April 06, 2014

Missing: What Happened to Relisha Rudd?

When I first saw the black and white picture of missing 8-year-old little girl, Relisha Rudd… captured with a slight smile and a faraway look… it struck a chord with me. I stared at her picture for, what seemed like, an infinite number of minutes; maybe because I have a niece around Relisha’s age, who also enacts a similar look in pictures. Then when I read Relisha’s personal story and saw the surveillance video of her walking down the corridor of a D.C. hotel with 51-year-old janitor, Kahlil Tatum (her abductor), I felt a strong sense of disquietude because child abduction stories rarely ever turn out the way we’d like them to, and because I couldn't imagine my niece having to navigate the same precarious living situation as Relisha without having the luxury of dependable family members, or a concerned party, to help protect her from harm.
So many Black children go missing without the sense of urgency or alarm they're entitled to; and situations replete with extreme family dysfunction, Black single motherhood, and poverty, make it too easy to write the youngest and most susceptible victims of the system, off. Relisha Rudd’s story has been circulating in the national media (which is unlikely for little girls and boys that inhabit the same skin) and seems to get more disturbing as details surface.

March 19, 2014

There's Something About Lupita

Why is it controversial to see a dark-skinned black actress achieve stardom? 

Lupita Nyong’o… the Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised, Yale educated actress and filmmaker took Hollywood and popular culture by storm, after her breakout role as Patsey in the film adaptation of the memoir and slave narrative, 12 Years A Slave. Making the red carpet rounds at various press junkets, social events, and awards shows, Lupita’s gracious demeanor and impeccable sense of style has taken people’s breath away. The media seems hooked and denizens of social media drool whenever images of her swathed in colorful couture, looking radiant, hit the internet.
Lupita is poised to become a bona fide Hollywood A-lister, and her growing popularity symbolizes the type of universality not often afforded to women and girls —especially working actresses — who exist in skin like hers and whose brand of black isn't 'exotic other'
And while most people, particularly black women, are finally glad to see the likes of Lupita Nyong’o take center stage to much fanfare, others in the black community expressed a myriad of dissenting opinions ranging from confusion and indifference, to flat-out unimpressed and insulting.

February 28, 2014

Revisiting the Film: Little Senegal

Updated review. Originally posted December, 2011

Last night while in the throes of insomnia, I decided to lull myself to sleep with a mini-movie marathon of sorts via Netflix. I watched and stopped several films before deciding on one: Little Senegal.  This film left enough of an indelible impression after I finished watching it; I was up until about 4:00 AM this morning mulling it over.
The Netflix reviews were ambivalent at best, suggesting it was dull, uninteresting, and that the acting was "wooden", however, as far as I'm concerned this reaction is par for the course from folks who don't have an emotional or vested interest in these types of films unless it's palatable and more along the lines of ‘magical negro’ fare with a white savior trope.

Little Senegal, a 2001 film directed by French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, was far from uninteresting. It explored elements of the African Diasporic, immigrant experience and was somewhat reminiscent of Haile Gerima's film Sankofa, in that it charts the history and effects of the Atlantic slave trade. While the main character in Sankofa— a self-absorbed, black fashion model living in the present-day— is forced back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, to experience the horrors of slavery and learns the importance of community and advocacy; the protagonist in Little Senegal, an elderly man named Alloune, researches his heritage and those of his ancestors who were kidnapped and sold into American slavery, prompted by his own curiosity.

January 31, 2014

Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the 2014 GIFF

On January 26th, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — noted for work like: the critically acclaimed books Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, this awesome presentation  about gender roles… which was (surprisingly) featured as part of the backtrack to this song, and for this TED talk about the danger of telling a single story — appeared at Sweden’s annual Göteborg International Film Festival in collaboration with Internationell Författarscen Göteborg and Göteborg & Co. in conversation with Swedish film critic and festival jury member, Jannike Åhlund, to discuss her work, colonialism past and present, and the film adaptation of Half Of a Yellow Sun.

At about the 12:42 mark, Chimamanda gives Åhlund a lesson on the different ranges of color Black people encompass, after Åhlund qualifies British actress Thandie Newton’s blackness and questions whether she was a good choice to cast in Half of a Yellow Sun. Thandie, who is biracial, plays Black-American actress, Anika Noni-Rose’s twin sister in the film. 

The entire conversation is about an hour, but well worth the watch. Chimamanda always gives good dialogue and insight into her work and about the African diaspora.