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Cultural/Social

This Blog, Black History Month, and Oh Yeah, the Oscars

Southern Eccentrik is undergoing some more changes.  Yes,  I know. For some reason, I can’t seem to get this blog where I need it because the scope of it keeps changing.   I am still very much interested in building this blog into something substantial; however, the content will be changing, perhaps drastically. Blame it on branding.  That’s what I’m trying to do over here.  For what it’s worth, there is a Chandra Kamaria brand, which is wrapped up in culture, education, social activism, the arts, and business (revamped website forthcoming).  Then, there’s just Chandra, the writer chick with a lot on her mind, which essentially is what makes me, the Southern Eccentrik.  So….. I figure the best way to move forward with this blog is to just be plain ole me—in whatever mood and angle I’m on for that moment.  In a way, I’ve already been doing that. As I look over many of the previous posts, I tend to get more feedback when I’m exposing my thoughts in prose than I do when I’m trying to be all enlightening about something interesting.

I’m still gonna figure out a way to highlight culture within the African Diaspora and as soon as I’m done with scribbling down the thought process in my journal, I’ll set something up so you can bookmark it. Let me alert you NOW that sometimes when you come to this blog, I will be incredibly insightful, profound, etc etc…and then there will be times when I won’t have anything deep going on at all….as a matter of fact, I may even be quite shallow.  Follow me anyway, okay?  Sometimes, I’m gonna have to get a little help from my friends so I’ll be sure to post stuff about them and what they’re doing (I have a rather interesting crop of friends that do nearly everything) and then sometimes, I may just send you to another place of mine in this digital world.  On that note, I am a contributor of another blog about ‘jonesing’ and it’s appropriately called the Love Jones Lifestyle, named after the iconic film starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long. All I do over there is write about love.

Ok, enough about that. Let us move on.

I posted on Black History Month last year.  Nothing’s changed so re-hashing for the sake of yearly acknowledgment is pointless.  Besides, I’m on this mission in life to ensure that much of the history and culture of Black people is uncovered and embedded in everyday life, so this one month thing is a mere formality.  Yes, I still hear the rumblings about why is it needed and ‘Where is the White History Month?’ speeches, but hey, as long as American History textbooks continue to expound predominately on the events on record of renegade Britons (who later became Americans) and their other European counterparts, then everyone on that tip should just chill. Well, anyway, the month has concluded and I wonder how many Black folks are going to tuck away their little list of Black accomplishments, change their FB profile pics or Twitter avi from Malcolm X and other historic figures and ride out the rest of the year completely remiss about those accomplishments and their impact?  I mean, really, we can’t expect anyone to value our history if the only time we value it is when it’s a national observance.

Now, this is a good segue way to the Oscars….

The Oscars. Yeah, what about ’em?  I caught one minute of it, literally, and it was when Jennifer Hudson introduced somebody who performed some song from somewhere. Her dress was absolutely gorgeous and she looked astounding in her new body. GO JHUD!!! Now, the biggest issue about the Oscars is the same issue for several decades. Everyone is still asking themselves where and why weren’t there any Black nominees and winners? Why does it matter if Black actors/actresses are nominated for that little naked gold man? What is it supposed to mean if they win….and even moreso, what does it mean if they don’t? I’m being serious here.  First of all, Hollywood has made it clear that it is completely uninterested in the Black Experience.  It has been quite clear about that for several decades. Yes, count them. Several decades.  Most recently, I watched a documentary by Melvin Van Peebles.  Classified X featured dozens of film clips that projected some of the most insidious, ridiculous stereotypical images of Black people ever amassed.

