Ava, Oprah, Moms, Dads, and Cheerleaders!

Leslye Joy Allen @ Spelman College Archives. Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen @ Spelman College Archives. Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

This is not a review of the film SELMA. However, I will say I saw it on Christmas Day when it was in limited release and let me put it this way—I had one of the best Christmas’ ever. Brilliantly acted, superbly directed. I dig Sister Ava DuVernay because she is a Black Woman, but also a young woman director who is unafraid to use all of the nuances that come with being a woman.

I also learned very quickly that she has two great parents and I see “Daddy’s Girl” written all over her face. Oprah Winfrey is another Daddy’s Girl. I know one when I see one—I was a Daddy’s Girl too. I love my late Mama to death because we had a lot of fun, but Dad was my playmate for life. I thought about my parents when I watched SELMA in the dark of that packed movie theatre on Christmas Day. They would have been so proud; and my tell-it-like-it-is Father would have been one of Ava’s biggest supporters. I can hear his loud mouth right now talking about how “Ava is one baaaaaad young sister!!”

For the first time we have a feature film about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Selma March movement, but also a film where women are highly visible, as are so many other long forgotten foot soldiers. Yet, for a filmmaker to press ahead and make the kind of film that truly honors the Black and White women who made so many sacrifices for civil and human rights takes courage.  For a Black woman filmmaker that courage often comes from the fact that in a male-dominated world, when a father approves of his daughter, when he encourages her and believes in her, she never, ever needs another man’s approval.

Mothers are extremely important too, and are always our confidantes and advisors; it is she who helps us navigate in a world full of possibilities and limitations. We watch our mothers make sacrifices and often we later wonder how she managed to make those sacrifices. Yet, our Dads’ support truly matters because sexism is alive and well, no matter how many men that love us try to downplay it. I am a Black woman and because my Dad supported me, I can handle blatant sexism and the occasional lukewarm support I get from some of the men I know and love. Most women know that only a minority of men can be our cheerleaders. Cheerleaders have to perform on the sidelines.

Ava and Oprah know whom their male and female cheerleaders are; an overwhelming majority of those cheerleaders has a pair of ovaries. I have several male cheerleaders, but every once in a while I hear that disinterest in their voices when the subject of the conversation changes from their problems or their work to a discussion about me and what is going on in my life and work.  They do not mean me any harm.   Yet, when I need to discuss me, I turn to my sister friends. So, in the spirit of that Sisterhood I am going on record as saying I am so very proud of Oprah Winfrey, who never fails to honor all of her people.  I am so very proud of Black woman filmmaker and director Ava DuVernay for the exact same reason!  My late parents loved Oprah…they did not live long enough to witness Ava…but I suspect they are watching from somewhere in the cosmos! Àṣé!

 

Copyright © 2015 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 blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly and visibly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

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Remembering “Dumba Nengue: Run For Your Life”

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

I remember the first time I had to read a book called Dumba Nengue: Run For Your Life, Peasant Tales of Tragedy in Mozambique.  I was glad that the book was so very short compared to my other readings.  Originally written in Portuguese by Lina Magaia–who held nothing back–and published in Mozambique, it was an instant best seller.  Lina Magaia told the brutal truth.  Published in English by 1988, the title comes from a Mozambican proverb that means, “You have to trust your feet.”  At only 108 pages, I assumed that reading the book would be a breeze.  It was not.  Midway through it I was sick to my stomach at how easily revolutionaries could descend into absolute depravity and madness.  Reading about the actions of South African-backed Mozambican revolutionaries in the mid-to-late 1970s was hard to swallow.

One of my classmates admitted to our professor that she simply could not finish the book.  I understood.  The one thing that struck me in the book was how easy it seemed to be for revolutionaries to take hostage, abuse, torture, and sexually violate females of all ages.  Indeed, one of my classmates, a young White woman studying on a historically Black campus, researched and wrote about rape as an act of war.  Her conclusions were as terrifying as they were valid.  I thought about this book when I learned of the kidnapping of over 200 (or over 300 girls) in Nigeria by some group of thugs known as Boko Haram, whose name translates to “Western education is a sin.”

Now, some folk will argue that this tragic episode in Nigerian history is an example of some of the damage done to the nation’s native population by European imperialism and racism.  Others will argue that Boko Haram’s activity is the result of their adaptation of a radical form of Islam.  This group, they will say, are merely proceeding according to what they believe is an accurate interpretation of Sharia law.  Yet, the very notion of “females as property” has been overwhelmingly universal in most places, give or take a few exceptions; and this notion has created more abuse and oppression of girls and women throughout human history than perhaps any other kind of ideology.  Even further, this kind of oppression and abuse has never been fully addressed by the entire human family.  Sexism is alive and well in every corner of the globe.  It cuts across racial, ethnic, religious and geographic boundaries with a frightening swiftness and regularity.  WE do not get to blame any particular thing or anybody or any particular group for this one.  So I will leave you with this:

I remember once hearing my late Mama promise to rip the lungs out of someone who had physically threatened me.  When I asked her would she do it, she replied, “Yes, only if I did not have a loaded gun that I could empty into them.”  I am also grateful that my Dad was never a hypocrite when it came to females.  I once overheard my late Dad say to a young man, “If you wouldn’t want it done to your daughter or sister or mother, then don’t do it to any other woman.”  Enough said.

I am praying for the safe return of all of the abducted girls in Nigeria to their families.  Yet, as an old African proverb says, “When you pray, move your feet.”

Leslye Joy Allen is a perpetual and proud supporter of the good work of Clean Green Nation. Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

CCThis 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 blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly and visibly stated as the author.

“Syble’s Poem” by Charles Reese (guest blog)

My friend Charles Reese wrote this poem in honor of my late mother Syble Allen Williams (March 1, 1921 – February 9, 2013).  Thanks Charles for this rare gift; it makes her passing a little bit easier to bear.  — Leslye Joy Allen

Syble Allen Williams in 2007 at age 86.  (Copyright © 2007-2013 by Leslye Joy Allen)

Syble Allen Williams in 2007 at age 86.
(Copyright © 2007-2013 by Leslye Joy Allen)

Syble’s Poem

by Charles Reese

Today feels like a poem for Syble

Syble’s poem is moving

Syble’s poem is taking action

Syble’s poem is moving toward something unknown to man or woman

Syble’s poem is moving beyond the limits of state apparatuses, struggling to control freedom outside its natural formation

Where poems are her songs

Holding us up

Keeping us together

Walking in the Spirit

Shouting

Hallelujah

We are moved

We are changed

Because today feels like a poem for our newest Ancestor…

Queen Syble Allen Williams.

Welcome to the fold.

And so it is.

Ashé.  Amen.

(Charles Reese is an Audelco Award-nominated Actor, Writer, Curator & Founder of The James Baldwin Project; and original actor & editor of the late Howard B. Simon’s Stage Play James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire, published by Glover Lane Press.)

Charles Reese: James Baldwin

Copyright © 2013 by Charles Reese.  All Rights Reserved.  No portion of this poem may be reprinted without permission from the author.

Creative Commons License

This Guest Blog by Charles Reese featured by Leslye Joy Allen is protected under U. S. Copyright Law and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Charles Reese clearly stated as the author and Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the owner of this blog.

Leslye Joy Allen and http://leslyejoyallen.com is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!