The Pride of Life

Sitting here, in my room, listening to cool music my cell phone

(Because it makes noises)

I imbibe all these old, nostalgic, rhythmic sounds

That prompt me to remember things of the past…

The things of MY past….

All these old thoughts and memories come

Rushing, rushing in like a  

Torrential flood.

And I begin to hunch my shoulders rythmically, move my body and pop my fingers to the beats

and the memories.

It sounds good…

It FEELS good–and familiar…

Comfortable.

And then my Black Pride kicks in and I begin to preach to myself…

“We make some of the best music known to humankind!”

“Damn, we built and are the very foundation of damn near everything in the earth!”

“We even wrote the Bible, too…I’m so glad I am an Israelite and I KNOW IT!”

 

The internal conversation takes a sudden pause at that point…

Because I know that Israel has a Mighty God and she also has laws, statutes and commandments that were lovingly given to her by The Most High that her people MUST learn, apply and endure within…

To be saved.

I also remember  1 John 2: 15-17…

15 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

And then I remember that The Most High God loves most, my obedience, above all that I can give.

I turn off the noisemaker I go to reflect upon and abide,

Continually,

WITHIN THE LIGHT!

 

“Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” by Lawrence Otis Graham

OKOP

If you are the kind of person that enjoys getting the “low down” on the so-called “higher ups,” check out this book review…and then check out the book. Fascinating summer reading is at your reach!

 

Kinda Late, But What the Heck: My take on Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.”

Rating: R (for strong sexual content including dialogue, nudity, language, some violence, and drug use)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Spike Lee
Written By: Spike Lee, Kevin Willmott
In Theaters: Dec 4, 2015, Limited
**Above movie info c/o RottenTomatoes.com

Chi-Raq is the latest Spike Lee joint that deals with the urgent and unavoidable issue of Black-On-Black violence through the age-old conflict concerning the battle of the sexes.  With his newest film, Black-On-Black violence theme is presented to us through the classical Greek comedy lens.  The plot is based on the plot of Lysistrata, a comic play written by the Greek playwright, Aristophanes in 411 BCE.

Greek Comedy

The initial play written centuries ago dealt with the long, drawn-out Peloponnesian War, a war between the Spartans and the Athenians who had one thing in common, they were all Greeks.  The play’s heroine and namesake, Lysistrata, was a headstrong Athenian woman who encouraged all Greek women to refrain from sexual activity in order to encourage their men not to war with one another.   The war was literally brother against brother.  The plot of the play was a brilliant base for Spike Lee’s film in that the motivations for and the lingering nature of the Peloponnesian war parallel today’s tragic urban theme.

Lee’s Classical and Contemporary Style Mix 

Lee’s film also snatches from other classical and contemporary themes and events to draw attention to the skyrocketing Black-On-Black crime rate in Chicago, in particular.  The name of the movie, itself, is synonymous with needless, corrosive conflict and war.  The suffix, obviously, is named for the country “Iraq,” which was needlessly attacked, overthrown and destroyed as a result of false information and bogus provocation.  Today, the war-torn country is a shadow of its former self.  Compared to the Chicago of old where, as Angela Bassett’s character, Miss Helen, stated, “it was gang code never to shoot children” the toughs of Chicago have lost what may be considered a touch of chivalry that added to the polish and modern glorification of the older gangs.  Today, the gangs of Chicago, much like the city itself, are a shadow of their former selves.  The fighting that occurs is less about honor and more about wanton bloodlust and senseless vendettas as rival gang members can order the execution of babies and children in order to incur the suffering of their brothers.  The name “Chi-Raq” is also a reflection of the musically improvisational language of Hip Hop culture and its, oft times, glorification of violence and vainglorious living.

Understanding Black Feminism

Other plot equivalents deal with the name of Lee’s heroine, also named Lysistrata, played by Teyonah Parris. For those who may not be familiar with the classical play, the name wouldn’t seem odd, since many modern-day African-American names can seem equally exotic…it works!  Just like her classical counterpart, she enlists all the women of the city of Chicago, including rival gang women, to withhold the “punani” in order to end senseless violence of the Black youth of Chicago.  This city-wide sex strike sparks a hilarious worldwide, solidarity sex strike among all women.  This bold and unthinkable act is symbolic of an amazing reversal and redefinition of feminism and power created and, now, led by African-American women.  To these women, the power of the “punani” isn’t about having power over men, but using her power to bring about a desperately needed change in the Black community…a reevaluation of what life is all about.  It’s not about just making the babies, but creating the conditions to preserve human life once it’s created.

