Monday, November 3, 2014

Dear White People: The Lil' Movie That Did (The Most)!

A still from Dear White People (2014)

As an armchair film critic, I owe it to myself and to my audience to share some insight on my reaction and response to the recently released film, Dear White People.  After seeing it opening weekend (twice), I wasn't sure what new perspective I would be able to offer on the film, especially given the numerous reviews it's received (both prior and after the screenings I attended). Overcoming this apprehensive fairly quickly, I now feel compelled to say something.

In one weekend, I saw Dear White People along with the animated feature-length film, The Book of Life (which played at the larger, mainstream theatre in the area).  Dear White People opened nation wide on October 24.  The Book of Life opened in theatres on October 17.  I saw Dear White People on October 25 while seeing The Book of Life on October 26.  I had to travel some distance in order to see The Book of Life because the theatre nearby was only showing it four times that weekend:  two in 3D and two in standard digital, and I wasn't available to see it during any of those times. BTW, I want to note that the theatre I ended up seeing it at was only playing it five times that day (3 in XD3D and twice in standard digital).  Given what I intend to spend on a ticket and my desired experience, I didn't necessarily need to see it in 3D/XD/40DD/hydrogradeD/lowfat soy, slight foam (added my own emphasis).  So, I went to the next theatre several towns over, try about a 30-45 minute drive and a highway, to see The Book of Life.  What surprised me was the lack of screenings for a film that just recently opened (please note that Dear White People has been open now around the same amount of time that The Book of Life was open when I saw it and according to the local art house's website playing Dear White People currently, there's about seven screenings Saturday, six yesterday, and five this evening - a Monday no less).  Usually, films do not play for very long at our local art house, with the exception of Twelve Years a Slave (which I still, to this day, refuse to see, but for different reasons than one would imagine), a film that felt like it played for an eternity.  I have a sense that Dear White People will follow suit.  Readership, can you sense the anger that has fallen upon this soul when discovering this disparity?!

A trailer for The Book of Life (2014)

Reminiscing on viewing these two films brings me back to the experience of the adventure taken in order to see Gabriel Iglesias' The Fluffy Movies, which was released this summer.  The nearest theatre playing it was in Providence, RI, which is about a two hour drive from where I currently reside.  And, this was during opening weekend, no less!  And, when I went to search for other theatres playing this film, the list was extremely slim.  Not sure why, but multiple factors came to mind:  one of them being how Iglesias, as a comedian has been billed/marketed.  It felt like The Fluffy Movie played not just in metropolitan markets, but those with a substantial number of Latino/Hispanic communities. For those who are familiar with his work, how many times have you heard him talk about the advantages/disadvantages of being billed as a Mexican comedian?!  Case, in point.  Not to ruin both The Book of Life and The Fluffy Movie, because I really want people to see these films, making the trek for these movies was well worth it, more so than seeing Dear White People twice at a theatre within walking distance from my house.

A trailer for The Fluffy Movie:  Unity Through Laughter (2014) 

I've wanted an excuse to write about The Book of Life and The Fluffy Movie, even if it's just a brief mention.  Thanks to Dear White People and understanding a little bit about the film distribution industry, I'm able to comment on each of these films within the same blog post!  These films have multiple similarities, some obvious (films featuring artists/filmmakers/writers/performers of color) and some that only intersect once I interject in the discourses being produced (or lack thereof) as a result of the existence of these specific cultural products.

Though I'm still torn about how I feel about the film, I believe that Dear White People as a cultural product is extremely important.  A film with a small budget, one that had to be garnered via an campaign as recent as 2012, I would like to applaud Justin Simien for accomplishing something that most independent films don't experience- a wide audience across the country for their inaugural feature-length endeavor, especially one that attempts to tackle so many "isms" in less than two hours.  I am especially impressed that this type of film made it's way to art houses such as Amherst Cinema (the theatre where I saw the film initially).  These types of movie theatres garner a very particular audience, as was demonstrated the very evening that I went to see the film a second time.  There was a famous German filmmaker in the house for a special screening and Q&A about one of his projects.  This was the first time that I saw a line out of the door at Amherst Cinema!  It was actually encouraging.  The typical audience made up the line for this screening, older white retirees, college/university professors, and students who probably needed to see the film for class/extra credit (the crowd that I saw was like 100% white... not kidding; not the type of audience that I would expect for a film like Dear White People).  I just had to share this information prior to going into my full analysis on my viewing experience this time around.

