Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Reaction to CNN's Black In America 2

They should've featured a story about me on it. The second part was more about the solution to the problem.

*Side Note/Random Thought Did you see all the Brothas with waves in Black In America 2? Duke, S-Curl, Sportin' Waves and Wavebuilder should've done some advertising during the special - they would've come up.*

Anyway, I saw a lot more about education on there. I'm a fan of that, so it was really great to see. Especially at the beginning, when they talked about Malaak Compton-Rock's program - by the way, Chris Rock must be glad that he made the right spousal selection - in which she took several underprivileged, yet unlimited in potential, students to Africa for 2 weeks. The program is called Journey For Change and seems to be based in New York. I certainly wish that Oprah or Morgan Freeman or Jerry Rice or anyone else with loot like that could send some Mississippi kids somewhere to participate in such an experience. Location, location, location - but I digress.
The young lady made quite an improvement, the two guys they focused on did not. I bet there was a young Black male in that program whose grades actually dramatically improved. We wouldn't know from the broadcast, however. I'm not upset, I'm just saying that it could have been more balanced.

Then there was the school in Connecticut, a really inspiring and promising segment about a man by the name of Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Prep Magnet School. He was very focused and passionate about sending young Blacks to college and supporting them all the way there and beyond. He demands a lot from his students as well as himself, and could be seen driving kids to school and showing up at their extracurricular activities. He got angry at the lack of parental support and participation he saw and beyond that, made what I'm sure will be considered quite a controversial remark about teachers. His remark was that students don't need summers off. He said that no other job gets to take summers off and that students need all the help they can get and need teachers that are committed to educating them year-round instead of those who desperately look forward to summer vacation (I'm paraphrasing, of course). Sounds like greatness to me.

Much of the same in the Harlem's Children's Zone, except they expect greatness and achievement in every aspect, including the physical. Children and adolescents are expected to be active, get exercise, and compete for a prize while learning and reading everyday. What else do these two stories have in common besides their devoted, urgent, and strong Black patriarchal figures as well as their standards of success and excellence? They focused on young black women in both programs. Maybe this was to balance out the images of the successful men I described above who run both programs? That's fine, but it makes one wonder. In such environments, is it truly difficult to find positive, young male academic achievers? I would think not, but I could be wrong. I'm not saying that the young ladies should not have been featured, I'm just saying that they should have had male counterparts, and they didn't. Do we have a problem showing successful young Black men who might turn their caps to the side every once in a while and might wear baggy jeans, yet act and think in the direct opposite of the stereotypical manner? I'll give CNN credit, they did show a young Black man from an affluent home who attended the Tuxedo Ball - a social dance and networking event exclusively for young and affluent Blacks - and came from a long line of Black achievers. He does like to rock his fitted caps, too.

Other than that, inmate Chris Churn left prison seemingly rehabilitated and part of a program for inmates. It got real very quickly, however. He had mouths to feed, a baby on the way, rent to pay, and his part-time job just wasn't cutting it. The brotha committed armed robbery and went back to jail. Another negative image of a black man on this program.

Next, there was the doctor offering medical consultations and examinations in the barbershops. A really good idea from a smart Brotha who is trying to help more Black men live healthy lifestyles and make healthy eating choices. I liked it, although I thought it kinda seemed as if every brotha was a pork eating, overweight, sparsely educated individual. Maybe those were just the Brothas who were scheduled to get their ears lowered that day.

