Posts Tagged ‘Tupac Shakur’

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July celebrated the 20th anniversary of John Singleton’a film Poetic Justice. The film is a cult classic for much of the young Black community but it is often underrated for its impact and influence.
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The Story

Poetic Justice dubbed by John Singleton as a “street romance,” offered a much different script for a Black story. Singleton blended realism with romance to create an honest unheard tale of Black romance. The story takes place in South Central Los Angeles. The romantic leads (Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson) are a mailman and a cosmetologist. While, from a mainstream standpoint, these characters seem too ordinary and uninteresting, the effect was just the opposite. Lucky and Justice speak to a world of young Black people who do not lead extraordinary lives with high profile careers, designer clothes, and profound wealth. Poetic Justice gives young Black people a sense of belonging to something that previously seemed universal and exclusive: romance.

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Black Images

One of the things about the movie that affected me when I first saw the movie was the way Black men are portrayed. Singleton offers three dimensional representations in his Black male characters. The central male characters, Lucky (Shakur) and Chicago (Torry), are not perfect characters but they’re also not hypersexualized, thugs, or stereotypically masculine. They are regular young Black men with the interests of Black men.

Additionally, there is a stark contrast between the characters Iesha and Justice compared to the Black female characters that we see today. Neither character has the stereotypical decry about how Black men are no good or not good enough. There is no fictional naïveté about the men that they are involved with; however, there is also no preconceived notions about them either. The two women obviously care for each other despite their many differences and it makes for a believable friendship.

Throughout the movie there are depictions of support and love between the Black characters. Justice’s boss, despite her jaded views on love and no nonsense demeanor, commits several acts of pure kindness towards her employees. On their road trip Lucky, Justice, Iesha, and Chicago stop at a Black family reunion and (because they pretend to be related to the family) they are welcomed into the family with open arms.

These images are some that are rarely scene without an excess of slapstick style comedy or exaggeration. Singleton again emphasizes realism and how’s that it doesn’t take eccentricity to make a statement about Black culture.

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Sex versus Intimacy

One major point to be made about the movie is its lack of graphic sexual scenes. There are two sex scenes that happen in the movie. The first is a sex scene that occurs (without nudity) between Iesha and Chicago. The second is a sex scene that occurs between Lucky and Justice. While the two are shown doing no more than kissing, the sex is implied in the closing of the scene and confirmed in the conversation that occurs on the next scene.

The sex scene between Iesha and Chicago is devoid of an emotional connection. The lack of fulfillment leads the two into an argument that exposes how much the two actually do not like each other and results in a confrontation that ends their relationship. In contrast the sex that occurs between Lucky and Justice is a natural development resulting from the two having grown closer throughout the trip and the intimate conversation in which they both let their guards down and expose some of their inner feelings.

This is important to note because it illustrates that sex is natural and does occur in Black romances, but it does not always have to be graphic and devoid of emotion. It reminds us that there are more reasons for having sex than fat asses and big dicks.

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Black Romance

We often think of love as something so universal that it can be objectively discussed and demonstrated without regard to nationality. this could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, in America, there is relatively little that Black people experience that is not in some way tinted or colored by the fact that they are Black — including love and romance.

Images in the media have often portrayed Black love and romance through a Caucasian gaze, even in Black movies and shows. Very rarely are scripts written that honestly illustrate the reality of Black love. Black love stories (especially for younger people) often do not occur in the ways that we see on television. Partly because of the historical damage that has been done to the relationship between Black men and Black women. That has altered the way that courting takes place and ultimately the ways that love happens.

While I can appreciate fiction and poetic license, I have often seen romance stories (in general) and thought, I have never known two Black people to fall in love like that. Yet, there is something familiar and genuine in the romance that occurs between Lucky and Justice. They each have their own fears, reservations, and past heartbreak that affects the way that they approach one another. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the beginning of the trip. When Lucky attempts to make conversation and get to know Justice. She is distant and cold towards him simply because of her initial impression of him. She thinks he’s a “wanna-be mack daddy” who probably has a bunch of kids and no passion or aspirations. This response leads Lucky back to his initial impression of her. He thinks she is a “stuck up bitch” that thinks that a man is supposed to bow to her. The tension swells quickly and ends with Justice threatening to have him “fucked up” and jumping out the truck while Lucky speeds off. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t love at first sight.

