Coffee Rhetoric

October 23, 2017

From "Sugar Hill" to "Get Out": Celebrating Black Women in Horror Films

I'm a year-round horror movie fan but since Halloween is upon us, this macabre, candy-filled holiday wouldn't be complete without engaging in a marathon of 31 days of horror films. But when it comes to horror movies the Black guy being the first to die before we even get to delve into their characters is a common trope in a lot of movies. And even when there are strong Black male leads, we get taken on a perilous journey watching them fight to survive, only for viewers to have the rug snatched out from under them at the end. Though he cut an impressive lead character in George Romero’s seminal zombie flick Night of the Living Dead—the first time a Black actor was cast as the leading star in a horror film—who can forget what happened to Duane Jones’s character Ben at the end? And don’t get me started on the fate Eriq Ebouaney’s bad-guy character met towards the end of the French crooked cops-and-zombies flick La Horde.

The primary reason I enjoy watching horror films so much is that, despite the violence, blood, and gore saturating some flicks, horror is often imbued with social commentary on issues like race, immigration, misogyny, and even religious extremism. This year comedic actor and filmmaker Jordan Peele took the world on a tour de force with his timely race-based horror film Get Out, completely reinventing the genre’s wheel and offering up a no-frills approach to broaching the topic of casual liberal racism. In doing so, Peele also became the first Black filmmaker to helm the highest-grossing debut film based on an original screenplay. While Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya offered a compelling performance, one of the most unforgettable and complex characters was Georgina, played by actress Betty Gabriel. According to some Black film reviewers, Georgina symbolized many things and chief among them is the different intersections and mess Black women must navigate around for the sake of our livelihoods and survival, often at the cost of our well-being and lives.

In addition to Get Out's Georgina character, some of the most memorable horror movies I’ve ever seen featured strong Black female leads or supporting roles. In an industry that often pedestals white starlets and marginalizes and/or typecasts Black actresses, Black women have often found their niche in the horror genre, giving fans some of the most resourceful, unconventional, complex, badass, and even feminist characters. Black women aren’t always centered in horror movies and when they are, it’s to fill some tired Mystical Negress, sacrificial friend trope whose main function is to uphold the safety of white female protagonists at the risk of their own lives. So, I'm always delighted to watch a flick where one of the main characters is not only a Black woman but featured prominently and winning the fight to survive (in most of these cases, anyway) in the process.

Here is a list of films featuring Black women in horror films. Every character on this list may not have lasted until the end or played a primary role, but they left an indelible mark nonetheless…

[Content Warning: Clips and trailers contain strong language, adult situations, violence, and gore.]

July 21, 2017

Black People, Let’s Be More Cognizant of How We Engage Each Other

Black folks… We are resilient. We are resourceful. We ain’t never afraid. We exude self-confidence and love. And, as the children say, we are lit. In a word, we are everything and then some. And above everything else, we can be passionate with our beliefs and strong in our convictions. But sometimes, when it comes to how we consume information and how we debate with one another, that passion is often used to cudgel others into boxes they don’t want to be in, because of the way Black folks have been socialized. Whether we’re weighing in about rape culture, gender issues, the way to raise families, how masculinity should be performed, or something as mundane as how to make sweet potato pie, the way some of us provoke and critique arguments and each other can cause harm and does nothing to propel us towards social awareness, consciousness, or logical thinking.

Critical thinking isn’t a panacea to all the systematic and social ills or intra-racial concerns, but the way we unpack social issues, pop-culture, or any other human endeavor, says a lot about where we are cognitively and whether we’re good listeners who have the capacity to engage in civil disagreement and come away from the conversation accepting and respecting that not everyone lives the same way and share the same beliefs, or if we are just waiting for the opportunity to shout over someone in an attempt be right. When we engage opposing viewpoints, we must understand that it’s okay that the ways we’ve been socialized to think by our parents, grandparents and, even, the Black church are challenged. While Black folks—no matter where we’re from, how we’re raised, or our respective cultural traditions—share collective experiences, we aren’t a monolith and we don’t all share the same social mores and thought processes, and that’s also okay.


June 03, 2017

Tuxedos, Prom Gowns, & Guns

Dads, stop pointing guns at your daughters’ prom dates 


Remember preparing for prom? Taking an entire afternoon to sit in a nail or hair salon or fuss over last minute alterations and pick up coordinating corsages and boutonnieres, before putting your look together and posing for customary photos in the front yard, seemed to be the wave back in some of our heyday.

These days, with the help of supportive family and willing friends, teenagers are pulling out all the stops for the prom. From staging elaborate entrances to creating customized gowns that make fashion-forward or political statements, prom has become a wonderfully garish display of creativity, stunts, and shows fit for social media virality.

There’s one trend, however, that has been cropping up of late that adds an air of gloom to the fun grandstanding we’ve come to enjoy seeing on social media during prom season: teenage girls posing in prom pictures with their shotgun-wielding fathers pointing their weapons at apprehensive-looking dates. Because apparently, when the patriarchy isn’t fastening purity rings to their daughters’ fingers via eerie formal ceremonies, they call themselves sending an intimidating message to potential male suitors in a mendacious attempt to protect their teenage daughters’ chastity; a stance that comes across as little more than chauvinist posturing considering many of them upheld (and still partake in, when not within eye-shot of their precocious daughters) the very lecherous, predatory, and toxic masculinity they’re trying to shield their daughters from before being slapped with the pangs of fathering girls.

January 03, 2017

Miss Ann’s Seduction: Black Men & The Problematic White Women They Champion

Gisele Bündchen, photographed by Sølve Sundsbø
Black men…
There never seems to be a shortage of them burdening Black women with their ideas of how they think Black woman should act, feel, dress, and exist. 

And since they’ve positioned themselves as the nucleus for all things Black—Black thought, Black cool, Black activism, and Black opinions—mainstream media (read: white folks) are more inclined to listen to them. Especially when it suits the narrative and agenda of whiteness and/or white right-wing conservatism; which often loves to pathologize Blackness and Black activism.

White women…
If history, and lived experience, has taught us anything it’s that, when racist violence isn’t being committed on their behalf, white women can be just as truculent, racist, paternalistic and xenophobic as their male counterparts notwithstanding their place in the social hierarchy (as women); whether it be through their words, actions, or complicit inaction. And if, for whatever reason, it wasn’t obvious before, Donald Trump’s campaign and implausible rise from unethical real estate mogul to become the 2017 President-Elect cements how racist, violent and cunning white women can be considering 53% of them turned up to their polling stations to vote for a misogynist and racist demagogue who appealed to their prejudices.

And since most Black women aren’t malleable and don't shy away from asking the hard questions or for accountability, we’re often dismissed as loud, incorrigible, and divisive. Even when our voices are peppered with undeniable truths that are diminished, because they come from an experience and embodiment that's often erased. And so, it becomes easy to disparage our work and give undue credit to shrill, erroneous and hateful points of views; especially if the genesis of that hate is wrapped in a conventionally pretty
 (by mainstream standards), blond and young white package.