A Thought About Black Panther

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2018 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

“Royal Purple” by © Leslye Joy Allen

This is not a review of the film Black Panther.  This is a brief musing about what crossed my mind after I saw this film.  First, Black Panther is unapologetically “Black.” I use “Black” here to indicate that while the film is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, it also includes Africans of a variety of ethnicities, African Americans and a genuine nod to the entire African Diaspora most of whom are descendants of former slaves in the West.  I am a member of that African Diaspora. The film also gives a few cultural nods to the Ndebele, Yorùbá, Maasai, and Akan peoples on the African continent (thank you, actor-vocalist-friend Saycon Sengbloh for pointing this out first).  The film gets the multi-facted roles of African women so very right.  The film also has some serious messages unlike any messages you have ever heard in a Marvel Super Hero movie.  Don’t worry, if you have not seen it yet, I’m not going to ruin it for.  All I can say is that it is an entertaining joy ride of a film that will make you think…really, really think.  With that said, here’s what I thought about immediately after I saw Black Panther.

Black Panther has stirred up a genuine sense of pride in Black Americans that we don’t get to feel with this much enthusiasm too often.  It has taken decades of hard work to undo some of the psychic and spiritual damage done to Africa’s descendants in the West who have endured brutal chattel slavery, Jim Crow, systematic racism and discrimination, police brutality, you-name-it.  It has taken decades of hard work and scholarship to undo some of the psychic and spiritual damage done to Africa’s descendants in the West who, for centuries, were told that Africa had no real history, no real contributions to civilization when all of what these descendants were told is/was/remains patently false.  However, it is dangerous to over-romanticize any history; to make any and every description of our African ancestors totally positive. Black Panther, in its own unique way through fiction, de-romanticizes history by showing us a multi-ethnic, multi-generational Wakanda with all the friction and righteous compromise and conflict such diversity can foster.  You leave the movie theater proud, but fully aware that Africans (and we African descendants) have tremendous gifts and flaws not because we are or ever have been inferior or superior, but rather because we are human.

I remember a lecture given by the late African scholar, Dr. Ali Mazrui back in 1996 where he stated that to deny Africans the ability to be wrong was also the same as denying them their humanity.  Dr. Mazrui was always controversial.  He said the only African-American activist that he had any real respect for was Randall Robinson, the founder of Trans-Africa. When asked why he only dug Robinson, Dr. Mazrui said, “Robinson not only raises his voice when Whites do something wrong to Africans, Robinson speaks out when Africans are doing something to wrong to other Africans.”  I’ve never forgotten that statement and what that statement truly means.

When you love your people, you praise them when they are right and you don’t make excuses for them when they are wrong.  You work to correct them.  You speak out against racism, colonialism, and the exploitation of your people no matter who the adversary is.  That lecture by Dr. Mazrui, and so many lectures given by visiting and former professors drove home that I could not afford to care as much about how Africans and African-descended peoples looked to the rest of the world more than I cared about how well or how poorly they/we all were doing.  If you love your people you don’t worry about what their image is and how it affects you as much as you worry about their well-being, period.  Black Panther shows just how difficult that can be, but it also shows that it can be gloriously done…

Now, if you don’t exactly understand this post, it is probably because you have not seen Black Panther yet.  It could also be because you know very little about the continent of Africa’s very complicated history.  However, my points will be clearer once you’ve opened a few books and taken the ride to Wakanda.  So, get to the movie theater.  You won’t be disappointed.  Wakanda Forever.

Copyright © 2018 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

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Out of the Fog: A Christmas and New Year’s Wish

Photo of Bank of America Building by
© Leslye Joy Allen

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen

While driving in the early morning hours in my beloved city of Atlanta, I saw the usual signs of city growth:  traffic that can make a Nun cuss, shiny new buildings, massive construction everywhere, people bustling off to work, school and the airport, and homeless people huddled under bridges.

When I witnessed the top of the super large Bank of America Building on Peachtree Street, its steeple-shaped illuminated top seemed to hang in the air in our unusually heavy fog.  If I did not know anything about this building or if I was a kid with a vivid imagination, the sight of that lighted steeple would have given me the best fantasies of flying saucers and aliens.

