Film Review: King Richard

I watched the Will Smith film “King Richard” over the weekend. The film is the autobiography of Richard Williams, father or tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. The movie depicts the Williams family origins in South Central LA and builds to Venus Williams’ first professional match at fourteen years old. “King Richard” is an inspirational American dream story. I would recommend “King Richard” to anyone. It’s a wholesome and the entire family can enjoy it together.

Will Smith is going to be a (I am) legend before it’s all over. He is working towards being Denzel level and I think Will Smith isn’t really getting the credit he deserves. Will Smith has starred in some great movies. “The Pursuit of Happyness” is one of my favorite films. Smith was great in “Ali”. “Independence Day” was a sensation when it debuted in theaters. He has had box office success with “Bad Boys” and “MIB”. Will is fifty three years old. He hasn’t come near his Morgan Freeman years yet. In time he’ll be one of the greats.

“King Richard” isn’t my favorite Will Smith performance but he did a good job. Richard Williams is from Shreveport, LA and speaks with a southern drawl. Hollywood never does a good job with southern accents and this film was no exception. At times it felt like Smith was depicting Richard as a person with intellectual and physical disabilities. However, that’s not the case because Richard Williams is a sharp business man. His business sense was depicted in the film. Smith’s accent and gestures just weren’t very convincing.

Smith’s depiction of Richard was that of a nice, kind and doting dad. I’m sure that’s the case but he had to have been a stage dad. I’m not sure his daughters would have had their success without it. I think the film wanted to make Richard likeable so he was portrayed as strict and driven but never harsh or overbearing. I’m a person that think stage parents get a bad rap. They’re effective. The Jacksons, Mozart and numerous child stars and pro athletes are the result of stage parenting. I doubt that Richard Williams is as laid back as he was portrayed in this film.

Mrs. Williams was played by Aunjanue Ellis. She was great and I think she deserves an Oscar. Aunjanue Ellis can best be described as an actor you recognize but you don’t know their name. Throughout the film I was trying to figure out where I’ve seen her. It could be anywhere. She has a long career and many credits behind her. Here is her IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0254712/. The character of Mrs. Williams gave Richard Williams more depth. She helped the film delve into the family dynamics of the Williams family and Richard’s short comings.

John McEnroe was briefly depicted in the film. The actor who played him nailed it. He was instantly recognizable as the tennis pro.

I recommend “King Richard”. It’s an inspirational family and exciting sports movie. It was a clean film and anyone can watch it without offense. You don’t need to be a tennis fan to appreciate this movie. The performances were solid especially from Aunjanue Ellis. I think you’ll enjoy “King Richard” if you are looking for a current release to watch.

Fall Book Review: Precolonial Black Africa

I finished a book called Precolonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop over the weekend. I was grateful to find this book from an online bookseller after not finding information at libraries and mainstream bookstores on the subject of precolonial Africa for years. I would recommend this book if you are interested in African history before European colonization.

Precolonial Black Africa gives readers a good over view on the topic. It covers different cultures in Black Africa and different facets of society. The book discusses religion, education, government, family structure, art, the economy, etc. The author did a good job of sharing information of a vast subject to readers that may not know much about African history.

The book is a little dry and I will attribute it to being translated into English. I didn’t have much background in precolonial African history so I dove into unfamiliar territory which is also a factor. There were parts of the book that I needed to push myself through despite the book only being two hundred and forty pages.

Nonetheless, I would recommend the book if you want to learn about African culture before European colonization. It gives you a good overview and jumping off point for further study. Precolonial Africa is a book that I will save for my personal library for reference.

Here are the few things that stood out for me:

Islam changed African culture before Europe did. Precolonial African leaders were political and religious leaders. Once Africans converted to Islam their traditional leaders lost influence and culture was lost.

Pre colonial African culture had a different relationship to land ownership than Western society has. They didn’t believe anyone could own land or hold a deed for it.

There were more checks and balances in African societies. There was a caste system but lower castes were empowered by social mores.

There was slavery in Africa but many slaves had agency and could move about society. American slaves were treated in similar fashion to the way European peasants and serfs were treated.

Family lineage was traced through mothers.

If you’re interested in learning about Africa before European influence Precolonial Black Africa is worth your time even though the language is a bit dry.

