Sunday, September 19, 2010
Black is Black ain't
In my Afro-American Communities class Professor Cox posed the question "what was your first encounter with black culture?". I had to wrestle with this question for a moment as I didn't want to draw from a TV Show that my peers might deem stereotypical or offensive. I reflected on my childhood for a moment and realized that I should be honest with my answer and free myself of judgment from others. My most memorable encounter with "black culture" was one of my all time favorite movies..."Bebe's kids" (We don't die we multiply!). In that cartoon movie I recognized the patterns in rhythm, the customs, the food, and the jokes to be reminiscent of my neighborhood in Brooklyn. After I watched the documentary "Black is Black Ain't" I had an even better understanding of what black authenticity is. As an African American, it can be hard to put into words the complexity of what blackness means to you. Marlon Riggs captured the true essence of black folk in his documentary where he interrogated the question "What is or constitutes blackness?". He touched on all aspects of our community including the cuisine, church, divine nine organizations, the changes in language, class differences, skin tones, hair texture, and the ever present issue of homophobia. As a gay male dying with AIDS, Marlon Riggs gives a very unique perspective on what it means to be black. Historically, a black man choosing to be openly gay is without question, isolating himself from the black community. A community that prides itself on being so loving and kind and accepting, yet makes no apologies for its view on homosexuality. Riggs pointed out prominent figures that have made a significant impact on the African American community such as the organizer of the March on Washington Baynard Rustin. Without his contributions to the struggle, who knows where we might be as a people...
I particularly liked the way Riggs kept showing Gumbo in the documentary. One of the central foods in African American Cuisine, Gumbo does not only represent a Macro fusion which in New Orleans includes the French, Haitian, African American, Spanish, and Native American experience. Gumbo also represents the microcosm that is black culture. Just like a gumbo that incorporates many different ingredients to create a dish from heaven, black culture works the same way. The different people, accents, regional foods, churches, family traditions, neighborhoods are all different, and one example could never adequately represent the whole, but they all work together to paint a picture of the black community. Riggs raised the bar in terms of opening our minds to new concepts but this film is about fifteen years old. I would like to ask my readers, do you think that this film is still a relevant resource in studying black identity? Are some aspects of African American Culture moving forward or staying the same?