Lee’s message has even deeper layers because once the issue of “making babies” is raised, so too is the value placed upon the Black woman.  In the movie, she is portrayed as everybody’s sexual fantasy…from the brothahs to even the most Confederately racist of White men. Spike Lee’s portrayal of her is a slick one in that he uses the common negative stereotypes attributed to Black women to raise the issue of the hypocrisy of sexual activity in an atmosphere of casual violence towards Black children.  Why make the baby only to have it snuffed out in a hail of bullets in a short while?

Lee’s Deeper Layer

Lysistrata’s boyfriend, a violent rival gang member played by Nick Cannon, is aptly named, Chi-Raq, because of his amalgamous portrayal of your average sociopathic neighborhood thug.  His character is the embodiment of the worst evil imaginable in a thug.  Lysistrata’s efforts to stop the violence don’t seem to move him in the same positive direction to quit, much like his “blue-balled” compatriots. Ultimately, in the end, it takes another rival gang member, played by Wesley Snipes, to break the situation down to him and force him to face the reality that the gang life is just not as important as gettin’ it on and getting on with life.  At the end of the film, his character is surrounded by all the film’s major characters and he is forced to face many more realities…that his father was locked up 20 years prior for accidentally killing a child with a stray bullet and that his fateful condition, as a gangster and a child murderer, was passed down to him through a cruel condition of society.  While he is arrested and escorted off the scene, he eloquently voices his fire in a soliloquy of classic Greek proportions that warns brothas like himself to “bring the Truth” and confess to their internal pain and to the senseless murders of the innocents…and thus, ”end them.”*

As a rabid Spike Lee fan, I give this movie 3 thumbs up for the style of presentation, casting and yes, originality! Only Spike Lee can use his own unique and unusual style of storytelling to drive home multi-layered messages floating just beneath the obvious one.  Kudos Spike!

 

* To be, or not to be- that is the question…Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing end them.” (Shakespeare 3.1.1750-54)

So…You’re a Freelance Writer, Huh?

I was piddling around wondering what my first topic of discussion would be and I came across an obvious one for me, as a freelancer.  Some folks I deal with wonder how in the world anyone can make a living as a writer.  In today’s world, with internet start-ups popping up everyday, the prospect proves itself to be a highly feasible one.  But, I remember the days when freelance writing was a literal hustle.  I was trained and mentored by a person I consider to be one of the best, little-known writers in the business.  I was her apprentice back in the early 90’s.  She ran a clean, crisp start-up and was soon able to move out of her house into a swanky office. Sounds like a success story, but she ran into big-business sharks who didn’t want to pay for her research and writing…her sweat!  There were times when I didn’t get paid either because the business didn’t profit from a huge project.  So, my work went unrewarded, as well.  The work was stellar, however, it didn’t garner the respect of a fair payment for work performed. The contracts I drew up went blatantly disregarded by horrible business people. Needless to say, the business went under…but not my mentor!  What a lady!  It just goes to show that as real writers, we put up with all kinds of injustices just to be able to do what brings us joy.  I’m one of those people who was never dissuaded by the negativity of the business world, then or the naysayers now, thanks to a strong example. Funny…today, this lady is still my mentor and my only cheerleader in my endeavor to make this PWS project work.  She hasn’t given up, either.  She’s a small-time, playwright for a non-profit theater project in her locality and a darn, good playwright at that…but, again, little-known.  Such is the writer’s life.  She’s happy doing her thing and so am I!

I’m sure I’m not the only writer with war stories to share, so let us know your story.  Share how you braved the freelance-writing storm.  Perhaps your experience can help others who may be struggling internally with the notion of becoming a full-fledged freelancer, despite the all the “hot air” out there.  Perhaps you’re one of those who thinks this whole “freelance writing thing” is useless and a moot service that really doesn’t deserve its own market.  Either way, let us know what you think.