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Octavia’s Kindred

Blog Assignment # 6
Brandon Hughes

I had a few different reactions to Octavia E. Butler’s graphic novel, Kindred. At first I was enjoying it. The pace much more to my liking than her slower paced novel Fledgling and I appreciated that. I appreciated the concept of the story too, going back in time and whatnot. My strongest reaction, however, came when Dana was beaten the first time. Then the second. Envisioning us getting beaten beatings bothers royally. That’s why I feel when anyone mentions they hate “slave movies” what they are really saying—at least in the conversations I’ve had with people who say this—is they are tired of seeing ANY movie with black slaves in it. They are tired of the reminder. Tired of seeing themselves beaten, degraded, belittled, submissive to the white man’s authority. They get it, or think they do. The visual is painful, and they don’t want to watch how we used to be, no matter what the movie is ultimately about.
When I think of slavery in America, one of the first things I think of is how we were whipped, tortured physically by another person. Now I’ve had discussions with many people—I’m talking ever since elementary school—about what we’d do if we were ever beaten by white slave masters. And we’d always say, “Man, if that was me I woulda,” or “That wouldn’tna happened to me, shoot.” Now, given our young minds, our few years of life, maybe we wouldn’t have known what we would’ve done. However, after reading Kindred as an adult and knowing how Dana was able to travel back in time as a grown-up, I can say I have more of a grasp on what I would do, based on a more seasoned mind.
With Dana’s ability, she was able to bring her husband with her just by them touching one another. There is nowhere I can think of in the story where she could not have brought people forward in time with her. Like the slaves. This would have been one of the first things I would have tried, thereby changing the whole story.
When it came to the whippings, I, Brandon Hughes, would have certainly fought back and did my best to kill the oppressor and hide the body. I would have smuggled more than a knife like Dana did. Where’s the chopper? Hand me the .223 I would have went to each plantation, gathering men and women who were down for the cause, with more artillery, more weapons, and an advantage because I know how some of history turned out ahead of time. And Rufus could kiss my ass.
There is so much new-age medicine and poison that we know about (even in the ’70’s) that could’ve been taken back in time to kill these slave masters, man. And if I could smuggle the slaves forward in time, I would’ve assembled a plan. Like Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation. Not only would I have fought back, but there were some who did. Salute.

Beloved

I saw the movie Beloved years ago when it was first released. I remember Oprah and the cast of the movie on her The Oprah Winfrey Show. The thing I remember most is that the cast kept crying when explaining how they felt making the movie. It was apparent the movie meant something special to them. I’d never seen any cast for any movie be interviewed and cry like that. There must be something about this movie, I thought (and think), that perhaps haunts them. Perhaps the cast received abundantly more than they expected from this project, a project they’ll never forget. I also remember the movie being an introduction actors Thandie Newton and Kimberly Elise. Both did terrifically, and Thandie was remarkable in her role as Beloved. Outstanding.
Watching the movie again years later, I wonder what was not in the script that was in the book. Cinematically I would give the movie a B-, or maybe a B+. But that’ just because a few weren’t as clear. I wanted to know more about this place called Sweet Home. I got the feeling it was an evil place where Sethe and Paul D left but I only received glimpses of the evil there. I also wanted a little more background on Halle. He was the father to the children, but was he a father to all of them? Did I miss something in the movie? Was Beloved a mixed child? She looked mixed and I wondered if Sethe was raped. There was a scene where I thought she was being but it was a flashback scene and the camera was overhead so it was hard to tell. I also wondered why Sethe killed the child Beloved but not Denver, since Denver was the one child still crying and apparently alive when the men entered the shed. Anyway, those were just a few things I noticed that I had questions about. I remember Toni Morrison being interviewed on Oprah about the movie. Her answers clearly showed she didn’t seem to like the movie’s interpretation of her work, but she was respectful about the attempt.
The scene where Denver states she wanted to get out of the house and feel alive was a touching scene. I was happy for her when she finally did leave the house. Her having to pay for the sin of her mother was unfair; although her mother felt she was protecting her from the criticism of the townspeople by keeping her in the house. But still, she was protecting her daughter from a sin she committed. But when Beloved came in the flesh conditions changed, and Denver was forced to use survival tactics to make life better for herself and her mother when the money ran out.
The carnival scene was my favorite. I loved seeing the hope and smiles on both Denver and Sethe, a moment I knew Denver wanted most. Once Sethe had paid for her sin of killing Beloved, it was time for the “ghost” of Beloved to go away for good, thanks to the townspeople who once punished her with their sneers. I also believe Sethe running after Mr. Bodwin (thinking it was Schoolmaster) in was a way to show she would kill him before she ever killed her own again, and that is what Beloved wanted in the first place. Her mother’s love. And later, it was time for Sethe to heal. And Paul D would help with that. A new life for all was in progress.

