All Articles Tagged "sexual assault"
There was no standing ovation. No round of applause. No grateful cheering. There was just silence. Silence as each audience member watched credits roll across a black screen filled with accolades, initially crediting one person: Director, screenplay writer, producer Nate Parker. The name flashed over and over again. I sat in the dark theater wondering if there was some alternative ending that everyone was anticipating because we all seemed to be waiting for an answer as to what we had just seen.
Yes, I am a Black woman, someone who paid her hard earned money to see The Birth Of A Nation directed by a man, Nate Parker, who for the past few months has been publicly scrutinized for a rape charge of which he was acquitted.
As Nate Parker continued to address the controversy, my thoughts still remained unsettled. While watching the film my mind couldn’t help but think about the circumstances surrounding Nate Parker and the other accused party, the film’s co-writer, Jean Celestin. It’s also hard not to acknowledge how even after the incident, these two men came together to contribute an arguably valuable piece of art—seemingly as if their pasts had not already collided in a chaotic way.
On the surface level, without the criticism and controversy regarding the sexual assault case, the film was relatively good. The movie depicted the traumas and assaults that occurred during slavery in riveting, cinematically, impressive ways. The characters, both historical and fictional, were executed well with subtle acting and not overly pathos-filled dialogue—with the exception of Nat Turner’s sermons. I personally believe that had the film debuted without the overshadowing rape allegations, it would have possibly made its way to the Oscars.
While some reviews have trashed the film for its historical inaccuracy and faulted Nate for adding certain incidents for theatrical effect, specifically the addition of multiple rape scenes, the assaults were presented as a catalyst for the rebellion. Arguments have been made that these scenes were added unnecessarily and exercised far too much creative control, especially considering the director’s past. I think a possible reason for Nate including the assault scenes was to illustrate how Black women’s bodies were used as vessels rather than a beacon of strength as the foundation of both the Black and White family.
If you take The Birth Of A Nation for what it is at its basis, a piece of work created by someone who took a historical event and exercised creative license, then it’s hard to agree that the film deserves the condemnation it has received. In any depiction of historical events made for TV or film, facts and events are often omitted or revised based on the directorial vision of the story.
But if you take the film with all of its baggage, the backlash and controversy, then criticizing it is multi-faceted. For instance, whites used Christianity (specifically Nat Turner’s sermons) to instill fear and ultimately control slaves. Nat would preach at different plantations, under slave master’s watchful eyes, and his work (for which he was paid) helped to save his own master’s farm. There was a juxtaposition of Christianity with the idea of God as a savior or as a tormentor. That parallel to Nat(e) relegated him as Jesus Christ. This was especially conveyed in his walk to a public hanging — similar to Jesus’ crucification and the road to Calvary– but there was something off with this final scene. Nat(e) being persecuted as a result of the rebellion seemed like an overzealous attempt to redeem the actual Nate Parker from his past. That somehow if viewers watched how heroically Nat(e) incited a rebellion–the first slave rebellion– that we would all bow down for his talent and give him the accolades he deserved. Was that the purpose of telling Nate’s— I mean— Nat’s story?
If Nate Parker truly wanted to tell the untold story of a man who ignited the first slave rebellion, why not use another actor? Why use his face to depict the story? What was the underlying purpose of having the audience view his vindication and ultimate salvation on the big screen?
Had we not known or even paid attention to the troubling past of Nate Parker, maybe the general reception of the film would be more positive. But as a woman and a person who truly feels there are a lot of hidden truths to the issues surrounding the allegations, I won’t be surprised if the film doesn’t achieve the success that was initially expected. The baggage of Nate Parker in this depiction, unfortunately, weighed down the legacy of Nat Turner.
This weekend, Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation will hit theaters and for its opening night, the organization Fvck Rape Culture (FRC) will hold a candlelight vigil with artists, filmmakers, and women in Hollywood. In a statement, Fvck Rape Culture explained that the event was created because: “FRC recognizes the need to hold space for those celebrating the advancement of people of color in Hollywood while continuing to fight for the victims of sexual assault and rape around the world.”
Rape survivor Elyse Cizek, the event’s organizer, who works as a model and actress told Variety:
“I chose to be a part of a demonstration because as a survivor I wish for space to be held for myself and others who have been left voiceless in an industry that has the power to create change but refuses to listen to the needs of those whom they have silenced. We are a huge part of their audience and are continuously victimized and shamed for the crimes committed against us, yet too often used as accessories and plot points for those who seek to gain from our experiences in spite of us. I personally am saddened not only for my own experiences but for those who were directly affected by the actions of both Nate Parker and those seeking to glorify him despite his negligence in addressing the issue of rape culture while simultaneously perpetuating it.”