Despite however I feel about the film, I encourage everyone to go see Dear White People.  It's an interesting conversation starter, as dialogues that wouldn't be held otherwise proceeded both times I saw it.  I also want others to support this filmmaker as I think he has strong potential as a producer (I will explain more about this in the coming moments).  Not only do I want this film to make its money back in box office ticket sales, I really want to encourage this filmmaker to continue pursuing a career in the industry.  

I will not offer a typical critique of the film, one riddled with spoilers or even whether or not I liked the film, because I'm still torn as to how I want to rate the film.  Instead, I will give you items to consider when watching this film.  With so much to say on this film, I've decided to write my thoughts concisely as bullet points:

  • This film was marketed as a "satirical drama."  To be honest, I found it hard to laugh during this film even at the most obvious jokes that were supposed to reach across the aisle for multiple reasons.  It was hard for me to savor those jokes as I felt extremely uncomfortable watching the film because I've experienced similar situations that played out onscreen in real life, most of them taking place where I currently live.  A second point but feeding off of the other, It was really hard to watch extremely heightened, one-dimensional characters amongst a realistic environment.  Some of the best satires (I'm a little biased because I'm a huge fan of the ones that I'm about to list), i.e., The Daily Show, The Colbert ReportArrested Development, Chappelle Show's, (earlier) Saturday Night Live, render their extremely heightened characters within a world that is heightened at the same level or even in more crazier circumstances.  It's not just that the heightened environment lends itself to believing that these characters can exist, it is because of these situations that these characters can thrive.  What was most upsetting to me about the characters in Dear White People is that the jokes that they were delivering were not believable because it felt like those would be things that they could say in real life given that everything was so realistic.  It just made the characters look like mean jerks.  Also, the environment of Dear White People made it hard to believe that any critique was served due to the fact that I think that it was poorly executed satire.
  • The biggest question I kept asking myself during both viewings of the film was "who is the intended audience for this film."  Almost all of the characters, with the exception of a few, were one-dimensional, incredibly flawed with no redeeming qualities.  I even found it hard to align myself with Lionel, someone who I have a lot in common with, because it was so painful watching him struggle as that outsider.  It resurfaced, for me, some of the most painful situations that I experienced throughout my undergraduate and graduate education and my current living situation.  My impression is that there is 1) always an intended audience for cultural products and 2) all tactics will be followed in order to attract this audience.  I believe that the film failed in this arena as well.
  • I'm not sure how much this film adds a different perspective on race relations at Predominately White Institutions (PWIs), (a label often bestowed upon colleges and universities, especially in academic/scholarly writing, where the population of white students dominate the respective campus being spoken of) because all of the black characters didn't see a major arc or endure any significant change until they were challenged to do so by some of the white characters (i.e., Sam and Lionel).  I believe that this film only reinscribes the issues that are prevalent on these campuses rather than try to resolve them.  Sometimes, it is not enough to highlight the problems, especially if these are issues that are covered on a daily basis by other media.  I was really hoping for a different perspective on race relations on college campuses via this film but that didn't happen.  It felt more like Spike Lee's School Daze - the PWI Edition rather than it's own thing.  My apologies for not remembering which critic made the following point (once I find the article, I will post it) but wouldn't it be more revolutionary if filmmakers and other artists rendered people of color and those from other marginalized communities within circumstances where they would thrive?!  We know that trials, tributions, and oppression happens but aren't there things when we are happy and living fulfilling and successful lives?! Since these images are few and far between (yes, I know some would say that happiness doesn't make for a great film because it's projected that there will be little to no conflict), I would like to see more artists display these types of situations.  Just imagine how many young children will feel more inspired to live if they saw some of these representations!  I strongly believe that we treat one another based on how someone like us is rendered in mainstream media and that one change in representation speaks volumes.
  • It doesn't surprise me that mainstream newspapers (i.e., New York Times, Washington Post, etc) shout only praises for the film because sometimes, it's just enough for people to glaze over the surface when it comes to these issues.  I believe that approaches to delving deeper into issues with regards to race, gender, class, sexuality, marital status (or lack thereof) do not make it through to mainstream avenues.  Simien knew what he was doing by making this film because he knew that with how he approached these topics, his project was going to get more airtime.
  • (WARNING:  this is the only spoiler that I will offer and I have a very political reason for doing so) Lionel is subjected to gay bashing and even a moment where he's beaten up due to his sexuality.  After discovering that Simien recently came out of the closet (according to his Wikipedia page, the rendering of this character and his experiences troubled me even more.  Though fiction, I believe that Simien owed more to the LGBTQ community and it's allies for we have seen similar outcomes far too often in multiple threads of media.  I know some would argue that it is not art's responsibility to demonstrate social consciousness and to render a world that currently doesn't exist; one where members of communities that are marginalized in reality could exist sans slander and potential harm.  In this case, Simien could have taken this opportunity to show that a gay character can exist without being treated poorly, especially to the degree Lionel had to experience.  This characterization also positioned so many characters within the film as being anti-equality.  Please read this post on a response/reaction by a particular audience when it came to this issue.  I believe that you'll feel even more enraged by this rendering in the film after reading it.
Because others have put some of my thoughts succinctly, here are links to some of my favorite critiques/articles on the film:
I hope that my post encourages further dialogue about this film and the issues raised in this film.  I hope that it also encourages others to consider the importance of being an informed spectator/audience member for film, television, radio, theatre, print media, etc.  Thank you for reading and please, pull as many people as possible to see Dear White People.  Continue talking and maybe one day, marginalized people can be rendered differently in mainstream media and artists of color can challenge the perceptions of the obligation to only show what's wrong and avoiding the possible.

