Last night I had the pleasure of going to see the film "Dear White People" with my sister. As I usually do I walked into the theater with a premade idea of what I felt the movie would be like and how I would react, but praise be to the most high I was beyond mistaken. My pre-movie conclusion was that the film would be a horrible take on black students at a white school with loose references to race and actual instances that occur in how races interact and mix with one another. I walked away from the film absolutely blown away by director Justin Simeon and his concept of race, the idea of acceptance and self-worth. Not only did he go way deeper than surface ideas and ideology, but he actually showed both sides of frustration for white people and black people on and off college campuses.
You can read a synopsis of the film for yourself, but what the film did for me was bring everything I do at work, have experienced at school and at home to life. Everything from the plight of being one of the few black individuals in a community dominated by the majority to wanting to articulate to whites as to why myself and people like me are disadvantaged and how they are born with privilege, nothing at all to do with them. Further, the movie highlighted the frustrations against institutions being solely about monetary gain instead of the uplift of students and student-life.
What struck me most was the struggle of the character Troy, played by Brandon Bell. Troy did his best to balance "staying black", being a leader that both the white and the black community could look to and also putting himself in the best position to succeed at the school and later in life. During the film we saw Troy go from dating a conscious black woman, to the school President's white daughter, to being head of the black dorm on campus to running for School President, to wanting to fit in with the prestigious white fraternity house on campus to standing up to them to wanting to do any and everything, to please his dad to finding his own to be happy. For many people this may be a mouthful, but for many young black males like myself this is an everyday struggle that the film brought to life. This is probably why I enjoyed it so much. How do I as a young man with opportunity and knowledge help others, but also put myself in the best position to succeed? How do I maintain my own "blackness" without selling out? It's complex and it's a lot to shoulder, but the honest truth is there is no one right answer. Life is meant to live and learn and grow. Troy grew throughout the film. He learned what worked and did not work and he continued to grow as the film grew to a conclusion.
I appreciated the film because it did not shy away from controversy. It took it head on and showed why whites are mad, why blacks are mad and how money is truly the root of all evil. A lot of white people feel that black people always get handouts and that they make excuses for slavery they say ended a long time ago. They don't take into account the continued institutionalized racism in society daily. Black people feel that white people don't understand their struggle. Black people don't often enough take the time to sit and have candid conversations with their white counterparts about how to understand one another better. It's a constant tug of war of yelling and rebellion both ways, but people often don't take the time to listen to one another. The other characters played off their roles well in offering up other perspectives and ideas to bounce off of one another. I enjoyed every bit of this film and pray that it's made into a TV show because I will be it's number one fan.
The film concluded nicely in a fulfilling way with Samantha White, who throughout the film's entirety worked on her vlog entitled "Dear White People", finally acknowledging, "Dear White People, you know what, never mind." For me this meant everything. It was frustration, this was realization and this was a new step. Samantha was tired of complaining, but she was also growing to see that she couldn't speak to a group and expect them to listen in that manner. She also was ready to not be who others wanted her to be, but do what she wanted to do in the way she saw best fit. This movie was a lot to swallow, but wow how amazing.
If you don't know the name of the song, chances are you know the dance. Bobby Shmurda's first hit single, "Hot N***a" has been the hottest song of the entire 2014 garnering over 25 million hits on YouTube to date; and as summer has come and gone, the song continues to gain in popularity. What started as somewhat of a hood anthem from deep in Brooklyn, New York about selling drugs and gun violence has transformed into a song that brings people together with the catchy "shmoney dance" as its called. First captured online in a Vine, the dance has since taken off. It started with the hat flip and now it's being played on almost every continent and in every country as feel good music. For some time it's been known that music can be the great equalizer, bringing people together of all walks of life. In many ways music can bring people together better than politics can, but the shmoney dance has taken things to a new level. All types of people, all ages and backgrounds know the dance, the words and when the beat drops nothing else matters. Much can be made of the success of the song, but what about the idea that as humans we're all not that different. If music can bring us together so too can every day life of sports and food and common interests. The hate in the world is so ugly and unnecessary. Centuries of oppression needs to be left in the past. We need to use one another to uplift. Let's all enjoy life -- and at the very least let's shmoney dance!
