All Articles Tagged "spike lee"
Style, class and grinding hard are just a few of the many words that come to mind when it comes to describing our HBCU graduates. And with ALMOST CHRISTMAS just around the corner, alums to none other than the great FAMU and the well-renowned Morgan State (David E. Talbert and Will Packer respectively), have combined their power and prowess as they embarked on bringing to life the family Christmas film of the year. In celebration of our fellow alumns, we wanted to share the below list of celebrities you may not have known attended HBCUs themselves, as they continue to impress us with their blend of scholarly and creative skills from top HBCUs across the country.
Check out some of our favorite singers, rappers, actors, directors, and entrepreneurs below and find out who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a full blown scholarship!
Known for producing low-budget, high-profit movies, American film producer and director, Will Packer attended Florida A&M University in the fall of 1991 and graduated magna cum laude from with a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
David E. Talbert
The Kingpin of urban comedies and musicals, David E. Talbert is an American filmmaker, playwright and author, who has directed some of our favorite films such as BAGGAGE CLAIM and FIRST SUNDAY. Graduating from Morgan State University with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing, David switched his career to the film industry, and it has been not stop entertainment from there!
This iconic woman, without a doubt, is America’s favorite idol. The beloved Oprah attended Tennessee State University on a full scholarship and majored in speech communications and performing arts. Her lectures at Tennessee State definitely made an impact by allowing her to pursue her own career as a Talk Show host and so much more. You are truly America’s favorite lady!
Shelton Jackson Lee, also known as Spike Lee, has produced over 35 films since ‘83. With a BA in Mass Communication from Morehouse College, Lee has set the bar high. He began his career during his undergrad while filming a student film and currently now owns his own production company – 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. Impressive!
Samuel L. Jackson
This actor and producer is a proud alumni of his 1972 class at Morehouse College. With his major in theatre, there is no doubt he knew he’d kill the game. From his big break in the early 1990’s with hits such as JUNGLE FEVER, JURASSIC PARK and PULP FICTION, Jackson continues to impress Hollywood with his amazing acting skills.
Keisha Knight Pulliam
At just the young age of six, Keisha was already being nominated for an Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series’ from “The Cosby Show.” She really made it big in no time. An alumni of Spelman College, Keisha went on to pursue an unexpected degree in sociology and was also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. This lady has done it all!
The Queen of Neo-Soul herself, Erykah Badu, has blessed us a countless number of times with her classics such as “On & On” and “Bag Lady”. With her hits touching on life’s toughest subjects, Badu knows how to make her alma mater proud. She attended Grambling University with an emphasis in performing arts.
This rapper definitely knows how to hustle his way through Hollywood with his business administration degree. Straight out of Chi-Town, Common decided to leave it all behind and attend school in Florida at A&M University. Did we mention he entered on a full scholarship? We see you Common!
This rapper continues to break barriers with his lyrics and songs. A graduate from Alabama State University, the G.O.O.D. music rapper went on to graduate with a 4.0 GPA and on a full scholarship! This scholarly rapper really meant it when he said “I’m Different”…
Rapper and producer David Banner is and always has been, all about the biniz’. With his business degree from Southern University, Banner has worked his way to the top in no time. No wonder he wrote his anthem “Get Like Me”!
Premiering November 11th, 2016
SYNOPSIS: A new comedy from writer/director David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) and producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like a Man series, This Christmas), Almost Christmas tells the festive story of a beloved patriarch who asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honor that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Official Website: http://www.almostchristmasmovie.com/
Like Almost Christmas on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/almostchristmasmovie
Follow Almost Christmas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/almostchristmas
Follow Almost Christmas on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/almostchristmasmovie/
On Sunday (Oct. 2), iconic director Spike Lee took to his Instagram to share the news that he was hosting an open casting call for his Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It, in Brooklyn.
