The 1st trailer I saw of Harriet immediately brought me to tears. There are few movies that honor black women and their contribution to American society. This was years over due, it’s here and I was excited. The big scoop of icing on this cake was the movie is being directed by a black woman Kim Lemmons. I went to twitter looking to share in the excitement and notice it was lacking. So taking my direction from Feminista Jones’s “Reclaiming Our Space” I went to the hashtag #Harriet. There I discovered the reason for lack of excitement. There was a controversy about the lead actor Cynthia Erivo who also starred in “ Bad Times as the El Royale” and received a Tony award for playing Celie ( a beloved character for me) in the play The Color Purple. Apparently there were some questions as to why an African American was not cast in the role. This caught my attention and I felt there must be more to it since Americans play African and British characters often. While reading it was noted that Harriet is not just a character but an actual person which for many changes things up. I recently seen another actor address the controversy regarding African American actors verses British black actors it was rude and dismissive. Which made me feel some level of disrespect for concerns of people who are catalyst of change. I immediately had some baseline understanding of this concern, probably because I understand that as African Americans we are viewed as different from British Black people. While I in no way blame black people from the UK I know that the accent carries a different sway in white crowds. I’m sure this sway can be both negative and positive either way it separates and comes with a different set of issues. Still I knew there must be more to this because I saw no negative feedback for her other roles. I found that Erivo has made some questionable comments regarding African Americans on twitter. Here’s a complied list. (which was hard to find.)
Erivo rumored to be friends with the expressive Nigerian born Luvvie Ajayi. Ajayi has been accused of being Anit- Black American due to her self given title as an “African Elitist”, her mocking attitude of African American traditions, and her views on Historically black Colleges and University. Her twitter fingers got some serious back lash when she fired shots at Tevin Campbell for possibly singing at Aretha Franklins funeral. Ajayi wrote an article addressing the issue was unapologetic to her so called disrespect but explanatory or her position.
I learned that this conversation regarding the black diaspora started with the concern that prestigious institutions are navigating their efforts of diversity towards black people not born in the U.S or black people that are not the descendants of slaves. This bothered me because I understand that there is a difference in culture. Which may cause a difference in consideration of what goals the communities are focused on and what actions are needed to get there. With an awareness of the system that comes from growing up in it I understand that politics can place a face on our history that is not true to our situation. There is also the fight of media that paints a limited and corrupted picture of African Americans. Representation is a key element in changing the views. After considering the above I still went to see the film.
I went to see it because I wanted to see this story bad enough to ignore this controversy. As I have for several Hollywood issues. For example I still watch Disney who has yet to get it right with a black princess, though they are working towards it with our beloved Shuri and I like Tiana she just spent most of her time as a frog. And all the other screw up with Disney has given us. There’s countless disrespectful issues and many that cross a line and I will not support. In this I did. For we may fight within this family but we are family.
The next controversy over the movie was the admission of a black villain in the form of a black male bounty hunter and a white savior. Which I discuss on my podcast “Catch My Logic”.
The movie overall was Beautiful, Lemmons did an awesome job of creating a movie where I saw my traditions in an older environment and why they were essential, there was a feeling of taint with the knowledge of the lead actors opinions. Still it left me feeling powerful and proud. I thought Erivo’s voice was love in song, when she sang the songs of my ancestors I felt connected to this land where we survived and then thrived even through and gross system, to her because she is still my sister on this earth for we come from the same line, to a place I never been but is mother to us all. For this reason I recommend this movie. Because it left me proud and touched even though I am a ghetto American black woman.
Hear more of my thoughts on the film.