The Village is Our Award

 

Scene from "Selma" Photo Credit: huntingtonnews .net
Scene from “Selma”
Photo Credit: huntingtonnews .net

This article could be about all the multitude of movies being nominated for Golden Globe, SAG or Oscars this year, that most of us have never heard of or it could have been about the fact that “Selma” was snubbed in categories where it surely deserved a nomination, and most have said, a win. It could also have been about the parties or the fashion encompassing the events. However, what I chose to write about are the last three days of the award season.

On Saturday night, The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) broadcasted The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon that is held annually the day before the Oscars. This award ceremony has been going on for a few years. Although, the public was only left with articles, pictures and social media to interpret the beauty of this event. However, Saturday night it was different and I am thankful that we were able to witness this greatness. We were able to see the joy on the faces of the women (and some men) in attendance, we were able to hear the immense joy and service in the acceptance speeches given by the honorees… as the viewing audience was able to feel the power of sisterhood that was palpable in the room. Oprah said, “This event is about black women being able to lift each other up.” Her words did not do justice to the feeling I got just by viewing on my television screen; the room filled with black women who are all great in their own right, fearlessly embracing the greatness of one other. Regina King talked about the universe always having her back and the grace that was present throughout the room. Ruth E. Carter shared that so many legendary black poets’ influenced her to become a costume designer. Iman Milner said that the mere existence of the women in the room gave her the temerity to keep pushing forward after so many “no’s”. Gugu Mbatha-Raw detailed how she was felt embraced and had a sense of family from being in the room. One of The Chocolates of “Orange Is The New Black”;  Danielle Brooks thanked all of the chocolate goddesses out there that have paved the way for them.

Vicky Jeudy, Teyonah Parris and Danielle Brooks at Essence Magazine Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon   Photo Credit: Essence Website
Vicky Jeudy, Teyonah Parris and Danielle Brooks at Essence Magazine Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon            Photo Credit: Essence Website

It is practical; that the competition among black actresses does exist on some miniscule level. It is probable; the media is responsible for creating the notion that black women are at each other’s throats in Hollywood due to the lack of roles available to them and it is possible;  these women view the only competition for any role is just the woman they see in the mirror. Yet, on this night none the aforementioned was given energy. When the camera spanned the audience, you could see the love and respect in the eyes of every woman there as the honorees spoke. The aura of the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon was our sisters in all of their glory and true sisterhood is like fresh air.

On Sunday night, The Oscars gave out the golden statues to the best of the best in film and song. The best song honor was given to Common and John Legend for “Glory”, from the movie the“Selma”. Right before they were announced as the winners, they gave a performance of the song that brought me and many others to tears. With the backdrop of The Edmund Pettus Bridge, actors/singers marched along in a reenactment of Bloody Sunday (March 7, 1965) when peaceful demonstrators were attacked by police while attempting to march into Montgomery, Alabama hoping to bring attention to voter’s rights and discrimination. During their acceptance speeches; Common noted he was able to perform “Glory” on the same bridge that Dr. King marched on and the bridge that once marked the divide in our country is now a symbol of change. John Legend remarked there are more black men incarcerated now, than they were slaves in 1850. “Justice is juxtapositionin’ us. Justice for all just ain’t specific enough.” Selma is now.

Common and John Legend performing "Glory" at Oscars ceremony
Common and John Legend performing “Glory” at Oscars ceremony

And then, last night B.E.T broadcasted their annual BET Honors event that recognizes the talents, efforts and lives of individuals in the black community. Johnnetta B. Cole, the Education honoree was recognized for her trailblazing spirit let us all know that people should stop teaching little children racism. John W. Thompson, Business and Technology honoree took a 500 million dollar tech company and turned it into a 5 billion dollar Fortune 500 company in a time when there were not many black male executives. Kanye West was honored with the Entrepreneur designation and lamented that just because you may be able to afford expensive clothes and cars, does not mean you cannot still be a slave to them. Usher (Raymond) , the Musical Arts honoree expressed that we all do what we love until we are honored. Theatrical Arts honoree, Phylicia Rashad left us with these profound words, “Legacy is important. Don’t let it go. Don’t give it up.” The B.E.T Honors continually displays the excellence in our community.

