Who Do You Think You Are/No for an Answer

***This was written on January 13, 2016***
***In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day***

“And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highway or the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating ‘For Whites Only.’ We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
–“I Have a Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

Who do you think you are?
Strutting your stuff like you’re a super star
Look at you with all this pride and confidence –
Wearing them like a badge of honor,
Like they’ll protect you like a suit of armor.
What gives you the right to come in here,
Grinning from ear to ear,
Chanting your own custom-made cheer
As if your “moment of glory” is near?
Who do you think you are?
You honestly believe you’re going to go far?
Have you forgotten where you come from, where you live?
And you have the audacity to think you have something to give –
To provide, to supply, to offer to the world?
You want to “make the world a better place.”
What makes you so great?
Are you aware of the struggles you’d face,
Or are you hoping everything will fall in your lap by Amazing Grace?
You really think you can bring about change?
Do you think you’re smart enough?
Can you tell me you’ve got the right stuff –
The courage, the integrity, the discipline –
To change the world for the better?
You’re just a wannabe, trying to be under everyone’s radar.
Who do you think you are?

Who do I think I am?
Who do I think I am?
If you want the truth, here it is:
I just happen to be a person whom God blessed with a vision.
I couldn’t tell you why it was me to whom that dream was given,
But now I have the mission, and I’m driven to carry it out
Without being stiffen.
I refuse to be held down by limits and restrictions.
You really don’t see me as strong?
Then, where have you been looking all along?
I see strength everyday when I look in my mirror.
I know you don’t understand, so let me make it clearer.
My strength and power don’t come from pride, that’d be a sin.
It comes from my knowledge of where I’ve been –
Where I come from. The stuff I’m made of.
I come from a people you could not believe;
People whose actions were determined by their own minds and decisions.
Other folks saw us as cantankerous and as villains,
Itching with a cancer.
No, we weren’t that. We just couldn’t take no for an answer.
From the time we walked this country, bound and in chains; when those superior disregarded our health and our names; when we agreed we’d no longer be accepted as slaves,
We refused to take no for an answer.
To the time laws were enforced and powers continued demoting; we couldn’t eat at lunch counters and they kept us from voting; whether we had to march, have a sit-in or sit down, we were promoting
We refused to take no for an answer.
To the time folks demanded to see us one way, yet we made a vow to show them all we’re capable of anyhow. They said we’d never see a Black President – well look at us now!
We refused to take no for an answer.
Even to this day when our ears are met with the awful clatter of our young people being shot dead, we worked up the chatter; we let our country know – our world know that our Black lives matter!
We refused to take no for an answer!
You’re looking at a man who comes from a people
Known for climbing mountains of no’s (and hills and steeples) –
Whatever it took until the only answer we heard was “Yes!”
Often times, we’d create our own yesses!
So you ask me who I think I am?
I answer, I’m a man,
A man who knows where he’s been.
I’m not an angel from above,
Followed by the peace symbol of a dove.
I don’t have an IQ of 163.
I can’t defy the laws of gravity.
I don’t have great speed or riches,
Nor can I heal your wounds with stitches.
I’m no athlete, I’m no dancer;
But I’m a man who doesn’t take no for an answer.

(c) January 2016, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

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MOVIE REVIEWS: The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2009)

The Princess and the Frog

Let me give you some of my background regarding this film. I was a senior in high school when this was released. When I saw the advertisement for it, I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t annoyed because it was a princess movie or because I felt like I was too old for it. I was annoyed because it was Disney. As someone who didn’t go to movie theaters much, the most Disney I got was the Disney Channel. Back then, they had a lot of really bad shows like Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana, Cory in the House, and Wizards of Waverly Places. I also wasn’t impressed by the advertisement for their live-action movies. In other words, I was not on good terms with Disney! When I saw Disney was releasing a new film, I got annoyed quick. I didn’t care that it was the first hand-drawn film in a long time! I didn’t care if it was reviving Disney animation! I didn’t care if it featured Disney’s first Black princess! I thought this movie was going to suck! Well, I saw the film about a year and a half after its theatrical release, in May 2012; and…I fell in love! I love this film! This is my second favorite Disney film after The Lion King! I love this picture so much! Why do I love it? That’s what this review is going to answer!

