DOPE: My Experience

Dope (2015) Poster

I could do a movie review but there are people better experienced at it and would probably run circles around me.  Instead I’m going to talk about how I felt because this movie definitely made me feel something.  The entire experience involved in watching this movie made me feel something.  So I can talk about that and I can be confident that it’ll be both universal and simultaneously unique to me.  It’s the only thing that I think will allow me to do right by both the movie and my experience.

So I live in San Diego and while a diverse city, it can feel a bit lonely to be black here.  At least, in the part of town I live in it can.  I know there are black people, but I just haven’t found them yet.  Still, living in the wack part of town I stay in (I blame my roommate *side eye*) it can be a bit disheartening and you start to believe there really aren’t many of your own here in San Diego.  My obvious thought going into this advanced screening was that I would probably be one of ten people there and I’d be one of three black people.

I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.  Walking up to the theater I see this long line and all the people are holding folded up white pieces of paper.  I’m holding a white piece of paper…and I can feel my heart racing.  Are all these people here for this movie?  I get happy and then I panic because I was going to be pissed if I couldn’t get in.  Luck was on my side because there was plenty room so I slid into line.  I see young, I see old.  I see white…and hot damn I saw black.  A lot of black.

Pumped now, nobody could tell me nothing as they start letting us in.  I walk in and there’s a DJ.  A DJ playing hip-hop.  And not just hip-hop but 90s hip-hop.  People are dancing and just having a good time.  Even though I’m in the movie theater alone, I can’t help but to feel like its family.  It’s the feeling I’ve been missing for a minute and it feels good to have it back.   There’s a small introduction and the movie gets rolling.

The main characters are three friends; Malcolm, Dig and Jib.  They are the truest of friends that would go to hell and back for the other.  In my opinion, these three are right up there in the classic friendships of cinema and I hope they become a fixture as an example of friendship for years to come.  Dig and Jib are the kind of friends I wish I would have had in high school.  They stick with Malcolm through every single situation he faces in the movie, yet they never felt like sidekicks.  They were beautiful individuals full of life.

What I admired most about every single character in this movie is that they lived their truths.  They lived it unapologetically and without fear.  They owned every aspect of themselves even in the face of ridicule and shame.  As a society, people laugh at the nerds, the geeks and those who just don’t fit in while at the same time shouting for the rooftops to just “be yourself”.  It’s a hypocritical contradiction evidenced in every Facebook post that makes fun of an overweight person for loving food, that accuses people who love cartoons of being children, that shames the marginalized for embracing who they are.  I know this hypocrisy because I have faced it.

I know what it’s like to be that black kid who loves comics, mythology, science fiction, and fantasy novels.  For those interests I often find myself being told that stuff was for “white people”.  Then there were my interests in cartoons for which I’ve been called “immature”.  I remember I was in the 5th grade and I spent every free moment I had in the library.  Every week I had two or three different books I tore through and returned home.  Needless to say I got called a nerd and damn it I kept going to that library.  The stories I were reading stayed in my imagination too much to stay.  Looking back on it, I think that was my first “high” in life.  I spent so much time in that library, they made me an honorary library assistant and I actually was able to get out of class to help the librarians because my grades were good enough.

So I know Malcolm.  I know what it’s like to be a kid at a school where you don’t feel like you fit in.  My life had the added addition of me being a military brat.  So in the course of my life I’ve had at least 10 different schools where I had to go through the agonizing process of being recognized as an emotional, heart on his sleeve geek by all of my classmates.  So I know Malcolm, but he was better than me.  He accepted who he was and lived it out loud.   I didn’t accept who I was, but I just did a shitty job at trying to be anything else.

And then there’s Dig.  Oh God, how I love Dig.  Her spirit and her openness about her sexuality is everything I wish I could have had growing up.  Dig is exactly who I wished I could have been in school.  My education years were a place of fear, self-loathing and self-rejection because on top of my nerddom came a big whopping side of gay.  It felt like some cruel joke from the universe.  Not only am I a pitied nerd, but I’m a hated gay too?!  There were more than a few days I didn’t even think it was worth crawling out of bed.

But not Dig.  Not this girl.  She embraced it openly and unapologetically.  I can’t imagine how much more fulfilled my life would be if I had been able to just accept that part of me and give the rest of the world the middle finger.  Eventually, I was blessed to know that all of the people I consider my world loved me and didn’t give a damn.  But even now, I wish I had friends like Malcolm and Jib that were as nonchalant and easy going about it as they were with Dig.  It was never an issue in the movie that required deep breaths and hard conversations.  They never asked her awkward questions or tried to censor their conversation around her.  She was exactly who she was and they never needed or wanted an explanation for it.