Usher Raymond, Phylicia Rashad, Johnnetta B. Cole, Kanye West and John W. Thompson; BET Honors 2015 honorees   Photo Credit: amsterdamnews. com
Usher Raymond, Phylicia Rashad, Johnnetta B. Cole, Kanye West and John W. Thompson; BET Honors 2015 honorees Photo Credit: amsterdamnews. com

These last three days in award season have shown that our talents, our greatness and our spirit does not need to be directed by those that cannot see the immense talents that reside in us. An event created by Essence magazine honors all black women, “Glory” speaks about overcoming and still fighting for our people and our children. The B.E.T Honors shows the expansive deeds of people in our community that are not always the ones we see in the spotlights. Every single one of these events were created by us. There is no need to seek recognition’s embrace from anyone other than the powerful arms of our own village.

 

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Two People, Ten Rules and One Basket of Foolishness

Vivica Fox, Mo'nique, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Tamala Jones in "Two Can Play That Game" Photo Credit: trends.gelo.xyz
Vivica Fox, Mo’nique, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Tamala Jones in “Two Can Play That Game”.  Photo Credit: trends.gelo.xyz

Back in 2001, there was this little jewel released in the movie theaters by the name of “Two Can Play That Game”. During this time movies that catered to the black community and showcased many black actresses and actors were arriving it seemed, every other week. Featuring an overflowing basket of acting talent that included Vivica A. Fox Morris Chestnut, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Anthony Anderson, Monique, and Tamala Jones, “Two Can Play That Game” is a movie that was predestined to be a hit because it covered the relationship blueprint that is enacted when a man does something that makes a woman question whether or not, he is really “the one” for her. I will admit, this movie is one of my all-time favorites. I can quote chapter, verses and wardrobe selection without batting an eyelash. After viewing the Unsung Hollywood story of Vivica Fox this week, I had to pop “Two Can Play That Game” into the DVD player for the 12984 time. While thoroughly enjoying myself watching the movie, I contemplated whether the 10 day plan Smith, Shante Smith coveted in the movie could work in 2015.

Ya’ll ready? Here it goes.

Day One: Do not take his calls. If you decide to, be brief.

  • This rule most definitely is still a part of “The Relationship Games”. This is supposed to give the wronged an upper-hand. However, with the advent of social media, silence -interruptis is only a click or swipe away. The act of not talking to your mate is already a game that should not be played by anyone over the age of 18. So, not verbally speaking to your mate. But, checking their Facebook status or Twitter account every 10 minutes to see if they have mentioned your name is definitely a no-no for a grown azz adult.
Keith (Morris Chestnut) meeting Shante (Vivica A. Fox) for the first time. Photo Credit: salon.com
Keith (Morris Chestnut) meeting Shante (Vivica A. Fox) for the first time. Photo Credit: salon.com

Day Two and Three: Occupy your mind and time by hanging out with your friends.

  • This is cardinal rule 1 thru 75. Anytime you are going through a rough patch in your relationship or trying to get past a breakup, hanging out with people who sincerely care about your well-being is good for the soul. In the movie Shante says, “In love and war, maintain military silence.” So instead of sitting at home staring at her phone, she decides to go to church to recruit a “flunky”. A man who will witness her premeditated flirting with a random dude at church and go run tell that. In 2015, you can cut out the flunky middle man and just change your status on Facebook to “it’s complicated”. It still amazes me how much that status bar means so much to so many.

Day Four: Continue not to talk to him.

  • At this point in the movie, Keith (Morris Chestnut) has been calling Shante continuously and leaving voice mails that range from contrite and anger, back to contrite and anger again. Shante believes that remaining silent gives her all the power and I suppose in a twisted kind of way it does. Most people cannot stand to be ignored. They will reach out to you in any way possible, even if it is just to argue. She also cautions that it is possible that your man may drop by your house. Today, your man dropping by may happen as well. Seeing someone solely for the sake of having a verbal fight or using sex as the elixir is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. Abort this mission.