ANIMATION: My goodness, Disney’s animation has never looked better! The animation in this film is stellar! It’s gorgeous! I can see why Disney really talked up the animation in its marketing! Look at this film and tell me you don’t want more hand-drawn animation! You can’t do it; it looks too wonderful in this film! The colors really stand out and blend! The lighting is also amazing! Look at the way the water is animated here! Look at how smooth the lines are! I also appreciate the different style they use in the “Almost There” number! They use the artwork of famous artist Aaron Douglas, and it looks amazing! Finally, look at the backgrounds! I know I said in my Tarzan review that the hand-drawn and CGI animation was distracting, but it’s not that distracting here! I honestly cannot tell what is hand-drawn and painted and what’s CG. But it all blends together so well! I believe These characters and the objects and places can live in the same world together. There are some things that distract me, like Daddy La Bouff’s car, but as a whole, everything works wonderfully!
The Princess and the Frog - Animation

SONGS/MUSIC: I really do wish the songs in this film were appreciated more. It’s interesting when I think of how much the songs in Tangled (Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, 2010) where loved (even though they didn’t match with the tone of the film), and these songs are considered bland and forgettable (even though they match perfectly with the film). The songs and the score are brought to us by Randy Newman, whose music and songs can also be heard in several Pixar films, like Toy Story (John Lassester, 1995). I love these songs, I remember almost all of them, and I have such a great time listening to them and singing along with them! Let’s talk about each other them.
1) Down in New Orleans/(Prologue): OK, this song isn’t that memorable. The melody isn’t very fun, and you don’t really remember what Dr. John says during the number. However, it does do one of the things a song should do in musicals. It gives us exposition for our story. This takes place in New Orleans. We hear that in both the lyrics and the music. It’s not a great song, but it’s a nice one.

2) Almost There: This is a great song! It has a great memorable melody, and I have a lot of fun listening to it! This song also does something songs in musicals are supposed to do. We learn more about Tiana and her objectives and motivation. We learn more about, not just who she is, but also why she works so hard. We learn what she’s working hard for. This song shows us Tiana’s character wonderfully, and I enjoy it a lot!

3) Friends on the Other Side: I LOVE THIS SONG!!! This is my favorite song in the movie, and probably my favorite villain song ever! My goodness, this song just OOZES goodness! Keith David sounds great here! The song sounds cool, to match the personality of the villain, but it can also sound menacing. The background vocalists are voodoo dolls – how much more creepy does it get?! We get some exposition on Naveen and Lawrence as well. But one of the main reasons this song is great is because it continues the story. We still see the important events that take place in this plot.

4) When We’re Human: I enjoy this song, but it doesn’t add anything to the movie. Think about it: we already know what Tiana and Naveen are going to do when they become human again – they already told us. Louis never becomes human, so it doesn’t really matter in the grand scale of things what he’s going to do if he becomes human. Then why do I enjoy this song? Well, aside from looking at the beautiful animation during this number, the song is a lot of fun. I like singing the words with the characters. I like the melody. I like listening to this piece. I know this song could have been removed and it would not have changed anything about the film, but I still like it. It sounds nice, and I have a lot of fun with it. I enjoy it a lot! Actually, does it kind of remind anyone else of the “When We’re Human Again” number from Beauty and the Beast?…Just me?

5) Gonna Take You There: I hate this song. This is the only song in the film I cannot stand at all. Like I said earlier, I fell in love with this film about 3 years ago, in May 2012. I must have watched it about 75 times that summer. The first 50 times I watched it, I ALWAYS forgot this song was here. Every time I saw it I thought, “Oh yeah, that is a thing…” After I finally remembered it was here, I got annoyed with it. The characters were already going down the bayou, so now they’re going to sing a song about it?!? The music doesn’t excite me at all, but that’s a personal thing. The song does nothing for the film except make it longer…with an irritating song.

6) Ma Belle Evangeline: I am in love with this song! Oh my goodness, it sounds so amazing! It is so romantic! It is a beautiful, lovely song that can cause anyone to fall in love. I love the words. As you’ll see later, I’m not crazy about Ray as a character (which is part of the reason I hate “Gonna Take You There”), but he does put the heart and passion into this song that makes it so angelic. Again, Newman’s melody and lyrics do a magnificent job of engaging you as well! I love it! It’s awesome! Also, we get to see our main characters fall in love with each other, which is critical for the film; so one could argue that it does do something songs in musicals are supposed to do.

7) Dig a Little Deeper: I like this song. I don’t think it’s the best or the strongest song for the movie or Disney, but it’s still enjoyable. The melody is good, the lyrics are cool, and I remember the number. It also gives us the moral, which, I would argue, does something a song should do in a musical. If done well and strong, a song will help the moral stand out strong. This is good way for audiences to remember the lesson in this film.

8) Friends on the Other Side (Reprise): Anytime I get to hear this song is a great moment for me!

9) Down in New Orleans (Reprise): I really like the reprise of this number a lot better than the main song with Dr. John. Maybe it’s because the instrumental is more upbeat. Perhaps it’s because Tiana is singing it. Maybe it’s because the music sounds happier and brighter than it did before. I don’t know why, but I love this song a lot! It ends the movie rather nicely.

