We Have Got To Tell Our Stories

“Hey Baby Daddy King!” Said Lavelle Junson’s mom as they are escorted before the Zamundan King in Coming 2 America which was released in early March on Prime.  Junson is the bastard son of King Akeem and Mary Junson who finds himself in the land preparing to be an heir to the Zamundan throne. Junson’s mom was played by Leslie Jones who brought her A game to the role.

This comedy is the sequel to Coming to America released in 1988 starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.  Not only is it funny, but it reminds me of why I loved the original because they bring back almost everyone they can. In the 1980s this movie was an oasis in a desert of stories with African Americans in them. We celebrated being able to see a cast full of people of color.

This movie sends a wonderful shout out to the 1980s with music from Gladys Knight, En Vogue and Salt N Pepa. It is lighthearted and celebrity filled which will made me laugh.  It is good to laugh with my people because many of our stories aren’t funny.

On the darker more for real side is The United States vs Billie Holiday and Judas and the Black Messiah.

Both movies tell a story we need to hear, but don’t do them if you depressed or sad. The plight of African Americans in the United States has not been an easy joy filled experience, so don’t expect that from either of these movies. You might get angry and cuss at the TV.  (There were moments I was instructing both Fred and Billie to just cuss them folk out, please!) So do what you have to do to deal with your frustration.

In The United States vs Billie Holiday I watched as the FBI doggedly pursued the young singer through her drug addiction. Andra Day, who plays Holiday, has an amazing voice that reminds me so much of Lady Day, that in the beginning I thought she was using original music.  Day’s performance was good, but by the end of the story I just wanted the government to leave Billie alone.  It took me days to get through the entire movie because I kept stopping when I would get too frustrated. I can’t imagine living through it.

I am glad I did finish it, but it is difficult to see story after story of lives ruined by authority figures left to their own devices.  And many of their desires was destroy black lives.

Again in Judas and the Black Messiah, which is the story of how William O’Neal becomes an FBI spy to gather information on Fred Hampton of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers. Daniel Kaluuya plays Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield plays O’Neal.

The acting was impeccable, but the nature of the story made me pause it and come back to it after a few days. We have to tell these stories. We have to know our history, or we are doomed to repeat it.

 In all three of these movies’ music is key to creating a mood. There are drumbeats in all of them that I believe connect us.  But sometimes you got to turn it off for your own sanity and find your own rhythm.

My challenge to you is to allow each story to inspire you. Allow each story to leave a piece of itself with you.

Art of the Month

Yeah, We Know How To Wear It

She refused to be what they demanded she be.  She decided to take some friends with her.

After leading many people to freedom through the underground railroad over 8 years, Araminta Ross, joined the women’s suffrage movement. Later in life she cared for the elderly and evenly established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in 1896 on land near her home.

She would hold a mirror up so they could face their hypocrisy.

Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Ida B Wells grew up to become an investigative journalist who brought notice to lynchings, discrimination and sexism in the United States. She also spoke and wrote about them to the point it caused conflict with many of the white suffrage organizers because she called them on their silence to racist behavior. She was associated with the founding of the NAACP and National Association of Colored Women’s Club.

She wanted to capture the history and soul of a people.

The lives of African Americans in the southern part of the United States was documented by Zora Neale Hurston. She lived through the Harlem Renaissance writing novels, short stories, plays and essays.  She interviewed the last known person captured by slavers and brought to the US on a slave ship, Cudjoe Lewis.

They wanted to put their name of her work. She knew better than that.

Fashion houses saw her as a seamstress, but she opened her own shop and created high fashion for the up and coming in Harlem.  Her clients ranged from Nat King Cole’s wife, Eartha Kitt, Mae West, Josephine Baker, and more.  Zelda Wynn Valdes also created one of the first outfits for the Playboy Bunny.

Marcus Garvey taught them to love their hair and features the way God had given them.

Black is Beautiful grew out of a 1950s movement in New York City when men from the AJASS society started holding fashion shows for African American women who wore their hair natural. It promoted beauty to another standard.