As I took that quick snapshot of the top of the Bank of America Building it made me think of the Star in the East.  Even when I looked at the top of this building and recognized it in the distance, I knew that what I saw was only one component of the building.  Maybe it was the brightest component, certainly the top of it.  But it wasn’t hanging in the air by itself.  So here is something to think about:

Puerto Rico, Dominica and St. Johns, Virgin Islands still have no electricity. There will be no Christmas lights and there probably will be no lights on New Years’ Eve.  These tan and brown and black human beings have been without power for over 14 weeks at this writing.  And just like the homeless in downtown Atlanta, many folks stay on these islands to protect what little possessions that they have left after hurricanes.  They take cold showers when they can, and eat food prepared from makeshift kitchens.  You may not give a damn about any of this because it doesn’t directly affect you, but it actually does. You may not care about all of these people of color, but you will because they are necessary in ways you may never have imagined.  Remember, no one gave a damn about a homeless brown couple–with the wife being very pregnant–in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, either.

For much of the past year, many of us have whined and moaned about the current state of affairs in Washington, D. C.  We have often exhausted ourselves with tales of political misconduct and malfeasance and sexual impropriety.  We have listened to racist, sexist, homophobic, and misogynist rhetoric.  And at times, I have to say, I wondered when (or if) anyone was going to get tired of feasting on all of it.

It’s not that these evil things don’t exist; they do!  Yet, in our well-meaning attempts to publicize many of these problems, we often perpetuate our own lack of resolve to change any of it simply by believing that ranting about it on social media does anything more than help us blow off some steam. We often forget that much of this nation is built off and on the backs of people who now lay on the streets in cities all over the nation and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  In 2018, let’s plan to get out and stay out of the fog long enought to recognize the rest of the building; and that the top cannot and never has stood without the support from all those floors and a steady foundation.

That’s it for the year folks. If you didn’t understand this post, I’m sorry, but that’s it. I’m tired, happy, at times anxious, exhilarated by our capacity to triumph, glad about the women who no longer ask permission to be great or to do the work they were born to do. I know we can change anything we want to change.  But we can’t do any of it in a fog.  Peace.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

I Owe Ted Turner and my Maternal Grandmother

by Leslye Joy Allen

Back in the day in Atlanta, Ted Turner, the TV mogul, was keen on making sure television shows like Jacques Cousteau’s nature shows stayed on the air. Turner believed in the preservation of our natural environment.  He drove an economy car and at one time he had an office without air conditioning. This was his contribution to not contributing to dirtying up our environment.  When I was a teen, I thought he was just another eccentric White multi-millionaire.  Yet, when I listened to his reasoning about cleaning up the environment, he made so much sense.

Now, my late maternal grandmother, Lorena Wilkes Wilson was born in 1886.  She lived through the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 when she was a student at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University). I remember that sunny, warm, Fall day when I was in my teens. A large flock of birds swarmed our front yard.  I heard them.  “Some bad weather is coming,” Grandma said.  “It’s probably going to snow,” she said.  I looked at her confused, “Grandma, it’s almost seventy degrees outside. Where is the snow coming from?”  She stared back.  “The birds know. They plan for bad weather. So when you see a swarm of them, you can be sure some bad weather is on its way.”  Well…

right after that week of unseasonably warm temperatures, the snow came just as Grandma predicted.  A well-read, well-educated Black woman from a small Georgia town she was.  I remembered that my grandmother was born before there were any weather men and women on TV.  She relied on nature to tell her how to prepare for bad weather, when to plant, and how to dress.  I also remembered how cool Ted Turner was talking about saving animal populations and not disturbing the food chain.  Yet, I also remember people being turned off by things like recycling and driving economy, rather than luxury, cars.  Most people I knew then really didn’t want to hear any of this.

As I currently watch reports about one hurricane after another, about how deforestation has destroyed our natural speed bumps, I am grateful to Grandma and Ted Turner.  I wonder what people would think or say if I told them that I recently spoke with a scientist who told me that almost all of us are consuming tiny bits of plastic every time we eat seafood because we have dumped so much plastic on the ocean floor that the fish are now infested with much of this plastic.  The scientist said there was a guy working on some technology to clean up that ocean dumping ground.  Yet, I honestly hope that what I just wrote made you a little sick to your stomach.

I hope you will recycle your bottles and cans and papers rather than throw them in the trash. I hope you will think about the health and well-being of future generations. And I hope someday that one of your children or grandchildren writes about you and thanks you the way I have to thank Ted Turner and my maternal Grandmother. They both taught me to pay attention to and to respect all of creation on and in the only home we have; and to treat this home like the temporary home that it is and one that I must share with all of creation.  I hope you will too!  Àṣé!

I’m still not blogging as much for a while…So, you are welcome to read my older blogs until I return later (trust, there is some good stuff in my archives at my blog)…I have to get my dissertation finished, and blogging and responding to every little detail is not on the agenda…In the meantime, stay focused, and stay woke, and for God’s sake don’t fall for the easy answers because the news media is full of “easy answers.”  Do your research.  Think for yourself.  Peace and Blessings. I will see you when I see you.  — Leslye Joy Allen

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

Rituals, Theatre, and Transformative Goodness

Adinkra symbol of transformation.