Nearly 30 years ago, Lee made his directorial debut with this same film centered around the sexually liberated Nola Darling’s affairs with Jamie Overstreet, Greer Childs and Lee’s own character Mars Blackmon. Delving into women’s sexual agency during a time when it wasn’t deeply explored, Lee certainly pushed boundaries and the culture forward. Thus, this Netflix series will surely please just as the original.
OPEN CALL for the NEW SPIKE LEE JOINT Barbara McNamara Casting is having an open call for actors in the NYC area. WHEN: Monday, October 3rd WHERE: Brooklyn Masonic Temple 317 Clermont Ave. (Dekalb and Lafayette Ave) Fort Greene, Brooklyn 11205 Looking for all nationalities age 18-80 Filming will take place October 11th – January 25TH SAG/AFTRA actors 5PM-6:30PM NON UNION actors 6:30-8PM ALL TALENT MUST BE ABLE TO WORK IN USA and have valid proof of ID. Please bring updated headshot and resume along with 2 forms of ID (DL/SS, US PASSPORT, GREENCARD/SS, PERMANENT RESIDENT CARD/SS) Those who cannot attend the open call can email updated headshot, resume and one recent non-professional photo to SLBGCASTING@GMAIL.COM Thank you
While the series has yet to release a premiere, we’re sure all of Brooklyn is posted in a line ready to represent for the culture.
With news of Spike Lee’s classic “She’s Gotta Have It” being turned into a Netflix original series, it got us thinking about other movies that we would love to see come to the small screen. From “Brown Sugar” to “School Daze,” here are 10 movies we think would make amazing Netflix series.
Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington knocked our collective socks off in the gritty and surprising film “Training Day.” Chronicling 24 hours in the life of LAPD rookie officer Jake Hoyt (Hawke) as he rides along with veteran narcotics detective Alonzo Harris (Washington), “Training Day” was as harsh as it was memorable. And let’s not forget how chilling it was to see Washington play such a raw, scary character for once. We hear through the grapevine that a television series is in fact in the works (with Antoine Fuqua and Jerry Bruckheimer spearheading), but we include “Training Day” anyway because we truly hope this isn’t a TV concept that ends up stalling.
As a fangirl of Spike Lee and most of his work (I have to press delete on Red Hook Summer and skip over whatever that crowd-sourced-not-called-a-remake-ish he made a few years ago, i.e. Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus), I was elated to hear about one of my favorite films heading to Netflix.
She’s Gotta Have It, Spike Lee’s first feature-length film, will premier on Netflix as a 10-episode series. This news comes just one month after the 30th anniversary of the film’s release. Surprisingly, Spike’s wife suggested the idea of turning the movie into a series and the couple ran with the idea, ending in a deal with Netflix.
The film is a significant and iconic contribution to American film with its simplistic yet intriguing cinematography, mapped with the intricacies of a woman’s sexuality that are not masked in stereotype. She’s Gotta Have It piloted Spike Lee’s career, and he later went on to create more stories depicting narratives of Black girls and women in Crooklyn, 4 Little Girls and Jungle Fever.
The audience can expect the series to take place in Brooklyn, but one might wonder how the show will depict the current changes of Brooklyn’s once culturally diverse landscape? In the film, Nola has a huge studio apartment and even notes to one of her male suitors its affordability as she works as a magazine designer. With the recent rising costs of housing in Brooklyn and changing class demographic, Spike will have to illustrate these historical changes somehow. Let’s hope this series is as great as the movie.
Spike Lee’s controversial satire film Chi-Raq is a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, penned by Aristophanes. Lysistrata is the story of a woman who plans to end the Peloponnesian War by encouraging fellow Athenian women to abstain from sex. Released in December 2015 as the first feature-length film on the Amazon Studios roster, Chi-Raq stars Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Wesley Snipes and Samuel L. Jackson. Written in rhymed verse, Chi-Raq, which had a limited theatrical release prior to screening on Amazon, was met with countless positive and negative critiques from politicians, critics, and Chicago-bred rappers. From concern over the film’s title to Lee’s comments about rape on college campuses, and all of the chatter pre and post-premiere, controversy for Lee is not at all unusual. That much we know. But click on to read some lesser-known facts and details about veteran writer/filmmaker Spike Lee’s contentious joint.
