Do you remember all of the Oscar nonsense this year? When a bunch of white filmmakers said something to the tune of “race shouldn’t be a factor and it should be based on quality”. Well, that whole image of the best films/actors/directors/etc being rewarded goes up in flames when you consider Selma. When discussing the recent Black Lives Matter protests, actor David Oyelowo spoke out about the way the Oscars turned their backs on Ava DuVernay’s film. For anyone that missed it, Selma came out around the time that Eric Garner was murdered. When the cast wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the premier, the Academy didn’t like it one bit. They went so far as to say to the studio and producers ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’ So, Selma, a film that had received critical acclaim, was shunned for speaking out against police brutality. A film about the civil rights movement, one of the defining political movements in American history, was criticised for being too political. The Academy spat out its dummy and ignored the story of Black people standing up for their rights. And people wonder why #Oscarssowhite trended all over social media?
When Hamilton first came to the stage in 2015, I was adamant that I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon. I mean, everyone was banging on about this musical and how amazing it was. How different and inspiring. It didn’t help that my interest in American history is basically non-existent. But, for whatever reason, I stubbornly avoided it. Until one day when I decided to listen to the soundtrack. I don’t know why I decided it was the day but I was on my way to a job interview. I wasn’t really paying attention on the way there but I was hooked by the time I got home. I couldn’t stop listening to it and I’ve not been able to stop since. Most of my top songs on Spotify for 2019 were from Hamilton. My top artist for last year was Hamilton. It’s become my go-to album and works for any mood. When I’m tired, sad, happy, bored, or just facing a long day of work. Hamilton would always be the perfect thing to sort me out. So, when it was announced that the West End run in 2019 was being lengthened, I knew I had to get tickets. Seeing it live was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some great ones.
Can we all come to some sort of agreement, please? That we stop comparing contemporary crime thrillers to Agatha Christie? I know that she still has a reputation as a cosy crime writer but Christie is the type of writer that very few can live up to. She has a deep understanding of human behaviour and knows how to mislead her readers convincingly. I blame her writing for the fact that I so often guess book twists. She, and to some extent Arthur Conan Doyle, has trained me to start thinking too critically about everything I read. I’m always disappointed by modern crime books. Especially those super hyped ones that everyone loves. Like The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I’ve heard so many people praising it but I was not blown away. I’d guessed who the victim was from the start and it was super obvious who had killed them. So, I hadn’t intended to read her follow-up The Guest List. Until the ebook was on offer. It might not be a great read but at least it would dull the boredom for a while.
One of the things I’m tired of hearing about George Floyd is when people keep bringing up the fact that he had a criminal record. As if that, in some way, makes his death acceptable. That the fact that he was once in prison makes it okay that a police officer put his knee on George’s kneck for almost 8 minutes. Why does it matter who George was or what he was doing at the time? Nothing should be able to justify the death of a man regardless of what they’ve done. And what about all of those white men who were arrested for mass shootings? How many of them are still alive in prison despite murdering people? I mean Nikolas Cruz shot 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. He was arrested “without incident”. Without incident? All George Floyd was arrested for was allegedly using a counterfeit $20 note. Allegedly. And he was killed. A 19-year-old white kid shot 17 other kids and was arrested “without incident”. And people still don’t think systemic racism exists? It’s bullshit.
One important thing to think about at times of civil unrest is how to explain the situation to young people. Parents need to find a way to make sure their children understand why people are angry and how we have reached this point. It’s all very well and good doing anti-racist reading for myself but what about anti-racist reading lists for children? How can you possibly help a child come to terms with the idea of systemic racism and how it explains the death of innocent people? You don’t want to traumatise them or make them too fearful of society. However, you need to understand that people are protesting for good reasons. That the violence of the Black Lives Matter movement is different from the violence performed by police officers. So, I decided to check out some fiction intended for a younger audience. Just to see what’s out there.
There was plenty of controversy surrounding the release of this film. After a mass brawl broke out at a Birmingham cinema, Vue and Showcase cinemas decided to stop showing it. This decision was widely criticised for many reasons and eventually reversed. The decision to pull the film was described as dangerous and racist. Dangerous because the film would be seen as taboo. This would change the way that people engaged with it and the message at its core. At the same time, the decision was viewed as racist. The idea that a film showing gang violence would definitely push young people into mass violence was only strengthening the link between Black communities and uncontrollable violence. Especially as the film wasn’t actually as violent as other entertainment that’s widely available. Whatever the reasoning, it did just look like another attempt to diminish the release of non-white films. Even when they are made, they were being pulled at the slightest provocation. To compare, nothing was pulled from screens when a white dude killed 12 people and injured 70 other when he brought a gun into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. So, why was this incident so different?
I’ve probably said this far too many times recently but I had decided that I was never going to read this book. I’d been put off by the bright pink colour and the title. I couldn’t help but imagine romantic-comedies or YA fiction. I’m not against back protagonists but I am against anything too sentimental and lovey-dovey. I don’t really do romance. I’m too cynical for hearts and flowers. However, I’ve only heard good things about this book so I had to try it for myself. And it’s just another way to add to my anti-racist reading list. The more non-white authors and protagonists I embrace the better, right?
I’m not normally much of a documentary watcher. If you ask me why I’d probably give you the excuse that I don’t have the time. That I have so many other films to watch and so many books to read. This is clearly nonsense. What I’ve discovered over the past few weeks is that I’m not as great an activist as I’d like to believe. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes that I go on and on about. It’s more that I’m often too afraid of putting my money where my mouth is. Not watching documentaries like this is just another way to shield myself from real life. It helps me stay inside my little bubble where I can pretend that the world isn’t as bad as it actually is. So, as part of my vow to live a more non-racist lifestyle, I’m making sure that I watch all of the films that I let pass me by. As I’d already read James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk this week, it only seemed right to start here.
One of the best thing about being a book blogger is that you often get the chance to read things you would normally have missed. Has Samiksha Tulika Ransom not messaged me on Instagram, then I might not have known this anthology existed. When I checked out the anthology, it sounded like exactly the kind of thing that I should be reading. I know I say it every time I review poetry but I don’t read enough poetry. Even though I studied the Romantic poets at university, I am still a little intimidated by poetry. I have much respect for anyone who writes it. I wouldn’t have confidence in myself. And if I did, I’d definitely never try and deal with such important themes.
I know that I spend a lot of time moaning about Netflix Original films but, I have to admit, they do get it right now and then. The platform also manages to great some great filmmakers on board. Their 2019 releases on the streaming service saw Noah Baumbach and Martin Scorsese gain multiple Oscar nominations. Before he won awards and hearts, Bong Joon-Ho released the fantastic Okja. So, there have certainly been some high points and it looked as though it might have another. Spike Lee’s latest film Da 5 Bloods was released in mid-June. This was the first time we’ve seen Lee since his Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman and it couldn’t have come out at a better time. One of the major themes is how race fits into America. There is the same passion and anger that can be seen throughout the Black Lives Matter protests that have been happening all over the globe. What better film to watch when I’m trying to Amplify Melanated Voices?