Adinkra symbol of transformation.

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen

The first time I met theatre expert Paul Carter Harrison, he distinguished “theatre” from “drama” as theatre being the story that always contained some form of ritual and symbolism whereas drama simply told a story.  It was a bit more complicated than that, but I still remember that discussion.  It made me think of essays I read about how theatre began among us humans as rituals and performances designed to appease the gods or God.  Theatre was birthed in belief, in belief in something higher and more potent than ourselves, and that we all had a responsibility to this entity or entities higher than ourselves.  This thought has popped in my head off and on for the last two weeks…and today I think I discovered why this notion of ritual as theatre and theatre as ritual all designed to bring favor from the gods or God is so potent and timely…

Today I met a fiftyish White woman from Minnesota who told me that several cities in Minnesota solved their transportation problems by “building freeways through Black neighborhoods and business districts.”  Then she said, “they destroyed those neighborhoods.  There is a documentary about this but I can’t remember the name of it.” I then mentioned a former classmate who was writing his thesis about such a topic.  She was genuinely angry about it and talked about how unethical it all was.  “I’ll take Atlanta’s traffic to that kind of destruction any day of the week,” she said.

After she and I exchanged a few mutual comments about the late Minneapolis-born Prince, she asked me what was my discipline and I told her “History” and that my dissertation topic was about theatre.  Then she mentioned the Penumbra Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota and our conversation was off to the races.  I also had a conversation with a young man from South Africa that had moved here and lived on my side of town.  “I love it, here!” he said.  He and I had a conversation that ranged from the problems of the old South African government to recent politics to the status of women.  He also mentioned that he had a hard time with sexism since everyone came from the body of a woman.  I reiterated that I always meet talented, respectful young Black people every single day.  So what does this have to do with theatre and rituals?

Here is something I would like you to think about, and it ties in with theatre as ritual, and the rituals found in theatre and everyday life.  When one attends the theatre, one typically leaves with a different perspective.  No one leaves a theatre the same way that they came in.  Sitting in the dark of that theatre and watching performers suspend reality and portray characters other than themselves is in and of itself a ritual for performer and audience member alike.  One is literally transformed by witnessing what is done on stage.  One can get into the habit of going to the theatre, but a ritual is not a habit.  A habit is something you do almost by reflex, almost involuntarily, and it may or may not have any particular benefit to you.  You just do it because, well, you’re in the habit of doing it; and that might not be a bad thing, but a habit does not originate from the same source as a ritual.

A ritual is deliberately done; it follows a deliberate pattern in order to produce specific results.  Rituals create order, or at least make us feel that there is some order to the universe and the world we inhabit even in the midst of chaos, which is why human beings created rituals in the first place; and also why human beings can become so alarmed when certain rituals are not followed to the letter.

Today I discovered my own ritual.  Someone asked me how I end up having these stimulating conversations with people who are often complete strangers like the woman from Minnesota and the young man from South Africa.  Well, maybe it is because I don’t really meet strangers.  Yet, it is also due to my determination to not become a news junkie that feeds on bad news and controversy.  And to avoid bad news and controversy these days, one must deliberately turn off the television and internet and smart phone, and look for the truth, or at least find some balance between the real truth and the truth that is often manufactured for us.  So consider this…

The word “theatre” comes from a Greek word meaning “the seeing place.”  The seeing place was where you went to witness performers deliver the truth and wisdom.  Well, the truth is that, in spite of what you see in the media, there are so many nice, thoughtful people out there. Most of these people will never be on the news.  You have to look for them where you are; and you often find what you deliberately look for.  Make that a ritual.  Àṣé.

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

 

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

A Few Hyperlinks…

by Leslye Joy Allen

“Self Portrait” by Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait” by Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

I have to thank my academic and theatre families for reminding me that what I say and do matters more than I think it does.  They remind me to keep pressing on.  For those that asked, here are the archived hyperlinks to some segments of WABE’s Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress that I participated in as an Atlanta historian and as a native Atlantan of my beloved hometown.  Just click on any of the titles/hyperlinks below and then scroll down to listen to these archived programs on SoundCloud.  Thanks to all of you for your support. Enjoy!

June 6, 2016: Closer Look: Emory’s New President; Muhammad Ali; And More

August 12, 2016: History and Rebirth of Manuel’s Tavern

Sept. 22. 2016: Closer Look Special: How The 1906 Race Riot Changed Atlanta

Jan. 3, 2017: Closer Look: Kasim Reed’s Legacy; Community Planning; And More

 

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.