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Watch the Trailer Here

 First, please note, I totally and utterly suck at movie reviews. I do not even like to read them. I want to watch a movie and form my own opinion. So please do not decide to, or not to watch this movie based on my recommendations.

With a star stacked cast including: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey,  Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrance Howard, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, David Oyelowo, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber, James Marsden, Vanessa Redgrave, Minka Kelly, and many others this movie was set from the beginning to have big box office pull. With few exceptions, the cast overwhelmingly delivered in their hyper-emotionally driven roles.

I think Whitaker’s quiet deliberateness perfectly embodied the idea that was ingrained in him when he was taught as a youth on the cotton plantation by Annabeth Westfall ( Vanessa Redgrave)  that  “the room should feel empty when your in it.” Whitaker carries that through the rest of his life, as he discreetly and almost invisibly serves some of the most powerful men in The United States, our nation’s Presidents, as a butler in the White House.

The duality he deals with throughout the movie was undoubtedly a way of life for many African American’s through this time in our History. He had to be one person, an invisible servant, while at work and another, a strong proud husband and father while at home.

However, invisible and quiet his service may have been, Cecil (Whitaker) was not a meek man who had given up all hope of a better future for himself or his race. He just chose to be quietly influential in small ways in the background of the changing nation. This is seen several times in his interactions with various Presidents during different periods of the Civil Rights movement and beyond. Especially in his conversation with John F. Kennedy (James Marsden)  and Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams).

Though his son takes a more radical approach, that cases a severe rift, he eventually comes to understand and respect his father. However, first he feels betrayed and even mocks his father’s position before running off to protests and eventually a Black Panther meeting, that scares him back home and causes him to look for peaceful resolutions to the problems of equal rights.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrance Howard’s characters Carter and Howard respectively, also added greatly to the movie by illustrating the day to day feelings and interactions between those who served invisible, yet had full and meaningful lives.

The end of the movie shows a retired Cecil and his wife (Oprah Winfrey) watching President Barrack Obama becoming the first Black President. I will admit, I cried ( though I am by no means a fan of Obama’s ) watching Cecil (Whitaker) watching what must have been the culmination of his hopes and dreams come true. Then he quietly and carefully dressed and went to the White House, and was treated as a guest and not a servant. A meaningful way to end this wonderful story of triumph despite adversity that was shown through the eyes of an individuals entire lifetime in an ever evolving nation.

I could probably explain this better to a person than I can write it down because most of the issues in the movie were illustrated through emotions that it purposefully evoked in the audience. My two cents anyway, for what it is worth.

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Significance of a Meme…

Posted: May 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Sara, emailed us this “meme” ( hereafter referred to as the image because I don’t know what a “meme” is ), and apparently everyone has chimed in their very academic opinions on the image. My opinion will probably not seem very educated in comparison, because to me sometimes a duck is just a duck.

The image above almost, in my opinion, needs no words. I think it is a powerful image that draws on our emotions, which emotions it draws from depends on the person looking at it though. I personally see an inspiring image that reminds me stereotypes can be broken ( two of the Black men in the photo appear in jobs usually not attributed to African Americans, the Policeman and the Lawyer ) , I also see an image that reminds me stereotypes are still very much in use in our culture today ( a young Black criminal in sweats in a court of law ).

I do not think that the image would hold the same meaning if the three men were White, or even Hispanic. I can also see how others look at this image and want to use it as a commentary on Blacks and our prison system and their poor choices, or take the stance that the image is unrealistic in that most Blacks do not have the opportunities that Whites do to become trained policemen or higher educated lawyers due to a general racial poverty.  I do not disagree with either of these opinions at the core, though I think with financial aid available as it is those that “choose” to work harder can attain higher education goals despite racial barriers, and after all that is all this image is asking you to do, make a choice.

When I first looked at the image my first though was this needs to be a poster in every neighborhood that has a racial majority of Blacks. I think positive imagery, even if it is not technically, precisely, 1000%, correct in its delivery ( especially those meant to inspire our youth, as I think this probably was ) is a good thing. I think all neighborhoods and schools need positive imagery for our youth. We do not necessarily need it to be as racially charged as this, but this one works well with the subject matter it covers, especially since 1/3 of the Black men in America are likely to spend some time in jail or prison in their lifetime, as 1/3 of the men in this image would seem to be doing.