These three teenagers deal with some serious topics in this movie.  They deal with violence, guns and drugs.  But not in your typical rap music video way or the way that Fox News would have you believe all young black kids deal with these issues.  And no I’m not saying they deal with these issues perfectly because honestly for some the stuff they did I’d beat my child’s behind.  What I am saying though is that they deal with these problems with unapologetic humanity.  They’re not monsters worthy of being shot down on sight.  They’re kids.  Beautiful, different kids, but still kids and the movie never loses sight of that.

And that my friends is dope.

Black Witches – The Pilot

Black Witch Chronicles- The Pilot

What guided me to finding this on Youtube?  Well, I think it was more that it came to me.  A writing associate of mines posted the link up in a writing group that I’m a part of.  I found it interesting, but I wasn’t immediately ready to watch it.  Then the Bruce Jenner interview came on and I saw some horrible, prejudicial, and outright hateful comments about the man coming from members of the black, straight and mostly Christian community.  It filled me with a lot of anger and major disappointment.  I needed a reason to feel good about the black community again after seeing some of that stomach churning stuff.  So I decided that the sisters in this video looked like they might be some free thinkers like myself.  And man….hope restored.

I’ll be honest and upfront.  The video quality on this isn’t great as it’s basically a recorded Google Hangouts conversation.  But if you can get past that then you’ll find that the genuine, compassionate natures of the two women here are just so heart filling.   They are active parts of their community and don’t sit behind a computer using it for hate.  Theirs is a message of love, support, and preparedness.  Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about these areas of spirituality so my knowledge base is a bit lacking when they talk about certain terms like mercury retrograde etc.  But that’s part of the fun of this for me.  I’m writing down the things I don’t know and I’m looking them up.   Increasing my knowledge base is something I never, ever shy away from.   I find the most compassionate human beings are often the ones who take understanding the thoughts of others seriously and these two women fit the bill.

Even if you’re not necessarily into their spiritual practices, there are some great feminist points brought up during this discussion.  They talk about women reclaiming their bodies for themselves and to stop allowing their bodies to be treated as commodities.  One of the ladies who works at a health center talked about how so many of her female clients have never even looked at their vagina and don’t even want to.  Yet, they can freely give up this part of themselves to someone else.  It struck me that women have been mentally and psychologically assaulted in that way about their genitals.  Because you certainly do not see that kind of behavior amongst men typically.

I really enjoyed their discussions on support in the community, how the African ancestral communities didn’t necessarily operate off monetary systems and how women need to go about staking claims on their bodies again.  They were so genuine and truthful about the subject, I found myself smiling and not even realizing it.  There is definitely something to latch on to here.  I loved it and will be watching more.

Black and Write: A Documentary for Our Community of Writers

Black and Write

 

C. Mikki hit me up on Twitter with the link to her documentary and of course I had to make the time to look at it. My whole reason for forming R.R.A.P. (Race Relations in the Arts and Politics) was to talk about ALL media being created by people of color. So far, my focus has mostly been on books so this will be my first feature outside of books.  Though I think this is a suitable transition, given the topic of this documentary is what it means to be an aspiring black author today.

The thing I like the most about this documentary is that it has a wide range of people that it talks to.  You get perspectives from aspiring authors, self-published authors, a literary agent, famous published authors, and writers in Hollywood.  It is a variety of perspectives and viewpoints that I found refreshing because it didn’t seem to be completely slanted towards one point of view.  That’s important when trying to have the kind of conversations that this documentary had.  The mainstream has blinders up when it comes to the problems facing black authors and something too hyperbolic would probably do little to catch anyone’s attention.

One of the first topics tackled by this documentary was the idea of the African-American section in book stores.  When I saw that this topic was going to be covered, I was expecting the worse.  But the discussion about it was actually very balanced though it seemed to fall into two camps.  The aspiring authors wanted to just be “authors” and not have their books be labeled.  The authors who were actually published argued the sectioning helped potential customers with little time on their hands to immediately find their product.  One of the published authors interviewed was Zane and given the amount of success she has had, I can’t help but to lean towards her wisdom in this.

Along the way, you get to hear stories about the genres that black authors are boxed in to and how the gatekeepers of the publishing industry might not really understand what black readers are looking for.  There are unique perspectives and I can tell all these people are giving it to you raw.  I didn’t any pretense from any of the people interviewed and that gives C. Mikki a lot of cred in my book because you have to trust someone to take off your mask on camera.  And that’s exactly what these people were doing.

If there’s one thing I would have liked to see it would be seeing all the authors discussing works they had in progress or just where they were at in their writing.  That was probably my own curiosity though as I found myself wanting to know if there were any speculative fiction authors in the mix.   Overall though, this is a very interesting documentary that I think ALL aspiring authors should watch for introspection and motivation.