Revisiting "M.A.I." Incolor Articles: "Vintage BlAck Cinema"

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 (1972)

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 (1974)

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.