I love this scene because it doesn’t flinch in viewing the honest dysfunction of the relationship between Black men and Black women. The fact that we all too often to overcome our own ingrained biases against one another that results from having to constantly see each other through the filter of society that often paints Black men as irresponsible and lazy and Black women as catty and verbally abusive. Throughout the trip Lucky and Justice suspend their superficial evaluations to actually get to know one another and that does not happen without error, but it happens.

To tell a Black story in this way offers a portrayal of Black love that says its okay if it isn’t love at first sight and its okay if, even in the attempt to be emotionally vulnerable with one another, we make grave mistakes. Lucky and Justice appear to be over when they make it on their designation and Lucky in frustration over his cousin’s death directs that anger towards Justice and blames her for his not being there to save his cousin. Justice in turn feels validated in her original thoughts about not dating and especially not dating a guy from the hood. However, the magic of introspection and forgiveness allows the two of them to reconcile. Now that is a Black love story.

All too often we fail to keep trying and to keep pushing past the obstacles and remain emotionally available to one another. We think of each other as disposable and expect that we should come already packaged and ready for A relationship. I submit to you that there really is no such thing as being ready for a relationship. Relationships and love is like believing in God and joining a church. you can have one without the other and the former doesn’t prepare you to do the latter. Like the many religions and sects and denominations of churches, every relationship has its own challenges and requirements depending upon the two people who are coming together. A person prepares for love and when love happens it will get us ready for the relationship, if we are willing to be converted. That is a much needed story to be told to affirm for Black men and Black women that even love comes easily, romance takes effort.

The Point

What John Singleton accomplished with his film has rarely been reproduced in depictions of urban Black romance. For that reason, Poetic Justice is a cult classic in Black culture. Now more than ever we could stand to see a return such stories. In the midst of the war between the sexes and the discussions about the degradation of the Black family, Black love does exist and Black romances can and do happen.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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The Problem

Okay, I am by no means a Chris Brown fan; however, I am quite interested in both him and Rihanna because I feel they are a prime example of typical young Black people in America. When the whole abuse thing came out and the media and general public was weeping and wailing for poor Rihanna and simultaneously demonizing Chris, I felt there was a level of delusion and/or ignorance going on. Because I had conversations with Black men and Black women of varying ages about the situation and most did not hold the prevailing belief that Chris was a “woman beater” and Rihanna was a “battered woman.” Both of these terms were used to take the situation and categorize it with a serious national issue. It just wasn’t that serious.

This time I am chiming on the recent Chris Brown and Frank Ocean fight. Here again, no one knows exactly how the incident started. What is known is that the two have been beefing (mostly via Twitter) for a few months. Is it any surprise that when they ran into each other at the studio something popped off? Not for the average Black youth. We see that everyday.

The media has been throwing out the Chris Brown’s rap sheet: everything from his fight with Rihanna to his twitter beefs. He was recently trashed by Ebony writer, Michael Arceneaux. All this amounts to negative PR and paints Chris as an out of control man who needs help. Me? I see your average Black man in America.

The Story

There is an inherent anger in young Black people today, especially Black men. Oh c’mon. we can pretend that Chris Brown is some anomaly and that the average Black man is mild mannered and gentle. The truth is that despite how it is expressed or whether it is repressed, there is a fire brewing beneath the surface. The reason that we see young Black men react so violently at times is because most of them do not know why they are angry. I will never forget my college African American Studies professor said that to the class one day. He said, “You guys are angry…and you don’t even know why you’re angry.” His thought was that we were angry and we had every right to be angry but it was our ignorance that made our anger self-destructive.

I would have to agree with him. Although, I can personally attest to knowing why I’m angry and still finding myself with stitches because of some blow up I’ve had. That is the next level of anger, I think. So let’s chop it up about angry Black men for a moment and let me see if I can add a little insight (afterall, the name of this block is not purely sensational).

The First Level: Disappointment

The first level of anger for the angry black man is one of realization. It’s the awakening of Black anger. It’s the first time someone calls you a nigger. Or the first time you spend 30 minutes hailing a cab when the white girl ten feet away left 25 minutes ago. It’s the first time you step onto the elevator and a woman grabs her purse. It’s the first time a white teacher is impressed with how well you speak. It’s the first time you find yourself plastered to the concrete with your car being searched because you were speeding or had a tail light out. It’s the first time a salesperson follows you around the store.