10) Never Knew I Needed: This song was written and performed by R&B singer Ne-Yo. I think this is the movie’s Number One song, which I find very interesting. I don’t know how many people think of this song first when they think of this film. That doesn’t make this a bad song; on the contrary, the song is great! I love it! I don’t listen to a lot of Ne-Yo’s music, but this song really makes me want to change that. His voice is fantastic! The song itself is a wonderful sum up of the romance between Tiana and Naveen. Speaking of which…

ROMANCE: The romance is pretty good between Tiana and Naveen. I really like watching them together. Much like Tarzan and Jane, there’s a wonderful chemistry between these two people. They’re so charming together. As I was thinking of their romance, I thought of Ne-Yo’s song. He says “You’re the best thing I never knew I needed…So now it’s so clear, I need you here always.” That actually does define Tiana’s and Naveen’s relationship, doesn’t it? Tiana’s a workaholic and Naveen’s a party animal. It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would need each other, and I’m sure it made less sense to them. However, after they got together, they couldn’t live without one another. They were willing to do whatever they needed – give up anything in order to be with each other. Now I will say, in all fairness, that the way they realize this isn’t explained that well. I guess it’s explained OK regarding Naveen, but how and when did Tiana realize she wanted to be with the prince? I don’t know when it happened, it just kind of…happened. I didn’t really see the progression for her. That’s just me, though. Maybe I’m missing something. Their romance is still enjoyable, though. I still love watching these two together. There’s still a great chemistry between them, and they are very, very charming. I can tell they’re in love! It’s precious. It’s adorable. It’s not the best Disney romance, but it is faaaaaaaaar from the worst.
The Princess and the Frog - Romance 01The Princess and the Frog - Romance 02

CHARACTERS: Unfortunately, I’m not going to add Dr. Facilier, A.K.A. the Shadow Man, to this list. I already talked about him a lot in my Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains list, and I don’t know what else I could say about him. He’s still the best, he’s still boss, and he’s my favorite character in the movie! Having that been said, let’s talk about some of the other characters.
1) Tiana – I love Tiana so much! Yes, Shadow Man is my favorite character, but that’s not because Tiana is underwhelming at all. Tiana is one of Disney’s best female characters ever! I love her! She’s smart. She’s determined. She’s kind, but she has her limits. Something I noticed is that she does not rebel at all! Think about it, how many Disney leads can you name that have rebelled against someone or something? Whether it was for good or bad reasons, Disney leads have a tradition of rebelling somehow. I don’t like that. But Tiana doesn’t rebel. She knows what she wants, and she goes after it; and it doesn’t require her to rebel against authority or against the rules. Her goals and ambition come from the principles and ethics she got from her parents. WHAT?!? A Disney lead – and a FEMALE at that – who APPLIES the principles and ethics from her PARENTS?!? Mind! Blown! She’s also very hard-working, which is another quality that you don’t see in a lot of Disney leading ladies. In my opinion Tiana is the best Disney princess ever! Why? Because a couple of other qualities about her is she’s smart and she’s quick. She knows how to get herself out of a negative situation, and she knows how to act fast. This is something she’d need to do in a royal position. If the King and Queen are out of commission and she has to step in, I believe she’ll know what to do…I’m not saying she’s the greatest Disney female lead, I’m saying she’s the best Disney princess…But Tiana is boss! And she was voiced by Anika Noni Rose! Yay!
The Princess and the Frog - TianaThe Princess and the Frog - Tiana Again
2) Prince Naveen – Almost half of the Disney leading men in my past reviews have been bland and boring, and more than half of the remaining were just OK. Naveen blows them all out of the water! He’s not boring, not even a little bit! I love watching this guy! He’s so much fun! He’s all about having fun! He wants to play, he wants to sing, and he wants to have a good time. What I like about him is that despite the fact he’s all about fun, he’s not stupid. He’s rather smart. I like the scene where he tricked Louis into giving him and Tiana a ride. He knows how to get what he wants, but what he wants most of the time is to have fun. He wants to have fun, and he’s fun too!…But what’s up with his catchphrase? “A she danza?” What does that mean?
The Princess and the Frog - Naveen 01The Princess and the Frog - Naveen 02
3) Ray…and his family – Ray and the family are the only characters I can’t stand in the movie. They are annoying as crud! I love Jim Cummings, but I can’t stand Ray! Remember how I said the gargoyles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame would be better in a cartoon? I feel the same way about Ray and his family. This movie isn’t a cartoon, it’s an animated piece. An animated piece is classy. It has style and artistic integrity to it. A cartoon is silly, goofy, stupid, and over the top. Ray and his family are cartoons in an animated film. I don’t like Ray’s design, his character, his accent, his sense of humor, his dialogue, his voice – I DON’T LIKE HIM! The only people to be more annoying are his family, like his grandmother. Why the crud does she have old lady hair? Do we really need to give a firefly old lady hair? And why the crud does she have a walker? Did walkers even exist in the 1920s? Even if they did, she’s a firefly! She can fly! Why does she need a walker? I will say that Ray does have some engaging emotional scenes. Like I said earlier, I do like the “Ma Belle Evangeline” song. I actually do feel sorry for him when Tiana tells him he’s only in love with a star…In fact, why the crud is he in love with the Disney star? Let’s be real, people, Evangeline is the Disney star, the “When You Wish Upon a” star…Is that legal? Can he love the Disney star? I don’t know. He’s a good guy, he supports our main characters, he helps move the story along, and I even connect with him a couple of times. But Ray is annoying! As crud!
The Princess and the Frog - Ray
4) Mama Odie – Mama Odie is another fun and interesting character. This is a very different kind of “fairy godmother,” but it’s done very well here. What keeps her both fun and interesting isn’t that she’s a voodoo queen, though that certainly helps. However, if you were to strip that title away from her, you’d still want to watch her. She keeps you guessing what she’s going to do next. You wonder whether or not she knows what’s going on. As a matter of fact, is she even blind? I don’t believe it! But that’s the kind of person she is, she keeps you guessing. I like Mama Odie!…Plus, she’s voiced by Jennifer Lewis! WHAT!!
The Princess and the Frog - Mama Odie
5) Charlotte La Bouff – I love Lottie so much! This character is hi-larious! I love watching her! Almost every time she’s on screen, she makes me laugh! Remember when Lawrence, in the form of Prince Naveen, proposed to Lottie? Do you remember her reaction? She wasn’t excited about being in love, it was about her getting married! That is funny! All she wants to do is marry a prince. That’s all she wants to do. That would be horrible if she didn’t have any other good qualities or if she were the main character (like Ariel…). But her motivation is obviously played up for laughs. She still supports her friend. She helps Tiana anyway she can. She loves her. She just has quirks to her as well. She is incredibly energetic. She loves life to the fullest. She is just a ball of fun and excitement, and I can’t help but love her!
The Princess and the Frog - Charlotte

