Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Greetings and Good Morning! Happy Monday! I hope that you all are off to an amazing start!
After taking a moment to remember two Civil Rights icons, I back on track this week to continue to share with you the articles that I wrote as a contributing writer for INCOLOR Magazine (2018-2019). As I stated previously, it was an incredible honor to be apart of their team of writers producing valuable content for the global majority. I'm incredibly proud of the work that I created for them, and it was during a time when I was trying to bring visibility, credibility, and validation to my work as a new writer and author. I'm so grateful for them, giving me the opportunity to step outside of my box and write something else besides romance novels. Through this experience, I've created a lane for myself that allows me the flexibility to adapt to various writing opportunities and have a voice on critical and exciting subject matter.
About INCOLOR Magazine
"INCOLOR was an online platform for and by people of color. INCOLOR was originally founded in 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a response to the lack of diversity in the mainstream media. INCOLOR has since expanded into a platform that aims to connect and uplift people of color globally."
About the Article
When I wrote this article, in November 2018, I kept thinking about all of my favorite Black movies that changed my life growing up. So many of them taught me life lessons that I carry with me today. They were genuinely good stories with incredible actors. Some of those actors we have long since lost, but their body of work remains as a legacy for all to enjoy for generations to come. I'm so happy to have watched these movies growing up, and it was equally as delightful to reacquaint myself with them all over again! I hope that you can agree and enjoy this blog post about this particular article.
4 Binge Worthy Black Films From “Back In the Day” That Taught Us Life Lessons
When you think about Black films of the past, do you think of the “glory years” of Black cinema? What comes to mind? Do you remember how wonderful Black films were years ago? We all know and can agree that, actress Cicely Tyson is Black Hollywood Royalty, but I’m afraid younger generations, Millennials, truly have no idea how powerful of an actress she is, with an acting career that has spanned more than six decades. Her body of work is incredible and is deeper than acting on television shows and in blockbuster movies such as, How To Get Away With Murder and The Help.
The 1970’s was a time when Black cinema ruled! There were so many actors and actresses during that time that were simply dynamite, such as Paul Winfield and Glynn Turman. Thinking back on these cinematic treasures, one is transplanted to a time when Black films had a purpose and a strong message. A time when films taught us to have pride in our heritage, and who we are as Black people. These movies gave us a “blueprint’ of our history. It was because of these films we weren’t allowed to “forget where we came from”. Our history and current realities were incorporated into the storylines. We learned about the importance of family, friendship and the devastation that drugs can have on a family, particularly the Black family. Also, these movies were in frequent rotation and therefore those outside of the “global majority”, also weren’t allowed to forget “our stories”. The films that are important reminder of moments in time within our culture is Sounder (1972), Claudine (1974), Cooley High (1975), and A Hero Ain’t Nothing But A Sandwich (1978).
Also, an interesting fun fact about the movies mentioned, is that they all have one thing in common, four of the actors, Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Glynn Turman, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs each appear in two out of the three movies. Also, these movies are an important part of the Black movie repertoire, much like how, A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and Carmen Jones (1954) are Black movie classics; so are these, and everyone should see them. So many Black films could be named, but these four very poignant films, are a few of the Black films of yesteryear that taught us as Black people very serious “life lessons”, and therefore should never be forgotten.
Sounder is a period drama starring, Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield during the Depression-Era south, in Louisiana 1933. This is a powerful story about a family of sharecroppers, “The Morgan Family”, and their family dog, “Sounder”. From the very beginning of this story we learn that the family is struggling and having a difficult time finding food, and trying to “make ends meet.” In an attempt to take care of his family, father, “Nathan Lee” becomes imprisoned for stealing, which results in the son, “David Lee” having to step up, as “the man of the house” to help the family. If you've never watched this movie, I highly recommend doing so, and if it's been a while since you've watched it, right now is the perfect time to watch it again during #quarantine. This film is a wonderful coming of age story, and considered a timeless classic.
Life lessons from this movie:
The importance of family, reading, the pursuit of education, and maintaining a strong family bond in the face of adversity.
A key moment in the film is when, Ms. Johnson shares with David Lee a quote from W.E.B.DuBois. Interestingly enough, W.E.B. DuBois was alive and considered a “living legend” of their time.
The mentioning of prominent Black figures, their historical relevance in Black history, and their contributions to society.
