Hello, there! It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. This semester has been quite irregular for me, so let me briefly catch you up and then tomorrow I’ll post my review of Sula by Toni Morrison.
I’ve taken on a few new extracurriculars. When I was a freshman in college, I auditioned for and got into a college music program. That year was so brutal that I put away my violin and vowed never to play it again. Yet, in November 2016 a fellow faculty member learned that I had long ago played violin and talked me into joining his community orchestra. Thus, a lot of time and anxiety goes into that.
I also started volunteering to read Shakespeare to a man who used to be one of the top Shakespeare scholars in the U.S. He has dementia now, and I felt the least I could do was read to someone who has put so much into our knowledge bank.
I read three fiction pieces at a literary festival on my college campus. I also wrote a proposal to present at the 18th Midwest Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference and was accepted. Finally, I applied for a full-time position at my current college institution and await an interview.
Since so many films with black men and women at work were released, I’ve spent a lot of time in the theater, too. I saw Hidden Figures when it first came out. In February I saw Fences starring Denzel Washington (who also directed) and Viola Davis (Oscar winner for best supporting actress). Fences was originally a play, written by August Wilson, also a black man, and if you’ve ever been in theater, you could clearly see in the film that Fences was originally meant for stage. The only white person in the film was a garbage truck driver, unnamed.
I also saw Moonlight, directed and co-written by Barry Jenkins, starring Mahershala Ali (he’s also in Hidden Figures), Naomi Harris, Janelle Monae (also in Hidden Figures), and several actors to play Chiron and Kevin at their various ages. There’s nothing like a film that has you on the edge of your seat from the first shot until the last. Nothing is what you might expect.
Finally, a must-see is Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele. I won’t say anything about it for fear of spoilers, but it slays white liberals (yes, white liberals like me) for the microaggressions we’re guilty of. That nervous need to tell black people that we voted for Obama, to try in a pitiful, yet ultimately failed attempt to code switch and say things like “my man!” and “I’ll bet you’re really strong / run fast!” There are no white conservatives in the movie. Which, by the way, such characters are a trope we rely on to show white people are capable of serious horrors, a trope that Peele never uses to show that racism is deeper than we think.
I think Malcolm X puts it well when he reflects on his time in a foster home, where he lived with white people who were kind to him, but would still refer him as “nigger” (almost like a name and not said with anger) and often talked about him like he wasn’t there:
What I’m trying to say is that it just never dawned upon them that I could understand, that I wasn’t a pet, but a human being. They didn’t give me credit for having the same sensitivity, intellect, and understanding that they would have been ready and willing to recognize in a white boy in my position.