STORY AND THEMES & MESSAGES: The story is good, but there are some problems with it. Many people have pointed out that this movie creates a lot of loopholes for itself, and…it does. “Tiana turned into a frog because she’s not a real princess.” …What? Royalty can refute a voodoo spell? How does that work? “Lawrence has to marry Charlotte in order for the Shadow Man to get rid of Mr. La Bouff and take over New Orleans.” …Why? Why can’t Shadow Man come up with a plan to do away with La Bouff now? Does he have to wait until the daughter’s married? “Tiana married Naveen, which makes her a princess; thus the two become human again.” …OH! THAT just solves everything, doesn’t it? It makes sense, but it feels like a cop out.
For as many details they give the film (and there are a lot of details, there’s a lot going on here), there are some things I don’t know if the film answers. (1) Why does Shadow Man have to get rid of Daddy La Bouff in order to take over New Orleans? He can’t take over the town now? In fact what is Daddy La Bouff? The movie never answers that question. Is he the mayor? Even then, it’s not like he’s the King. Shadow Man should either take over the town now, or go after something bigger than the city! (2) Right before Ray dies, he destroys some of the shadows by hitting them with the bright light from his…butt (ew). How does that work? How can he do that? What is he even doing? (3) If Naveen is kissed by Charlotte on this certain day before midnight, he and Tiana will turn human because Charlotte is technically a princess. However, when she kisses him, it’s midnight. It’s the next day. Charlotte isn’t a “princess” anymore. Why doesn’t she become a frog herself? Isn’t the whole reason Tiana’s a frog because she wasn’t a real princess when she kissed the prince? Charlotte isn’t a “real princess” anymore either. Why doesn’t she turn into a frog?
I think the reason the story has so many loopholes and plot holes is because, like I said earlier, there are way too many things going on in this flick. I can follow it fine, but there’s almost always something happening on screen regarding the story. The story never gets to breathe. Think back to films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. They had simple stories that knew how much focus to give to the details. This film has a lot of details to focus on. It’s not bad, it’s just a lot.
Am I the only one who finds it odd that the actual Frog Prince story is used in this film? Yeah, the film opens up with Eudora, Tiana’s mother (voiced by Oprah Winfrey), reading the fairy tale. When Naveen first meets Tiana, he tells her that he believes a kiss from a princess will make him human again because of that story. I find that really odd. Disney has always been known for recreating the fairy tale. When they advertise that this is the REAL version, and yet the film refers to the actual story, that becomes confusing. It’d be like Ursula knowing how to trap Ariel by reading the original Little Mermaid book.
I like that this film actually promotes hard work. Tiana is a great role model because she always believes in working hard for what she wants. Great job, movie!
I don’t think the movie ever says to throw away your dreams for a man or for a woman. I think the film is just emphasizing the power of true love. Tiana isn’t necessarily throwing her dream away when she agrees to be with Naveen. She realizes that she can’t live the rest of her life without Naveen. She’d rather be with him as a frog than have her restaurant instead of him. She realized being with him would make her happiest of all. It’s not that she doesn’t want her restaurant anymore, but she learned that won’t make her as happy as being with Naveen.
I know I said I don’t like Ray (he’s not the most awful character, he’s just really annoying), and I really don’t like his death scene! It comes out of nowhere, and it has nothing to do with anything! It’s unnecessary! However…I do respect it. When you really think about it, this is the first Disney death that allows us to rejoice that a character is in a better place. Think about that. How many Disney films really let us do that? We either cry over a character’s death because they were a great person (Musfasa, Bambi’s mom, etc.), we shrug because we didn’t know the person (Cinderella’s father), or we’re relived because the person deserved to die (villains). But this is the first time Disney tells us that it’s OK. Ray’s in a much better place now, a place where he doesn’t experience pain and grief anymore. I love that message…I hate the scene, but I love the message.
This is Disney’s first film centered around a predominately Black cast, and I think it’s done well. Obviously, that was one of the major aspects the studio was pushing in the advertisement. The film does not insult or degrade the African-American race at all. I know there were controversies before when Tiana the waitress was going to be Maddy the maid, and that was rioted (as it should have been). Some people take issue with the fact that Disney’s Black princess was a frog for most of the movie, or that the film didn’t have Disney’s first Black prince. I guess I can see why people would get upset over that, but I hope no one’s screaming “racism” over it. This goes back to what I said in my Mulan review. People will always be upset about something, even if there’s no need in being upset about it. If Tiana were another White princess, I’m sure no one be upset. Ariel was human for most of her movie, and no one said it was fish-ist (I know that’s not a thing). I’m not saying I don’t see why people are upset about this, but it’s nothing to get upset over. Is this the worst portrayal of African-Americans from Disney? Crud no! Let’s remember Disney gave us racist crows AND laborers from Dumbo (Samuel Armstrong, 1941), primates from The Jungle Book (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967), and the black fish from The Little Mermaid (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1989). This film is fine! It’s great, in fact – especially given Disney’s track record of representing African-Americans! Part of what makes that great is that the characters here are not Black first. They’re people first! They are relatable to everybody! This movie rocks! Let the children have their fairy tale!
The Princess and the Frog - Stars

