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)

Donald Trump—lightening rod for the political right, power broker or both?

 

BIRCH RUN, MI - AUGUST 11:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a press conference before delivering the keynote address at the Genesee and Saginaw Republican Party Lincoln Day Event August 11, 2015 in Birch Run, Michigan. This is Trump's first campaign event since his Republican debate last week. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, GOP front-runner, (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

The Trump Persona Shines Forth…Once Again

Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump stated in a CNN interview on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 that there might be the possibility of riots from his supporters if he doesn’t receive the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  In making these statements on live television, many in the media are left to wonder if Trump’s warning is really a veiled threat.  No matter the case, Trump’s persona is being used as lightening rod by both political liberals and conservatives to secure a stronger foothold in Washington politics, whether they instinctively mean to or not.

Based on an interview (3/17/2016) on CNN’s “New Day” early-morning show conducted with Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) of the Energy and Commerce committee, the media appears to perceive Trump’s comment as a threat and a signal to his zealous supporters to do something if he is not nominated.  The press and many social forecasters, the same, have great reasons to fear him. Mr. Trump, being the skilled, wheeling, dealing, NYC business tycoon and a wisely-discerning reader of human nature that he is; is able to use certain rhetoric, whether intentionally or not, to galvanize his power base into action…and his political colleagues into disdainful embarrassment. Based on the violence in recent Trump political rallies, as well as the infamous skirmish with Univision news reporter, Jorge Ramos, the Trumpster is well-known for his no-nonsense style of personal expression and for having no problem refusing to mince his words, especially on issues concerning select groups of people like Muslims and Mexican immigrants. This highly-charged, verbiage is often spoken to the great delight of many of his fearless and faithful supporters.

<> on August 25, 2015 in Dubuque, Iowa.
Univision reporter, Jorge Ramos during a Trump Rally on August 25, 2015 in Dubuque, Iowa.

Negativity Draws Out the Beast

Trump’s political rallies have become hotbeds of protest and social unrest over the course of the ritual scramble for the White House power seat.  It seems that any negativity that surrounds a candidate tends to add to their public attractiveness and draws people into their vortex.  Can we hear enough about Hillary and her emails?  It appears that people who are not adept to this vein of thought are the easiest and the first to fall under the spell of people like Donald Trump and not be fully aware of just how foolish they appear to be to the acutely observant world around them.  Who can forget the Muslim woman, Rose Hamid, who was thrown out of a rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  She was a protester who sat quietly, but, somehow, she drew heat anyway.  Why?  Perhaps, it may have been her appearance that piqued the interest of concerned parties around her.  It’s no secret that some of Trump’s supporters are anything but cognitively quick on the draw. With her ousting, she and her other cohorts in the crowd (who, by the way, went unseen because they “appeared” to be Caucasian) were able to bring to light the “pink elephant” about Donald Trump and a lot of his constituency; that he appeals to the lowest possible denominator in many of his staunchest supporters.  In order for this Muslim woman’s White co-conspirators to get thrown out like her, they had to make a scene in order to get noticed by the security.

Muslim Woman
56-year old, Rose Hamid, staging a silent protest with a fellow protester, during a Trump Rally in Rock Hill, SC. (Jan. 2016)

I say, kudos to those who dissent, for dissention initiates balance in a so-called, Democratic society!

A Government by the “Shee-ple”

No dissention can stand without an organization.  Given, many of the protesters who’ve been pummeled at Trump rallies belong to organized protest groups like “Black Lives Matter,” for instance.  It would be silly for a person to walk into a situation to willingly and knowingly be treated like garbage and not have a base of operations and unwavering financial backing. This is also a heads up to African American Trump supporters and rally-goers, if they respond with shock and outrage at being beaten and ousted from these events.  It would be foolish to think that Mr. Trump, Hillary and all the rest of these Oval Office scrappers are not aware of these dissenting elements and that they ultimately have to answer to them. In some cases, they may even have power over them. In Trump’s case, bad press draws and his language, however divisive to his Party, in particular, has catapulted him to the top of the Republican game.  Donald Trump is riding the waves of dissent.

Chicago Trump Rally
The tumultuous scene at the Trump Rally in Chicago (3/11/2016)

An American Political “Snapshot”

All the negative press surrounding Trump’s loose lips has only added momentum to his candidacy. What many perceive as anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican and anti-woman rhetoric has aided Trump in galvanizing a strong, blue-collar base constituency, many of them enthusiastic, first-time voters, according to CNN.  Some of these very supporters are, apparently, willing to “go to blows” with any protester who manages to make their way into a  Trump rally.  All of this madness is occurring, much to the dismay of many prominent Republicans who are looking to salvage the Party’s image before the big election in November.  House speaker, Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, have openly distanced themselves from Trump by condemning his abrasive rhetoric and lack of crowd control at his rallies.  Republican senator Lindsey Graham has thrown his support behind Republican Trump rival, Ted Cruz, of whom Graham was most critical, in order to send a strong message against Trump and his raucous, unconventional campaign stylings and personal abrasiveness.