Day Five: It is a bad day. (He came over.)

  • Keith comes over and they have a screaming match, which in the illustrious words of Tony (Anthony Anderson) set into motion The Law of Thermodynamics by Newton. “Energy is neither lost or destroyed. It is transferred from one party to the next.” No further explanation is needed in this. The concept will always work until the end of time. Any questions? No. Let’s move on.
Shayne (Vivica A. Fox) Photo Credit: Mr-movie.com
Shante  (Vivica A. Fox) Photo Credit: Mr-movie.com

Day Six: Not as bad as day five. However, this day is where you stay busy and occupy your time.

  • Shante dusts off her little black book and goes out on dates with a smorgasbord of foolishness. The” wanna-be Prince” dude, the “still lives with his momma” dude and the dude that believes he is the creator’s gift to all women. In this day and age, finding a date is as easy as a 10 piece puzzle. The dilemma comes in deciding if your relationship is worth saving. If you want to get back on the right track with your man, then do not play this game of ring- around-the-dates. It serves no purpose other than creating unnecessary drama. If you do not want him back, then date until the wheels fall off.

Day Seven: Turn the tables and knock him off his feet.

  • Shante says you should go to Victoria Secret and get the sexiest thing you can find, get your hair and nails done, take a long, hot bubble bath and wear a dress that accentuates all of your curves. Then you should go over to your man’s house, get him to a point where he has to have you and then leave. Umm, where do they do all of this at? You should take a trip to V’s, pamper yourself with the new hair style, nails, and bubble bath. But, then you need to find something else to do rather than going over to his house and blowing oxygen onto a simmering fire. Contrary to popular belief, some women enjoy sex as much as men. You’ll end up going over there and never leaving. “The CIA ain’t got ish on a woman with a plan.”

Day Eight: Stock up on groceries.

  • After all of this back and forth Shante believes that this is the night Keith has been tortured enough. It is finally time to give him back the keys to the kingdom. So fill that fridge up with all of your favorites and get a few bottles of wine. You all may be in the house for a few days. I’m guessing in 2015, this more than likely still goes on. Couples will throw a welcome home party for the other if they break up for 8 hours. So, holding one after 8 days should be the equivalent of a New York New Year’s Eve celebration.
Shante (Vivica A. Fox) and Connie (Gabrielle Union) Photo Credit: rotten tomatoes.com
Shante (Vivica A. Fox) and Connie (Gabrielle Union) Photo Credit: rotten tomatoes.com

Day Nine: Kick back and wait for him to beg for forgiveness.

  • As life goes, all well laid out plans do not always stick to script. Shante is asked to attend an event being thrown by one of her employer’s competitors, at the last-minute. Little does she know, Keith shows up with Connie, (The proverbial… ummm “woman with many dudes”) who Shante does not like at all. He ignores Shante and she believes she has to up the ante’ in this love game. So, she recruits a dude from the streets by pretending to be a damsel in distress, invites him to the event and proceeds to spend the remainder of the event flirting aggressively with him, all while Keith is watching and losing his mind. Keith confronts her and she enacts the coup de grace by “accidently” dropping a condom from her purse. He tells her if she leaves with the random dude, he is leaving with Connie. Shante is not moved and leaves with the dude. She expects Keith to be in her driveway when she gets home. Of course, he is not. In this day and age, it’s possible that your dude will go home with Connie and it is possible you will hook up with the random dude from the streets. However, it is probable that you two will give each other the side eye for the remainder of the evening, talk about how foul you both are to your friends, send text messages saying “Wyd” or “So, you are going to do me like that?” and start this cycle of foolishness all over again. The best alternative is to just enjoy the party and then go home, ALONE.

Day Ten: Stuck on Stupid.