Blacula and nem

I recently watched the movie “Blacula” for my class at UCLA called The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival & the Black Horror Aesthetic. I started off liking the movie because it started off on the good foot. The opening contained great dialogue and initially focused on an honorable man, an African prince named Mamuwalde and his wife Luva from the Ibani tribe, being led into a room after a dinner party in Transylvania. The owner of the house, an important white man (a racist Dracula) who had some affect on legislation, was asked by Mamuwalde to abolish the slave trade. The white man refuses, sees no reason to do so because he believes black people are inferior and things should continue as they were. Got it. The issue was that centuries later, maybe 15 minutes into the movie, none of this is brought up or explained or is picked up where it left off. The movie turns into a love story of some sort. Anyway, it lost me. I also did not like to see all these black people hurt because of some white man putting a curse on a black man. I wanted punishment for the white racist Dracula, or at least redemption, perhaps a reverse curse where the Blacula attacks white racist folks or white folks period—something that would tie in the story we met in the beginning. I did not like seeing the beautiful black sisters getting hurt. I know it’s a movie but dang. Then the cold ass line from the white police officer, “Who would ever wanna dig up a dead fag?” Cold stuff.
I will say Vonetta McGee who played Luva and Denise Nicolas who played her sister Michelle, were fine as hell. Whew. Praise Jesus! They were the part of the movie I did enjoy.
I learned from Prof. Due that the director of the film, Willian Crane, was 23-years-old when he made the movie. Which is the same age John Singleton was when he directed “Boys N the Hood.” Proud of him. I also read William was a UCLA alumnus. Cool.
I finally read a book by Octavia Butler. “Fledgling.” She’s an interesting writer who indeed knows how to tell a story. It was a slow-paced read, and although there may not be more than one or two climatic moments in the story, I did want to read on. I did wonder throughout if Shori would ever get her memory back. I was rooting for her the whole time. I also wanted more punishment for the Silks family but that’s cool. Ostracism is a great form of punishment.

Black horror films and such

I haven’t watched the movie “Eve’s Bayou” in years. When I did, I was not particularly moved by anything as I was this time around. It is a well-done movie, and kudos to Kasi for doin’ her thang. The actors were gave solid performances, especially the young Jurnee Smollett (now Smollett-Bell). Just terrific! Every performer brought their acting chops. Sam Jackson, of course, was brilliant. His character was not necessarily a bad man, but one with a vice that caused heartache to his family and soon to a man of another family. I saw no evil character in the picture, just folks acting on impulse at certain times, doing things which they ought not do.
“Tales from the Hood” was another movie I saw years ago. Again, I was young, and the movie didn’t leave any impression on me the way it has this time around. The first vignette, where the white cops beat on the councilman, is hard to watch. I hated to see it. Hated to feel it. And I couldn’t stand that the black cop who never looked up from the computer because he was too busy checking out who the man was. The imbecile! That brother was lost long before he ever joined the force. Easily persuaded. He was punished for not being proactive when the time came. I wish a lot of these brothers on the force in real life would be more proactive. Instead of commenting at their dinner tables and speaking behind closed doors—stand in front of the door. Get on the rooftop and make your statement of what you know is unjust, even if these incidents did not happen in your city. Don’t come out later defending the police, talking about “Yeah, police get a bad rap.” They have black police associations across America. Why don’t they say something? Ah, because who wants to call out their “own”? Who wants to receive the backlash from their own for calling out their own? Ah! But isn’t it this way with everything, and everybody? Who calls out their own? Who actually speaks against a group they’re a part of and still remain in the group? The whole thang is foul. The whole thang. It brings me to a concept for a film I came up with a few years ago. I plan to execute this concept for my final project in Prof. Due’s class. Stay tuned, I pray thee.

My movie project and Peele

I’m in between ideas as far as my final project. I wrote a 10-page screenplay this summer that can be considered a thriller/horror but I’m not sure if I want to film that one or one of two other ideas. I appreciate moments like these, which happen often. I generally hear people say they don’t know what to do, what to write, what to come up with. But I’m in a different crowd. Perhaps due to my enthusiasm—which I have generally about writing and creating a film—I can come up with stories easily. But I have always been able to do that. Although the question you may ask is: Are my ideas good ones?