David Plouffe, former senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama and Bloomberg News analyst, speaks at the Bloomberg Year Ahead: 2014 conference in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. The multi-day gathering of CEOs, senior executives, public sector officials and leaders in finance will look at how some of the worlds biggest industries are changing and the forces at work behind the change. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Plouffe, former senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama.  Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Representative Chris Collins stated in the CNN interview that some in congress believe Trump has “sowed-up” his nomination with high supporter demographics from coast-to-coast.  According to former President Obama aide, David Plouffe, many independents and Democrats have switched over their loyalties to support Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.  Congressman Ben Rey Lujan (D-NM) sees a Trump win in November as a sure bet for a Democratic house. Because of these developments, Plouffe believes that Trump shouldn’t ever be underestimated as the Republican front-runner.

Why not?  So many people appear to want some of what Trump is riding on in order to grab the power seat in the next presidential term…perhaps, even the Republicans, themselves!

From “Sour Grapes” to Port Wine

Trump may be riding high, on the surface, but within the GOP, there is a deep split because many view Trump’s divisive rhetoric and his laissez-faire attitude toward crowd control as a stain on the image of their Party.  At least, this is the message that is brought forth by the media, as opposed to Trump expounding, in many ways, on the traditional Republican party image of old. All this public carnage continues to be the case despite the fact that Trump appears to be the stalwart of the Republican presidential nominee pool.  But, one has to wonder how much a political party has to endure or is, quite possibly, willing to endure in order to save face and reclaim its unspoken and absolute authority in American politics.

Quite frankly, it’s all propaganda to me…

and may the best candidate win in November!

(Too harsh?  What’s your two-cents?)

 

The 2016 Oscars Assassinations: Yes, fat meat is greasy, folks.

 

Holding-Oscar“Have you ever been hurt and the place tries to heal a bit, and you just pull the scar off of it over and over again?”–Rosa Parks

I’m so glad I managed to miss the Oscars this year.  Just looking at the particular highlights of certain African American entertainers has given me a painful, aching slow burn.  I cannot believe that in this day and age,  after all we have been through as a race of people in this country, that buffoonery at this low and unimaginable level, would dare to rear its ugly head…again.  To add insult to injury, the fact that it occurred in the middle of a Black boycott of the Oscars event, intensifies the shamefulness of the spectacle.  Perhaps, the producers wanted to “lighten the mood” a little with humor.  Okay, but after this mess, the lesson has to finally become “etched-in-stone,” unspoken law that the African American struggle for equality is nothing to joke about–ever!  Too many lives have been ruined, too many people have died, too many sacrifices have been made in the entertainment industry, alone, to continue to engage in this archaic and unbearable carnage in 2016!

Joking about Black struggle should be the “third rail” of everything…touch it, and you’re DEAD!

Watching Stacy Dash make an ass of herself was…well, expected, to say the least.  She’s done so much of it lately that I was left wondering why she even bothered to show up to the event.  But, to put our best and brightest on “coon blast” was hard to watch.  Chris Rock is a brilliant Black comedian of the highest caliber.   He came from the humblest of beginnings and worked his way to the top of his echelon to become a well-respected Black figure. I have nothing but immense respect for the man.  I understand that he has to work, but sometimes, a line has to be drawn. He should’ve said no to the Oscar gig, in my opinion.  The #OscarsSoWhite campaign was an attempt at trying to put lipstick on a ugly pig.  Please, don’t ever do that again, Chris.

Another very difficult skit to watch was one showing my (s)hero, Angela Bassett giving “Black” props to White comedian, Jack Black.  Ms. Bassett, to many, represents the image of quintessential Black excellence.  She is a product of the Yale University School of Drama and she is best known for intense portrayals of biographical figures like Betty Shabazz and Tina Turner, just to name a few. I think she was definitely slummin’ it with this particular Oscars appearance. Needless to say, I was left breathless and in outraged awe at the sight of it. I’m not sure if she was asked to do the skit or if she volunteered, but one thing’s for certain, to me, she really didn’t NEED to do that.  So, I ask “Why?”

Why…

With this 2016 Oscars event, it appears that the struggle for Black equality, itself, has been reduced to “entertainment-grade” quality.  It seems that lately, any struggle that African Americans engage in, up to and including the “Black Lives Matter” movement, is ultimately undermined by adversarial forces hell-bent on cutting us down and some of our own people are only so eager to assist these bums in the carnage.  Maybe I’m coming off as just a bit sensitive, but, to me, it’s a painful thing to watch African American “iconography” be reduced to something akin to unfunny, inappropriate, ill-timed jokes in a smoke-filled room with one slow, bored, tired clap emanating from the rear of a darkened lounge.

I say these words out of nothing but love for our people and the pain at watching the annual Oscars slaughter.  It was particularly painful to watch this year (and I only saw the snippets!) So, it’s only fitting to say that although I’ve never been too excited about the event to truly partake in it, I will continue not to…year, after year, after year.

Too harsh?  What’s your take on the happenings at the 2016 Oscars?

This guy was just as disgusted as I was and, like me, he got the after effects and was spared the full-frontal assault!  Check it out…