Tag Archives: Black Panthers

The Butler: The Personal is Political

23 Aug

OPRAH WINFREY and FOREST WHITAKER star in THE BUTLER My husband and I went to movie night on $5 Tuesdays here in Portland. We finally got to see the much acclaimed The Butler.  Of course, I would probably see anything with Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, and Vanessa Redgrave.   This all-star cast did not let anyone down.  While all of them give fantastic performances, I have to say that Whitaker and Winfrey give nothing less than Academy Award winning performances.   Some may remember that Whitaker earned an Academy  Award for his stellar performance in the Last King of Scotland. However, sadly Winfrey was robbed of an academy award for her stellar performance as Sofia in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Color Purple. 

The Butler does a marvelous job of weaving threads of fiction and non-fiction to create a compelling story of one man’s awakening to the realization that the personal is political against a backdrop of our nations’ ugly history around race.  If only race relations could be relegated to the past, but they cannot be yet — we still have so far to go.   Everything we do and in every way we live our lives, we are making a political statement.

The movie does a phenomenal job capturing the series of presidents under which Cecil Gains (Forest Whitaker) serves.  While LBJ was not someone I would want to my house for dinner, he was a great president and one of his greatest legacies was the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which has now been gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Sadly, the movie also exposes the great flaws of the Reagans and how Reagan’s stand on apartheid put him on the wrong side of history.  Fonda does an amazing job of portraying Nancy Reagan.

I loved that the movie delved into the Freedom Riders and the need for the Black Panther movement.  However, I was sad that Bayard Rustin was not mentioned at all.  I am glad to see that both Rustin and Winfrey will be receiving awards later this year.

Winfrey is just as amazing in The Butler as she was in The Color Purple.  Her character, Gloria, is a complex alcoholic grappling with a husband working as a subversive — albeit he does not know his job is in and of itself subversive — and losing a son to the Vietnam War. (Another waste of human lives for a war that should never have been.)

Just to prove how much we need this movie, a theater in Kentucky has refused to screen The Butler.  So much for freedom of speech.  My esteem (while already quite low because of Rand Paul) just dropped even further.

We were glued to our seats during the entire movie and I so hope most people in the United States see this movie.  The Civil Rights Movement is not over–we still have a long way to go and we still so desperately need people like John Lewis.  Let me know what you think of the movie.

Making the World Better

29 Oct

As election day grows ever nearer and as I challenge myself daily on the issue, I am charging everyone with the task of reflection. We must each ask ourselves: “What are we doing to make the world a better place for all?”  I suspect many TSM readers fail at this task as often as I do, or perhaps I fail more often than TSM readers.

I have been reflecting a great deal of what life was like in the very early 1970s and how the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the Black Panthers, Gay Liberation, and the American Indian Movement all collectively helped to challenge a dominant white heterosexual discourse, helping marginalized voices to gain strength, visibility, and respect. I will also admit that watching old episodes of Maude and the Sonny and Cher Show helped spark this reflection.  The United States seems to have dropped the conversation of what am I doing for my country and what am I doing to heal the world.

As people are getting ready to cast their ballots on November 6, 2012, I would ask that each person reflect on the following issues: Am I working to ensure that women get the health care they need and not blaming them for being raped? Am I part of the conversation to end racism, or does my silence implicate me? Do I stand with LGBT brothers and sisters for equality, or am I working to deny my fellow human beings basic civil rights? Do I take the time to address issues of poverty and work to create policies that create a level playing field, or do I subscribe to the very false notion that people need to pull them selves up by their boot straps?

I encourage Americans to think about how do we heal a nation so divided while also thinking about how do we help all of our brothers and sisters.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: March 26

26 Mar

Honoring Angela Davis

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Angela Davis. Davis is probably best known for being a radical black activist and philosopher. She was arrested as a suspected conspirator in the abortive attempt to free George Jackson from a courtroom in Marin County, California, August 7, 1970. The guns used were registered in her name. Angela Davis was eventually acquitted of all charges, but was briefly on the FBI’s most-wanted list as she fled from arrest.

Davis is often associated with the Black Panthers and with the black power politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She joined the Communist Party when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. She was active with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) before the Black Panthers. Angela Davis ran for U.S. Vice President on the Communist Party ticket in 1980–something she could probably never do today.

Davis is also well known for her role as a political activist and feminist.  She was the founder of “Critical Resistance.”  She is presently a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department. In 1997, Davis identified as lesbian and continued her work for women’s rights and civil rights for the LGBT community.  She identifies as a Democratic Socialist. She is truly a woman that Speaks Truth to Power! To learn more abut Angela Davis, click here.

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