  • Shante is at the same place she met Keith, lamenting how the 10 day rules did not work for her. She realizes that when it comes to love and relationships there are no rules. Well, luckily this is a movie and they wanted it to have a feel good ending, so Keith is at the same place, sitting in the dark corner sulking. Shante apologizes to him and they lived happily ever after.
Shante (Vivica A. Fox) Photo Credit: microbrewery.com
Shante (Vivica A. Fox) Photo Credit: movieberry.com

More often than not, if you go through all this drama in dating today, there will be no Hollywood ending. If your man does something that threatens to damage the foundation of your relationship, you need to open your mouth and tell him. You cannot use silence, go on dates with men you would never be bothered with on any other occasion, use temptation or tricks to punish him for messing up. You have to be bold enough to have a conversation with him, whether you want to or not. The ability to communicate your hurt without damaging the other person’s spirit is learned behavior. No-one is born with this skill. So, if you get it wrong the first time, keep at it. Relationships never succeed when one person believes they are the ruler and their other half is the peasant. In the end, two can indeed play that game. However, who really wants to?

The Ties That Bind

Analise ( Viola Davis) discussing with her mother Ophelia ( Cicley Tyson) that men take. Photo Credit: tvfanatic .com
Analise ( Viola Davis) discussing with her mother Ophelia ( Cicely Tyson) that men take. Photo Credit: tvfanatic .com

 

How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM) is the Thursday night behemoth that has kept us enthralled since its premiere last year. From the very first utterance of “Criminal Law 101, that I like to call How to get away with murder” by Analise Keating, best known as Viola Davis and those dark, cheerleader- spinning in the air, bonfire flashbacks we have been hooked. Last night’s episode, “Mama’s Here Now” was no exception, as it slowly reached through the screen, grabbed us forcibly and is still holding on to some of us this morning.

In a scene fairly early in the episode, Analise is in bed wrapped in a blanket of emotional numbness. Her husband is dead, his sister has finally left along with her accusations that Analise is her brother’s murderer and she just lead the quiet coup that ended in her desired outcome; her lover, Officer Nate being arrested for killing Sam. In walks the incomparable Cicely Tyson in her role as Mrs. Keating’s mother Ophelia, with her smart wit and lightning quick tongue lashing that immediately reminded so many black women watching last night of our own mothers or grandmothers. Mama was there to “fix it”. She did not have time for weakness or tears. She could not be bothered with blankets stitched out of guilt and the feeling of worthlessness Analise was draped in. Ms. Ophelia came to pull her baby up and out.

In scenes that were riveting, some of Anna Mae’s background that formed her into Analise are revealed. She like so many of us did not feel love from our mothers. Not solely because they did not offer that emotion to us. But, due to fact some of our mothers could only love us in the way they knew how.  Which did not always present itself in the form that we needed. It is common place now to see a meme or social media post that either praises or degrades black women for being “independent”. The syndrome of, “I don’t need anything from anybody” does not automatically come from a place of defiance. Many times it comes from the generational lesson of perceived strength…of survival.

Photo Credit: gossipandgrab .com
Cicely Tyson as Ophelia, Analise’s mother. Photo Credit: gossipandgrab .com

We learn that Anna Mae changed her name for survival. She clung to her therapist turned husband, who used his knowledge gained from being the professional who was supposed to be Anna Mae’s soft place to fall. Yet, he hurled those wounds into her face when it best served him…for survival. We learned that Anna Mae was sexually abused by Uncle Clyde and because her mother did not react in a way that would sooth the heart-break of an innocent little girl, she made up in her mind that her mother did nothing to protect her from the beast. Again, for survival.

Ophelia talks to her daughter about men always taking. “Men were put on this planet to take things. They take your money, they take your land, they take a woman, and any other thing they can put their grabby hands on. That’s men.” She explained to Anna Mae how men; Aunt Lynn’s first grade teacher took from her and how Reverend Daniels took from her after choir rehearsal. “Men take things. They’ve been taking things from women since the beginning of time.”

Photo Credit: ABC Network
Analise (Viola Davis) confronting her mother, Ophelia (Cicely Tyson) about knowing she was abused as a child. Photo Credit: ABC Network

 

Because I live tweet HTGAWM, the wall on Twitter exploded with women and some men being hit directly in the chest with the force of a max truck, by that scene. The same generational lesson that taught us about expressing love in our communities is the same lesson that taught us to be quiet about sexual abuse inside of our families. Even if black children were brave enough to tell their mothers/fathers about the abuse that generational pull taught us to never speak about it again, that Uncle or Aunt So and So will still be at every family function, that our feelings of gut wrenching pain must be swallowed.