Social Media is a PR Tool for White Supremacy

The great thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice. The bad thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice. White supremacists use social media to amplify their voices. They utilize current local news events in particular as anecdotal evidence to support their racist claims. Social media has become a PR tool for White supremacy.

I’m a news junkie and a social media fiend. I’ve observed that when Black people are accused a crime White supremacists flock to the comment section of the media outlet in order to point their finger and say see, I told ya. They particularly love to comment on crimes that Black people are accused of committing against White people.

The interesting thing about my observation is that there isn’t much sympathy for the White victim. The White victim is collateral damage. The focus is condemning all Black people for the crime of a Black individual. They also like to say it should be labeled a hate crime. They ask where BLM is. The racists also like to take that opportunity to make some sort of statement about self defense.

OK fine. But when a White person or usually any person that is not Black is accused of a violent crime there are very few comments made at all. The comments that are made focus on the individuality or the accused or sympathize with the victim. Very few comments are made referring to the race or cultural background of the perpetrator. It doesn’t matter how heinous or perverted the crime. The exception is when Black people decide to return insults. But those kind of comments are minimal in comparison. The White supremacists PR social media machine seems to be an organized and concerted effort.

A case can be made for or against anyone. White supremacists make their case by creating conversation around Black criminal behavior while completely ignoring White criminal behavior. In this context it can’t even be called White criminal behavior because the behavior is attributed to the criminal being White.

Social media can be a great tool. It gives everyone a voice which is valuable and detrimental at the same time. Be sure to discern between the voices. And remember that absolutely everyone that wants one has a voice on social media.

American Police are Creating Instability

American police are creating instability and ill will across the country. Their actions are causing demonstrations and riots where people are hurt, property is damaged and commerce is lost. Since the LA riots of 1992 this country has had civil disturbances every five years or so. The catalyst is always police violence.

Incidents of police conduct continue to happen without penalty. The public does not get an apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing. There is no revision to policies and procedures. The police simply continue with their business as usual and destroy any goodwill between people groups in a multi racial society.

Not only do the police increase tension across the US they are bankrupting local governments. Police officers are rarely punished for their recklessness but cities usually pay the victims or their families a settlement. The tax payers are penalized for the losses that police officers cause.

I have to wonder if this is by design and if police officers are simply agents of chaos used to create racial tension. If it is not part of their purpose someone clearly benefits from this byproduct of their practices. Police officers seem to want to intimidate and be authoritarians to the communities they surveil.

By now the police surely could have made changes to how they conduct their business and treat people particularly Black Americans who make up the brunt of their victims. But they don’t, they simply defend their actions with no remorse. Officers in high profile police brutality cases have even been arrogant enough to write a book or be interviewed by a newspaper in which they see themselves as victims. It’s maddening.

American police are creating instability in the United States. American police are bankrupting local governments. There is no excuse for behavior that is repeated with no attempt to change. If American policing doesn’t change America is going to implode. The conflict that police cause is not conducive to a functioning country. It is not sustainable.

Spring Book Review: Let Love Rule – Lenny Kravitz

I recently finished reading the autobiography of rock start Lenny Kravitz, Let Love Rule. I enjoyed reading the book and I would recommend the book but there are conditions. I’m biased because I’ve been a Lenny Kravitz fan since the 90s. People that aren’t fans of Lenny Kravitz may find the book to be a bit dull.

Lenny Kravitz has a charmed life. He spent his early childhood in New York City in the 70s and early 80s. I’m grateful to have grown up in the 80s because children had more independence and a sense of safety. At the same time there were not as many children only spaces so children had the opportunity to observe adults more. They just had to stay out of adult business.

Lenny grew up playing on NYC streets with friends and when he was a bit older riding the subway himself to museums like The Met and exploring art. Lenny’s parents were a sophisticated couple and exposed Lenny to fine restaurants and theater as a child. Lenny crossed paths and even had close relationships with entertainment legends. One night while out with his dad Lenny met Frank Sinatra. His godmother was Cicely Tyson and her husband was Miles Davis. Lenny’s stylish parents enjoyed entertaining and he described himself as having numerous glamorous aunts. That is great for character building.