Next Monday, August 8, marks the 30th anniversary of one of Spike Lee’s first and greatest works: She’s Gotta Have It. The film, with its look at Black female sexuality in a proud and liberated sense, was groundbreaking. It was groundbreaking not only for its story, written by Lee, but also for the way it was shot, the way it presented Brooklyn, New York, and the way it showcased Black people as a whole. Everything about it was beautiful.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie, Lee has teamed up with Moleskine for a limited edition notebook. There are only 3,000 copies, each stamped with their own number and including credits for the film inside, as well as She’s Gotta Have It stickers. You can pick up one of the notebooks now, on sale for $24.95.
If you want to take things a step further, Lee can personally sign your notebook — if you live in NYC or LA. He will be at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square (33 E 17th St) on Thursday, August 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. He will also be at Book Soup Los Angeles (8818 Sunset Blvd) on Sunday, August 7 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
As a huge fan of this work (I even own it on DVD and wore my hair like Nola Darling before growing locs), I thought another great way to celebrate it would be to give you some details behind the making of the movie. Check out what I found.
Spike Lee’s Showtime documentary film Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall premiered last Friday. As a diehard, straight out the womb Michael Jackson fan, I got my entire life watching mesmerizing clips and giddy interviews of the man himself, conversations with those who personally knew him and the “witnesses” (as they were labeled in the credits) who were touched by MJ’s indelible body of work. I happily sang along to tunes that will forever bring me joy and gained further insight into the man they called King.
In the documentary, Lee honed in on MJ’s early years and made a conscious decision to focus solely on the music created during that impressionable, history-making time, instead of the myriad controversies and scandals that plagued later portions of Jackson’s solo career. One of those controversies, which sparks conversation almost seven years after the late singer’s death, is Jackson’s changing appearance over the years. Though MJ’s legacy lives in the music he created and shared with the world, it’s almost impossible to mention his name without hearing the widely-held belief that Michael Jackson wanted to look and be White. A belief that has made its way back into discussion due to the casting of Joseph Fiennes to play the pop star in the film, Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon. But I think the answer to his physical transformation lies in a note Jackson wrote to himself, which was shared in the film.
Jackson was only 21 years old when he wrote his future into existence, much like Octavia Butler did, as we recently learned. “MJ will be my new name,” he declared. “No more Michael Jackson. I want a whole new character, a whole new look. I should be a tottally [sic] different person. People should never think of me as the kid who sang “ABC,” [or] “I Want You Back.” I should be a new, incredible actor/singer/dancer that will shock the world. I will do no interviews. I will be magic. I will be a perfectionist, a researcher, a trainer, a masterer [sic]. I will be better than every great actor roped into one.”
One of the things that was painfully obvious throughout the film was that executives, producers, businessmen, and directors alike constantly doubted Jackson. They doubted whether he would have a singing career past childhood, whether he could have an acting career and star in The Wiz (or any other film for that matter), whether he could create his own music and be a solo artist. It’s kind of crazy, considering that he had already proven himself so many times. His talent was undeniable. Jackson combined his innate sensibilities with hard work, passion and an unwavering appreciation for and study of artists like James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and the Nicholas Brothers. He combined those influences into a unique style all his own, yet he kept having to prove himself to people who didn’t share or understand his vision.
Jackson, who admittedly was never satisfied, was a complicated, misunderstood genius driven by an impossible quest for perfection. That quest led to a desire to physically reinvent himself with the release of each solo album, from Off The Wall to Invincible, the last album he recorded prior to his 2009 death. Reinvention translated to numerous alterations to his nose, a cleft in his chin, his changing hair, and, yes, lighter skin, though induced by vitiligo. Despite those changes, I don’t think Jackson was seeking to become a different race, that he saw flaws in his blackness, or that he equated whiteness with greatness and perfection. Different was the name of the game. He was striving to both outdo himself and to be in a league all his own. He sought continually to distance himself from his boyhood image, though he longed for the childhood he claimed to have missed. And he wanted to create an identity entirely separate from his brothers.