For a couple of hours last night, Twitter allowed some of us to become a family, a virtual therapy session if you will, as so many women expressed in 140 characters or less how they were forced into silence, self-doubt and feelings of having no real value due to sexual abuse inside of their families. Those tweets proved this particular family history of silence about sexual abuse is still an epidemic in our communities. Of all the thousands of tweets in solidarity and understanding last night, how many of us watched that scene and wept, yet were still too ashamed and frightened to tweet out a single word because we did not want the sigma to be placed on us through sad eye emoticons and the magnifying lens that would then be placed on our parents?

Photo Credit: ABC Network
Ophelia ( Cicely Tyson) scratching  Analise’s ( Viola Davis) scalp. Photo Credit: ABC Network

Near the end of the episode, Analise sat between her mama’s legs as Ophelia showed love to her daughter in the way she knew how; scratching her scalp. (For those not in the know, this simple act is an expression of love in the black community. It is not just about combing hair.) She told Analise that she saw Uncle Clyde coming out of her room late that night and knew what he had done. On another night, Clyde was drunk as usual and fell asleep on the sofa with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Ophelia sent Analise and her siblings to an Aunt’s house to sleep, subsequently as their own house burned down with old Clyde in it. Victim of a long match and very flammable hooch.

Mama did in fact avenge her baby and never said a word about it…for survival.

Single Mother Chronicles: Cupid, Come Sit By Me

Photo Credit: crosswalk .com
Photo credit: crosswalk .com

February 14th can feel like doom’s day for a single mom  presented in shades of red and pink. It’s hard to pretend it is just another day when your office smells like a rose garden and you can barely see your co worker through the cloud of helium balloons surrounding her desk. (Insert -side eye- here). Yes, that IS balloon envy you detect. Hey, Valentine’s day can turn  a single people into The Sarcastic Club for 24 hours. I will confess some of my friend’s  membership a time or two in past years.

And while I am confessing, I know a few single mothers who have become lovelorn on Valentine’s Day. They participate in direct message (DMs) conversations with guys who continually confuse “they’re” for “there”, want to show you their abs instead of their face and misspell argument 30 different times… just to have opposite sex interaction on this day made for love. Step away from the computers and tablets ladies. Realize that you can show love for YOURSELF and others this February 14th.

Photo credit: pinterest.com
Photo credit: pinterest.com

1. If you are not a member of a single mommies support group, I encourage you to find one now. The right group will offer you a safe haven to share what is on your heart during those moments when you believe no-one understands, have opportunities for you to meet women that have similar interest/hobbies and also potential business networking. On Valentine’s day, when admittedly your emotions can throw you for a loop,  you and the members of your mommies group can send each other anonymous notes of love and encouragement. The connection established through these acts of selflessness will last long after this single day in February.

2.  Go to the Valentine’s day party at your child’s school. You will be surrounded by excitement and puppy dog crushes. You may even get a foiled valentines while in attendance. It may have SpongeBob SquarePants on it. But, it was given in the purest form of love. The innocence of children is nothing short of magic.

Photo credit: cityline.ca
Photo credit: cityline.ca

3. Buy yourself beautiful lingerie that you look amazing in and get your hair done in a style you have never tried before. Continue to pamper yourself by getting a massage, pedicure and your nails done. Maybe also try going to a department store make-up section and have the artist give you a dramatic look. Then take all your fabulousness and have boudoir pictures taken. Confidence is sexy on any day of the year. 

4. Have a corny love movie mini-marathon with your best girlfriends. Pop some popcorn, drink sparkling wine ( or the real thing) and laugh until you cry. Sisterhood is a bond that not only lengthens your lifespan. But, also allows you to stumble from time to time. Your sisters will be right there to help you up.

Photo credit: winetime.co
Photo credit: winetime.co

5. Have a small get together at your home or a venue. Ask each of your single friends to invite all the single men they know. You all can have appetizers and wine, then mingle. In a group, there is no immense pressure for everything to be perfect, like on an one-on-one date. There could be a potential love match for many people in the group. Who knows, one of them could be you.