CONCLUSION: I adore this movie! I love it so much! I love the characters, I love the songs, I love the animation, and I love the romance! Even though the story has some issues, I love the story as well! I am upset, again, that this film isn’t as popular as it should be, or that it wasn’t as much of a financial success as the studio was hoping for! Why the crud not? This picture’s great! In fact, why was Tangled the more successful film? That’s a good movie, but this picture is definitely better! I have my own theories, but you’ll have to look into my review of that film to read them. In any case, this movie is fantastic! This is definitely the Little Mermaid of this generation! This is the film the made people get excited about Disney again. The colors, the return to the classic Disney style, the beautiful hand-drawn animation, the return to the fairy tale adaptations – it just speaks Disney! People got excited to see the next Disney film after they saw this! They felt as though the Disney we got during the Renaissance had finally returned, and it did not disappoint! This is a wonderful and beautiful film!
The Princess and the Frog - End

Thank You

***This was written on February 1, 2014***

“History ain’t important. It don’t mean nothin’.”
They say,
“What they did lives in the past, but now we’re doin’ somethin’.”
So they claim.
“Why wine and dine about the events from long behind? Stop the clatter, they don’t matter. Move on.”
They exclaim.
But if I may,
I’d like to offer a counter argument.
Take a look around, tell me what you see.
How does the world look staring back at thee?
“Thee?”
Yeah, you heard me.
F.Y.I., everything here exists because a long time ago, someone put in work.
Whether it be scientific discoveries, inventions so we could live more comfortably, diverse relations, artistic creations, or changes in our communities,
Someone put in work.
No matter what’s in front of you, you see our modern culture.
You think we woke up one day with these changes at our door,
Or that we’ve had these in our hands forever?
No.
Someone put in work.
Whether it was a father or mother, a sister or brother,
Someone contributed sweat and tears in all the years of the struggle –
All the years, dark years…
They were discouraged from dreaming,
Blocked from advancing,
Denied opportunities,
Even their joy was stolen – there was no singing or dancing.
But there was marching and protesting.
There were demonstrations and movements
And riots and boycotts
And sit-ins and sit downs
And whatever else was necessary to bring about
Change.
That 6-letter C-word. Change.
In a world so strange when a group of people felt estranged from a culture and society that preferred a wide range between them and opportunity, this group of people found the strength and power to rearrange their situation, and command and demand for change.
And now we’re living their change.
Today their legacy exists through us.
So to history, and to those who fought for us,
I offer up, not “forget you,” but “thank you.”
Thank you for the long nights of marches instead of dreaming.
Thank you for the long fights, which brought about your fears, tears, and screamings.
Thank you for continuing to work so we could live better.
Thank you for the stories of your struggle, your addressed love letter.
You are not forgotten, but appreciated.
To our sisters and brothers in the struggle,
Thank you.

(c) February 2014, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

Once Upon a Time…

***This was written on January 17, 2011***

“He who doesn’t learn from his past is doomed to repeat it.” –George Santayana
“He who doesn’t know his past doesn’t have a future.”

