism and with black folks, that heavier women are adored in the black community. While black women are able to get away with more voluptuous bodies than white women, there is still a disdain for “fat” women in the black community, just as there is in the white community.

In a lot of black folks minds, it’s one thing to be “thick” like a Beyoncé or numerous video dancers, it’s another to be “fat” like the old Mo’Nique or Gabourey Sidibe:

Gabourey Sidibe 2013
Gabourey Sidibe 2013

I have read/heard people say some foul mess about Gabourey (Gabby). Folks want her to feel ashamed about how she looks. They think it’s appalling that the Hollywood Industrial Complex likes to use black actresses that look like Gabby. Why not slender black women like Megan Good? To a certain extent, I understand what they are saying. Racist Hollywood loves to use full-figured/dark skin black women as a way to make the black woman the joke or make her a “Mammy” caricature. However, the truth is skinny black women fair no better in racist Hollywood.  They just get to  play the crackhead or “hoe” roles.  It’s not about how black women look, it’s the fact that racist Hollywood simply doesn’t care about the representations of black women, whether they are “fat” or skinny. All the black women in Hollywood could get down to a size two and would still be regulated to stereotypical characters. Why is there a lack of well-rounded, complex roles for black women in mainstream AND black movies?  That’s the question black folks should be asking.

Whatever the reasons why Mo’Nique  decided to lose weight, it doesn’t make her fake. She just used her talents to counter the oppression she faced, as a full-figured woman in a lookist industry/society. She made the jokes, because she didn’t want to BE the joke.  I think she had sincere intentions and truly wanted to empower other full-figured women.  In any case, Mo’Nique is da bomb, no matter what she looks like.

Yelling to The Sky

I am a big movie watcher. I like going to the movies or renting movies or surfing Netflix. So, I will often blog about movies, I have watched. The other day, I had the opportunity to re-watch “Yelling to The Sky. “  It’s now streaming on Netflix. The film was written and directed by Victoria Mahoney.

I initially watched the film, after waiting a year  and some months, for it to be released in theaters. The film debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011, then sat on the shelf.  Finally,  back in December 2012, the film was released online and DVD.  I was excited. I watched the film as soon as it was available for viewing.

I was a bit disappointed, after waiting so long to see the film.  I decided to watch it again, to see if it really didn’t live up to my expectations, the first time around.

SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!!

The  film is about 16-year-old, biracial/multicultural Sweetness O’Hara (played by Zoe Kravitz).  She lives with her older sister, black mother, and Irish father. The dad is verbally and physically abusive. The mom is mostly absent. The sister is pregnant and angry all the time.  At school, Sweetness is harassed by bully, Latonya (played by Gabourey Sidibe). Eventually, her stressful home/school life, overwhelms  Sweetness. She decides she will longer be the bullied, but become the bully.  Sweetness trades in her drab clothing and makeup free face, for more stylish clothes and bright red lips.

She starts selling drugs and harassing other kids. Sweetness eventually wins over two of Latonya’s cronies. They form their own crew.  They strut down the school hallways, daring anyone to get in their way.  I loved the premise of the film. It’s why I was so interested in seeing it. However, after watching the film two times, I still feel like something is missing.

There are some good scenes in the movie, but they never seem to quite come together. The acting was decent. Kravitz didn’t blow me away or anything, but she played a sullen Sweetness, well enough. I did enjoy the character Ola, played by Antonique Smith.  I kept thinking she looked familiar to me. I Googled her, and realized she portrayed Faith Evans, in the film “Notorious.” The film was based on the life of the late rapper, The Notorious B.I.G.

In her role as Sweetness’s big sister, Smith made the film tolerable. Her natural acting abilities, makeup for Kravitz’s bland portrayal of Sweetness.   Of course, when I watch films, I like to look at how black women are represented. The mother in the film (played by Yolonda Ross), is mostly silent.  She is routinely abused by her husband.  She often deserts her children. It’s alluded to that she might have mental illness. Other than that, you really learn nothing about her. Strangely, the abusive white father is given more air time.

The absent mother, like the Latonya character, is portrayed by a darker skin black woman.  Skin tone plays a role in the film. I am not exactly sure what the director is trying to say, with her actress choices. I know that she identifies as a biracial/multicultural woman.

I know the film is supposed to be semi-autobiographical. I understand that biracial/multicultural  girls/teens are sometimes harassed by their black classmates. Still, it was a bit disconcerting to see all the dark skin girls/women be either bullies or an unavailable mama. To be fair, the older sister (and Sweetness at times) are shown being violent, but there’s context to their violence. The dark skin girls are  bullies cuz they hate light skin girls?

The film also moves at a slow pace. My mind would start wandering, because the storyline just isn’t strong enough. Once again, something was missing. It’s still a decent film to check out. I am interested to see what the director does next. She has potential…

Anti-sexual Harassment Stickers

Yesterday, I saw this picture on a blog:

Oakland Street Art
Oakland Street Art

The picture was courtesy of a group called Oakland Street Art.  On their website it was noted why they do what they do:  “A space to document, share, and appreciate the wealth of beautiful street art in Oakland – from murals and graffiti to stenciling, stickers and chalking.”  The caption of the picture read: Anti-sexual harassment stickers up around Lake Merritt: “Stop telling women to smile.”

I related to all of the stickers, but especially the one telling women to smile. It’s bad enough that some white folks expect you to be their Mammy and skin and grin for them, but it’s also annoying some black men expect this as well.  Now remember I said SOME black men.  I know other men engage in this behavior (obviously), but my interactions tend to be with  black men, regarding this issue.

I have had black men get angry with me, because I wasn’t cheesing. Never mind the fact I might’ve had a bad day, singing my favorite tune in my head and didn’t notice them, just realized I didn’t have enough to get a caramel mocha from Starbucks, whatever the case might be.  It doesn’t matter, I am a woman, and I am expected to make their day.

I remember one time, I was sitting outside enjoying the sunny day.  I was starting off into space, loving the warmth on my face.  A guy walked by and told me to “smile.” I was confused because I had been daydreaming.   I guess I didn’t respond fast enough for him, because he said angrily, “smile, damn!” I looked at him like he had two heads. I wanted to say something smart, but just decided to ignore it. The truth is, you never know how some men are going to react, when you try to defend yourself.

Speaking back against street harassment has been deadly for women, especially black women. Too many men think they have a right to black women’s bodies. It’s because our bodies tend to be degraded in mainstream and black media.  It’s also because people have learned you don’t have to respect black women (after all, we are just crackheads, baby mamas, hoodrats, crazy, loud & angry, etc). Men of color who verbally attack black women on the street, would be hesitant to do so to white women.  It’s a combination of having colonized minds and fear of the police getting involved (it’s been proven that men of color are more likely to be arrested for assaulting white women, than women of color).

The video Black Woman Walking is dedicated to Adilah Gaither.  She was a young woman who was shot and killed because she wouldn’t give a boy her number. Street harassment is a real and serious issue. Some folks don’t see the big deal in a man telling you to smile. They figure it’s better than him calling you a “bitch.” The problem is, if you don’t react the way they think you should react,  it’s not long before you become a bitch, hoe, cunt, etc.