6. Go out with fellow single moms and dance ’til you drop to Beyonce’s ” Single Ladies ( Put a ring on it)”. Remember the dance is not complete unless you do the hand move also. Sing “Stronger” by R&B crooner Tank, at the top of your lungs. ( This particular song has great testimony weaved throughout it. Very powerful. ) Just get out on the dance floor, let go and have an absolute ball!

Photo credit; fungroup.co
Photo credit: fungroup.co

So if you are single this Valentine’s day ladies, know that you are not alone, balloon envy is normal, DMs are not your friend until the 15th and you do not have to suffer through this day without simply loving yourself and having a fun.

I am my daughter’s valentine every year. I make a card and buy her a single red rose. She is still thrilled by this after many years and what mom doesn’t love the painted hand print heart card from her child? Who needs a printed thousands of times card from Hallmark…not this year anyway.

 

A Different World; Not So Different Than Where We Now All Come From

Cast of widely popular television sicon, "A Different World". (Photo credit: tvone.tv)
Cast of widely popular television sitcom, “A Different World”. (Photo credit: tvone.tv)

Being a teen in today’s society is akin to a warp speed carnival ride. Every breaking news event and salacious gossip ”got’cha” moment is within a few taps of their fingertips on a keyboard or swipe on a smart phone. I was a teenager through the mid- 80s through the early 90s. All of our news was captured on television during the world news broadcast at 6:30 pm or daily newspapers. I recall being home from school when news of the Oklahoma City Bombing, and Challenger Explosion tragedies broke into local broadcasting. I sat there not exactly believing what I was watching or hearing. Then there was watching the video of Rodney King beating, followed a year later by the acquittal of the police officers responsible for beating another human being like an animal, that I consumed as an inquisitive young adult and cried because I could not embrace the idea that anyone would believe it was not illegal to beat someone in that way. I sat immobile in front of my television for hours watching the city erupt in anger and pain. On the way to school the next morning, a couple of friends and I devised a plan to hold a silent protest, where student would walk out of their classrooms during 3rd period. (Our activism was stalled because the administration found out about the impending protest and called a school wide discussion panel to stop what I’m sure they assumed would be trouble. Hey, we tried.)

The idea of standing up for something you believe in, of course came from my parents. Although, television also placed a role in my mini Angela Davis mind. I was an avid viewer of “A Different World”, a series about the life of black students at Hillman College, a fictional historically black college and university (HBCU) based in Virginia. The triumphs, failures, and tribulations of Denise Huxtable, (the first season only) Whitney Gilbert, Dwayne Wayne, Kimberly (Kim) Reese, Ronald (Ron) Johnson, Winifred (Freddie) Brooks, Jaleesa Vincent and the adults Mr. Gaines, Col. Taylor and Walter Oakes were my glimpse into college life that I simply could not get enough of. Debuting on September 24, 1987, “A Different World” was a must see for my friends and myself during out junior and senior high school years due to the varying social topics and the strong sense of sisterhood that remained throughout its entire run. The sisters may not have seen eye-to-eye, yet they always had each other’s back, front and sides. Just as my circle of friends did.

During those years, there was a very limited amount of network television shows that had characters that looked like me. “A Different World” showed the black community in the glorious shades of our skin, immense backgrounds and rich personalities. This series brought attention to so many social issues that still plague us to this day. Who can forget the date rape episode, where Freddie is almost raped by Hillman baseball star Garth? At the time date rape was a topic not widely discussed in any forum, including the black community. Freddie is saved by Dwayne, who figured out the mindset of, “women needing help to say “yes” flawed after talking to Walter. The powerful moment that stays with me is at the end, when Dwayne gives her the telephone number where the baseball team will be staying in case she needs someone to talk to and she simply ends with,“…thank you for being my friend”.