I recognize that there are so many issues that complicate this reading. The fact that Jackson took in three White children, for example, and that he seemed to have body dysmorphic disorder. He was also rendered untouchable by his exorbitant level of fame, which probably fed into a belief that he could alter his appearance and continue to go about his business without being questioned, like unexplained magic. Born and bred in the shock value era, reinvention was also a way in which Jackson could remain relevant, or rather, talked about in the public eye. Which is sad because the only thing that ever really mattered was the music, but that was overshadowed by his persona.
Of course, all of this conjecture is predicated on a single, handwritten note that seemed to play a crucial role in Michael Jackson’s adult life. But only he knew his innermost thoughts, the real reasons why he changed his physical appearance time and again, and why the changes never seemed to be enough.
Regardless, it’s the music that remains of importance. I am grateful to Spike Lee for creating a film that didn’t succumb to the easy, “But what happened to Michael’s skin?” trap. That’s a different film for a different director entirely. Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall gave us a glimpse into the makings of one of the greatest, most innovative entertainers to ever grace the earth, an enigma and cultural icon whose influence lives on in countless artists and in the hearts of countless fans.
Stacey, Right-Winged, White Folks Will Never Accept You, No Matter How Much Racist Rhetoric You Spout
My memories of high school are faint, to say the very least. But I will never forget the one day these two boys, one White and one Black, in biology class were standing around our lab station telling ridiculous jokes.
The White boy, laughing before he could even deliver the punchline said,
“How do you get a group of Black men to stop having sex with a White woman?”
The Black guy grins and then asked,
The White guy, still laughing, says,
“You throw a basketball at them.”
And to my shock and horror, the White and Black guy both fell out laughing. These two buffoons were my lab partners at least for that day. The White boy wasn’t my concern. The Black guy is the one who disgusted me the most in this situation.
And I let him know.
“Why are you laughing at that?”
“Because it’s funny.”
“You think it’s funny that he just insulted you and everyone who looks like you?”
“It’s just a joke.”
I can’t remember how much longer the conversation went on or how I eventually ridded myself of those two fools. I honestly haven’t thought about that particular incident in years. But today, in hearing Stacey Dash’s comments about Jada Pinkett Smith, BET and Black History Month, I was reminded.
While you might think Dash represents the Black guy laughing at the racist jokes, her recent comments show that she’s the one delivering them, waiting for her band of racist White folks to laugh and pat her on the back for a job well done, an ignorant, hate-filled speech properly delivered.
Fox News makes a great habit of asking Stacey Dash about Black issues. So it was only a matter of time before they got her take on Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott of the Academy Awards.
As expected, it was a doozy.
“I think it’s ludicrous because we have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the [NAACP] Image Awards, where you are only awarded if you are black. If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard.”
Fox News host Steve Doocy said, “So you say there should not be a BET channel?”
“No, just like there shouldn’t be a Black History Month,” Dash replied.
“You know, we’re Americans. Period. That’s it.”
“Are you saying there shouldn’t be a Black History Month because there isn’t a White History Month?” Doocy pressed.
The way Dash hit every single racist, privilege infested argument, you would swear she was teaching Resolved Ignorance. Those words about Black History Month and segregation are the very same ones uninformed or flat-out racist White people across the country love to tout, knowing good and well, with the exception of slavery and Martin Luther King, there is little to no Black History taught in the public school curriculum. And BET and The Image Awards are born out of the fact that our films, as the Academy Awards showed in 2016, are still not receiving the recognition they deserve. If Sylvester Stallone could be nominated for an Oscar, Stacey Dash deserves one too for her role as Dionne in Clueless. Lord knows, it’s her one of her few contributions to society.