The official trailer for Dear White People (2014)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Existing in Resistance: A Coming of Age Story & America's Ever-Evolving (Lack of) Growing Pains

I've been pondering about this notion of the coming of age story for some time now.  I've wanted to write on it for a while now but given the state of our nation in the current moment, I felt that it would be selfish of me to write on something that felt extremely irrelevant to our political climate.  However, thanks to my access to social media, I was able to find a way to link all of these ideas together.

Emmitt Till (1941-1955) and his mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley (1921-2003)

Social media reminded me of some important dates in U.S. history.  Today is the 59th Anniversary of the lynching of Emmitt Till, a young man killed at the age of 14.  Today is the 51st Anniversary of Martin Luther King's monumental delivery of his I Have a Dream speech.  Today, I have finally granted myself permission to write on Michael Brown and Erin Garner.  Today, I can intersect all of these ideas with my fascination with the coming-of-age story.

For those who follow my blog often and who know me personally, I write a lot on and speak about the intersection between film/media and culture and how both are interdependent on one another.

In order to write on such topics, I have to watch a lot of films.  Our local movie theatres see me often, sometimes as much as twice a week.  Over the year, I've seen films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and The Way Way Back and am very much interested in seeing Boyhood.  Though one may not think of these automatically as coming-of-age stories, they do have one thing in common:  audiences get to see white men grow into their own.

I've always wondered what would a fictional account of the coming-of-age narrative would be for women and men of color, particularly black men and women as we continue to be rendered negatively in the eyes of media moguls, as they triumph and overcome adversity - fighting their way towards accessing and achieving the "American Dream."  I do believe that we have a unique coming-of-age narrative in the media; it is one that paints us as beasts who must be struck down and made to be obedient to authorities even when we've been wronged.  Better yet, I don't believe that we are even allowed to have this narrative, especially when it is constructed by sources such as news media - those who are charged with delivering the play-by-play of the day rather than depictions of reality that uphold representations created by systems of oppression.

Michael Brown and Eric Garner have one unique thing in common, other than being senselessly murdered by the police.  They are statuesque black men, someone who is to be feared because of inferior characters that are dictated by stereotypes and tropes that have existed in visual culture for centuries. You may wonder why I resorted to these facts about these men, one that I haven't seen discussed in other forums as of yet.  This idea came about for me due to the quick and violent actions asserted by the men who killed them.  There was very little discussion.  There was no question and answer period digging for me facts about their whereabouts or suspicions.  Instead these men were murdered in an instant with their lifeless bodies left at the sites of their last breaths... left for others to stare at them like art work in a museum.

Though I'm unfamiliar with what police training looks like, I am confident that thanks to media programming and conditioning, the officers that killed Brown and Garner unconsciously (or maybe even consciously, one will never know) relied on such images of black men to coach them through these interactions.

