Pariah’s Pariah: A Review, a Critique

*Spoiler Alert*

On Friday, Dee Rees’ much lauded independent film, Pariah will expand its release from four theaters to eleven, increasing the opportunity for many to view this incredibly important Focus Features release. Rees’ debut work has deservedly generated a deluge of critical praise, and should at the very least garner a few nominations come award season.

The coming of age story centers on Alike (pronounced uh-LEE-kay), played pitch perfectly by Adepero Oduye as a somewhat awkward 17-year-old high school student and aspiring poet. On the cusp of fully coming in to her sexuality, Alike dons herself in boy’s clothing at school and as she explores the gay nightlife New York City with her friend Laura (Pernell Walker). At home, however, Alike dresses in a more traditionally feminine costume to throw her mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans) off of her increasingly difficult to mask scent. This, of course, is the core tension in the film, and the viewer’s stomach tightens as the stakes get increasingly higher. As this central narrative unfolds, Alike smartly navigates her way through personal discovery, experiencing first love and a gut-wrenchingly painful heartbreak, all the while preparing for that ever difficult task of leaving the (parents’) nest. 

Says Seven year-old, “Big Sister let them Rape Me:” Trenton, Irresponsible Black Girls, and Savior Russell Simmons

TRENTON — City police have charged a 15-year-old girl as an accomplice to the gang rape of her 7-year-old sister. Police said they believe the older sibling was paid for having sex with multiple partners Sunday night during a party at the troubled Rowan Towers apartment complex, and that she then sold her sister to others at the party.

My heart grieves not only for the seven year old black girl who was gang raped, but also for her 15 year old sister who sold her body and her sister’s body for money. Yes, my heart grieves even though many people are angry with the older sister for not protecting her little sister calling for “the book to be thrown at her.” To say the least, the big sister is going to jail for a very long time. But yet, my heart weeps for her as it wept for Precious’ mother, Mary. It weeps because it says something about the level of sexual abuse she herself must have experienced to make the idea of being complicit in her sister’s rape plausible. My heart moans because she like other girls knows that they can make a living by selling their bodies. It wails and weeps because no one stepped in to stop her first sexual abuse. My heart grieves.

The question is: Can we really be angry with the 15 year old sister for what she did? And I am having a hard time answering this question because a part of me wants to be angry at her for not protecting her little sister. However, I have to assess how much of my sadness and anger is in response to the crime of rape and how much of it is in response to her not being a good big sister. You know the type of big sister my older sister was forced to be completely responsible for raising me when she was only a girl herself because . . . momma had to work late . . . momma did not like being tied down . . . daycare is expensive . . . momma had a second job . . . momma was gone . . . momma had to party . . . daddy was gone . . . so she became responsible for raising and protecting “us” her younger siblings.

Women Her-story Month: Do You Have a Chosen Sister?

I speak as a – a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or flowers to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world.

We called ourselves “chosen sisters” and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other “girl.” It’s a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 70th decade, we still said “girl.”

I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s remarks at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral

So, I was watching the Monique Show last night and Taraji P. Henson was one of her guests. What was interesting about the show was not that they both were Oscar nominated actresses, but that they were girlfriends. I mean Sistergirl girl friends. Sistahfriends whose on screen chemistry spoke of countless nights of belly laughs and Girl, let me tell you . . .” call and response, “I almost had to take my earrings off,” black girl stories. So, inspired by their on camera friendship and Women’s Her-story month, today I pay tribute to Sisterfriends without whom many black women including myself would go crazy on what seems like an ordinary day. Yes, black girl friendships are a blessing.

Vanity Fair's Racism Sings: Don’t Cha Wish You Were White Girl Like Me. Don’t Cha.

Cover Girls March 2010

“Mirror . . . mirror on the wall who the fairest of them all?” In most fairytales, the mirror would reply, “Snow white is the fairest of them all.” However, in the case of Vanity Fair’s March cover, the names are Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick . . . all up incoming young white Hollywood actresses. According to Shine’s writer, Joanna Douglass,

Vanity Fair writer Evgenia Peretz calls out the young cover stars by their best attributes: “downy-soft cheeks,” “button nose,” “patrician looks and celebrated pedigree,” “dewy, wide-eyed loveliness,” “Ivory-soap-girl features.”

Clearly, Evgenia Peretz has over-dosed on the proverbial white supremacist poisoned apple. I know what you’re thinking. Do such apples exist? Yes, they do just ask Pat Robertson what he thinks about Haiti or ask the producer and director of Couples Retreat about taking the black comedian, Faizon Love, off the European posters.

The Princess and the Frog, but what about the White Frog's Hunters?

Today the Princess and the Frog opens across the nation. Of course, I’m going to go see the movie, however like most cynics I wrote a blog about the movie before it premiered approximately two months ago to  be exact. So, if my argument is proven wrong by actually seeing the film, I will write another blog saying I was wrong. However, I do not think this will be the case. Also, I hope bloggers, writers, teachers, critics, etc. are equally critical of this movie as they were of the movie, Precious.

The original title of the blog was, Mobs, Cracker Barrel, and Hunters . . . Oh, My.

Beyonce Says Big Ego, but Ruth says, “Eat your [damn] eggs, Walter Lee”

So, why is it that every time I talk about black women’s lived experiences feeble-minded always on the black woman’s titty black man hollers in his best tonka truck voice, “We got it hard not black women?” Wow. My first immediate response is, “Did I say anything negative about the black man?” No. My second response is, “Did I even use the male pronoun in any part of my statement?” No. So, how is it that you, Mr. Beans and Rice eating barefoot and pregnant needy black man, are offended, wounded, and betrayed by my acknowledgement of black women’s stories? You see, Beyonce calls it your big ego. I simply refer to it as your broke-down Napoleonic black male privilege having @$s. I know the tone of this blog seems reminiscent of Erykah Badu’s Tyrone and Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, but my intent is not to lyrically serenade you with all the ills black men have visited upon black women, but to say that I am sick and I am tired of the, “I am black man and the world is on my shoulder boo who who” whine every time I mention anything about black women.

I mean, I can say, “I as a black woman sneezed today,” and the black man would counter, “I have a sinus infection.” I as a black woman could slip and fall and the black man would argue for dear life that he invented the slip then fall movement. I can say, “As black woman I love my vagina,” and the black man would say, “Not as much as I do (hearty John Coffy from the Green Mile’s laugh).” I can say, “I scraped my knee,” and the black man would moan like an old southern Baptist minister, “I am quadriplegic . . . I am so oppressed.” Really, is it that important that you, Mr. I am an Endangered Species, be the center of attention all the damn time?  When I go to the bathroom, I have to seriously think about how my brown poop will oppress you. When I sleep at night, I have to think about how my dreams will challenge your manhood and rival your oppression. I am so over, “The world is against me” black man’s dirge. Go sing that song to a group of people who care, people like Tiger Wood’s wife and even they are tired of your big ego.