But if you ask me, Stacey Dash knows exactly why networks like BET exist. As the network so aptly reminded their Instagram followers, she certainly took their money, probably in response to the fact that she couldn’t get any love from the mainstream.
I don’t know if the statements represent Dash’s true beliefs. It seemed like she was being spoon-fed throughout the broadcast.
But whether they represent her true feelings or she’s only saying what she thinks her White bosses and their White audience want to hear. She’s “the Black friend” who laughs at racists jokes and lets her White friends say “the N-word” because Hip Hop is to blame. It’s very clear she’s being used as a pawn. And pawns are often the first ones sacrificed in an attempt to preserve the empire. And Fox News is an empire. Stacey Dash, the Johnnetta come lately, is not high on their priority list. After all, there are plenty of right-winged, fairer skinned folk who will say exactly what she just said.
We saw that in the way they suspended homegirl with a quickness when she cussed on television, speaking about President Obama.
She can look to Michael Steele or Hermain Cain and even Dr. Ben Carson (because he’s clearly on his way out) to see the ways in which the party has dismissed and disregarded right-winged African Americans who thought they had an “in.”
I don’t know what Stacey Dash hopes to gain from all of this. More acting opportunities? Exposure? Perhaps she just wants people to talk about her. And if that’s the case, she’s certainly accomplished her goals. But in the meantime it reeks of desperation. Fox News knows it, Hollywood knows it and so does the Black community. Once Fox finds their next token, I don’t know where Stacey will find herself but it certainly won’t be in the good graces of the people who only sought to exploit her Blackness in the first place.
In a recent interview with Vulture Magazine, Tyler Perry was asked to address criticisms of his work, previously made by noted filmmaker Spike Lee.
If you need a refresher, Lee said this during an interview at the 2009 Black Enterprise Entrepreneur conference:
“Because each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors. But I still think that a lot of stuff that’s out today is coonery [and] buffoonery. And I know it is making a lot of money, breaking records, but we can do better. That’s just my opinion. I mean, I’m a huge basketball fan. And when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows and I’m scratching my head. You know, we got a Black president. Are we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep n’ Eat?”
Of course, the comments were directed at Tyler Perry who at the time had two shows (“House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns”), which ran on TNT’s sister station, TBS.
And naturally, Perry would respond by telling Lee to “go straight to Hell”
The two directors would eventually squash their beef, but Perry did tell Vulture’s writer Rembert Brown how those comments made him feel:
“That ‘coonery’ buffoonery was a direct Spike Lee quote,” Perry told me. “And that’s what everybody started to say, with those words in particular. But you have to be careful, because our audiences cross-pollinate a lot of times. There’s a lot of my audience that likes what he does. And there’s a lot of his audience that likes what I do. And when you make those kind of broad, general strokes, and you paint your audiences in them, they go, ‘Wait a minute, are you talking about me? Are you talking about my mom?’”
In the same interview, Perry also directly addressed criticism that many of his characters were nothing more than bad stereotypes of Black people. More specifically he said:
“Let me tell you what took me aback about that, when people were like, ‘How dare you put fat black people on television, these are caricatures, these are stereotypes’ — I was so offended because my aunt’s fat. My mother’s fat. My cousins are fat. People who are like, ‘How dare you — these harken back to Mammy, Amos ’n’ Andy.’ I would hear all these things, and I would go, hmmm.”
Truthfully, I like some of Perry’s work and don’t have a problem with who his characters are. I like down home Southern people. But generally, I find many of his themes regressive and drenched in a type of religious moralism, which I personally can’t stand. And I especially detest how he writes about Black women (The Family That Preys and Temptation immediately come to mind). Real or not, some of the things he feels about Black women and what should happen to them (including being smacked across the table or contracting a potentially life-threatening disease all because you sinned against God by cheating on your “good” husband) is particularly troubling for me.
With that said, he does have a point.
Yes, Lee is an iconic Black filmmaker who has given us such Black cinematic classics as Do The Right Thing, School Daze and Malcolm X. But we can’t act like Lee doesn’t stereotype Black people or that some of Lee’s imagery is not problematic as well.
