40 Acres. A Mule. And Chicago.

image

Because you apparently
can’t put No Peace, NO PUSSY on a poster…

soundtrack  Long Hot
Summer,  Don’t Rush The Stage

I went to see the CHI-RAQ
today.
My son treated his sister and I ( I made it a matinee
because I love him and his pockets). We made the first show at 10:30
in the a.m. and I missed like  two minutes of the new Spike Lee
Joint,
running my mouth on the phone.

I entered the dark theater
where they were seated and easily spotted among the 10 or so other
black folk there.

I only read one review before
I arrived, most of  my judgments and disbelief were suspended. I
mostly, successfully suspended my bias toward the film based on my
appreciation of his prior work. I basically failed at suspending my
disbelief in Nick Cannon as the title character, an “organization”
leader (The Spartans Gang) and a Hardcore, Underground, Gangsta
Rapper (are we still using this term)… Chiraq neé Demetrius
Dupree.

I have ties to Chicago
vicariously, I have friends and family who work there, live there,
love there, and are from there in all of the ways that matter. I’ve
only been a couple of times, for Saviour’s Day… so suspending my
emotional attachment to the material was the easiest task.

Here’s what I knew going in:

  • The movie is based on
    Lysistrata, a Greek Comedy written by Aristophanes about one
    woman’s attempt to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing the women
    of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and
    lovers.
  • Trina (the rapper from
    Miami) starred in previous adaptation, A Miami Tail, in 2003. In
    that version Trina as (Alicia) lead the women of Liberty City in a
    sex-strike in protest of the disrespect of women and gang violence.
    There was a woman who co-wrote the adaptation. (get it here)
  • Greek comedies are
    really about caricatures not characters. The stereotypes are
    inflated to illustrate a point, usually the worst of the nature of
    man.

Having given you some
context, here’s how it all went down…

I slid into my seat to Nick
Cannon
 ChiRaq rapping, saying rhyming words that sound like
all the rappity rap that I’ve heard on the radio in recent years (I’m
feeling a little dated.) This new rap is pop music and it is breaking
all the rules.

The game is to be sold,
not told.

Real killas move in
silence.

Snitches get stitches.

This is me barely
suspending my disbelief at Nick Cannon being hard…

image

Then Bang! Shots ring out and
people run and drop and …

image

Fade… Next Scene. This is
where is gets interesting and I mean that because this where dialogue
comes in and I realized that Young-Old Spike is doing this in Greek
fashion, that is to say there is a rhythm and cadence to the
dialogue. It rhymes y’all, rhymes like all the spoken word poetry
EVUH!.

image

From that point on I could
watch the movie for what it was, relaxed in my mind, body, and
spirit…  Relaxed because no matter how ridiculous the movie got I
knew exactly what it was and how it would end.

That is what made the movie
good. I knew what the message was and even though the movie was
mostly just Spike doing this:

image

I know how it would all end.

The movie is consistent, never veering far from it’s premise. Except in the end where we get
to see the best in a man (which technically and maybe ironically
would make this a Greek Tragedy).

The movie is predictable and
yet every time J. Hud hit the screen, tears. I don’t know if she drew
on the personal experience of being  a Chicagoan who lost family
members to gun violence, but I definitely connected with her
character.

Most of the dialogue was as
ignant and funny as it was poignant.

I felt empowered and
invigorated to get out here and keep doing women’s work, by the
imaginings of what would happen if women throughout the world stood
in solidarity for a cause and were able to affect change.

I was also just as weirded
out by buff Dave Chappelle as I was the time I saw him live in
Memphis. He was just a funny, as then. And I realized I miss seeing
Dave Chappelle regularly on TV and in movies, but I totally didn’t
understand why he was here.

image

John Cusack, as Pastor Miguel
the white priest of a progressive Black Church reminded me of a a
lot of white people and white do-gooders I’ve encountered. Those who
grew up in or are/were heavily invested in black communities. I wanna
know where he learned to HOOP.
Like who did he watch, where did he study because it was decent…
Still, the
young man and I
were a distracted by his Kente-trimmed robes and RBG Deacons board.

OAN:
I want that Black Jesus hanging in my living room next to my Good
Times,
Ned The Wino as Black
Jesus. 

The
scene with General King Kong aka Uncle Sam…

It’s Spike Lee mane! There are messages and then messages within messages.  He chose a good lead in Teyonnah Parris or maybe I was just happy to see her cast as something, somebody completely different than her character in Dear White People. 
I don’t now if this is his last movie or he’s only doing passion
projects or what, but he put everything in here. His signature shots,
memorable scenes, and imagery. Samuel Jackson in the brightest of
suits from the J. Anthony Brown collection,  Wesley Snipes with a
2015 Demolition Man/Blade fade, and Roger Guenveur Smith acting
excccra light skinneded.

Spike
gets the message across and then gets it across again and again.

I
suspended most of my beliefs and judgments to see this movie and I’m
just reviewing it here… I’m
saying it was a good movie and that we should be talking about what
is good and what is problematic because there are some problems.

My
son turned to me and asked “When are they going to make a movie
about Memphis, according to Forbes Memphis is like the 4th
most dangerous city in the nation?  Chicago is like 5. Oakland, St.
Louis, Detroit, and Memphis are higher?”

I
was speechless, so many cities suffering under the conditions, why
Chicago?

Why
a Greek Comedy?

Why
repeat a interpretation that was already done, fairly recently?

And
why are people are upset about the title, I’ve heard people from
Chicago refer to it as ChiRaq. Maybe it’s because it’s coming from
the outside? Like white people saying nigga… Some things will never
be okay.

I
reached out to my Chicago peeps and one
response sticks with me:

“I
would only see it for free. I believe too many communities (poor
communities of color in Chicago, women, youth) are being used to
promote this film, and thus make Spike Lee wealthier. With
little to no reciprocation.” Aquil Charlton, Chicago Artist &
Activist

So… Y’all ready to have
this conversation?

image
Advertisements