When Lenny was in middle school his mother was cast as Mrs. Willis on The Jeffersons. He was disappointed in having to leave New York but he resettled in sunny southern California and his parents bought a home in the hills overlooking Los Angeles. LA is where Lenny discovered his love of music and developed his talent.

Lenny had a contentious relationship with his father. Their personalities clashed. Lenny’s father spent time in the military and he didn’t mesh well with his free spirited son. Lenny and his dad fell out so badly during his teen years that Lenny got kicked out of the family home and was homeless for a while. But Lenny’s father was key to his success and prosperity in many ways.

Lenny Kravitz married Lisa Bonet in Las Vegas in his early twenties and had a baby shortly after. Lisa and being a young dad were also key to his success. Lisa helped him become more comfortable with who he was as a young man and being a father grounded him. The book ends after the release of his album Let Love Rule. I hope Lenny writes another autobiography because I want to know more about his career, his marriage, his divorce, fatherhood and acting career.

Lenny’s life is pretty wholesome so his story is not one with a lot of action, trauma or tragedy which is what propels most stories these days. Some people may find it a bit dull. But I’m a Lenny fan so I enjoyed the book. Lenny has a very blessed and glamorous life even with the pit falls and false starts. I would recommend this book.

America’s Punitive Attitude Towards Blacks

The United States has a punitive attitude towards Black people. The United States seeks to condemn Black people for any infraction real or perceived. Americans, specifically White ones, love to believe they are authority figures that need to monitor, judge and teach Black people how to act and punish them if they don’t behave according to the satisfaction of Whites.

This week a story about a kindergartner and his teacher were in the news. The five year old boy pooped at school and stopped up the toilet. I think we’ve all been there. His teacher told him to clean the poop and toilet paper with his bare hands. That’s right. This wicked woman didn’t call the custodian. She didn’t talk to the boy about how much toilet paper should be used when cleaning his bottom. This White woman that is trained in child development decided to punish a five year old through humiliation for putting too much toilet paper in the stool.

The student was a five year old boy. His teacher that is employed to help students learn life skills and expand his horizons turned a teachable moment into an opportunity to demean and dehumanize the Black boy left in her care. Her culture has taught her that Black people, even five year olds should not be shown any grace and should be punished for any misstep. This teacher should have child endangerment charges brought against her and she should be sued in civil court by the little boy. America needs to be taught that there are other ways to interact with Black people than with an authoritative and punitive attitude.

https://www.10tv.com/article/news/nation-world/little-rock-teacher-accused-forcing-student-toilet/91-7f3643d0-f204-4d11-adfb-a249c46eba06

Pandemic Book Review: Parable of the Sower

SPOILERS AHEAD!

It’s 2021 and COVID cases are increasing which makes pre COVID life impossible. Social activities are very limited so there is more time for past times like reading. My first book review of 2021 is Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I would recommend this book.

Octavia Butler is an African American author. I appreciate Parable of the Sower because if features a Black, female protagonist and most of the characters are Black but race is not the vehicle that moves the story along. Parable of the Sower is not a typical Black story that involves Civil Rights, inner city life, music, slavery or sports. I don’t have anything against that subject matter but I love it when writers give Black characters range beyond those roles.

Octavia Butler

The story takes place in California from around 2024 to 2036. American society has spiraled downward. The economy is in shambles and Americans are living in poverty. Crime is out of control. Homelessness is commonplace. The government is rife with corruption. The nation’s infrastructure has crumbled.

The United States regressed one hundred and fifty years. Every shameful part of our past was a part of the books present. People were enslaved. Workers were routinely hurt in factories. Child labor was commonly used. A large part of the population was illiterate. Drugs and addictions were ubiquitous. A plague was spreading and making people ill.

Racial tensions were high. Nationalism and hate crimes had been on the rise for decades. A presidential candidate from Texas used this vulnerability to gain support. His campaign promise was to make America great again. Octavia Butler wrote Parable of the Sower in 1993.

The book moves a little slow in parts but I would encourage readers to stick with it. The story is a part of a series and there isn’t a very exciting payoff but I was floored by the author’s insight. If Donald Trump read I would have sworn that he based his campaign on Parable of the Sower. We all know he doesn’t read so I will assume that Butler was clairvoyant. She died in 2006.

