Sunday, February 22, 2015

What is it with all the Black Pain movies?

The weekend the film was released, my family and I went to see the movie “Selma”. It was great acting all the way. I thought the actors and actresses who portrayed their respective characters were awesome. I encourage that parents take their children to see the movie as it is inspired by an actual event. I say inspired instead of based because with every Hollywood picture, there always is an element of fiction. Nevertheless, the march from Selma to Montgomery was real as was the pain and suffering of those that fought and died for the right to vote.

And in talking about Hollywood, I’ve noticed there has been a certain trend. It seems that the most critically acclaimed movies that the press and Hollywood push featuring an all black cast have to do with pain and suffering. When we look at movies such as “12 Years A Slave”, “Django Unchained”, “Precious”, “The Help”, and “The Butler”, these movies have a certain theme where Black Americans are portrayed as being in pain or suffering some how.

Why don’t we see more movies like “ This Christmas”, “Crooklyn” or “The Best Man Holiday” where we see the love of a black family, a successful black family? Not to suggest that the characters portrayed are perfect, but they tend to avoid stereotypes we are so accustomed to see in a prejudice medium. These movies were not pushed or promoted, as were the other movies by the mainstream press.  In some instances, a theme promoting the love of a strong black family or couple has been ignored by the mainstream.

Now, my review is not to discourage people from seeing this film. All of the actors, including David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Wendell Pierce and Oprah Winfrey did a fantastic job. The movie highlights the struggle that Black Americans had to overcome as human beings. As I was watching the film, I was reminded of how far we still have to go, vis-à-vis Ferguson and New York.  

My commentary is to point out that as Black Americans, we should be demanding to see our own stories. Why can’t we see the story of Mansa Musa, the richest king that ever lived from the Kingdom of Mali? Why not tell the story of the Carthaginian General Hannibal, who defeated the Roman Army by marching through the Swiss Alps.  When movies like “Exodus: Gods and Kings” are released that “white-out” the role Africans made in developing the world, we often complain why we are not in the movie. Maybe because we let someone dictate who we are and what we should watch instead of doing the exact opposite.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is the NCAA Afraid of the Dark?

Just recently, Jim Harbaugh was hired as the latest football coach of the Michigan Wolverines. His contract is for seven years and he is set to be paid $5 million dollars per year. Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers after coaching the team for four seasons. It appears that Harbaugh and the front office of the San Francisco 49ers didn’t get along to well to continue their relationship.

            Now, the purpose of this article is not to talk about NFL teams and their relationship with their coaches. Rather, I do want to focus in particular rule that the NFL implemented in 2003 when teams hire coaches. It is known as the Rooney Rule.  Named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the storied NFL franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers, this rule requires that any NFL team interview at least one minority candidate for any coaching and senior football operation vacancy.

            The purpose of this rule was to provide diversity in key positions in the NFL.  When I saw that Jim Harbaugh was hired, I couldn’t help but think would a school like Michigan throw money out to a black candidate like they did for Harbaugh? The NCAA does not have any rule that is equivalent to the “Rooney Rule.”
           While Division 1 NCAA football does employ certain hiring guidelines similar to the Rooney Rule, this is only voluntary. Per the NCAA’s website, there were eight black head coaches in the Football Championship Subdivision. The number of black football head coaches rose from 14 to 17 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

          While the NCAA considers these numbers encouraging, one can still see that further progress has to be made. This issue reminds me of the story of Nat King Cole, the late great jazz singer and pianist, was the first Black-American to host his own variety program on NBC from 1956-1957. The show was cancelled after one season because national advertisers would not take a chance on a person of color. Nat King Cole was quoted as saying after the show’s cancellation, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.” How true do those words ring in 2014? It’s a question that the NCAA should answer.