Well that is my humble opinion on the little image that sparked such great debate. If a picture is work a thousand words, I would say this one definitely got its thousand just out of this class! Good job Sara!

 Our Professor sent us a link to a highly controversial ( okay in all fairness I am taking an African History class, nearly everything he sends us is controversial ), completely uncouth video ( see below ):
( warning explicit language is used, but I think it makes a point here, but use your own discretion as always in where and with who you watch this clip wth!)
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   Watch it, then read my comments and tell me what you thought about the video ( and feel free to comment or ridicule my opinion as you see fit):
   Okay wow. ( Yes he does seem like he may have had a few beers, but maybe he just works in the sun…. be open-minded )I actually really liked it. I am not one for using inappropriate language, I usually consider people who feel the need to use the f-word over and over, to simply have a limited vocabulary. However, in this situation I think he was being “real” which made his story ( that he used to be racist, and that he labels himself as a redneck, and that he loves his FORD truck ) and his thoughts on current American culture seem truly authentic. A glamorized White politician or activist can pretty the same speech up with flowery language and explain the inherent problem with White Supremacy, but when a person you could picture as one of the faces hidden by the “white sheets” of that White Supremacy ( I am picturing The Klu Klux Klan ) does it it effects a different response altogether. I am by no means saying only foul languaged, self-proclaimed rednecks should speak out against White Privilege. I am saying that the more voices, and the more variety to these voices the better. These unique speakers may reach audiences that otherwise would not listen to the glamorized version. Some people don’t want to be preached at, they need an effing wake-up call. That is what Mr. redneck/ex racist delivered. Good for him!
Note: Now I tend to agree on what my classmate Sara ( she has a great blog, check it out if you are not already a reader )  has said about the “color-blindness” getting to much play, we see color!!!!! ( Unless you are in all actuality color-blind, which is a medical condition not a Civil Rights movement ) Heck Crayola now makes a whole variety of skin-toned crayons!
So this is my 407 plus cents on the subject!
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For some odd reason this girl has marriage on the brain, maybe it is because it is 4 days and counting until I marry the man of my dreams. So in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping and instead was mulling over the days work, homework not yet done, laundry piling up, and children’s activities and appointments coming up…. I got to thinking how I could not do all of this without him and how lucky I am to get to marry someone so supportive ( The mushy part is almost over, I promise. ). So as my mind usually does it jumps from A to C without stopping to really consider B, which is my fancy way of saying I put 2 and 2 together without the and. Marriage-African Americans Slaves!

**Please note: I will be using the word marry for both types of unions, but when done so quotes I mean an unrecognized union.

Generally slave marriages were not recognized, though their enslavers did wish them to partner up and procreate to create offspring that would become, for the enslavers new “property.”  However, if they had officially recognized marriages it would have been unseemly to sell one partner away from another. Traditions and customs varied greatly from plantation to plantation and farm to farm depending on the number of slaves owned and the gender mix at each.

Two slaves wishing to “marry” on the same plantation or farm, may or may not have to ask their Master’s permission, or they simply might have just moved in together. Slaves who “married” from different plantations or farms almost definitely had to have permission from both Master’s because they needed such to be allowed to visit one another.

In some cases, from the information I have found it seems this was a luxury reserved mainly for house slaves, the Masters would sanction an actual marriage union that was even presided over by either a White Minister or a Black Preacher. Some of these unions were considered grand affairs indeed, taking place on the front porch of the plantation’s “big house” and being followed by a celebration including food and dancing. This however was a rarity.marria1

The most common tradition for slave couples was not a religious ceremony, but one steeped in tradition, most likely originating in Africa. The tradition of “Jumping the Broom,” the basics of this tradition included the new couple clasping hands and together jumping over a broom which symbolized unity and their new life as one, and possibly domestic bliss ( hence the broom). Sources do vary widely on exactly how this ceremony was performed and mention that it was most likely was celebrated differently regionally in the States. Some of the stories hold that the couple should both jump the broom ( held several inches off the ground ) backwards, whichever of the pair that made the jump would rule the house. Others simply discussed the domestic bliss, and the tradition. Others mention it as the first possession of the new couple.