If you enjoy dystopian novels add this to your reading list. I think you will enjoy it.

The Black People Have Spoken

Donald Trump is trying to invalidate the 2020 presidential election by undermining the votes of Black Americans. Donald Trump is only challenging votes in states with cities that have large Black populations that voted Democrat which caused him to lose the state. He’s only questioning the votes in Black areas.

This is undemocratic and blatantly racist. This is an assault on the rights of Black Americans. Americans that support the actions of Donald Trump and the GOP or that are apathetic towards it are shameful cowards that don’t love democracy, The Constitution or America. They don’t cherish fairness or freedom.

Whether anyone likes it or not the Black people of America have spoken and our voices matter. We voted in record numbers and helped to oust a president that would have never been elected in the first place if Americans were not so racist, gullible and stupid.

Trump has lost nearly every lawsuit his filed over the integrity of the election. Now the AGs of various states are suing WI, PA, GA and MI over the legitimacy of their elections. In other words the great states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan are being asked to defend their Black citizens rights as Americans.

We the Black people of America have spoken and we overwhelmingly think Trump is unfit for office. We exercise our right to vote an now it is being challenged by Republican politicians. Their actions are blatantly racist and should not be tolerated. Donald Trump is trying to over turn election results and he thinks the path of least resistance is trampling on the will of Black voters.

Lockdown Reviews: A Father First, How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

During the COVID 19 Lockdown I read the biography A Father First, How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball by retired NBA star Dwyane Wade.  The book was published in 2012.  It tells the story of Dwyane’s life while focussing on his relationship with his boys.  He is the father of two sons and he also raised his nephew who needed a home.

For the most part I enjoyed A Father First.  The book is a bit slow moving in parts but it was interesting and touching at other times.  I am an NBA fan and I followed Dwyane’s career for year but I didn’t know much about him personally.  Dwyane lived with his three sisters, two of which were from his mother’s previous relationships, his mom and his dad.  He was the baby of the family.

Wade stated that his family was far from wealthy but when his parents were together his life had stability and the family had what they needed even thought their lives were modest.  His parents, Dwyane and Jolinda, divorced when Wade was a young boy.  His mother admitted that the split was due to her controlling ways.  Everything changed for Dwyane and his sisters after the break up.

Dwyane didn’t see his father often.  His two older sister went to live with friends or other relatives.  Dwyane and his younger sister remained with his mother who developed a serious drug habit.  She had abusive relationships with men after her divorce.  His mother’s boyfriends were involved with drug trafficking and Chicago PD raided his home.  Young Dwyane Wade often went hungry.  His childhood trials made him decide as a young boy that if he became a father that he would be devoted, responsible and loyal.

Dwyane’s grandmother was the matriarch of his large extended family.  Dwyane had a lot of respect for his grandmother and she was always available to offer help.  He and his sister didn’t always seek her help because they didn’t want anyone to know about their mother’s struggle.

Wade went to live with his father, stepmother and brothers when he was in upper elementary school and his life improved.  His sister who he was closest with was not taken in by the dad.  His father and stepmother had another baby, a girl.  While living with his dad sports became a big part of Dwyane’s life.  His dad was his first coach and his brothers were his competitors.

He had a growth spurt in high school and it got the attention of coaches and recruiters.  Dwyane later went to Marquette University.  While he was a student he married his high school sweetheart and became a first time father.  He and his wife had a rocky marriage and later a terribly dramatic divorce after being drafted into the NBA by the Miami Heat and having another baby.

Jolinda had a religious epiphany while she was a fugitive of the law.  She turned herself in to serve her time.  While she was in prison she became free of her drug habit and studied her Bible.  She started a storefront church once she was a free woman and her son later bought her a church with his NBA fortune.  The other details of the book were about his college and NBA career.  I skimmed through those pages because neither were very interesting to me.

I would recommend the book if you’re an NBA fan.  The book can be a bit dry but it kind of mirrors Dwyane’s personality.  He’s never come across as very dramatic or talkative.  Jolinda’s story is inspiring even though I resented her for the way her children suffered due to her shortcoming.  Dwyane’s decision to be a committed family man at a young age is also inspirational.  It’s a good read if you have the time.