As I sat in the theater in Brooklyn, NY to see yet another Spike Lee Joint, I recalled the many of his films that I supported over the years, especially when I had my place right around the corner from where he opened what beckoned reminders of home on the Sea Islands-40 Acres and a Mule. I recalled the day that Richard Wormser and Sam Pollard showed up literally in front of my door on St. Helena Island to shoot me for a documentary entitled, “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow” and how I found out as we ate grits that morning that Spike Lee was also in the Gullah/Geechee Nation down the road a piece or just down the creek on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia shooting a documentary about the outstanding Gullah/Geechee activist and athlete and Gullah/Geechee Nation Hall of Famer, Jim Brown who I was to have a memorable time with during the opening of the documentary, “The Will to Survive: The Gullah/Geechee Nation.” I sat and thought about the last time I saw Spike standing on Georgia soil as he was filmed about his family roots that had emerged from that clay and I was poised to see if that now had altered his film style in any way. I looked forward to the lights going down.
As the lights did go down, I sat there thinking about how sad it was that most of the Holy Days films starring Black folks have someone that dies in them. There is some central tragedy to the films that I see. I thought about the films that had been released that starred people of African descent this Holy Days season and I found no light there either. So, I put my shoulders back and got ready to take the hits that I was sure that this film would deliver tempered with laughter since this was to be a satire entitled, “Chi-Raq.” It is a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes. The audience was taught this at the on-set as the turnt up club scene opened and our on-screen narrator in the form of Samuel L. Jackson appeared bearing a name and persona that was a play on “Dolemite.” Those of the seventies caught this and we could nod and laugh or shake our heads right away, but I wondered how enlightening this was to the others as the lights went down and he stepped up.
It didn’t take long before my mind was already taken from the streets depicting a city that has always welcomed me-Chicago aka “Chi-Raq” to the streets of Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, North Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, FL in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
When the bullets flew and the words of negativity and denigration did too, they all hit my heart and soul equally. A murdered soul caused by constantly hearing and speaking negativity is a much slower death to detect than a body shot down, especially if those closest by are high on whatever their drug of choice may be-sex, alcohol, sugary foods and drinks, weed, religious ecstasy, pills, heroin, powdered coke, crack, etc.-are the ones that would have to be left to determine the time of death. The scenes on screens make it look like the time of death for entire communities was called before the babies there were even born. So, as the lights went down, a tear fell too because if folks have no consciousness in their midst and their destruction is funded by the layers of governmental entities that they are taxed by, how can they live on beyond that planned date of their expiration? What happens the last time that their eyes do close and their lights are out not to rise again as these in this theater should when this journey into art imitating or satirizing life is done?
I started immediately writing in my head a piece entitled “From Chi-Raq to Chucktown” and I knew there would be a “:” and more to follow. It was only a short while before Spike Lee eloquently provided me the what that more would be as the female characters spoke the numerous nicknames for US cities that now symbolize death zones. In the midst of that dialogue, the assassination of Gullah/Geechees in Emanuel AME in Charleston (Chucktown), SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation was point blank spoken out and the words fired like bullets into the air and I heard myself speaking out like I would do in any Sea Island church-“That’s right! YES!”
I wanted to find Spike and thank him for documenting ourstory in the midst of this piece that has surpassed the understanding of the marketing ability of the American entertainment machine. The trailers made it seem as if it would be a light and funny matter. It was released during the time when that is what most would prefer-light and fluffy things, but they were in for something quite heavy instead when the lights went down. As I say to people often, “100 pounds of cotton is still 100 pounds! When you have to carry 100 pounds, you know, that ain’t light!” Spike had disbursed the weight of this issue just right!
There are many that will never read this blog-correction! There are many that will never read! To that end, putting forth a consistent issue of the “Destruction of Black Civilization” has had to go from books written and widely sold in the 1980s and 1990s when Spike Lee started to be on known on the scene and on the big screen to being put forth on stages and even more so in movie theaters and on DVDs. Many do not want to go to films about these topics now since they are inundated with fear and negativity in their social media newsfeeds and Tweets and the channels that broadcast constantly negative news. Yet, Spike Lee has stayed in his medium and pushed to have such a film funded and distributed in order to insure that in the future, there is a record of what took place during this time in the same way that Aristophanes did in his time. At some point, people will have the lights go on in their minds and the light bulbs over their heads and they will study this work and the power of what we saw on the screen in the context of how this can be used as a tool for positive change the way the Kemetic people documented such things and the Greek studied and replicated some of what they did and folks still study the Greeks today whether in books, on stage, or on screens large and small. In any case, the stories captured of what the people went through was put forth for those who had taken it in to think about and meditate on when the sun would set and the lights go down.
While the lights were down in this theater, I could appreciate the power of every word spoken and laugh and I and along with songs used to try to calm spirits and make folks give up. I felt power in my soul as the rapper said “Pray for my city.” I didn’t just listen, I prayed for Chicago, I prayed for Charleston, I prayed for North Charleston, I prayed for Savannah, I prayed for Jacksonville, and I did as I always do, I prayed for the global Black family and I prayed for the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
When the lights rose, I did what I always do, I got up from praying and got to work standing and ready to continue to fight to do the directive of the film-to spread love which brings peace. This is the healing message of the film and the healing message that has been documented by the scribes of the ages and shared as part of the “law of attraction” and “as a man thinketh” for multiple generations. This ancient wisdom is the slow salve that has kept alive the Gullah/Geechee Nation and our people in spite of the many genocidal attempts to finalize our destruction and turn the lights out on us forever. So, now I know why there was only ONE theater in the state of SC that showed this film and why that happened to be on James Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation (0ne of the many places where we are fighting the genocidal affects of gentrification). Gullah/Geechees have always been able to see whether the lights were on and the sun was shining or even in and through the darkness. So, we continue to seek to enlighten our folks so that they know that darkness nor trouble last always!
I pray that the lights come up in the spirits of our people and that as they do, we realize that there is nothing funny or prideful about bodies going down as bullets fly. We need to recognize who benefits from this and e sho ain da we tall tall ya! Brothers and sisters, if you die, who is left to stand to protect and hold on to Gullah/Geechee land? Where do your children go and what will they know? Take some time and turn the lights down and mediate on the answers to this. Then take your family on an outing to see and dialogue about “Chi-Raq” if you can, but when you return, do as I did at the end of this theatrical journey and continue to stand!