50+ years past the beginning of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement, we still rely upon media images to dictate to us how we should be and relate to one another.  50+ years later, we fight to gain respect that we rightfully deserve.  50+ years later, I am forced to reflect on and ask why some are painted in higher regard by the media and art makers.  50+ years later, I have to ask myself when can we actually judge a person by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  Who can we count on to change these perceptions, to create narratives that somewhat attempt to render black men and women as the multidimensional people that we are?  I hope to be one of those people.  Who can I get to join me in these efforts?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#OITNB and the Sacredness (and Necessity) of Women-Only Spaces

The ideas raised in the following posts may have emerged in various forums prior to this one.  I hope that my views and opinions add something to the current discourse pertaining to these issues.  Happy reading everyone!

Currently, I am sitting in your run-of-the-mill, standard coffeeshop in a considerably small-ish city in a collegiate's "mecca" in New England (from this description alone, you might be able to pinpoint exactly where I am at the given moment).  I'm catching up on the necessary social media for the weekend and noticed the following photo circulating on Facebook:

According to the caption adjacent to the photo, these quotes come from a recent interview conducted with Uzo Abuba from the Netflix series Orange is the New Black for Vanity Fair.  A convergence of ideas, as it always seems to happen to me:  I'm reading up on literature preparing to write a paper on black women authorship, audiences and cyberculture, coming off of the high from a conversation with a dear friend from yesterday about why #OITNB and the space the series has created is so important, and noticing the people and action occurring around me in said coffeeshop during the moments of me attempting to tune all of it out in order to focus on the large volume of articles and books that I have to read to finish this long overdue paper - the question that emerges for me in this moment is "why can women-only spaces be nurtured, desired, and supported in a prison setting?"  My apologies for the run-on sentence!  My recent acquisition of a graduate degree in English doesn't prohibit me from purging all of my thoughts out fairly quickly absent of consideration of sentence structure and syntax.  Especially when I'm passionate about something, you just have to let me run with it, as I'm about to do now.

Looking around the coffeeshop now and also thinking about the experiences that I've had in this area with regards to "othering" and feeling like an outsider, I notice that people here try so hard to be "different" from everyone else.  I see various styles of dress, hairstyles, even the types of technology people are using (there are at least three computers within a finger tap of my own and they each are different brands) and languages being spoken (within earshot, there are conversations occurring in Spanish and in English - some of the joys of living in a college town:  being surrounded by a rich tapestry of cultures).  I, myself, happen to be different than what people would deem the "normal" black woman.  I am fairly plus size and tall.  I am VERY proud of my natural hair.  I am extremely quirky, clumsy, awkward and really don't care $20 whether or not someone is uncomfortable in my presence.  I love classical music, techno, house, electronic music and jazz.  I find pleasure in attending art exhibit openings and I have a desire to be fleunt in multiple languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese and various forms of Creole.  Though I believe in a higher being, I'm not that religious (I actually take issue with most religions in how they've rendered women and their participation in leadership roles within their communities).  I am a playwright, poet and blogger (obviously LOL) and have a desire to one day take on journalism (I have this problem of wanting to speak my mind regularly LOL). AND, I'm EXTREMELY college educated as I have a bachelor's degree, two graduate degrees, working on finishing a graduate certificate and preparing to endure (yet again) the daunting application process of applying to doctoral programs.  According to text books and the discourse generated by mainstream, dominant culture, I shouldn't be any of this.  But of course, defining the "normal" black woman is next to impossible because I have the pleasure of belonging  to such a heterogeneous group but many people find it easier to lump us all into one "box" so that it's easier to "deal with us."

Some theories, in so many words, state that differences can lead to conflict, which might explain why I've had a difficult time adapting to where I currently live as not only am I different from everyone else, everyone here strives to either be different or "apply" for membership in the dominant community by owning certain types of cars, eating certain types of foods, and living a particular type of lifestyle.  Like I've been instructed to do in academic settings, I'm going to make an attempt at answering my own question.  Here it is again if it got lost in the moment of me celebrating myself (yes, it's important to embrace "a moment in vanity" from time to time):  "why can women-only spaces be nurtured, desired, and supported in a prison setting?"

Prior to beginning the discussion, please note, I am not, by any means, endorsing or encouraging the prison system as a place for members of marginalized communities to be relegated to for I take issue with the Prison Industrial Complex and the reasons for many Black and Brown people being incarcerated today.  I want to explore the issue of the solidarity and empowerment created in these spaces due to the popularity of the series Orange is the New Black.

