April 2018

Monday, April 26, 2010

NL #7: I Stand for Hope

NL #7: This weekend, I saw two films at the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival. They were great fun and very moving. As you know, I love experiencing cultures different than the one I grew up in, and seeing performances with an African American crowd is one of my favorite things to do because the experience—like church services-- is so different than seeing a performance with a white crowd: lively and interactive.

The first time I saw a film with a primarily black audience was during college, when I went to see The Color Purple at Crabtree Valley mall in Raleigh. The house was packed. Four of us were white; the rest black. Throughout the movie, the audience hollered out to the screen in a way that I had never experienced. I remember especially the moment in the film where Shug leans down slowly to kiss Celie. The audience was absolutely still and quiet. I’m not sure anyone exhaled. Finally, a man in the front right shouted, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Oh, Lord, she did it!” and the tension broke into laughter.

Friday night my friend Chris and I went to Doubletime, an independent film focused on two double-dutch teams, one from Raleigh NC (my hometown) and another from Charlestown, SC, as they prepared for and then competed in the 2004 International Double Dutch championships at the Apollo in Harlem. Before the movie, two local double-dutch teams performed and encouraged young ones in the audience to perform. The theatre was packed and there was plenty of appreciative applause and laughter.

Throughout the film, as jumpers, their coaches and parents talked about their experiences, we got to know some of the competitors and watch them practice and perform: there was more applause and laughter and “Mmm. Hmmm.” At the end of the film, the directors ran a “Where are they now?” Tia made the honor role in middle school (everyone clapped); Erica delivered her Bat Mitzvah speech on strong women; Antoine was working in a beauty salon; and Tim, articulate and sweet with a Masaii leap and Obama ears, entered The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, studying electrical engineering and jump rope. For this, the mark of academic success, there was vigorous applause. I’m pretty sure we all left laughing and feeling hopeful.

Saturday night Ann and I went to a more sobering film, Soundtrack to a Revolution. The film told the story of the1960s Civil Rights movement through old film clips, interviews with those still living, and music. The film certainly showed the power of music to bring people together, but though I’ve seen them before, those images of dogs and fire hoses and batons tearing at young black people take my breath away, make me a bit sick to my stomach, even with the hopefulness of the music. This night, I left with more complex emotions: hope in the way that masses changed public policy and sadness at how much one human can hurt another.

Today, as I go into a remarkably diverse classroom, I remember how differently those of us from different cultures have experienced working with groups and learning, and I feel lucky to continue learning from this teacher and these students as they learn from me. Here, too, I can feel the complex emotions of hope and fear. But here, in middle school, I experience mostly hope.

What do you stand for? I stand for hope. Mary

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