Queen me Slim

(Spoilers)

Listen…I saw Queen & Slim last night, and it was first and foremost cinematic excellence.

“Why Black people always have to be excellent? Why can’t we just be ourselves”

Well… sometimes who you are is just fucking excellent, and Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas are that. This movie was black on black, and it spoke on love, brutality on Black bodies, freedom, and protest. It was in so many ways #BlackLivesMatter on film. It was also so much more. I found myself paying attention to things I don’t normally think I would have. It made me feel things I didn’t expect to. Let’s get into it.

1. Black Skin

This movie moved around melanin.

The cinematography highlighted it. The colors that surrounded it seemed to make it look smoother, richer, and more beautiful. The bodies of the title characters intertwined on the side of the road, was like watching chocolate stirring. The scene at the jazz club, appropriately called The Underground, was a sea of Black skin, darkest mahogany to cafe au lait, moving in syncopation with the heavy blues music. Uncle Earl’s “girls” moved about in lace and natural hair, bodies thick to thin, and skin glistening. It was a huepalooza! Everything seems to move around it. Everything.

2. Black Freedom

What starts as a blind date, ends up as a freedom story. The couple moves from Cleveland to Florida, trying to escape to Cuba and avoid certain death for killing a police officer in self-defense. It’s a typical traffic stop turns fatal, but this time the usual victim turns the gun on the clearly racist cop. Somehow in this struggle they find strength and freedom.

As they move through the country, they are celebrated and protected by other Black people along the way. It’s not a celebration of their killing the officer so much as a celebration of their remaining alive. A vindication of sorts for the Black folks they encounter who have grieved for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Willie McCoy, and countless others. It’s also a celebration of the Black network. The Uncle Earl’s along the way that often help all of us when we are in precarious positions, to find our way out. The various people they meet along the way that cry for them after they perish. I am my brother’s keeper.

Most importantly, they find themselves. The uptight and loner lawyer is able to heal from her past and embrace sharing her most personal and intimate spaces with her cohort.

 “I want a guy to show me myself. I want him to love me so deeply, I’m not afraid to show him how ugly I can be.

They fall in love as she is healed and he is able to be his true self, telling her about his wants, fears, shortcomings.

“I ain’t going to bend the world. As long as my lady remembers me fondly, that’s all I need.

To be able to love and be vulnerable is the greatest freedom. It’s a love story sure, but much more a freedom story.

3. Black Culture

Music

jazz, hip hop, blues, gospel

Clothes

snake skin boots, jogging suits, jewel tones, gold, animal print, Gucci, lace, sexy, all white

A major big up to Shiona Turini as costume designer. That fur Bokeem Woodbine wore to the funeral was some of the dopest shit I’ve seen in a movie in a long time, fashion wise. And that Dapper Dan jogging suit was major. Way to focus on Black fashion!

Ancestry

Langston (as in Hughes) the Black cop who let them go ; The Underground (as in Railroad) club and the bartender like a Southern Harriet Tubman “you’re safe here” and the reverse fugitive slave narrative (North to South); and Assata Shakur’s escape to Cuba after escaping from prison for her part in a shootout that left a white cop dead.

Being Black in America. After shooting a cop in self-defense, they become the criminals simply because they are Black and the cop was White. They are hunted, labeled armed and dangerous when they don’t even have a weapon, and killed, her by a overzealous female cop and him execution style, holding her lifeless body, unarmed, and clearly not dangerous. We don’t ever hear their names until the end… Angela and Ernest. The news clip is the same victim as criminal shit we heard after pictures of Trayvon Martin putting up the middle finger and Michael Brown possibly robbing a party store were used to lessen the severity of their murders. We are assumed criminals by birthright in America. We are born into the bondage of racism.

4. Black women

I watched Angela Johnson go from a judgey, I’m smarter than you stoic figure dressed in all white with her middle parted braids to a flirty, sexy, fun woman in a short dress, short hair, and open and vulnerable disposition. She was every woman. She was me. She was my sistafriends. She was strong and afraid. She was in control and able and willing to relinquish it. When they both knew their lives were over, she looks to him and says “Can I be your legacy” … the ultimate ride or die. And while most of us aren’t willing to pledge death, we will die for what we believe in. And she believed in Ernest. Black women are all these things. We were represented well.

“He is nothing out there, but in here he’s a King!”

A Queen is indeed her King’s legacy!

Queen & Slim was an excellent film. It was a full circle film, where everything made sense. At one point Ernest attempts to assure Angela telling her that they are safe because the person they encountered was Black, and she remarks “that’s not always a good thing” under her breath. The movie, which rides the music in the film in perfect rhythm, reaches a crescendo and her comment rings true when that Goodie Mob meets Hootie Hoo snitch ass negro feigns helping them to turn them in. Ole sucka MC ass! Sorry… he made me feel a way! A testament to good acting. Did I mention that Bokeem Woodbine was awesome…

These characters, these actors, the fimmakers… they are Black excellence. They don’t have to try, they can’t help it, they just are.