In a press release about the event, Cizek also stated:
“Nate Parker has the platform at this time to speak to his brothers on how to listen to us, respect our boundaries and rights as women, and lead the conversation on consent. When this happens, when he is willing to listen before silencing us, and when he can join the dialogue on what can be done to advance the voices of women everywhere silenced by rape culture and toxic masculinity, I will be his greatest support. Until then I will not stand for it. Instead I will sit, in quiet solidarity, with those in need of a moment of silence for the lives and stories ignored by those who care more about the appearance of change than the responsibility of creating it.”
Aside from the film premiere, the decision to host the vigil also syncs with Nate Parker’s unbearable press tour, where many witnessed the actor/director arrogantly explain (and show) to journalists that he’s not remorseful for his actions before and during the 1999 rape case in which he was acquitted.
Occasionally, I’ll feel a bit guilty about my stance on Nate Parker and the rape allegations. I’ll feel that maybe I should see The Birth of A Nation. I start thinking that since it was so long ago, perhaps he’s a changed man. And maybe I’m playing into some elaborate scheme orchestrated by the White man to keep me from seeing this life/game/perspective changing film.
But then someone asks Parker a question and his answer is just a little off-color. Or I’ll read an interview and it doesn’t read as remorseful or even fully aware.
And then I remember that just because I’ve been trained and conditioned to support Black men, it doesn’t mean I have to continue riding a broken down bus for them, particularly when they don’t seem ready or fully willing to accept responsibility for their actions against women, if it gets in the way of promoting their very important film.
In Parker’s latest sit down with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” he spoke at length with Anderson Cooper about the scandal.
In the teaser, Cooper asks Parker if he feels guilty for anything that happened that evening.
“I don’t feel guilty.”
Cooper: Do you feel you did something morally wrong?
“As a Christian man, just being in that situation? Yeah, sure. I’m 36 years old right now and my faith is very important to me so looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like, it’s not the lens that I had when I was 19-years-old.”
Interesting dichotomy there. You don’t feel guilty but you acknowledge that you did something wrong. Maybe Parker offered this woman some type of apology after he and his current writing partner, Jean Celestin taunted her on campus for months on end.
When Cooper asked Parker if there was anything he wanted to apologize for, he said, “I was falsely accused…I went to court…I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here…her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is—no.”
You can watch the trailer for the upcoming sit down in the video below.
Last week, we reported that the woman who accused Derrick Rose of rape back in 2013, spoke to the Associated Press. She explained in great detail about what she remembers of the night from Rose and two of his friends, waking up the next morning disheveled, and most importantly, why she didn’t want to reveal her identity. Jane Doe said her conservative, Mexican family would be devastated by the news. She also said they have traditional, cultural expectations of her.
But it seems that her plan to shield them may be crashing down around her. According to TMZ, a judge ruled that Jane Doe can no longer use that pseudonym and must reveal her identity. Typically, the law allows sexual assault victims to file their cases anonymously to protect their privacy. But Rose filed documents saying Doe has abused the privilege by participating in what he calls a “nationwide pretrial media blitz” over the past week. He said Doe was interviewed over the phone and held a news conference.
Apparently Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald agrees, to some extent. Jane Doe will have to reveal her real name when the case goes to trial.
Veronica Wells Is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”
A mother is suing William Paterson University after her daughter committed suicide because the University did not fully investigate a rape she reported.
According to the New York Daily News , 21-year-old Cherelle Locklear’s body was found in her dormitory bathroom in Wayne, New Jersey last November. According to a federal lawsuit, Locklear took her life just two months after she was reportedly raped.
Her mother, Marquesa Jackson-Locklear, said that her daughter was attacked at the Sigma Pi house. She claims that when her daughter reported the incident, William Paterson “did not engage in even a modicum of the investigation required by law.”
The Title IX lawsuit names the university president, Kathleen Waldron, other school employees and the local police force responsible for Locklear’s death.
Locklear said her daughter, after attempting to take her life in October, reported the incident to campus administrator Theresa Bivaletz. But she said the complaint was not immediately sent to the police.
Eventually, the police did receive the complaint though. They did not question the alleged rapist and he was not punished in any way.
University spokeswoman Mary Beth Zeman said that while the university is saddened by the loss of its student, they are unable to comment on the case.
Earlier this summer we wrote about Mamdou Diallo. The 61-year-old man from the Bronx made national news headlines when he stopped his wife’s would-be rapist, Earl Nash, by beating him to death with a tire iron. He was hailed as a hero and released from jail earlier this summer. Many were calling for the charges to be dropped, lauding him as a hero.
In fact, Nash’s family requested that the charges be dropped. And the judicial system compiled.
In a letter to the court, “While we cannot undo the damage that was done that evening, we hope to bring some closure—not only to our family, but to Diallo’s family as well.”