Once upon a time, there lived children who couldn’t attend nice schools. It wasn’t because they couldn’t afford it or because they were stupid; the nice schools were for the White students which Black students were prohibited from attending. One day, the law permitted nine Black students in Little Rock, Arkansas to attend an all-White school. Greeted by angry and violent mobs, facing threats every day, and dealing with many forms of abuse, these students, the Little Rock 9, made history by integrating a school.

Once upon a time, a 14-year-old young man from Chicago traveled to Money, Mississippi to visit his relatives. While in the general store with his cousin, he whistled at a White woman. The woman’s husband and a friend of his murdered the young man. They lynched him, shot him, beat him, and drowned him. There was never any justice brought to this murder. The mother of the boy declared she’d have an open casket funeral, allowing the world to see what was done to her son, Emmitt Till.

Once upon a time, a Black woman leaves work and rides the bus home. A White man, soon after, demands her seat. After she refuses, she is taken away to jail. This courageous woman, Rosa Parks, later stated that she was tired of the way things were and demanded a change.

Once upon a time, a young Black African was kidnapped from his homeland and taken to be a slave in the United States of America. He remembered what freedom was like, and endeavored to have freedom many times after that. The slave, Kunta Kinte, ran until bounty hunters cut his foot off to keep him from running.

Once upon a time, a group of men burned the houses and churches of many Black Americans. Riding on horses, the Ku Klux Klan became one of the most notorious groups in the USA, and still lives today.

Once upon a time, a group of college students demonstrated a nonviolence act by sitting at segregated lunch counters in cafes.

Once upon a time, a secret passage called the Underground Railroad helped lead slaves to freedom.

Once upon a time, Blacks were chased by wild dogs released by the police, and sprayed with violent water hoses.

Once upon a time, the best job Blacks received were those working as servants in rich houses which belonged to White people.

Once upon a time, Blacks went jail for being seen walking down the street.

Once upon a time, there were racially segregated bathrooms, water fountains, and restaurants.

Once upon a time, Blacks had to sit in the back of a train.

Once upon a time, Blacks had to travel with their freedom papers.

Once upon a time, Blacks were seen as country bammers or hoods and pimps on TV and in movies.

Once upon a time, Blacks were beaten for trying to taste freedom.

Once upon a time, Blacks were sold from their families.

Once upon a time, Blacks performed to segregated White audiences.

Once upon a time, Blacks weren’t allowed to read or write.

Once upon a time, Blacks were lynched.

Once upon a time, Blacks and Whites could not be friends.

Once upon a time, Blacks fought in wars only to come home and receive discrimination.

Once upon a time, Blacks could not vote even after the amendment had been passed.

Once upon a time, Blacks were labeled as “monkeys” and “niggers.”

Once upon a time, a six-year0old boy and his brother went to the mall with their aunt. The boys met a White girl, who was also 6, and her younger brother. The four children played for a while and had fun. Moments later, the six-year-old boy suggested that the group of kids partake in a fun activity. The White boy looked at the six-year-old boy, Benjamin Isaiah Black, and replied, “No, you’re Black,” and walked away.

We as a nation must never forget what was. We must take time to remember our history. Our future determines what we do now; what we do now is reluctant to our past. Therefore, may we never forget how things used to be. Let us always remember that history, and may we always praise God for how far we’ve come since then. Let us use it as a motivational tool so that we can continue to fight for change and move as far away from these times as possible.

(c) January 2011, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

Satire Commercial: Black History, Our History

***This was written on February 5, 2010***

{WE SEE STUDENTS IN A CLASSROOM FINISHING A TEST. THE BELL RINGS WHEN MATT AND HENRY, AS WELL AS ALL THE STUDENTS, PASS IN THEIR TESTS AND EXIT THE ROOM.}

MATT.
Hey, Henry, how do you think you did on the test in there?
HENRY.
I probably failed it.
MATT.
Jeez, I’m sorry.
HENRY.
Don’t sweat it. I don’t care much for Black History anyway.

{THE NEXT SCENE SHOWS THE FOLLOWING SCHOOL DAY IN CLASS. THE PRINCIPAL’S VOICE IS HEARD OVER THE P.A. SYSTEM.}

PRINCIPAL.
Attention staff and students: The state has decided that history and social studies is no longer a criteria for students. Students, you don’t have to take anymore social studies classes.

(STUDENTS rejoice and cheer)

{THE NEXT SCENE REVEALS STUDENTS IN THE STREETS, HOMELESS, APART OF A GANG, OR DEAD. ON A BLACK SCREEN, WE READ THE FOLLOWING:}

“Black History is American History.”
“American History is World History.”
“World History is Our History.”
“The person who doesn’t know their past has no future.”

(c) February 2010, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

BHM

***This was written on February 1, 2010***

One of my most favorite times of the year!
It has come back again to fill my heart with joy!
We’ve allowed this time to be overlooked and mean little significance
That must change; this is the most important time of the year
A celebration has come! It’s time for us to celebrate!
It can be as big of a celebration as we desire
Festivals, block party, a dance, a small party, etc.
Let’s go!
We are celebrating a people who changed and changes the world around us
This is a party for every person, every gender, race, color, creed, religion, etc.
Everyone is invited! Happy Black History Month, everybody!
BOOYIKA!, BOOYIKA!, BOOYIKA!, BOOYIKA!, WHOO!