The first time you’re disappointed. You’re shocked and hurt by the disenchantment. The brightness of the hopeful, just, equal world where people are more than skin color begins to fade. If perhaps this were the only time it was going to happen, you might be able to come back from the experience. In truth, it is only the beginning. By the time you reach your twenties, it’s happened at least a dozen times. More than likely than not you tried a few things to avoid it. Then comes the realization that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the world around you. These experiences and the damage they cause are beyond your control. You realize you cannot make these situations happen or not happen. It is then that you go to the next level of anger.

The Second Level: Frustration

In level two you stop blaming yourself. You realize that while there are things that may make it easier for these situations to befall you, it doesn’t mean that you deserve to experience them. More than likely you have considered that you were the problem. Maybe you stop hanging out in the hood; maybe you stop hanging with the dudes in the street; maybe you stop wearing baggy clothes and sagging; maybe you stop using slang; maybe you stop smoking weed; maybe you vow to have kids only with a girl you’re married to; or maybe you go to church and try to be gentlemanly. When the fruits of the labor do not pay off, you really become angry. You realize that you are not in

NWA (Creators of “Fuck The Police”)

control of what people think. You can influence it at best but that’s no guarantee. But the hurt from being discriminated against and having the odds stacked against you for no good reason made you want the guarantee or nothing at all.

This level of anger is frustration. It is because of the injustice of the situation. At this point a man still may not know why he’s angry. He thinks it’s because it’s not fair, because it’s not right, because he didn’t do anything wrong. Then he begins to look around for someone to understand his pain and frustration. Level Three.

The Third Level: Anger

The black man enters level three frustrated and disappointed. In his disappointment he seeks understanding. He is trying to make sense of things. He looks for another individual to help him to understand why it seems like the world hates him and he just wants to be a regular person full of good and bad attributes. At level three, frustration becomes anger when he finds that even people within his own community are resigned to the belief that something is inherently wrong with him and/or that he has brought these situations upon himself. It is then that the anger comes. I am reminded of an interview clip of Tupac Shakur commenting on the anger of rappers (aka Black men).

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This anger that Black men possess is not some arbitrary over reaction over one situation. If that were the case he would seem irate. What it is the spillage of an anger that has been boiling for years. It is the festering of unattended wounds that have lain open and become infected.

At level three, the Black man is angry and it shows. He’s no longer quietly longing to belong. Instead he makes peace with his anger and it begins to define. He becomes that which the world sought to make him. He is prone blow ups and what is viewed as rage. In truth, he is merely fed up.

The Truth

What many Black men don’t realize is that their anger isn’t about prejudice, injustice, or racism. It isn’t about the lack of support from the Black community. It’s really about powerlessness. These young Black men are facing a world that is in general selfish and wicked. And it has a particular agenda against Black men. Going up against the world is daunting and would leave any man feeling powerless.

All men desire power. The mature man knows that power does not dominate and it does not oppress. They know true power doesn’t have to prove itself. That’s how men learn that being in control of themselves and their lives does not always equate to control of their environment or the people in it. They learn that power comes from inside and it cannot only be removed from the inside.

They learn to pick and choose their battles and to realize that there is nothing wrong with walking a way. Most of all they learn that the enemy they truly seek to destroy is institutional and systematic and that war is fought on the battleground of legislation and the influencing social and political climates.

The Point

I would never justify violence as an appropriate expression of anger. What I will say is people are products of their environment. In the Black community we have too soon tossed Black men to the streets and left them to their own devices. We have crucified instead of chastised. We have lynched instead of listening. We have judged instead of understood. This kind of emotional environment would make anyone angry.

In Chris Brown’s case, he is a boy and he needs some guidance. That much I will agree. But what happened to the good old days when an old head would reach out to a brother and say, “Lemme holler at you” and listen, understand, and then chastise and guide. I will not add my voice or judgment to an already troubled soul and perpetuate the alienation of young Black men. You have to engage to change and if we want to see Black be something different, we’ve got to give them something different to respond to.

Im not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man