In fact, a huge part of the criticism of Lee’s latest feature film entitled Chi-Raq is how it misrepresented not only the gang violence, which is happening in the streets of the Chicago, but also the look and feel of the citizens itself. One such critic was Chicago native Chance the Rapper who said in a series of tweets:
“Let me be the one from Chicago to personally tell you we not supporting this film out here. That sh*t get ZERO love out here. Sh*t is goofy and it’s a bunch of ppl from NOT around here telling u to support that sh*t. The people that made that sh*t didn’t do so to “Save Lives”. It’s exploitive and problematic. Also the idea that women abstaining from sex would stop murders is offensive and a slap in the face to any mother that lost a child here. You don’t do any work with the children of Chicago, You don’t live here, you’ve never watched someone die here. Don’t tell me to be calm.”
Moreover, we can’t act like Lee and Perry do not share some of the same audience. And yes, I’m talking about Black folks here. As Perry neatly suggests, many of the same Black folk who will rush to support (shield and defend) Perry because he is a Black filmmaker will often do the same for a Spike Lee Joint. And to take a jab at Perry for creating “coonery and buffoonery” is an indirect jab at the audience who actually enjoys and sees themselves in his work.
After all, not every Black person can be from Brooklyn.
Granted, in terms of nuanced storytelling and execution, Perry is no Lee. And there is just no denying Lee’s masterful ability to raise complex political and social issues within the framework of Blackness. But there was an air of Northern elitism in Lee’s (and others’) critiques of Perry, which can’t not be ignored. And I am happy that Perry finally called it out.
If you are boycotting Chi-Raq on principle, I definitely respect that.
But if you are going to critique it, you definitely are going to have to watch it first.
Full disclosure: I too had my issues with Spike Lee’s latest project. First, there is the reality that Lee’s non-documentary works has been somewhat confusing, heavy-handed and disjointed as of late. More specifically Red Hook Summer and Da Blood of Jesus.
I get down with experimental art house. But if it ain’t connecting, it ain’t connecting.
Another reason for my trepidation is the film’s stated plot itself, which centers around Black women orchestrating a sex strike as an answer to inner-city Chicago gun violence.
Yes, I know that it is inspired by the 4th– century Greek comedy Lysistrata. And yes I know that it was also inspired by the Liberia Sex Strike. I saw the movie, remember.
However, when does the knowledge of the inspiration of something, particularly an artful something, shield it from critique?
And more importantly, just because an artist was inspired by an actual event doesn’t mean he or she has given its muse proper tribute or even context.
What I mean is, the Liberia Sex Strike, as it would come to be christened by the Western media, was only one small action in a much more involved non-violent campaign for peace in the West African nation.
The peace movement was founded and lead by a group called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. And under the leadership of two social workers named Leymah Gbowee and Comfort M. Freeman, thousands of women from across the religious and ethnic tribe spectrum engaged in non-partisan action aimed at ending the four-year civil war that killed in upwards of 200,000 people, displaced millions, raped women and girls and turned boys into child soldiers.
In addition to the highly sensationalized sex strike, the women activists who would dress in all white to symbolize unity also led daily prayer vigils and demonstrations at local fish markets, the presidential offices, and the Guinean and American embassies. Likewise they sent letters, petitions and forced meetings with political leaders as well as the international community. In fact, it would be a series of WLMAP protests outside of both President Charles Taylor and the warlord rebels compounds that would force all sides to peace talks in Ghana.
Through a massive sit-in, the women held the waring men up in a room, denying them both food and water until an agreement was reached. And when those peace talks threatened to sour, it was a WLMAP protests that again kept them at the table. As reported by Tavaana.org:
“Unwilling to tolerate another month of dead-end negotiations, 200 women held a sit-in at the peace talks in Ghana, demanding that the parties come to a conclusion. Authorities attempted to arrest them, but to no avail. When negotiators tried to exit, Gbowee and the women threatened to strip off their clothes, an act that would shame male delegates.”
