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Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Perry’

During a Q and A forum at the Albany, GA Black Expo, I asked actor Allen Payne to speak about the ongoing drama between Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.  Spike feels that his work is positive art that uplifts the community while Perry’s productions are modern-day buffoonery to some degree.  Tyler recently recommended a fiery place where Spike can go.

I loved Spike Lee’s work from the second I saw Tracy Camilla Johns’ Nola Darling character in “She’s Gotta Have It” and yes, Tyler Perry has some characters that I could live without.  But, intelligent people know that a few theatrical characters don’t represent all of a group and Perry used Seinfeld and the Sopranos as examples of other ethnic groups doing the same.   In the companion book for Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” I learned that film is a medium of art that–like of other art forms—provokes thought and leaves the viewers asking “was that right or wrong.”

Robert Townsend’s “Hollywood Shuffle” was based on the ethical dilemmas Black actors face: Wait for quality parts in the poor house or do negative reflections of our community while getting crazy paid.  A line from that movie stated, “There’s always work at the Post Office.”—not anymore. 

As children, we were taught to never let anyone divide the Black; we can’t sink while others float because we are all in the same big boat.  Today, I think there is room for different schools of thought: from Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Dubois to Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry.  Conflict might actually be a form of diversification and we should not put all of our eggs in one basket.

In politics and policy, the rural South takes cues from urban leaders but their agendas are different from our agendas.  Atlanta is the best Black city on earth; however, the Democrat leadership there can’t fully comprehend our rural vibe (pro-military, pro-agriculture, pro-gun.) 

Allen Payne, who works on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” answered my question by saying that guys like Perry and Payne himself didn’t grow up in the Black elite, college-educated world of Spike Lee.  They make movies and T.V. that reflects the world they know and people like it.  From his statement, I decided to ask several friends if they would make a movie with false depiction of Black America if the producers gave them $5 million walking in the door.  I was surprised (disappointed) by those who would take the money first and later consider charitable ways to sanitize their ill-gotten gains. 

I am starting to think the same concept applies to politics: get your money because that is what the next guy is doing.  Public Enemy had that pun lyric, “I know you got sold.”  We can’t discuss art imitating life vs. life imitating art with looking at the current vibe of hip hop.  For me, blues, jazz and then hip hop were some of the only American-born art forms (yes, the roots are in Africa.)  In my part of the rural South, the harder parts of hip hop are leading youth to embrace a thug life over education and achievement.  They glorify aspects of street life that could reverse our gains of the last 50 years.  Yes, we are going backwards.

Check this out: Dr. Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm X was likely a well planned effort at juxtaposition: deal with peace-loving MLK or deal with Malcolm and those who felt it was time for self-defense with rifles.  I would have supported the rifle crew.  Today, it will take brothers talking with brothers to refocus our community and if hip hop isn’t careful they will alienate large segments of our community–sometimes we need to be divided.   If they can get paid make that music, we should give the Black conservatives a break as they add range to our options.           

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The_Great_Debaters_DVD-Denzel_Washington-Forest_Whitaker

I just watched the movie The Great Debaters on Showtime on Demand and I must say that anyone who saw “Madea Goes To Jail” before this film should be kicked out of Black Folks.  Tyler Perry has a right to make his buffoon brand of movies and TV shows and yes I watch them.  But, I can watch that mess and BET videos occasionally in its proper context after reading the newspapers, books and substantive materials online.

 We should be appalled and disgusted that Blacks before us went through hell and high waters for the opportunity to be men, women and families.  Think about the few Blacks who found scholastic sanctuary on college campus like Wiley College in Texas or my father at North Carolina A & T and Tuskegee during the same time frame as this movie.  Like the current Lexus motto, they had a relentless pursuit of excellence against unimaginable obstacles.

Fast forward to today and the fact that I break my neck every chance I get to tell the positive young Black tennis players from my high school that I am so proud of them and dam near teary-eyed about their playing a character-building, non-glamorous lifetime sport.  More importantly, I am proud that they excel in the classroom and carry themselves as gentleman and gentlewomen—when no one is watching.  Hell, I can’t stop the college age young men formerly of the team from saying “yes sir” and “no sir” when we are on court but then again I do the same thing to my elders out of respect and so they will impart their wisdom on me.  As a sidenote, a former member of the Rams tennis team won a conference championship ring at Tuskagee; and the top sister from this year’s team is heading to HBCU Fort Valley State while a brother from the team will be playing at Alabama State and a continue his scholarly academic performance. 

In the 80s, there were Black people who thought the Cosby Show was pure fiction.  “No Black folks live like that…Black folks not ‘pose to be doctors and lawyers… N’s need to know our place.”  There but for the grace of God goes me.

Longtime President of Morehouse College Dr. Benjamin Mays famously informed a slacker student that he would be on the next bus back home.  Dr. Mays refused to hear the student’s pleas and told the young man that we as a people had been through so much; we came from so far and had so far still to go; we simply can afford to have him holding us back.  

Privately among ourselves, we discuss those among us who are intentionally or inadvertently holding us back—at time, this writer might have been on that list.  The White House is occupied by a Black President with a Black First Lady and great Black children with a Black dog but many Blacks continue to live in terror in America.  That terror isn’t from White nightriders or the local police (hell, the local police chief, who happens to be Black, emails me personally regarding community improvement efforts and I appreciate that;) the terror is from young thugs and drug addicts who look like us.  Half-raised thugs and want-to-be thugs who learned gangster life from watching videos on a channel started by Robert Johnson, one of America’s first Black billionaires who this time last year was questioning Obama fitness to be president.  What profits a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul or as Public Enemy rapped “I know you got sold.”  Pun intended.

When I was watching The Great Debaters, my best fear was that the positive Black women in the film would be raped or beaten—American domestic terror that Blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics know too well.  After 911, White friends told me that for the first time in their lives their families were not safe in their own beds and on American streets.  I had to say join the club in which my folks has had membership since 1619.  Technically, those streets weren’t American until 1776.  

In politics and policy, conservatives miss the opportunity to capitalize on the fact that most Black voters and productive citizens believe that the next step in our development/struggle is not governmental but societal.  Hell, 80% of our community spends 80% of our time and effort addressing problems created by 20%.  What to do with and about that 20%?  That 20% has created a Black energy crisis because they have worn “us” out and drain the community behind foolishness. 

People talking about what would have happened if we ended our dependence on foreign oil at President Carter urging in the 1970s.  What would have happen if Newt and Bill Clinton pushed welfare reform so hard that people of any color would know that they shouldn’t have children until they are fully prepared to raise productive citizens.  But, this argument is theoretical at best because those who should not have kids at a certain time are often not logical enough to realize it.  Checkout the Great Debaters with your family.  Don’t get me started on Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns.”

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