Well, that is to be seen, or read. The bottom line is I’m excited about the making of a horror film for this class (this writer/director/professor in particular) and the feeling cannot be extinguished. But I’m a cool kind of excited. Poised. Bubbling on the inside.

The visit from Jordan Peele this week was an important one. Firstly, I’m proud of the brotha for getting a nine-figure deal with Universal Pictures. Fresh. I’m proud of him for simply writing the outline for “Get Out” and pitching it, and for him sharing with me how it got made into a movie, and how, as he wrote it, he realized no one could direct it but him. Even though he was a first-time director, it did not deter him. The task would not deter me either. When I asked him how he pitched it and how long it took before it got picked up, he gave more than a simple answer: He gave the backstory, which I, as an aspiring filmmaker, appreciated.

He mentioned there were many No’s and nasty emails that came his way during his pitching season. Many studios did not get what he was doing or wanting to do or did not give a damn because they didn’t like the idea, period. But lo and behold, he won Best Original Screenplay for it. I wonder how those people feel about their nasty comments after his accolades. Perhaps they’re used to making mistakes like that and get over things quickly. Perhaps someone who handled his script was fired after rejecting or bashing it. Don’t know, but I wonder.

I remember going to the movie theater and seeing the trailer for “Get Out.” After it was over, the crowd went wild. Their response was amazing to me because I’d never seen a preview of a movie receive a response so anticipatory. They got it. And a Black man gave it. Right-on with the right-on.

The New Black Boy

So I grew up in Oakland, CA in a Black neighborhood. We never said “predominately Black” even if there were a sprinkle of other races. We certainly believed those in the sprinkle considered themselves to be living in a Black neighborhood, not a predominately Black one. When I was twelve-years-old, my mother moved her four children to a mixed area a few miles from Oakland, to a city called then San Lorenzo. For the next six years we would live in predominately white neighborhoods before returning from whence we came. For the purpose of this blog and while thinking about the movie Get Out, I’d like to give a glimpse of the first month in my new neighborhood at my new school. It was quite an experience.

The white girls in the elementary school I attended were so into me you would’ve thought I was a celebrity. I didn’t know I was as handsome as I was treated. But wait: was it handsomeness that had their attention the most? I learned later my Black handsomeness, my athletic ability, and my Black Oakland style intrigued them the most, infatuated them even. I became friendly with any girl who was friendly. There was one particular white girl—bless her heart, the poor sugar—who invited me to a party where other schoolmates would be. I’ll call her S. S. was perhaps the finest of the white girls at the school. But I did not get the feeling she liked me more than a friend. She offered to pick me up from my house to attend the party. Her dad double-parked. She rang the bell. She looked pretty standing at my door, smiling. This was the first time I’d ever gotten into a car with a white man and his pretty daughter. The dad was naturally amicable. I felt comfortable.

At the party there were more white girls, some who I knew liked me for certain. I was the only Black kid. They loved to see me dance, thought I was the best dancer ever in their world. There was one girl who liked me and kept wanting to dance with me. Later she asked a friend to ask me would I be her boyfriend. In an effort not to let her down or feel rejected, I said yes. The friend reported the news to her and she literally jumped in the air and landed with clenched fists tucked by her side and said, “Yes!” Other girls overheard and acted liked it was the greatest news reported. They were also surprised: the girl wasn’t that pretty. But that wasn’t the problem.

The problem was when S. found out she ran away crying to the nearest bedroom. A few girls went to comfort her. I had no idea she liked me. Weeks later I broke up with the girl at the party. S. called me when she learned the news. But by this time, I’d learned more about her. S. was not one of the cool kids. She lacked confidence; her self-esteem needed esteem. She asked would I be her boyfriend. I told her it wasn’t a good idea. She asked why and started to cry. I couldn’t bring my heart to break hers. She said, “I’ll do anything! Anything you want me to do! Just tell me what I can do for you? Anything, I’ll do it.” I thought, what is her malfunction? What did she know about me to like me to this degree? I’d been at the school less than a month, so what’s the cause for the tears, puddin’?

I kept repeating there was nothing she could do and reminded her she was a really nice girl. “You’ll find somebody else,” I said. “I don’t want anybody else. I want you! I love you! Why don’t you like me? What can I do? Just tell me! Please!!!” I felt bad for her. I feel bad just thinking of it. What was it about me?