During a 2011 address at the Olso Freedom Forum, Gbowee spoke in her own words about that particular action at the peace talks:
“So people ask me what is it about a woman stripping naked that makes people run? Or even make the conscious of a group of men who have paid and drugged boys to rape these same women to wake up. The thing is, when you are raped in conflict; when you are stripped naked in conflict, it is against your will. When a group of women, or when a group of people, get to the place where they decided that ‘I am going to give you the last shred of my dignity, that is something to even wake anyone up. Even the most heartless dictators. The peace agreement was signed three weeks after this action.”
When western media focused solely on the sex strike it did so at the expense of erasing efforts of these activists who used whatever was at their disposal – including their brains, mouths, pens and bodies – to bring peace to Liberia. When we focus solely on the sex strike, we strip those women naked against their will.
And unfortunately, Chi-Raq is guilty of the same transgression.
Without giving too much away, the film relied heavily on selling Black women as sex objects to push the narrative. It was not only at times distracting, but it also acted counter revolutionary to the filmmakers stated aims, which was to use women to empower a community.
In spite of a several strong lead performances, women characters in the film were virtually voiceless and one-dimensional. Oh, they spoke and had lines. But when they spoke, most of their dialog centered around men, their desire for sex with men and the relation of all of that to their autonomy (aka The Pussy). There was no talk or even challenge the misogynist attitudes or even sexual violence, which is often waged at their expense.
Most ironic is the scene of the film when the girlfriend and wives of the two opposing Chicago street gang leaders finally reveal the terms of their protests to their partners. The terse yet rhythmic (most of the film is done in rhyming prose) conversation happens in the kitchen as the women slave away over the stove making their men – and only their men – dinner.
Unlike the women of Liberia, who went as far as deny food and drink to the men for peace, in Lee’s vision of women empowerment women are still beholden to patriarchal ideas of feminine duties and responsibilities including fixing your man a plate. You know, because you can deny men “your power (aka sex)” for the cause of peace, but to deny him a plate of fried chicken and some collards is a bridge to damn far.
Worse, the male-centric dialog and the hyper-sexualized, impromptu dance scenes, which featured the women in scantly-clad military fatigues engaged in a lot of body gyration and touching, is for no reason at all.
In one particularly confusing sequence, the main character, named Lysistrata, and her sex-strikers take command of a military base by seductively teasing a high-ranking White official in Confederate flag underwear (representative of White supremacy) with the promise of sex.
It was a dangerously sick narrative, which might play well into the pornographic fantasies of heterosexual men, but it also disregards the fine line in consciousness we Black women have to walk to not be judged as Jezebels and Sapphires. Likewise, it is a narrative that disregards the ways in which rape and sex has historically been used as weapons by our oppressors against Black women. As there was no sex appeal strong enough that freed our ancestors (and womankind) from the slave labor of the plantation, no more than there is for us free Black descendants who are routinely accused of being prostitutes to this day.
At times it is hard to tell if the film, or its gender politics, were even meant to be taken serious. The film, which centers around several heavy topics, was at times whimsical and downright silly. Likewise, the acting was exaggerated, the characters were cartoonish (in particular Wesley Snipes whose comedic timing was superb), and the moralism in some scenes were heavy-handed in its blatancy.
As I watched the film, I began to wonder if Lee was attempting to pull off a bigger guise here? What I mean is that for a man who has been pretty vocal about the representations of Blacks in film in television and who has publicly taken issue with the system that only allows certain people to tell certain stories, I wondered if Lee had intentionally took a has out of their playbook to make a point? And perhaps this entire film was Lee’s attempt at a wink and nod at our acceptance of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained or one of Tyler Perry’s productions.
In the interest of giving an iconic Black director the benefit of the doubt, I would need to watch the film again.
However it only takes one viewing to see that if Lee was hoping to breathe life into an often misrepresented story of women activists in Liberia, he really missed the mark.