(C) February 2010, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

Really? You Think So, Huh?

***This was written on January 26, 2010***

Really? You think so, huh?
Do me a favor and take a good look at me
Tell me, what is it that you see?
A man of excellence and success, or one who will fail?
What is it about me that says that I’m on my way to jail with no bail?
I return to the broken record because you keep playing the same game
You point at me and judge me without knowing my name
Let me just put it out there: Some of you believe intelligence I lack
Not because I show you or you know me, but because I’m Black
How I dress, what I look like, and you assume I’m a thug
Some think I’ll end up on the streets, in prison, or dead because I’ll be dealing drugs
You think I’m a rapist, a robber, a killa
You view me as a terrorist, a destroyer like Godzilla
Is that all you see when you look at me, a Black man?
The thought doesn’t come to mind that I’m apart of God’s Plan?
Why don’t you believe that I could declare the Name of my Lord?
Or that I’m aiming to be like Him more and more?
Believe that I’m a human being with regular feelings – I hurt, laugh, and cry
I refuse to plan to live a life of sin and before 40 I die
Vocabulary and diverse literature I use to further my education
I won’t let any thought of stereotypes enslave me, I demand liberation
Refrain from being nervous when you see me walk down the hall
Don’t be alarmed when I say “dexterously”, and don’t expect me to say “y’all”
Please don’t look at me and judge and think you know me
First ask my name, I’ll tell you Benjamin Isaiah Black, Bro. B.I.B.

Really? You think so, huh?
Funny how many of you think that I’m a fool
I’d bet some of you won’t believe I’ll finish school
Put yourself in my shoes, look through my perspective
Who the crud are you calling another Black statistic?
How do you think I feel when you look at me strange when we pass each other?
You act as though I can’t be your brother
My arm is extended to reach out for you
But you look down on me and hate all that I do?
Some think I can’t have nice things unless it was stolen
That I must have picked it up from a bank or a store and
A mall. You believe a Black man’s behind every crime on the news
The thought that it may be another color or heritage you completely refuse

Really? You think so, huh?
My fellow Black Americans, even we have stereotypes for us
I refuse to be another statistic in the Name of Jesus
I can’t use big words, but I can wear a do-rag and cap
And I have to be incredibly gifted at basketball and rap
My ears have heard people say, “I’m Black!” “I’m just acting Black!”
We use this as an apology as if to say we lack
A great deal of manners, common sense, courtesy, respect
But I know for a fact that statement is incorrect
We don’t have to accept abuse or let people spit in our face
So let’s have some pride for ourselves, who we are, and in our race
We want folks to take us seriously, we have to take us seriously first
We have to tell ourselves that we do have a lot of worth
Every morning, get out of bed and declare real loud,
“Hello, world! I’m Black and I’m proud!”
Success and education are not “White things”; we too ought to be excellent in school
Instead of sleeping, talking, or texting, acting a fool
I’m a Black man, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be on time
Rather be on time than doing time because of a crime
This is what we’ve got to be: Better and strong
Listen to the Voice of Jesus saying still to fight on
We’ll love each other and become one for God, living in equality
Don’t look at me strange! Let it be His Will that this is how things will be
No more false ideas, beliefs, stereotypes, or segregation
The time is past due for us to join hands as one nation
I call for the attention of everyone! Can you hear me? Huh?
Really! This is what I think, bruh!

(c) January 2010, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

A Proposed Question

***This was written on April 2, 2009***

I can’t count the many times I’ve heard the phrase
How many people have I heard say it? How many places was it said? How many days?

I’ve heard my friends and peers say this. My family said it too.
Allow me, if you will, to ask this question of you:

Is there a certain way to “act Black”?
How am I, as an African-American, supposed to act?

By using words like “ain’t” and “y’all”? Would that make you see?
Am I supposed to wear my pants down to my knees?

I’m asking because I don’t know! Someone help me out!
Lemme know so I know what my race and culture is about!

How are we supposed to act? What are we supposed to do?
To anyone who knows how to act Black, I’m talking to you!

I see so many of my Black male peers wearing their pants below their waists
Not trying to be judgmental, but I question if they wanna be in the school place

So I pay attention in school and I prepare for the success in my life
And so what I plan on falling in love and having a wife

My GPA is 3.8; I work hard for my grades
My haircut is normal; I don’t care about getting a Mohawk, dreads, or fade

I don’t rap, I’m not a singer, God knows I can’t play ball
Does that make me any whiter than paper, y’all?