From what I've gathered from the series and also from conversations with my dad, who happened to work in an all-women's prison prior to his retirement, the state of incarceration forces homogeneity.  People are stripped of their ability to incorporate some of the daily rituals associated with identity that they would have had prior to being in prison.  They must wear similar uniforms, share in the work load by having "chores" to complete (i.e., working in the kitchen, electric shop, laundry room, etc - I will never call what they do "work" because they are not paid a living wage for the amount of stuff that they do), eat the same food, and have next to no time alone (with the exception of solitary confinement which serves as a form of punishment).  In some cases, they can wear makeup, style their hair per personal choice, and choose the "families" that they would belong to while being incarcerated. Even coming in with different physical markers and indicators of cultural and ethnic differences denoted by language, region of origin, hair texture, and skin complexion (yes, it is more complicated than that but for the purposes of the theory I'm proposing, I'm limiting it to this), they are stripped of basic ways of being individuals.

In a community where you are one in the same, there are moments people can come together in beautiful ways simply because they don't have any other barriers preventing them from being able to understand and converse with one another.  I will never forget that one episode of #OITNB (my apologies that I can't specifically cite the specific episode at the moment) when all of the women were partaking in a dance-off. For that brief moment, there was laughter and camaraderie.  In other instances, the women were able to rally around a specific cause, i.e., getting rid of "Pornstache."  This makes me also think about how much Daya's "family" rally around her to make sure that she was being taken care of during the first trimester of her pregnancy despite her not being able to speak Spanish - they still took her in regardless.  Also, think about how much these women can really "be" themselves!  Not trying to conflate the two, but I can recall of the times when my parents let me host slumber parties and how much fun we had sitting around in our pajamas and being around young women just like me.  Even the power that's had during conversations with my friends today in the privacy of one another's home!  I believe that in order to empower a community, we need to find where we all connect and in many cases, we can only do that in a private space.

Recently, I had to read Elizabeth Alexander's book The Black Interior (2004).  Quick reference:  she was the poet at President Obama's first inauguration.....please don't let that be the defining moment for you as she is a professor at Yale University and has added some rich material to the discourse on Black cultural production.  Please look her up!  In it, she talks about how private spaces, particularly living rooms and other gathering spaces in people's homes, have become sacred spaces for producing and maintaining culture. I used this book for a paper I wrote on a play that used jukejoints similarly.  Just think about the conversations that you're able to have out of earshot of strangers!  Think about how YOU are during those moments.  I hope that this helps you to consider the "theory" that I'm proposing here.

Orange is the New Black is revolutionary in so many ways!  I'm glad that this series gave me an opportunity to really think about spaces for women's empowerment!  There's not too many times where I can even think to talk about women from different circumstances coming together.  Though is is not an ideal situation nor is every time a moment of solidarity, #OITNB has rendered a possibility, even if it is when women from marginalized communities are incarcerated.  Sometimes, you have to exaggerate the reality to realize the potential.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where is "Home"?: Venturing To and From "Oz"

I just realized that this is my first blog post since September of 2013!  So much has happened in the past few months but I haven't been compelled to write... until now!  Miss me much?  I know that I miss me a lot!

A few days ago, I watched the film Girl Most Likely (2013) starring Kristen Wiig (check out the trailer below). I'm not about spoilers but I will give you a little bit of insight into the movie to entice you to see it. Wiig plays Imogene, a New York-based playwright/magazine writer who is trying to piece her life back together following the sudden breakup with her live-in boyfriend.  A few minutes into the film, she finds herself on a psychiatric ward of a local hospital.  Her mother, played by Annette Bening, comes to pick her up.  The rest of the film... well, I would be spoiling it for you so I will leave it up to you to find out how the rest of it goes. She creates a "new" life for herself once she returns to her childhood home in Ocean City, New Jersey. What's most relevant from this plot is the fact that the life that was the most accepting of her was the one that she was running away from:  her life in Ocean City.

This got me to thinking about my own life.

I started writing this blog post during my most recent visit to Detroit. It's really important for me to visit at least twice a year.  While a lot has happened to me since leaving my hometown almost seven years ago, this past year was the most significant because it gave me time to really reflect.  In the past month or so, I earned my second Master's degree and am considering my future career choices.  I am also in the best place ever relationship wise with regards to my romantic partner and close friends. Though I don't see my friends as much as I would like to, I can trust that we will be there for each other at any given moment.  I haven't done any creative writing in almost a year but I've been journaling like crazy.  These "pro bono" counseling sessions have forced me to really think about what is important to me and also who I really am.