It served as painful evidence that the issue of Hollywood’s inability to fully accept Black actors/actresses is supported by a historical infrastructure based in racism rather than a recent bristling of mistreatment.  The latter pointed to the brief shining moment when the Oscars dutifully awarded Denzel for his portrayal of a dirty cop that compared himself to King Kong, Halle Berry for a performance that left a lot of Black women (including this one) wondering if we had made any progress at all, Don Cheadle and Terrance Howard’s nominations for Hotel Rwanda and Hustle & Flow, along with the head-scratcher moment of Three Six Mafia’s win for a song about how hard it is for a pimp, anchored by Mo’Nique’s trophy for her role as a freakishly abusive Black mother. If I left something out, it doesn’t matter. The point is perhaps members of the Academy feel like they have satisfied their affirmative action quota, so maybe all of us, here in Black America, should just settle down for another ten to fifteen years and wait on the next batch. Or maybe we shouldn’t.

Instead, where are we in taking control of our images and our stories? It appears that we are not doing an effective job of carrying our weight here. I don’t see how we can expect Hollywood to take us seriously when we’re really not doing that for ourselves.  For the record, I’m all over Idris Elba, now that he’s candidly expressed what he thinks about the Oscars.  Idris offered a simple remedy to cure our apparent obsession for inclusion at the Oscars — make more films.  I couldn’t agree more. The need to make more films for us and by us will satisfy our thirst for a richer, balanced perspective of Black life, considering it is not monolithic at all. Secondly, it shouldn’t stop with just making films.  We should also focus on developing a full scale Black theater renaissance as well as continue in the quest to secure and maintain Black owned and operated media properties. We should also put as much emphasis and credibility on winning Black awards as much as we do on Oscars.  For what’s it worth, I would rather receive an NAACP Image Award before an Oscar any day — and I’m still trying to figure out if I even like the NAACP.  To be honest, I’m not even sure if its founder, W.E.B Dubois, would even like it these days (that’s another post).

Elba went on to give his opinion about ‘buffoonish characters’ such as Tyler Perry’s Madea and Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma.  Now, as for control, Tyler Perry has that and I commend him. As for his work, well, let me put it this way.  On Twitter last week, a satirical blog post by Very Smart Brothas got out of hand when they posted that Perry was remaking Love Jones. Having caught wind of this through a tweet, I was immediately appalled.  After all, he put his unsophisticated hands on For Colored Girls, so I figured he had become emboldened to actually try to remake the joint that I love so dearly.  But as I watched my timeline, I saw a link to the blog post, read it, and my fears subsided.  See, everything about Tyler Perry’s work represents a conflict in the Black community about the fine line between authenticity and coonery.  The purpose of Madea is to make you laugh…and many of us do–most of the time anyway, but those laughs could indicate something disturbing.

Given the images presented in the documentary, Classified X, Perry and Martin Lawrence are treading some very dangerous waters here.  Those characters are eerily familiar to the Mammy/Aunt Jemima figures that White Hollywood showcased throughout a good portion of the 20th century.  It also presents a conundrum among African Americans.  How is it that we can so freely laugh at Madea and Big Momma, justify a movie like Precious, but then grow angry when Black actors are not nominated by the Academy? In my humble opinion, I believe that Hollywood can safely wash their hands of this racist web of Black images if they can get Black actors to willingly present these roles on their own.  Therefore, our fervent attempts at trying to hold the Academy accountable has began to fall on deaf ears.

It just seems to me that we have to start taking ourselves seriously. The Oscars are not at the heart of our problem, but it is our collective identity and consumerism; in other words, who we are and what we support.  Back to Idris’ point about making more films. A larger, more well-rounded body of work from within our community would mean that we are willing to first accept ourselves and then dive into the complicated business of presenting an accurate picture of our experience.  Never mind the diversity angle of being one of a few Black actors in an otherwise largely White film, but instead, we should be eager to develop feature films, stage plays, and television shows that will broaden the impression of us worldwide.  Now is the time to do it. I mean, personally, this is a better way to exert our energy instead of ranting about the lack of the Black presence at the Oscars.  Simply put, as Idris Elba stated, they just weren’t designed for us…and last night’s show was proof of that.


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About Chandra Kamaria

Chandra Kamaria is a playwright, essayist, culture maven, educator, entrepreneur, and activist. To learn more, visit www.chandrakamaria.com.

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