There are so many Black people in the world, and, from what I’ve observed, not all of us act the same
We have different interests, hobbies, personalities, and names

The Black man in the mansion is different from the Black man living in the park
The light one in the North is different than the Southern one that’s dark
The one that listens to rock and pop is different from the one that hears R&B
The one that spends their time reading is different from the one that watches TV

But both are Black and both know their history
They both use things that inspire their story

Could that be enough to call someone Black? Does it have to be language and clothes?
Does it matter what a Black person knows or what we don’t know?

If you ask me, Black has no act; that’s my suggestion
If this offended you, forgive me for asking a proposed question

(c) April 2009, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

Journal Entry: Juneteenth Weekend Celebration

***This was written on June 15, 2008***

Dear Journal,
Happy Fathers’ Day! My siblings, Mom, and I had a blast spending the day with Dad! It’s been absolutely marvelous! This weekend, Akron is celebrating the Juneteenth celebration. I remember 2 years ago when I was in a Juneteenth play at Arlington Church of God, and I showed some of those pictures to my friends on the last day of school last year. When I told them that I was in a play celebrating Juneteenth, one of my friends asked me, “What is Juneteenth?” I couldn’t answer then because I did not fully understand Juneteenth myself, but after Mom explained it to me and I did some research, I learned the answer.
As we know, Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, and it went into effect on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation was the document President Lincoln wrote to free the slaves and abolish slavery. It did very little, however, on the lives of the slaves. In 1865, on June 19, the proclamation was forced and slaves, who were in Texas and were not aware of this change, were free. This is what Juneteenth is, Journal; a reminder of our freedom, even though it took over 2 years to enforce.
Now, I will admit that the website I searched to look up the history of Juneteenth is not a very reliable source; it lets people add their own thoughts and/or opinions. I saw that Juneteenth was also referred to as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day. I also saw something that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true. It said that as of June 2008, Juneteenth is only celebrated by 29 out of 50 states in the USA. That makes me upset. To me, Juneteenth is a holiday that every person in the entire country should take notice of. It’s the celebration of a nation that finally got the freedom that they have been fighting to gain for many, many years. Why shouldn’t the country take notice in this and make it a national holiday? We celebrate Independence Day every year on the fourth of July. Independence Day is the celebration of this country becoming its own independent country. We celebrate it EVERY SINGLE YEAR! Why should Juneteenth be any different? Why should I have to explain to someone what is being celebrated during the Juneteenth celebration weekend when they could and should already know? Ya know what I’m sayin’, Journal? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why aren’t schools teaching this? Why aren’t we learning this in our USA History classes? It’s just a thought I thought I should express, but I hope things change and Juneteenth will actually be a holiday that EVERY state and EVERY person will celebrate in the United States of America, because Black History is American History. Happy Juneteenth. BOOYIKA!, BOOYIKA!, BOOYIKA!, BOOYIKA!, Whoo!!!

(c) June 2008, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

Excuse Me! What Was that Word You Used?!?

***This was written on May 14, 2008***

Excuse me White child! What was that word you used?!?
That word full of hate that separates and divides our nation
What was that word you just called me? “N****r”, was it?
I don’t know what you see when you look at me, but that word should not come to mind, for that’s not who I am!
I have a name, and it’s not “N****r”!
In fact I have many names:
Benjamin Isaiah Black, Bro. B.I.B., BOOYIKA! Boy!, Blessed, Child of God, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made are just a few of my names
White child, I am NOT an “N”
Do I look like some stupid, arrogant child to you?! If I do, then who exactly is your eye doctor because they have failed your eyes!
Your words toward me only reflects how you feel about yourself
White child are you an “N”?
Then why call me one?
I ain’t no “N****r”!

Excuse me Black child! What was that word you used?!?
I don’t believe I heard you correctly; it sounded like you just called me the name that brought hatred to this very nation and this very country years ago!
It almost sounded like you called me the word that we were labeled as to receive the worst things in life.
Did you call me a “N***a”? The word that meant “really tore up, crappy textbooks that are too bad for White students but good enough for Black students”?
Did you call me a “N***a”? The word that people would yell as they went to lynch Black Americans?
Black child, did you call me a “N***a”? The word that our own people used to use because they were used to White Americans calling us that to show their HATE for us?!?
DID YOU CALL ME A “N***A”?!?
I don’t understand how this word became so cool among our own people!
This word wasn’t even a name for us, it was a label
A label of hate, targeting, discrimination, cruelty, pain, rage
Why would you take this word that you would have been called at one time
And try to make it sound cool?
There’s nothing cool about calling me a word full of hate and covering it up by changing the meaning.
And to say that White people can’t use this word because of how they used to mean it is crazy!!!
Why should we be able to say the most evil word and try to be cool and White people can’t?!
They started the word; why didn’t we end it?
I am NOT NOW, nor will I EVER BE your “N***a”!
What are you? Do you know what you are?
Do you know you’re better than this?
You’re better than this label
You’re better than this title
You are not a “N***a”!

Excuse me! What was that word you used?!?
I AM NOT A “N****R” OR A “N***A”!!!
You catch my drift?

(c) May 2008, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.