Getting to the Money

Prom sendoffs… a Black cultural celebratory phenomenon during the graduation season that is full of pageantry, flash, and grandiose fashion, photo shoots, dancing, and well… celebrating the accomplishments of the child.

See Instagram video here.

That video is by far my favorite prom sendoff ever. However, I was both elated and disturbed at the commentary of mostly Black posters… who praised their creativity and then denigrated them for all the pomp and circumstance at a “trap house” with broken steps. I find it sad that we sit in judgment of each other based on our assumptions about the financial cost and financial sacrifice parents make for kids who “probably didn’t graduate” or “can’t count as high as all that stuff costs.” Who cares how others see us when we see ourselves in such marginalized and negative ways.

This year we see even more red carpets, photo backdrops, expensive cars and clothes…a big difference from the 90s Jessica McClintock dresses and President Tuxedo rentals. Kids are in Maseratis, in custom tuxedos, and damn near bridal gowns. That might not be my bag, but those aren’t my kids. I didn’t have to sit in frustration with them and homework. I didn’t have to help them overcome learning disorders or family curses. I don’t know their story. Yet, it seems like everyone has an opinion on how people should spend their money on their children. Well just be prepared, cuz in four years, my kid will be crispy AF…

Ok so 2023 crispy, not 1967 crispy… but you get my point. He might get dancers, I like dancers. We might do a whole Coming to America Remember the Time production. He’ll probably be in bespoke. He’ll likely have on shoes that cost more than any you own. His shoe game now is bananas. He’ll be graduating and going to college on someone else’s dime, trust… so he can have that and more.

Don’t count my money, and perhaps you won’t be so mad.

I’m good over here. My credit score and tax bracket are my own business, but if I’m not asking you for Go Fund Me to help my cause, don’t concern yourself with what I do. I will do WHATEVER I want when I celebrate my kid. And be clear, a celebration is in order. What money I spend, car I rent, the price of the shoes I buy are not an indictment upon your inability or decision not to… it’s my choice. I happen to think someone graduating high school is as, if not more, worthy of a big celebration than a wedding… that’s just me. Other people spend $1000 on a wedding cake… that’s them. Whether you didn’t go to prom, nobody ever did anything extravagant for you, or if you feel like other people’s fancy will out fancy you… those are issues you need to come to personal terms with. But again, you can’t dictate what other people do with their children.

You have a right to your opinion… but your opinion is not facts.

Here are the facts. Black traditions are rooted in our African ancestry. Celebration is in our blood. Holidays, remembrances, harvests, spiritual festivals, praise of the Gods… Felabration in Nigeria, Chale Wote in Ghana, Harare International Festival in Zimbabwe, Timkat in Ethiopia… Africa is a continent of music, dance, food, and praise. Birth, adulthood, marriage, childbirth, death and everything in between has a ritual and an after party. You think a glittery dress and Louboutins are fancy…

… we got fancy in our bloodline. We are extra by God’s design. We put on for our city, our people, our kids, THE CULTURE. African and Black traditions and culture are the most appropriated in the world, yet we are the most subjugated people in history. We can see the affects of that subjugation in the way we sit in judgment when others of us celebrate in grand style.

From slavery, genocide, Jim Crow, Emmett Till, the 16th Street Church bombing, ’67 Detroit riots, and MOVE bombing, to the Central Park Five, Trayvon Martin, Khalief Browder, and Tamir Rice… Black people have been conditioned by American values to believe we have no value. They lied to you. They tried to erase our history from your mind. They tried to tell you that being Black is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being invisible and unimportant. They made them jump the broom quietly in the woods. They wouldn’t let us read. School was a foreign notion. Well now we get to jump the broom in whatever way we want. We can buy books. We can get degrees. We can celebrate. We are worthy of celebration and grandness.

My grandparents graduated college. My mom and aunt got Master’s degrees. I have a doctorate. My brown hued Black child graduating from high school, with good grades, mentally and emotionally healthy, and his life intact is definitely something to celebrate… because he is being groomed to be better than all of us who came before him. This will be just the start of a lifetime celebration. So many mothers don’t get to send their Black sons off to prom. Korey Wise and Yusuf Salaam were in prison while their peers got fitted for prom tuxedos. Trayvon Martin didn’t get to take a pretty girl to prom and dress up. Be mad at that.

My child will be celebrated, he will know he and his life are worthy of rejoicing. He will get to, for one moment in time, of hopefully many more moments to come, be honored for his accomplishments in grand style. He knows no suffering, neither much do I, but I know my deep dark chocolate great great Grandmother who bore a child that could have easily passed as White, saw plenty. In her honor, we will celebrate as big and loud as we can. Be mad… no one cares.

High school graduation is still an accomplishment. Everyone doesn’t go to college. Everyone doesn’t get a doctorate. The child who goes on to learn a trade, enters the military, or goes to work is still as worthy of being celebrated as the kid with a full scholarship to Harvard or Howard. Life is precious. It is to be celebrated. I will celebrate my way, you celebrate yours… but your opinions are your own. And when my kid is shining, say congrats and keep it moving. Do recall, I’m a savage about mine.

Besides, everything they say about minding your own business, does indeed get you closer to the money…