Dwayne and Garth from date rape episode, "No Means No" (photo credit: hulu.com
Dwayne and Garth from date rape episode, “No Means No” (photo credit: hulu.com

Another powerful episode was Josie, played by Tisha Campbell completes an assignment in class where the students had to write their own obituaries and verbally present them in class. Josie reveals in her presentation that she contracted HIV from her boyfriend. During this time, HIV and AIDS was just becoming an issue that our community needed to tackle. “A Different World” did an excellent job of depicting the attitudes that ran ramped throughout communities once someone found out another had been diagnosed with the incurable disease. Many students in the episode did not want to be around Josie for fear they would catch the disease by osmosis. It was especially difficult for Whitley, due to her finally deciding to have a sexual relationship with Dwayne. It was revealed recently that the licensing fee was almost pulled due to this episode and the advertisers wanted to read the script (a practice that had not happened in years and they were not allowed to even show a condom in the episode). This episode actually went on to win numerous awards for the series. My favorite line in the entire episode came from Mr. Gaines, when students did not want Josie serving them, “you can take your germs and your intelligence deficiency syndrome out of here.”

Josie (Tisha Campbell) in episode about HIV/AIDS. (Photo credit: blackdoctor.org)
Josie (Tisha Campbell) in episode, “If I Should Die Before I Wake” about HIV/AIDS. (Photo credit: blackdoctor.org)

Apartheid was not mentioned continuously in the black community. “A Different World” attacked this issue head on when the students discover that Orange Glo Soda Company, who was a major contributed to the college through supplies, academic programs and scholarships, including one Kim had just received, had not divested itself from South Africa. This episode had a great scene, where a group of student activist called an emergency meeting to discuss what action that wanted Hillman to take. There were actually students from Africa who had two varying perspectives about how to confront the issue. One described how in his country coming to America to attend college was a dream for many children back in his homeland, thus stating a compelling argument that Hillman should demand Orange Glo contribute more money to the school. The other student believed that the college should not accept anything from the company. The students come up with a compromise and then celebrate with the African dance and drums. Who-la-la, Who-la-la, Hem, Hem.

Scene from apartheid episode, "A World Alike". (Photo Credit: gbithinkbatorfarsightinstitu .ning.com)
Scene from apartheid episode, “A World Alike”. (Photo Credit: gbithinkbatorfarsightinstitu .ning.com)

No-one who was a fan of the show can forget the “Mammy Dearest” episode, where Whitley is in charge of creating a program celebrating female contributors to the greatness of African-American lives. One of her ideas was celebrating the character Mammy. The other students could not understand why Whitley would want to display a character they considered disrespectful to black women. Kim was the most affected because it is revealed later in the episode after a heart-felt talk with Mr. Gaines, she had been humiliated when her elementary school principal referred to her dress up clothing during a school assembly as “Mammy”. It turned out that Whitley’s family owned slaves and she did not believe that she should be a part of something honoring black people. What followed was a magnificent performance, where Kim is mammy transformed into the beautiful Black queen she was always meant to be. Kim recited a poem that I had never heard of in my young years, Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Trippin”. The words were lush and powerful instilling in the teenage me that I too, was powerful. “Thank you, my sister”.

Kim as Queen Mammy in "Mammy Dearest" (photo credit: YouTube)
Kim as Queen Mammy in “Mammy Dearest” (photo credit: YouTube)

Most people adored the episode where Dwayne and Whitley get married at the wedding meant for her and Byron. It had been obvious in several previous episodes they were still in love with each other. The slow progression of their relationship kept us on our toes for a couple of seasons. The writers gave a pretty accurate view of the ebb and flow of young adult relationships. The long-awaited union of Dwayne and Whitley was applauded with a standing ovation. As some relationships tend to go, they eventually broke up. Although, they got back together in an amazing way. Dwayne actually stands up during the aisle, walking towards Whitley and Byron declaring how much he loves Whitley. She is noticeably confused about which way to go. If you watch this episode, you can actually hear the audience yelling with excitement and joy at Dwayne and Whitley possibly being together. “Baby please!” is the line most people will recite to you, including me when discussing the wedding. Kadeem Hardison revealed on an episode of Unsung Hollywood  detailing the show, that he ad- libbed those two words after getting so caught up in the emotions of the audience. How beautiful is that?