Finally, there was Tyler Perry. Survivor of abuse, the young church boy began writing plays and the rest was history. He went against Hollywood when Hollywood tried to dictate to him how Black life should be depicted. He also went against Hollywood's description and definition of the Black audience. He has multiple number one box office debuts under his belt. An ever-extending catalog of films and plays, and television shows. He even has his own production studio sitting on 30 acres of land (he needs 10 more and a mule, and I'll be satisfied). He also owns the rights to his actual films and therefore profits off of the movie and DVD sales. That's the way to do business, people. Own your work, be your own boss, and the author of your own horoscope. Now that's a positive Black man for you.
However, success does not come without its haters. Certain individuals have the nerve to say that his characters represent the lowest common denominator in Black life. Professional (or broke and unemployed) individuals with their noses stuck in the air for some reason or another who probably identify more with Mitt Romney than Barack Obama. Here's my tirade:
First of all, are we denying that people like some of the more stereotypical characters in his plays exist? Seriously? If anyone denies that, he denies his history and his family. No one should be ashamed of either of the two. We all have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, or at least people that we know, grew up around, or go to church with that act just like some of Tyler Perry's most famous characters. Say you don't, and I say you're a liar. Period. That includes the black professor they interviewed, too. Get back at me whenever you're ready, Professor Snooty.
Secondly, what about all of the educated, wealthy and prominent characters in Tyler Perry's work? In "Diary of A Mad Black Woman," Charles (the abusive husband who ended up temporarily paralyzed) was a lawyer. The abusive fiance in "Madea's Family Reunion", played by Blair Underwood was a business executive. They were certainly flawed, but they were educated and upper-class members of society. What about the characters in "Why Did I Get Married?" We had a doctor, a lawyer, a business owner, an author - just to name a few. All of the characters in that story were upper or middle class? What's stereotypical or lowest common denominator about that? In "The Family That Preys," Sanaa Lathan played an accountant. In "Daddy's Little Girls," Gabrielle Union played a lawyer. What about Cicely Tyson's speech in 'Family Reunion?' Did that represent the stereotype? Was it 'lowest common denominator?' Imploring men to take their rightful places in the community, our young people to practice some morality and have some self-respect? I think not.
Finally, what about the messages of forgiveness, redemption, strength in adversity, and most importantly, the power of God that are clear, evident, and resonant throughout his work? There's nothing about these messages that says stereotypical or lowest common denominator. I didn't take time to get the Professor's name right. He's a nobody to me, and from what I can tell of his opinion, he's not important enough for me to know his name. Professor Snooty sounds about right for me. He can either put his own money up and create his own films, or kick rocks. Personally, I prefer the latter.

Overall, I thought Black In America 2 was good. It was mainly positive and I was proud as I watched it. I didn't, however, like the fact that there were no young Black men from working class families with their minds on education and making a drastic, history-altering, positive change in the world. Many of the adults and older men on the show whose work was being featured were positive. However, I would've liked to see more of a balance of coverage of young Black men and young Black women (of which several were shown) who are focused, driven, and determined to be successful. Not only do Brothas like that exist, but we are more numerous than television and certain people would have you to believe. I happen to know a brotha just like that. He goes by the name of - drumroll please -
Chris J The Genius!

Which brings me back to my original point. They should've featured a story about me on it. Tell Soledad O'Brien (with her fine self) I'm ready for my interview and close-up whenever she is. Until then...
Latino In America is coming, and I will certainly be looking forward to checking it out as well.

*By the way, when I say that Soledad O'Brien is fine, I'm observing - not coveting. That goes for the last post as well.*


vitaminbri said...

I haven't been able to see it myself but I've been hearing mixed reviews from all over the blogosphere. Some liked it, some hated it, and the rest were kind of in between. I won't be able to watch it again until I'm back on campus (with more cable channel options). But all I can say is that no matter how many documentaries they do on no matter how many races, they'll NEVER be able to capture EVERYONE'S story. To me Black in America, Latino in America, and whoever else in America is something that we can all mold and shape for ourselves. The greatest way to learn about another culture and ultimately have some sort of new found respect for them is by having open dialogue with one another. Unfortunately not every person will take the initiative and do this but I think that if we as individuals take it upon ourselves to revolutionize the way others think about us then that would be a good start.

Chris J the Genius said...

An exemplary sentiment. I agree. Way to represent on my first comment EVER! Thanks, Bri.