As of today there have been three people diagnosed with the very serious, very dangerous virus ebola in the United States. The deadly virus' origins are not exactly known, but its emerging threat stems from the RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus found in west African wild animals like monkeys, chimpanzees and bats. The virus in humans to date cause organs to bleed out until the person dies; serious stuff. But taking a step back once again, the current population in America is 316 million. To be clear once again 3 out of 316 million people in the United States of America have been diagnosed as having the ebola virus; yes 3 of 316 million. So why the national hysteria? Why not understand the facts and how to stay safe? These are questions that have been bothering me to no end. Yes the ebola virus is new to this country and very deadly, but we have more technology than ever to combat the virus and know what needs to be done to get things under control. While many people are freaking out about the person next to them on a crowded bus sneezing or getting on a domestic flight to another part of the country, many don't bother to understand the facts. They rather feed into the hype. What does this do? Who does this help?
There has been one death in America after the ebola diagnosis. Eric Thomas Duncan returned from Africa and originally went to a Texas hospital to complain he did not feel well only to be turned away. He came back to the hospital as his condition worsened, until he ultimately passed away. The hospital has since apologized to the family, but that does nothing to bring Duncan back. Opposition says just cut off flight access from west Africa. Opposition blames President Barack Obama. Opposition yells, screams and makes up nonsense to get people to read their articles or watch their shows to talk in circles. Facts say otherwise. CDC (Center for Disease Control) chief Dr. Tom Frieden has said a ban could hurt efforts to prevent an outbreak in the United States. The CDC also is giving both doctors and nurses guidelines to follow in order to effectively deal with ebola. President Obama did not bring this virus to America, but is doing what he can to get things under control. Until this point it's been a combination of the CDC's reaction in proper steps to hospitals in what to wear and procedure, but they are working. The screaming does not help. We don't need flights cut off or no government, we need better prevention and better government.
A troubling tangent that appears to have fed into the hysteria is the recent news that a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who traveled to Liberia to cover the outbreak no longer is wanted by Syracuse University to come speak. Michel du Cille has been back for over 21 days and has done everything he has been told to monitor himself multiple times a day. He was set to speak at Syracuse University, but they called him and said the fear of ebola was too high and they did not want him to speak. He could maybe come at a later time. Many may find this fine, but I see this very troubling. As a place of higher learning I expect more. I expect Syracuse to understand the virus and use ebola as a talking bout with Cille and students. Use his experience. But they chose not to. Not only this, but Cille received the news the day he was in the CDC headquarters in Atlanta once again ensuring all was well with him. I think this is problematic. As my alma mater, I feel that Syracuse University had a golden opportunity to rise above the fears and make a statement. Instead they faltered.
Ebola is here. It's a nasty, nasty virus, but the hysteria isn't helping anyone. We need to make sure we as individuals are doing what we can to stay safe.
We live in the absolute best country in the world -- The United States of America. It's all about freedom; freedom to speak, freedom to assemble, we even have freedom to bear arms. This country is amazing!! Right...? But truthfully, is it really all that great? Are all of us free to do as we please? Or is it a select group of individuals?
The most recent scare gripping the country is the EBOLA OUTBREAK IN AMERICA!! Or actually, should I say the few incidents of ebola in America. Instead of the freak-out let's understand the facts and instead act accordingly. Instead, the real epidemic against black males continues to be on the rise. Does this matter? Do black lives matter? Late last night less than 20 miles from Ferguson, Missouri another 18-year-old young man, Vonderrit Myers, was shot and killed by an off-duty St. Louis police officer. The details are still forthcoming and to this point unclear, but what is clear is that a young man was shot 17 times by an off-duty police officer. Police say he had a gun and fired it three times. The family of the teen say he had a sandwich. There are conflicting reports to this point. One thing for sure is Myers, another young black male, is dead and the police officer is on leave and questions swirl. But why did this scenario have to happen again I ask? Was this situation warranted? Was this result deserving? 17 shots? I personally think not. If Myers shot at the cop then the cop had the right to defend himself, but there is something written about cruel and unusual punishment. I never heard of it taking 17 shots to kill or subdue a person.
But like I said we live in the greatest country on earth! At least that's what society wants you to think. Most of the people in this country with privilege say this, but do not actually know what it feels like to walk around most cities with your head on a swivel. You're not only on alert from other people who could do harm, but you're also on alert for cops who could not only hurt, but kill you. The peoples' jobs who it is to "serve and protect" have recently done a great job making headlines by making target practice on black males. I saw a tweet today that listed ways to get murdered by police, inlcuding jaywalking, selling loose cigarettes, buying toys in a Wal-Mart or carrying a sandwich, in reference to recent black male killings. When will it subside? When will black lives be valued as much as the next? I am a young man of color growing up in the world seeing this. I read the stories in the news and I experience the stories when I am pulled over for no reason and searched and mocked and yelled at and degraded. I will have to grow up teaching my son and young men in my life to make sure you keep your head on a swivel because you have to not only protect yourself from others, but you have to protect yourself from the police. Go U-S of A.