I'm quite nostalgic and really miss some of my past.  Up until recently, I wasn't sure why I missed my past so much.  I especially yearn for the times when I got to see my family more often and also got to experience the city of Detroit more so than I do when I come back to visit these days.  Whenever I visit "home," I spend most of the time with my family because the time is so short.  In the past, I was able to stay for several weeks, which allowed for me to visit with friends.  Now, my time in the "313" is around a week to ten days, which isn't a lot of time, especially when I am very close to my parents and my brother.  So, when I'm "home," I do very little.  I'm also about "remembering" because I feel like something is lacking in my life currently but it wasn't until now that I was able to identify that.

I miss "home" because no matter what, I will always be surrounded by people who will love me regardless and who will support me despite whatever bad decisions or misjudgments I've made.  In my life as an adult living about 600 miles away from loved ones, I'm constantly critiqued (sometimes without my best interests in mind), treated poorly, teased, misused, and abused simply for the fulfillment of others.  I now understand why people say that they can talk badly about their close friends and family; the love is genuine and they only want what's best for them.  Outside of my lil' bubble of Detroit, I'm sometimes unsure as to whose in my corner and whose looking to push me over a cliff.  This competition called "life" sometimes sucks because once you leave the comforts of your childhood, it becomes even more difficult to trust anyone.

My current world and the world of my past are so different.  It took this most recent trip (the one that I'm currently completing) to realize how different these worlds are.  Returning back to Western Massachusetts tomorrow, I have to keep reminding myself that I was the girl who once dreamed while catching the DDOT (public transportation in Detroit) to school every morning.  That I once consumed Faygo Pop (yes New Englanders, I said "pop" and I will continue to say it proudly) and had no problems shopping in dollar stores and Rainbow for clothes.  That I knew which neighborhoods to venture through on my own and those to never even think about passing through.  And, all of these things made me proud of who I was.  For some, the Pioneer Valley/Five Colleges Area is idyllic but for me, Detroit will always have my heart because its who I am and it's what made me who I will always be.

Not having a lot of places to go and people to see, I was able to finally watch some stuff on Netflix.  Besides Girl Most Likely, I had a chance to FINALLY watch Orange is the New Black!  I now see what all of the hype is about.  Besides some extremely talented performances and some great dialogue, this show is about as real as it gets when it comes to humanity, humility and relationships.  There are strategies manipulated yet consequences served.  There is happiness but there's also survival.  This is one of the few times that I've seen "real" in a series!  This should be called "reality television" because we get to experience each facet of life through the multidimensional characters and storylines featured on the series.  The only thing that I find sad (yet beautiful) about this series is that we get "real" through the lives of mostly women along the margins who happen to be incarcerated.  I really hate to say this but is this the only imagined world that these roles can exist?

Reflecting on Girl Most Likely, Orange is the New Black and Walk of Shame (yes, I saw this film as well during my time at "home" but I can't give this film any airspace on my blog because I wasn't a fan of it nor find any of it compelling or redeemable to write about), I'm curious as to what would a black woman's coming of age story look like constructed in the genre of the mainstream narrative.  Or better yet, is there a consumable coming of age visual product that would be catered to me?  I've seen the coming of age narrative scripted for my counterparts but not necessarily for the little girl or teenager that I once was.  I know that they exist but I have yet to find it.

This is why I am such a fan of narrative film.  For 90 minutes, depending on the genre and nature of the film, I can become a part of someone else's world and then return back to my own appreciating it more.  This is why I write.  I can create worlds where protagonists such as myself can thrive.  I don't create perfect worlds. I create places where black women are challenged and pushed to their limits but come out successful.  The odds are not constantly against them quite like it is in the real world.

All of this leads me to this question, one that I believe all of us have:  where is my "Oz"?  I'm not thinking of the HBO television series (LOL); I'm thinking of the film The Wizard of Oz and then the 1970s adaptation, The Wiz.  In both versions, Dorothy escapes to Oz but is unable to find the complete solace that she so desires.  I'm the Dorothy of my own tale.  I'm torn between the drastically different worlds attempting to find where I best belong.  Maybe I'm a hybrid best fitting semi-comfortably amongst both Western MA and Detroit.  Or maybe, one of them is my Oz:  a place where I can escape to in order to find people, things and ideologies that would accept me.  But at some point, I need to return "home."  But, where is "home" for me?

Diana Ross as Dorothy in The Wiz (1978)