I know when I read about this, I was so sad! Their White enslavers were more than happy to use them as breeding stock but denied them the basic right to wed and live at least somewhat happily-ever-after! Everyone should be free to marry the person of their dreams!!!!

 Sadly on that issue our nation has not come nearly as far as we should have!

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*** I brought this up once before in class, the absolute absurdity that White people had Colored women cleaning their homes, feeding and raising their babies, and preparing their food, but that it was a huge cultural taboo for the Colored help to use the White families bathroom because that somehow allowed to much contact.

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Think people , think!!!!

However, this film showed through Bryce Dallas Howard’s marvelously malevolent cotton candy coated character , Hilly, that in 1960’s Mississippi the White folks still believed just that. What’s worse is that her character really seemed to believe she was doing everyone a service with her Sanitation Bill, which would require all White homes to have separate outdoor bathroom facilities for the Colored help. ( As if they needed another bathroom to clean!)

So we have to ask ourselves does ignorance forgive her her sins?

Maybe, if she had stopped there we could have simply felt sorry for this poor White women who had been so blinded by societal norms that she could not see what harm she was doing, though her Mother ( played hilariously by Sissy Spacek ) did not seem to hold as many prejudices as her daughter, but no Hilly further vilified herself as she meted out punishments from behind a facade of Christian White perfection all the while feeling superior in every way to the Colored women around her. And like little ducklings behind their Mother her witless friends lined up behind her to do as she pleased. ( My Mom was a fan of asking us if so and so “jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Apparently Hilly’s Stepford wives club would. )

Everyone except Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, just home from “Ole Miss” where she had, unlike her friends who had  attended for a short time to major in “marriage-ability,”  graduated and secured a job at a local newspaper. She was young with no husband or babies, and wanted to make a difference. Her first job, writing a column about house-cleaning had led her to enlist the aid of Abileen (Viola Davis), a friend’s housemaid. Skeeter ( played by Emma Stone ), soon realized after watching how the maids in her friend’s homes were treated knew their was more to tell then how to keep from crying when cutting onions. ( A matchstick, really?)  She contacted a publisher and told her she wanted to write a story from the helps perspective, told she would never get maids in Mississippi to speak out, but if she did the publisher would read it, she started out on a journey that would challenge everyone’s beliefs and rock the town to it’s core.

From that point on it is an emotional journey for the characters, both Colored and White, as their Mississippi town is turned upside down by one scandal after another. The very human side of all of the characters: flaws, insecurities, prejudices, hate, fears, forgiveness, courage, and love are laid out for all to see.

Aibileen, after doing some soul searching agrees to help Skeeter with her book and tells her story of how it feels to raise other peoples little White babies, after loosing her only son to cruel White callousness. Minny reluctant at first comes around and shares all about the horrible Hilly, including the “pie incident”.

Minny(Octavia Spencer)after being fired by Hilly for using the families bathroom during a storm, turns to Celia, played by Jessica Chastin, who because of Hilly’s group is considered a white trash social outcast, for a job and together they find friendship , courage, and healing. Celia who has been plagued by the fact she could not carry a baby to term, is able because of Minnie, to tell her husband the truth; and Minnie is able to take her children and leaver her abusive husband forever.

Both local and on the news it seems the issue of rights for the Colored population is cropping up all over backwards thinking Mississippi, as the death of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers further disrupts life in Jackson. Aibileen and Skeeter get scared, but Minny will have nothing of it.

When Skeeters editor tells her she needs at least a dozen more maids to tell their stories it looks like the project will fail as one maid after another turn Minny and Aibileen’s requests down. Until tragedy units the Colored women when Hilly has Yule Mae, Minny’s replacement, played by Aunjanue Ellis arrested for theft. Skeeter is told by the Colored man at the lunch counter she frequents to get to Aibileen’s house where she finds it full of Colored women in maids uniforms willing to tell their stories, both good and bad about the White folks of Jackson.

Now it is time for Skeeter to write one more story, the one that shaped her life and led her on this path in the first place, the reason she sees Colored housemaids in a different light than her prejudice peers….. The story of the maid who raised her! Constantine (Cicely Tyson) was the quietly absent driving force behind Skeeters courage all along. Constantine had taught Skeeter that she was smart, and it didn’t matter what others thought about her, and was the one that told her one day she would do something great. Skeeter’s search for the truth behind the circumstances in which Constantine “quit us” ignites a passion within her to give the now voiceless, a voice. The heartless housewives of Jackson did the rest….