Before Nash’s family asked that the charges be dropped, Diallo’s attorney said that he was considering taking a plea deal. Had he done so, he would have also faced deportation in addition to losing his freedom.
Diallo said, “I was not thinking something like this would happen to me because I never make problem I never make problem. For 60-something years, I never make problem. But when problem comes into your house, you have nothing to do.”
We’re glad the justice system got it right this time.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor for MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”
After more than a year of back and forth, with plenty of interviews from alleged victims, statements from anyone remotely associated with Bill Cosby and a slew of think pieces about where the Black community’s support should lie, a trial date has finally been set for Bill Cosby in the sexual assault case brought by Andrea Constand.
According to Variety, Pennsylvania judge has set the date for the sexual assault trial for June 5, 2017.
You may remember that of the 50 plus women who’ve accused Bill Cosby of either raping, drugging, or sexually assaulting them, Constand’s 2004 allegations are the only ones still within the statute of limitations.
Constand alleged that Cosby drugged and molested her after he invited her to his home. Cosby maintains that the encounter was consensual. The prosecution wants 13 of the women who claimed Cosby drugged and then assaulted them to testify to determine a pattern of behavior.
The defense team asked that a phone call between Constand’s mom and Mr. Cosby—where she asked him what type of drugs he gave her daughter— be dropped from evidence because Cosby was unaware that he was being recorded.
One woman who won’t be by his side during the trial is Monique Pressley. During the height of the allegations, Pressley emerged as one of the most vocal defenders of Bill Cosby, gaining the approval and favor of many in the Black community who didn’t necessarily believe Cosby’s innocence but liked the way she represented herself when she spoke to news commentators.
The news of Pressley dropping out of the legal team might have gone a bit under the radar as the interest in the Cosby saga has waned. But according to The New York Daily News, Pressley chose to no longer represent Cosby in the civil lawsuits and criminal charges brought against him. She did not give a reason for her departure.
An attorney for the seven of Cosby’s alleged victims called for Pressley’s removal earlier this year after she failed to complete proper paperwork before representing Camille Cosby in a February deposition in Massachusetts where she is not legally allowed to practice.
Pressley is the second lawyer to leave the team after Cosby fired his head attorney Christopher Tayback in July.
In addition to the trial for Constand, there are at least ten civil suits from women accusing him of similar attacks. They are suing him for defamation because the comedian said that they were lying about their allegations against him.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor for MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”
Late last year, we learned that Nicki Minaj’s brother Jelani Maraj was charged with raping a child. Then a few weeks ago, we reported that Maraj’s DNA matched the semen found on the 12-year-old accuser’s clothes. All in all, it’s not looking good for him.
And the bad news keeps rolling in.
According to the The Daily Mail, Maraj’s wife of just a year, filed for divorce. Jacqueline Robinson filed divorce papers in Nassau County, days before the couple would have celebrated their one-year anniversary.
Robinson, his soon-to-be ex wife, has not commented on the rape charges Maraj is facing but the divorce is labelled “Uncontested Matrimonial” meaning both parties agree to the separation and have reached an agreement on the distribution of assets and property. The case is still pending in New York court.
At the time of his arrest, Maraj argued that the young girl had him confused with another man.
This was before his DNA was found on the young girl’s pants and the victim showed signs of repeated vaginal and anal penetration.
Maraj, according to his own Twitter account, currently owns or once owned a daycare center in Queens, New York.
Maraj is due in court later this month. If convicted, he faces 15 years to life in prison.
“You Got The Right One, Honey” Woman Confronts Man Masturbating On Train, Mom Turns Him In To Police
You live In New York City long enough, you’re bound to stumble upon some behavior that will make your stomach turn. And most the time, it’s not even done in a clandestine manner. Most of the egregious things you see, happen on public transportation, the subway to be exact. That was the case recently when a woman noticed a man masturbating while seated on the train.
Most women, confronted by such a disturbing scene, turn their heads, move train cars or try to avoid eye contact. But not Deanna Carter. When she say a man, later identified as 23-year-old Kevin Cuffe, masturbating, she did not cower.
Instead, she asked questions.
“What are you doing? You over here rubbing your d*ck?! What the f*ck are you doing? Get f*cked up on this train. You want to do that freaky sh*t, do that sh*t off the motherf*cking train. Do it again and I’m getting up out this chair and Ima bust your *ss on this train. Do we understand each other?”
Carter told Cuffe that on this particular day she was in one of those moods. And afterward, she told Cuffe that at the next stop, he needed to exit the train.
“I don’t give a f*ck if this ain’t your stop. You get off this train with that freaky sh*t. Get up! With your f*cking crazy ass. Get the f*ck off this train. Sitting here rubbing on your penis, are you serious.”
Then she told Cuffe and the entire car that she was the one they’d been waiting for.
“You got the right one honey, because I’m a crazy b*tch. Please believe me.”
