Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Black folk”

Next Stop – Fruitvale Station – Norm Weekes

I’d like to reach out of the screen of your laptop or phone and choke you by the throat until you promise to see the movie Fruitvale Station. But that would be wrong.

imagesFruitvale Station is the story of the murder of Oscar Grant by a BART policeman early New Year’s Day 2009. The audience gets to ride along with Oscar on his last day and reveals the imperfect but very human Oscar Grant. This is not a movie review. For the record it’s a stunning piece of filmmaking from the Bay Area’s own first time feature film director Ryan Coogler.

imgres-1Fruitvale Station also won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance so it’s not just me talking that talk. This transcends entertainment and becomes part of the discussion we won’t have about race in America. It’s the part of the race discussion about African American males as discounted, devalued and people to fear. Hard to emphasize with people you fear. If your empathy is missing Fruitvale Station will help you find it. Here is  an opportunity through the art of cinema to understand a segment of your community that you probably don’t know, may be terrified of and have trouble relating to.

Unless you work or live with the peeps you just know us from music, movies and News at 11. President Obama broke through the noise a bit in his “Listen Up White People” speech after the Trayvon Martin verdict but there will be no follow up. We always talk about having a discussion about race and never do it. I too am complicit. I think after the age of 12 it’s a useless conversation to have. The reason the Trayvon, Oscar and a long line of young African American men get murdered is because we’re demonized, stereotyped and dehumanized as part of the narrative. And the reason this continues is because we don’t know each other as people. We don’t break bread together, worship together or play together.

Fruitvale Station allows you, the good meaning person who is not racist but doesn’t really care about African Americans, a chance to relate without going through the trouble of actually having to spend time with us. It can’t get any more convenient than that. Want to get to know black folk without spending time with them?  There’s a not an app for that but there’s a movie for that!

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By the end of Fruitvale Station you’ll be balling your eyes out because you’ll know you have more in common with Oscar Grant and his family than you thought possible. Black kids have been killed and devalued in our society for longer than I can remember. See Fruitvale Station so the next time a cop, gang banger or neighborhood watchman executes an unarmed black kid you’ll feel the dimension of the tragedy.

If you want to connect with your fellow Americans start the trip at Fruitvale Station.

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Norm Weekes lives in the East Bay and volunteers with non-profits working in social justice and digital literacy. He is a volunteer at The Mentoring Center and Oakland Digital.

Shaft Strikes Again – Norman Weekes

There are things we whisper to each other when white folk are not around.

Yes it’s true. When two or more Black folk stand by the water cooler we talk in-house. Most of it need not be shared. ‘They’ wouldn’t understand. It would take hours, maybe years of context to not be misunderstood. But at the risk of having my “Black Enough” card revoked, I’m going to share one of these secret communiques. For about two years now, ever since Obama started getting his ass kicked on every meaningful issue of concern to the Black community I’ve heard this or something like this:

After checking the room, looking over both shoulders one of my beloved – brothers or sisters will lean in and say  “Just wait until the second term. Then we’ll see the real Obama!”
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The hope is that unencumbered by re-election politics he’ll transform from Urkel to John Shaft. Maybe even Dolemite. Something other than what he’s already proven to be. The guy we wanted. Not the guy he is – Benson. I can hear the First Lady screaming “Benson! Oh no you didn’t!” Obama’s recent open mic gaff to Russian President Medvedev gave hope to the fantasy. Never mind he was referring to foreign policy and stating the obvious.

I understand the desire to believe that the conformity, reserve and caution is just an act until he’s free to be the real Obama. After all, we’ve done this everyday for hundreds of years. It’s a coping mechanism that has served us well in a persevering kind of way. At the same time we desperately want to believe Obama’s just waiting for the opportunity to “stick it to The Man” even if he is “The Man”.

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This theory ignores a cardinal rule of being Black in America. If you get in don’t f-it up for the next brother. The next Black president is alive today. Obama knows this. He may hope the next Black president is living in the White House today. If he is a Super Negro waiting to emerge, checks and balances will temper Obama’s second term. The Republican House and/or Senate along with conservative Supreme court justices who obviously sold their souls for eternal life will keep him in “check”. Wonder if Satan tried to return those souls after a quality check. Caveat emptor Beelzebub.

Second term Presidents rarely get wild and crazy in their second term. Nixon and Clinton were impeached and I’ve had the entire Bush 43 presidency erased from my memory. I don’t think his second term was very memorable but you can look it up.

In the final analysis the Obama we have is way better than any alternative. You know it, I know it, and the American people know it. As William DeVaughn reminds us: Be Thankful for What You Got.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits and occasional political activist. 

 

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