The story does not end there. Though published under another name, with all the maids and employers’ names changed, the stories in the published copy of “The Help” hit a little to close to home for the folks of Jackson, especially Hilly. Skeeter looses the man she has been seeing, who once told her he hoped she got the chance to write something important, when she admits to being the books author. Hilly shows up on Skeeter’s steps but is put in her place by Skeeter’s Mom, who finally takes her daughter’s side and announces that though courage may have skipped a generation, she is truly proud of Skeeter for what she has done.

This movie demands we consider certain societal norms and laws from both perspectives, from that of the White elite and that of the Colored help(less). It definitely questions our views on the idea of separate but equal, but it goes beyond that and questions what is considered basic human rights. Obviously Civil Rights with how the Colored people of Jackson are treated and the eventual death of Medgar Evers. Without expressly showing scenes of it, The Help also brings the issue of domestic violence between Colored men and women to the forefront as an issue.

Women’s rights are highlighted through spirited Skeeter and her self reliance through out the majority of the movie. The insecurities of White women are shown in both ruthless Hilly, and gentle Celia. Skeeter’s Mother, Charlotte Phelan (Allison Janney), shows a willingness to change and that she is ashamed of her having succumbed to societal and peer pressure, and Hilly’s Mom was always somewhat kinder to Minnie than Hilly was. Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O’Reily), Aibileen’s employer also shows how unprepared White women of the time were to handle the housework and child-rearing they would be faced with if they lost their Colored help.

“Babies having babies,” Aibileen said.

The end of the movie is somewhat bittersweet as Skeeter, with Aibileen, Minny, and her Mother’s blessing heads off to New York and what they hope will be her new life, and Aibileen being fired due to Hilly’s last effort at revenge.

The closing shot is that of Aibileen walking down a tree lined street with a voice over of her talking about how this would be the last White baby she raised, that her son had hoped there would one day be a writer in the family , and that maybe there would be one after all.

Though the Civil Rights and in all actuality Human Rights struggle continues today, at least we have come to place where restrooms can be shared ( in most areas ) without people fearing for their livelihood, or even their lives which they did at one point in time….

Change the I’s to WE’s, and the I’m to We are…

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But ……

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Because …..

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AND FINALLY, ONE I FOUND AND THOUGH THE IDEA BEHIND IT IS MORALLY REPUGNANT TO ME , I CANNOT DENY THAT THERE ARE THOSE IN THE WORLD THAT WOULD HAPPILY CARRY ONE IF THEY WERE IN FACT AVAILABLE …. ( So this one I am posting for you Professor because I found it sadly, when I searched Civil Rights quotes, I am not amused.)

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If you havent watched this video you need to or my blog may make little sense to you, not to mention this video is eye-opening: Black Female Voices: Who is Listening -A public dialogue between bell hooks + Melissa Harris-Perry

 I watched this video between these two extremely talented, inspiringley intellectual, justifiably proud, and of course highly opinionated Black women multiple times. I had to in order to understand half of what these two women were discussing. I admit this was a completely humbling experience for me academically speaking. It is not that I did not understand any of the concepts they were discussing ( Here I am going to mention a few, but I may or may not get the points wrong ):

1.Their agreement that it is hard for Black women in a world of White men to be heard, that Black women are even often silenced by Black men.

 2. Michelle Obama’s shift from a strong Black female voice to a quiet subdued Presidential wife subordinate ( in bel hooks opinion ) vs. her shift to focus on a more direct important Black female topic of body image, and her telling the world sort of “look at me” in a different type of strong Black female voice.( in Melissa Harris-Perry’s opinion ).

3. Their difference in opinion on the Movie portrayal of the victimized Black female body and what impact that has on audiences to see it over and over. ( bel hooks has a very different opinion on this than Melissa Harris-Perry. bel hooks believes Black women’s bodies should stop ending up in films shown being raped and scarred and otherwise victimized especially in the plantation setting. They discuss the movie 12 Years a Slave. In my [ possibly completely mistaken] opinion Melissa Harris-Perry may have such a different view on this topic because of her past as a victim of sexual assault. I know my personal past trauma colors my feeling on this type issue period, I can barely stand to watch it. For her she see an importance in showing it.)