Favorite Quote: “You lose some of the time for what you go after, but all of the time what you don’t go after.” ~ David Lee (Kevin Hooks)
Claudine is an excellent love story, with a backdrop that illuminates the lack of opportunity and hardships for the working poor within the Black community, welfare, and child support. The social issues within this story are still relevant and continues to resonate with viewers. This movie stars the fabulous, Diahann Carrol as a housemaid, mother of six on welfare, and James Earl Jones as a garbageman, twice divorced and estranged father of three. The journey of their courtship endures many ups and downs before ultimately finding love.
One very important element of this movie, is the music. From the opening credits, the musical score moves in “lockstep” with the story. It quickly emerges as a “silent character” setting the tone and adding atmosphere to the movie, as it is performed by Gladys Knight and The Pips. Moreover, the music and lyrics are composed and produced by the amazing, Curtis Mayfield.
Life lessons from this movie:
There is always an opportunity for a second chance.
Fight for what is right for social change.
It is possible to find love in the midst of your own trials and tribulation, but the real challenge is believing that you’re worthy of love and happiness.
Also, keep in mind and understand, that it may be challenging, but when you love someone, it’s important and okay, to hold them accountable for what they say, their actions, and what they stand for.
Your social class is not and should not indicate a person's worth.
Don't look to a relationship with a person as an"out" for your current situation, but think about what you both bring to the table.
Never give up on someone, on love, face your fears, a bad decision is not the end of the world, and to always pull together as a family.
Favorite Quote: “Oh, you’re studying me, what are the possibilities of continued growth?” ~ Mr. Marshall (James Earl Jones)
Cooley High (1975)
Cooley High is a well-known “cult” classic Black film starring Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, as best friends and high school seniors at the Cooley Vocational High School. In this movie, Preach (Glynn Turman) has aspirations of going to Hollywood to become a writer, and Cochise (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) is a local basketball star, that has just found out about his acceptance to college with a scholarship. It takes place in an inner city neighborhood of Chicago in 1964. We see young Black teenagers, as typical teenagers living their lives in an impoverished urban America; trying to navigate the intricacies of their daily lives in such a way to not become a “product of their environment”. Preach (Turman) and Cochise (Hilton-Jacobs) both have an opportunity to “get out”, go to college, and seek a better life. However, it isn’t until the loss of life and a best friend that we see “Preach” get serious about his future, as a way to honor his best friend.
Life lessons from this movie:
Mistakes are made often, but when you have a moment to rectify and make it right do it now because, tomorrow is not promised.
A strong friendship can overcome all obstacles.
It is important to remember that there are people who see our greatest potential even when we don’t see it in ourselves, and we can honor them by believing in ourselves and living up to our own potential.
Favorite Quote: “We were friends, a long time ago. Outrunning the cops. Outfighting the rest. Basketball days, and high nights. Obeying no laws, except the law of caring.” ~ Preach (Glynn Turman)
A Hero Ain’t Nothing But A Sandwich (1978)
A Hero Ain’t Nothing But A Sandwich is based on a novel by Alice Childress. It again stars, Cicely Tyson, as "Sweets", a single mother to a 13-year old son named, "Benjie" (played by Larry B. Scott), and in a relationship with "Butler" (Paul Winfield). The movie takes place in the late 1970’s L.A. Benjie is a rebellious young boy that is attending a school with a persistent drug problem. Unfortunately, Benjie’s behavior is a constant strain on his mother’s relationship with Butler, and a central problem for the family. We learn through the course of the story that Benjie is highly intelligent, and he knew the intricate details of the life and legacies of Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Nat Turner. He was a deep-thinker and concerned with the “now” in the world, and who was going to help advance Black people now. The hardest part of this story is watching him become influenced into trying heroine and eventually developing an addiction. It was troubling for me to watch as a youngster, and again as I got older. No one wants to see a child, especially, a young Black child with a bright future ahead of him with his intellect, see him robbed of his future by his addiction.
Life lessons from this movie:
Be aware of peer pressure, and know when to walk away.
Never choose a relationship over your child.
Drugs destroy more than one life; it destroys an entire family.
Favorite Quote: After reading his composition for English class Benjie’s teacher was moved by it, and says, “Benjie you could one day be a writer some day. You could be something.” Benjie’s response, “I’m somebody right now.”
Vintage Black Films are apart of the very fabric of Black culture. These movies have the longevity to continue to inspire and empower us through our plight, remind us never to forget our struggles or where we come from, and to be strong in the face of adversity. Many of the themes within these films are still quite relatable to our current lives, but we as a people moved away from movies like this, and it shows. As a community, we need get back to making films with strong Black leads, impactful storylines, and relevant themes that are laser focused on who we are now and what we stand for. However, it is imperative to revisit the films of our past so what remember what kept us tight, made us proud to be Black, and allowed us to find hope in such trying times.
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