Whitley and Senator Byron' s wedding. (Photo credit: NewsOne)
Whitley and Senator Byron’ s wedding episode, “Save The Best For Last” (Photo credit: NewsOne)

Other notable moments in the history of this remarkable television series include the first time Whitley met Julian. We were able to see Jasmine Guy’s background as a talented dancer on display as she moved brilliantly across the stage, while Julian watched mesmerized. Kim giving Shazza the business, after he tried to publicly shame her for dating Freddie’s white cousin Matthew…”You pseudo intellectual with a pseudo African name, spouting pseudo philosophy about a whole lot of nothing. In fact, the only thing that’s real about you is your green eyes, my brotha.” Ron and Dwayne getting into a fight in the parking lot during the homecoming game after three white students from a rival college attempted to vandalize Ron’s car with a racial slur after they lost a bet on the game. Gina being beat by her rapper boyfriend. Remember the scene when Gina explained to Lena that the bruise on her face was from a fight she had in another dorm? Lena’s reaction “where, she at?” was exactly the reaction, my friends and I would have displayed as well. (sisterhood!) The protectiveness by the entire cast for Gina was automatic and swift once they found out the truth about I’m Down Dion. “…and like a sucka you walk around and like a sucka, you’re going down.” Dwayne’s friend Zelmer is being deployed to fight in the first Gulf War and he is not handling it well. The scene between Col. Taylor and Zelmer bring tears to my eyes every single time I watch it because my older brother was also deployed to fight in that war. That scene was so real for me and my family. “…that story was not for you son, it was for me”!  And I cannot forget Patty Labelle and Dianne Carol playing Dwayne and Whitley’s mothers during the entire run of the series. The acting abilities of these two legendary stars made you forget that they were just acting and not the character’s real parents.

Scene from Homecoming episode when rival college students attempt to spray paint a racial slur on Ron's car. (Photo credit: Bossip)
Scene from Homecoming episode when rival college students attempt to spray paint a racial slur on Ron’s car. (Photo credit: Bossip)

“A Different World” was a cultural movement, period. During its six-year run the percentage of enrollment tripled and graduation rates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) rose. It was the in the top five in television series, beating “ Cheers”, “ Family Ties”, and “ 60 minutes” and averaging 20-30 million viewers per week. Interesting enough, currently there are some storied legendary HBCUs that are suffering from declining enrollment and financial shortages, AIDs a leading cause of death of black women 20 years of age and older, date rape is dang near an epidemic on college campuses, the issue of darker and light skin women still is in heavy rotation and some areas of Africa are going through a great deal of turmoil. “A Different World” highlighted the diverse backgrounds of the students, the community building feeling among the staff and students and the overall feeling of family.

I now watch “A Different World” with my teenage daughter just about every day. We discuss the topics of the different episodes as I fill her in on what was going on during that time. In the times that consuming television is considered a negative. In contrast, “A Different World” benefited my life as well as others in the black community.

Student cast of "A Different World". (Photo Credit: previously.tv)
Student cast of “A Different World”. (Photo Credit: previously.tv)

Ironically for me, the very episode detailing the LA riots after the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King is what caused the series to be canceled. The executives did not want to address nor air an episode addressing the riots. They also considered Sister Souljah to be an antagonist (She had a very powerful dialogue with Whitley in an electronics store”.) Some producers revealed on the recent Unsung Hollywood series that Debbie Allen was not pleased about NBC Executives trying to bury the episode and suggested that she would inform black leaders in our community of NBC’s stance. After the airing of this episode, there was tension between the show and the corporate office that lead to the highly successful show being moved around in different time slots and suspiciously being positioned against another television show featuring a black cast. “A Different World” ended his reign on May 8, 1993, a month from my high school graduation. Thus closing a chapter in television that I do not believe has ever been reinvented. My activism is still going full throttle and the re-runs of this important series sustains and reminds me that television can still serve a purpose, if the content is worthy of being praised for many years after the powers that be decide it is no longer has a value. Television can still incite progress, change and revolution in ways we have never seen before, if only we demand it.

 

 

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