4. They discuss the inherent problems for Black women in a patriarchal world and for the most part, I think agree on the topic.

5. They disagree on use of privilege to get them where they are today. However, this stems from Melissa Harris-Perry only having one parent of color and being raised in a more privileged situation than bel hooks was.

Okay, I hope I have hit some of the highlights, they discussed so much and most of my intended audience will have watched this video so I am not going to continue to parrot back to you what these brilliant women said, especially since here comes the part that truly humbled me………

I consider myself a very open minded person. Not the kind of open minded that my sister is, the one that shall remain nameless ( Diana… it’s okay she has no idea I even blog ) who says she is open to anyone’s ideas, but as soon as your idea is different from hers something is wrong with you! Don’t you love those kind of “OPEN-minded” people? But I digress, the humbling moment came when I realized part of the reason I was having trouble understanding what they were talking about had nothing to do with the language they were using, I understood that. Or the references, I understood most and Googled the rest.

It came because I could not understand it from a Black women’s point of view. I was not relating to the topics and because of this the concepts, mainly those not mentions seemed very foreign to me. I could have been listening to a dialogue between two people who lived in China or India, or on Venus. That moment made me feel very humbled, small, close minded, and somewhat ashamed. If this is how Black women and girls feel today in The United States and I as a White women could not relate to them, how small minded of me.

So I metaphorically slapped myself around for a few minutes.

Then I realized I also cannot relate to how Sara felt while she was in the military, and she and I are both (racialized as ) White women , we are both about the same age, from the same state in the US ( I think), and are now attending the same college. Maybe it’s okay to not be able to totally relate to foreign experiences of other people, as long as you are willing to admit it ,and try to understand that person’s feeling from their point of view the future.

 – An example, not to call Sara out, but I do not think she will mind in this case, she and I have different views on handguns. Her experiences as a member of our Military ( Thank you by the way for your service Sara, I am not sure if I have said that to you. ) has probably shaped her view. I have not shared that experience, it is a foreign concept to me, my experiences in life ( a friend of mine taking his life immediately after his 21 st birthday when he was capable of purchasing a handgun ) has, however, shaped mine. I hope my experience is as foreign to Sara as hers is to me. She sees guns as a tool of defense, where I see them only as a means of destruction. Different views.

However, I am trying to understand things from others points of view, like Sara’s. Though we don’t share the same experiences we can learn from each other’s perspectives. In my view that is how things change.

So I may not have been able to relate to the entire discussion between these two brilliant, strong, Black women. But I opened my ears a little wider ( again metaphorically speaking ) and hope I at least understood where their feeling were coming from within them as women, and as women who felt oppressed by a male dominated world, and then  as I opened my mind a little more I was even able to somewhat understand where their feeling came from as Black oppressed women in a White male dominated world.

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NOTE:I would have loved to be a part of the conversation in class on this topic 😦

 This is all copied from the cite I found: HERE

“Freedman’s Cemetery

This area of Dallas County was settled by former African American slaves shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War. Freedman’s Cemetery, a graveyard for African Americans, was established in 1869 on one acre of land purchased by trustee Sam Eakins. Another 3 acres was acquired for cemetery purposes in 1879 by trustees A. Wilhite, Frank Read, A. Boyd, T. Watson, George English, Silas Pitman, and the Rev. A. R. Griggs, a former slave who later became a prominent local church leader and champion of early public education for the African American community.

The community of churches, commercial enterprises, and residences that had developed in this area by the turn of the 20th century was by 1912 a part of the City of Dallas. Construction of the Central Expressway through here in the 1930s virtually eliminated all physical above-ground reminders of the cemetery.

Descendants of persons buried here and the City of Dallas agreed in 1965 to establish the Freedman’s Memorial Park and Cemetery at this site. Beginning in 1989 representatives of the community worked with the City of Dallas and the Texas Department of Transportation to preserve the historic Freedman’s Cemetery site prior to highway expansion.”

And the art is hauntingly beautiful…..

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