Sep 7, 2016

Black & Blue-Greens

Elle France, 1974 --- Pat Cleveland, Lee Nils, Aitize, Grace Jones, Maranka

This is some serious #MelaninPoppin game that dragonslays on all your stereotypes and false narratives about Black beauty.

Some observations:

1) Black comes in multiple shades and varying looks...and they are all beautiful

2) Black women can certainly wear blue and green eyeshadow (I don't know who kept telling me that lie...)

3) Black women can also wear varying shades of lip color

4) Black women can smile on their own without you telling us

5) The Earth did not implode into zillions of pieces due to Pat Cleveland and Grace Jones being in the same photo

Sep 6, 2016

The Birth Of Nate Parker, The (Faux) Militant Male Feminist

Nate Parker is acting again.

His interviews, especially his latest with Ebony, are grand performance pieces, a testament to method dramatics. His diction is on target as he delivers his lines effortlessly, the words dripping with emotion, exuding with charm. His character, the "Changed & Enlightened Man", comes across to his audience as a complex, tortured artist who prior to his road to enlightenment, was a mere naive youngster who was (unjustly) railroaded by the (white) judicial machine back in 1999. Most will have hankies dabbing at their eyes or have clenched fists raised shouting, "Right on brother! I'm with you!", applauding and lauding him for such a riveting and convincing performance.

As for me, my hands remain in my lap, clasped, and motionless.

Though Ebony's Britni Danielle has taken Parker to task during her very lengthy interview with him --- asking the questions that a lot of us have been asking since the rape allegations resurfaced, with eagerness to form an honest dialogue about male privilege and rape culture with someone who is neck-deep in such controversies --- but consider me unmoved at the masquerade that Parker is trying to pull during this sit-down one-on-one.

I was at one point excited to see The Birth Of A Nation, Parker's historical passion project about the revolutionary Nat Turner and his famous 1831 slave rebellion in South Hampton, Virginia. From the subversive title-turning of D.W. Griffth's controversial and odious 1915 film The Birth of A Nation to the fact that Nat Turner's life would (finally) be honored and give new meaning to celluloid slave narratives, I was ready, and pretty damn ecstatic to throw my money down on it.

I didn't know anything about Parker's past --- he wasn't strong enough on my radar aside from the few movies I'd seen him --- but once I learned about his involvement in a 1999 rape case during his time at Penn State, I do what I normally do when I first hear unsavory things about people: I give them the benefit of the doubt and keep one cautious eye open. One cautious eye open for any and all information that might sway my opinion otherwise. Well, both of my eyes were widened and opened when several court documents and a call transcript came to fruition earlier this month ---- along with the full story about Parker and those rape charges.

After reading and gathering information, I learned several standout things:

  • When Parker and his The Birth Of A Nation co-writer, Jean Celestin were students and wrestling teammates at Penn State University they were charged for raping an unconscious 20-year-old female student in their apartment. The accusers name was "Jennifer" and she was acquainted with Parker's now-wife, Sarah DiSanto
  • Parker was exonerated on a "technicality"as he had had consensual sex with the accuser prior to the actual incident (as if saying "yes" before gave license to use "yes" for eternity...). 
  • Celestin was convicted of the rape and served six months in jail. Later on his verdict was appealed and he was granted a new trial. The charges were dropped "Jennifer" (understandably) declined to testify. 
  • After the dropped case, "Jennifer"sued Penn State and received a $17,500 hush money settlement (Interestingly, Fox Searchlight paid Parker and Celestin were paid $17.5 million for BOAN during a newsworthy bidding war for the film's rights...things that make you go hmm...). 
  • During and after the trial, Parker and Celestin (and their supporters) harassed "Jennifer", trying to convince her through phone conversations and confrontations that she "put herself in that situation".

With all this information piling up and the truth seeping through the paper-thin line of lies, I made the decision that my money would be better spent elsewhere, and that I just could not support The Birth Of A Nation nor Parker himself. I needed no further convincing or needed to weigh options, what I had read was damning towards Parker and Celestin.

This situation concerning Nate Parker is a nesting doll of complexity, and people have strong, almost vitriolic feelings about it. Since this news has come out there has been rampant discussions about studio sabotage, white media machine discourse, separation of art and artist, about racial loyalty, Black women's "jealousy", and about toxic men and the webs of rape culture they weave. All are not legitimate arguments (especially that silly "sabotage!" angle), but most make valid points. Still my focus on this particular thought process is on Parker and his attitudes, and the hideous crime he allegedly inflicted, and not the movie or his Hollywood status as a Black man. No, his overwhelming hubris to points of performance is where my irritation lies.