HELLO AMERICA—I had a very emotional, but stimulating exchange with one of my production partners, Bobby Wright. It was my contention that the few Black directors and producers seem to be feeding into the sick historical beliefs that affected the image of persons of color as stupid, graveling, worthless, lawless bunch of jungle garbage waiting for a hand out. This comic book notion is one which permeates the President in the White House currently. Productions whether it is a film, play or a series, persons of color are painted as poorly speaking young punks on the prow to either attack, destroy, challenge anyone different from themselves and have no idea or notion of any civilize thought. With his whipping, lightning retort, he yelled: “Then, damn it, why don’t you point this out in one of your columns!?”
When I hung up the phone, I quietly sat down and thought about what Bobby said and concentrated on a few film works I had viewed in the last year or so. That’s when depression deeply set in. I was forced to recall a few of the so-called Black Exploitation films of the 60s and 70s starring some extremely talented actors of color. Many of them were forced or believed the only way to be signed to get the job was to give a stereotypical expected of them. There are still so many producers who remain in a world of “Gone With the Wind,” if you know what I mean.
When I think of Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, both of these ladies were extremely talented and were well spoken were forced to project characters who were seen as slaves, servants or those who only be respected as lowly, needy human beings whose only value was to serve. The social affect was, of course, that of a position in our general society was one of servitude, completely separated from the rest of the community.
Today, young director-producer Spike Lee who has had quite a successful run, has created stories which represent his life in Harlem. Of course, it is understandable if that is the place where you were fed daily that one had to speak or walk in a certain way to be safe or better yet, survive. When one sees a film based in Harlem or Brooklyn it is understandable why kids believe their way of living is the only way to be accepted or even safe. Women of color appear to be angry or on guard when moving about in the street or even in their own homes.
There seems to be an accepted warzone setting where the inhabitants are always on guard. This, of course, is obviously extremely very limiting because there are so many different types of people of color i.e., Asians, Mexicans, Indians or those from the islands of Pacific or those who live south of this great country. They all don’t worship a devil, dance around a huge fire mumbling musical sounds trying to connect with an unseen world or sacrifice their children to a mystical power or some dark, powerful force representing some unforeseen reason.
When watching films exploring life in Compton or Atlanta it is easy to understand why there is still a divide between the races in those places. Who in the hell wants to be exposed to such ignorance, brutality and trapped in a community infested with giant, rap yelling, threatening characters who wouldn’t think twice in cutting your throat, shooting you with a grin or ripping you apart simply because he knows no one dares to stop him.
Sadly, there is a large audience for this kind of survival of the drama; it would be ok if there were other more quality, beautifully inspiring produced products which allows those living in dire economic circumstances to understand they don’t have to be trapped in this man-made hell. If they genuinely decide to prepare themselves, work hard and understand the rules of survival like millions of others who were trapped under the same early survival circumstances, they too, can live a more exciting, creative existence.
This is why, as a writer, producer my deepest motivation is to put stories on the tube and screen that inspire, educate and show how a diverse people create a new dance of love and respect. I thank Bobby Wright for the most exciting exchange I have experienced in a long time.