Even though Cuffe must have been some kind of off to masturbate on the subway, he knew better than to stay there and test Carter. He did exactly as she said, grabbed his book bag and got off at the next stop.
And while the story ended happily enough with this video, there was more. Apparently, three days after the video went viral, Cuffe’s mother turned him in to the NYPD. He was charged with two counts of public lewdness and later released. Sadly, this is not the first time Cuffe has been caught, on tape, behaving like this. The same thing happened back in December, with using a bag to cover his penis as he touched himself. He is due to appear in court next month. The NYPD says he has a criminal record but it’s been sealed.
Fox Searchlight seems to be a little shaken up. After their $17.5 million investment into Nate Parker’s film The Birth of a Nation, it seems that they could possibly lose some money if audiences are unwilling or unable to forgive him for his past “indiscretions,” to put it lightly.
In case you’ve missed it, 17 years ago, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin (the man who co-wrote The Birth of a Nation with him) were accused of rape. Celestin was actually convicted but the case was thrown out when the victim refused to testify a second time. But Parker was acquitted because he and the young lady had had consensual sex before. If you read the transcripts from a conversation with the alleged victim and Parker, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. And the testimony of another man who was there at the time of the incident paints an even worse one. Not only were they accused of rape, afterward they spent weeks antagonizing their accuser, following her after classes, to her dorm room, revealing her identity to fellow students.
Then in 2012, after a couple of suicide attempts around the time of the incident, the woman finally succeeded in taking her own life.
These days, though Celestin is credited as a co-writer for the film, Parker has chosen to distance himself from him. Even though according to testimony, it was Parker who summoned Celestin into the room, with the alleged victim back in 1999. And Parker has said that Celestin was the first person he ever told about his Birth of a Nation idea.
Today, he says: “I wrote the screenplay by myself,” Parker said, adding that no one helped him on the first of 40 drafts he’s worked on since 2007. When pressed about Celestin’s contributions, Parker said obliquely: “I just did a lot of research. I hired a lot of people. I had researchers. I had all kinds of people. I just wanted people to feel whole.”
The emergence of all these details had many wondering whether or not they should still support the film. I’ve said that I could not. And there are others, perhaps most notably, writer Roxane Gay, for The New York Times.
In a recent article for Variety, sources close to Parker reveal that he is a bit surprised by the reaction.
Likely because the facts of his rape case have never been hidden. It’s been featured on his wikipedia page for years now. According to Variety, a source who has been in close communication with Parker says that “he’s in a low place…He vacillates between thinking the case is resurfacing now after 17 years because of a Hollywood conspiracy against him or just bad luck. He’s disappointed over the backlash on social media and that the African American online community hasn’t been more supportive. And he’s even mad at himself, for underestimating the public’s interest in a court case that happened so long ago.”
Well, I won’t speak for the whole African American community, but I’m disappointed in Nate Parker. I would have loved to see The Birth of a Nation. But it’s his actions that, albeit a while ago, that are distracting people from what I’m sure was a beautifully made, game-changing film. And while we’ve all made mistakes we wouldn’t want drudged up and made public, I’m willing to bet that most of our mistakes didn’t forever alter the course of someone’s life. As I’ve said before, it would have been convenient if this rape scandal presented itself at the beginning of Nate’s career, so he could have moved past it by now. But that’s not how karma works. It comes when it’s ready. And it’s something like poetic justice that Parker finds himself disappointed and low, probably in the same ways the young lady did when he and Celestin were taunting and harassing her after she reported the alleged rape.
As much dissent as I, and a few other vocal people online, have expressed. I doubt that the film, if it is released as planned, will suffer. Instead, I’m sure that there are plenty of Black folk, mostly men, who believe, like Parker, that this is some type of twisted conspiracy to keep the Black man down. Even after the White man put $17.5 million into the project. I’m sure there are those who are able to separate the art from the artist.
We’ve all done it at one time or another. Woody Allen is nominated for an Oscar every other year, even though he married his ex wife’s adopted daughter. Marv Albert sodomized someone and NBC makes sure that he eats very well. R Kelly’s track record with little girls is disgusting but he’s still touring, selling out venues. Bill Cosby still, after 50 + rape accusations, has people who swear he’s Heathcliff. And even me. I love me some Al Green and James Brown, though they were both notorious for abusing their wives and girlfriends. Even my beloved Prince, God rest his soul, had a questionable relationship with Mayte, most likely before she was of legal age. There is a lot the public is willing to forgive, especially if there is art or entertainment value attached to the person. Who knows where their heads will be in a few months, when it’s time for the movie to come out. Maybe then, we’ll all have forgotten, rationalized, dismissed, or completely ignored our disappointment for Nate Parker’s actions 17 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nate Parker is a little less disappointed in the Black community come October.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”