Gunshot residue found on man killed in St. Louis police shooting, according to LA Times,
The 18-year-old man who was shot and killed by an off-duty St. Louis police officer last week had gunpowder residue on his hands and clothes, according to forensic information released Tuesday.
Some people want the world. Some people wish upon stars. Some people dream every night. Other people go out and get it. What is the difference? You hear the stories of the rich and famous and think maybe that could be you one day and a lot of people wish and dream about it. The Oprahs and Michael Jordans and Tyler Perrys of the world have made millions and even billions, but the sleepless nights and sacrifice goes unseen by most. None of this happened overnight and nothing came quick. Each one of these successful people put in work for years. Oprah grew as a reporter after a troubling childhood. Perry went from living in his car to believing in his craft and ideas. Jordan famously went from being cut from his HS basketball team to being one of the best basketball players this world has ever seen.
I see this difference and know what I want my ultimate goal to be. I want to be a household name who is sought after when it comes to interviewing all types of people across news, entertainment and politics. I want to travel and be knowledgeable on different cultures and communities. But I also am working each and every day to get here. I work hard at my job, I continue to reach out and meet people in my field and I am always ready to take on a new challenge. There is a great difference between I wish and I am grinding for because one leaves it to chance and the other says I'm building until it's my time. I don't wish to be, but I know that I will be Marquise Francis, the best interviewer/journalist for the A-listers to ever do it.
Why do politics matter for black folk? Can one group who's been oppressed for so long continue to make strides without fully grasping or immersing themselves in politics? We have a black president in Barack Obama is all well. Not at all. Politics matter for everyone. It's the laws that make up how our society is run. It's the people put in the positions to make these laws. It's the makeup of the foundation of this country. It's everything. While we all need politics, certain groups need to understand politics more because life is not equal. Since the beginning of time specific groups have had direct and systematic advantages over other groups. In particular, white Protestant males have had the upper hand with land and business ownership, while women, minorities and gays have had an uphill battle. White Protestant males claim to have founded the country and start the government system. Things haven't changed since. With the passing of civil rights legislation, equality laws put in place and the passage of such bills as gay marriage, considerable strides in the last 70 years have been made. Yet most recently, these same gains have had an all out assault put on them. Voting rights have been scaled back, black males are being used as target practice by police and the wealth gap is at a fever pitch. What gives? While it seems often times the latest Jordan shoe release is top of many peoples' minds, there are other people working to restructure entire policies for states and municipalities. It matters.
A personal story of why politics matter for me. This past weekend I was pulled over after leaving Cornell University en route back to Syracuse. I was driving under the speed limit when I was pulled over by a cop with a full car of other collegiate, young black males. When he approached the car the first thing he said was, "Tell me where the weed is, and as long as it's under an ounce, I will be sure to get you guys right out of here." Only problem is, none of us had weed on us. He then asked for my license and registration to which I gave him with my college ID slipped under. He then yelled at me to get out of the car. I responded, "Sir with all due respect I know my rights and I did nothing wrong. If there is an issue you can let me know, but if you want to search my car you're going to need a warrant." The officer was taken aback. He called backup and continued to ask to search my car. I continued to say no and after ten minutes he let me go. He had no reason to pull me over and no reason to search the car. Yes the car was filled with five young black men, but we are all college educated. We are all law-abiding and yet we are at risk just as much as the next person. In the midst of all of this I was still disgusted. I was ashamed and annoyed. We had been stereotyped and incidentally pulled over for no reason. He said he smelled weed, but there was no weed to be found. All I could think was don't make any sudden moves so I did not end up another tragic story. But also, why did I have to justify who I was as a young man by sliding my college I.D. to the officer. All I knew was that I didn't want to find out otherwise. Another story similar to mine included a guy from South Carolina that was shot at multiple times by an officer after he was pulled over and told to get his license.
If I had not some sort of background in politics and current events this situation could have been different. I may not have understood what my actions could result in or what I could and could not do in that situation. It's people like Attorney General Eric Holder who fight for the rights of young black males as he seeks to reduce non-violent drug offenses for convicted persons in prisons. It's people like New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio with the work of Rev. Al Sharpton who work tirelessly to get crooked cops off the street and stop a dangerous practice of 'stop and frisk' in our communities that statistically does more harm than good. It's important to understand and know politics so you know your rights. Instead of fighting from the top down you can fight from the bottom up. We can elect persons to represent our communities and we can represent people to represent us. We need politics because politics is the people and the sooner we do, the sooner things start balancing out across the board.
lives by one word: achievement. in anything and everything, achieve.