(Or at least a week or so ago when I first wrote it…)
Our Lives On (In?) Film
When I heard that Cardy Films was going to release the entire first season of Life of Hers in one go I thought that it would be a perfect opportunity for an evening of binge-watching. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it didn’t work out like that as I’ve been waist deep in Young Motherhood stuff, so I could only steal away enough time for an episode at a time (you know, how we used to watch stuff in the old days). The delayed gratification made me savour the series more, and it all ended too quickly anyway, but either way Life of Hers is great for many reasons and here are the first two that come to mind.
First of all: that title sequence. Totally besides the fact that I recognised a few of my friends’ baby pictures, I found it strangely emotional. Maybe I’m really sentimental, but seeing all the little black girls stirred something within. It reminded me of myself as a little black girl and all the little (and not so little) black girls that I know and love. So strange, and yet so familiar, to see such a solid representation of us in all our dimpled, balloon-chasing, care-free glory. Sometimes it feels like the world has
told us forced us into being these other things (#StrongBlackWomen, Defenders of Our Collective Womanhood, Fighters, Survivors and all the rest) but it’s just really nice to remember how we once were.
Life of Hers is about four millennial (oh Lord how I hate that term) black women navigating various crossroads in their lives involving career, ambition, love and religion. As much as the four main characters are black, the series is way beyond race and ethnicity. It’s an honest examination of the contradictory period of life many of us twenty-something women find ourselves in, it just happens that for once it’s black and brown faces that take centre stage.
I wrote my degree dissertation on the importance of black women self-defining their own identities on screen and how it’s truly the only way to realise true depictions of our authentic selves. I could publish the 8,000 word essay on this blog, or I could just tell you to watch Life of Hers as a perfect example of what I was talking about. So just watch it, yeah?
An Instruction Manual on Blackness
Following in the theme of self-definition, I just finished reading Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black. (Reading it in public is highly recommended. The looks on people’s faces as they saw a young black woman reading a book called How To Be Black, were priceless.) First thing I thought was “I wish someone gave me this book when I was a twelve-year-old token black girl in a predominately white secondary school” and with chapters such as “How to Be the Black Friend” and “How to Speak for All Black People”, this is the perfect guide for any discerning young individual with skin of a darker hue. Get yours today! *salesperson smile*
But seriously. This book is great. A cross between a memoir and humorous observation of being a black face in some very white spaces, this book has an edge that I find really engaging. It’s less instructions for perpetuating blackness and more a manifesto for self-defining your own blackness and as a Harvard-grad-tech-geek-Pan-Afrikan-raised-crack-war-witnessing-absently-fathered black man, Baratunde is a great spokesperson.
What I’m finding really interesting about this book, even a couple days after I’ve finished it, is this blend of memoir, humour, art and politics. Baratunde brings in the voices of his carefully assembled “Black Panel” (with one white Canadian for a taste of the exotic) who are comedians, artists, writers and creatives themselves, and have addressed this “blackness” thing in through their own work. I particularly love this quote from Elon James White, a comedian, on defining blackness:
Black people define blackness with everything that we do. So, right now I’m shooting this video and someone’s sitting in their house thinking, “Ah man, black people love shooting videos on green screens,” because I’m defining it. People are like “Why do you have servers in your house?” I’m like, “Because I need information, this is how I put stuff out there.” Because black people like computers, son! We love server farms, we like LAN gaming, and we define it every time we do something.
After I finished reading The Miraculous Deliverance of Oga Jona by Chimamanda Adichie, I literally (as in I actually) clapped my hands together and said “she’s done it!” out loud. “Done what?” you ask. Well, she’s done what I’ve been thinking about and what intrigued me about How To Be Black, she’s merged art, reality and politics into this thing that is both challenging but digestible. While How To Be Black is clearly a manifesto of sorts, The Miraculous Deliverance… is more of a suggestion of possibility. A quiet suggestion of how things should (could?) be. There’s a time for a preaching, and a time to not be preaching and I’ve always wondered in my own work how to communicate my thoughts and ideals without pounding the pulpit too hard. I’m quite often so passionate when I talk, table-thumping and gesticulating comes so easy to me, but Chimamanda has provided a quiet example of another way. Her graceful carriage of self continues to leave me in awe. #FanGirlForLife
Do you have suggestions of what I should get into next?