Indie Wire Article on Dennis Leroy Kangalee’s Latest Film Project!
Tambay Obenson’s profile on my new film “Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire.”
Officially in Pre-Production as of today.
The Fetishization of Lupita Nyongo & the Dilemma of Black Actresses in Hollywood…
This article helped to give credence to my decision to move forward with my film project, “Octavia” — which was conceived to return to my protest art roots and theatrical background. Urged by other writers who were supportive of my work, I wanted to create a role for a black actress that was at least as complex and interesting as my first cinematic character Cairo in “As an Act of Protest.”
This article only proves we are in a stranger, deeper dilemma as People of Color who may be involved in the Establishment Entertainment Complex or simply creating the advent of images under our own tables, with our own spoons. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Even maniacal Mao knew it: “All art is propaganda. But not all propaganda is art.”
I tell you: the creepy, insidious, patronizing, misogynistic racism of Hollywood in 2014 should outrage us. But how can it? We’re all slaves at the end of the day — shackled in mental slavery — and resistant to defining who we are on our own terms. I mean that for EVERYBODY. Hollywood and traditional Broadway, first and foremost, take their cue from Nazi Germany & the African Holocaust in the sense that they “break things down” and create TYPES…Didn’t von Verschuer do the same thing? And remember this if you read the article: There is something bittersweet when African-Americans win awards given by a racist industry. Even more bizarre: Hattie McDaniel, who won the Oscar for playing Mammy in “Gone With the Wind” – did more for black people in the sense of her willingness to acquiesce and suffer in Hollywood so that Halle Berry or any other flavor-of-the-month in the “rhinestone sharecropping” of Tinseltown wouldn’t have to. The Hattie McDaniels existed so wouldn’t HAVE TO debase ourselves or be conflicted as “what role to accept,” or revert to the perfunctory sexually subservient creature on screen who fulfills old White Men fantasies (isn’t that what Halle did in “Monster’s Ball”? Be honest. If that film showed a Jewess fucking a Nazi guard, you think the B’nai B’rith would’ve allowed it? Worse: they’d have burnt the ashes of the print! And rightly so.) etc.
So is there any difference between the racial dynamics of 1939 and 2014 in Hollywood? We have not even come full circle. We are simply walking backwards. And seemingly enjoying the long empty road of our demise.
Black dramatists and filmmakers and producers need to get their act together.
Instead of Denzel bemoaning the fact that he still doesn’t get scripts offered to him (can you imagine?) – he should seek out some poor struggling blind alley scribe who could write emotional majesties for him and allow him to move into a new phase of his professional acting, career. I like Denzel Washington as an actor (although I admit I prefer his hungry, lean days) and that’s why I must tough on him. I expect more. I’m glad he did “Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway recently.
But isn’t it ironic that Lorraine Hansberry’s philosophical artistic message is still not be heeded? “A classical people deserve a classical art form,” she said. Not insulting offers to play a role in “The Jungle Book.”
“I had a gun, yes
Cause it drove me crazy
To see white boys
Making money –
From my ancestors music;
Was I planning on murd’rin?
But when Brian Jones
said he walked with Bob Johnson
The teeth in my head cringed:
“Man, you’re a charlatan”
Cause I’m Robert Johnson,
My cousin’s Fred Hampton,
My son is Bob Marley,
And my feet are Michael Jackson;
I’m a stumbling playground in the dark
a sobered addict who can’t get drunk –
If you want to meet the Devil,
I’ll show him you
In a mirror that refracts,
All you see, think, & do –”
This was all I remember blaring from my cousin’s speaker; a sonic assault of sophisticated
beats; finessed bass drum, and threatening guitars – all in righteous synchronicity against
the foolish belief that the Rolling Stones had devised blues music.
I still did not understand Rap or Punk. But I knew if Malcolm X had been a punk poet
perhaps he’d have been part of that crazy band; the way Pryor Electric’s guitar sounded
it was as if the razor sharp acid humor of Malcolm had been tossing out the riffs.
And those words…while I could not comprehend the literal or psychological implication of
them– I had felt them deep down inside.
I felt the same way about Chuck D many years later.
The same place where music beyond my intellectual grasp made sense in my gut. In the
The place I‘d visit repeatedly over the next decade and eventually reside…
It was the place my grandfather often took me to, in those rare drunken boat nights when
Rimbaud was just as strident in his un-schooled heart as Malcolm X.
Grandpa fought during World War II, but the war he fought was an internal one and a far
more domestic one.
Not many paupers become princes.
But Ralph Latimoore, hailing from a den of thieves and pimps from Port of Spain Trinidad,
became known as the Mayor of Harlem just as the 1950’s wheezed its way into the
Technicolor revolution known as Civil Rights – his barbershop in Harlem, comfortably on 114
and St. Nick –
His red hands
Cutting the red hair
Of the man known as Malcolm X.
There was something boldly beautiful about Grandpa; a vase of flowers, Sam the Man
Taylor’s “Harlem Nocturne” fumigating the soul on a Sunday morning, his insistence on
good manners and saying “sir” (like Malcolm) , his take no prisoners attitude when
defending the weak or oppressed.
Later in his life, he always said he was the weakest of them all –
Because he hadn’t batted an eye the day he placed that fatal bet,
The day he announced to his stewards in tow:
“I bet you twenty to one that man don’t make it to 40.”
“Who? The muslin boy?”
“Muslin’s a fabric, you fool – Red’s a Muslim.”
“Eh-eh. And he ain’t no boy, nah. He’s Malcolm X. He’s a man. And that’s why they’ll
make sure he don’t live to see 40.”
“Well we over 40…”
“We not a threat. Well. Not yet.”
They placed their bets. Two of the men thought Grandpa was paranoid.
He never spoke about Malcolm’s death, only that a profound silence and emptiness
pervaded Harlem like an echo chamber of the soul, butterflies of the aorta.
He never placed a bet again and was absolutely convinced—
that the system used his recklessness and apostate ways
To kill one of America’s
– And the world’s –
Last shining prince: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz — Brother Malcolm X.
(written for & originally published in “The Day After MLK” program/zine at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, April 2014)
Another Revolt, The End of Song, No More
My latest “haiku” had the honor of being published in the Poets Basement section of “Counterpunch,” a wonderful Left wing publication.