Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Define: 'Jayelle'

Graduation is 4 months away, and I still feel like a freshmen.

The question of the day is: What defines you?
Some people are defined by their race, sexuality, nationality or social class.

I'm taking this course on Spike Lee Film. It's actually a literature course because without language we really have nothing, and film is composed of imagery and language. Sometimes even the LACK of language.

I just want to get something straight for the masses. Being black does not mean you are or can be associated with all things "black" or all things "urban". One of those "things" that I haven't been much associated with is black film, well let's just say black art in general. A couple posts back I spoke primarily about an artist named Jean-Michel Basquiat. I see a parallel between Jean-Michel and Spike Lee in their art.

Like most knowledge presented before me, as a person educated in New York, I have been taught by primarily white professors. A white professor taught me the bible, and now a white woman is teaching me about Spike Lee and just how that relates to me. (Do not confuse my pointing out their color as a racist statement. Trust me it will all come full circle.)

After being introduced to Spike Lee Joints in the form of 2 films, 'Do The Right Thing' and 'School Daze' I see a similarity in conceptions and MISconceptions. We discussed how Spike Lee allows his characters in 'Do The Right Thing' to fall prey to consumerism. These consumerisms are represented in young black men becoming hostile over someone stepping on their Jordans. Critics did not like his lacks attitude about these issues in the black community. What these critics fail to see is that by putting these issues in the viewers face, they are also responsible for the message they receive.

Jean-Michel's work would sometimes receive criticism because some saw it as "sophomoric" pr "disorderly". What order is there in art? And is it not this disorder that we desire and love? Jean-Michel would respond by telling them that each drop of paint was placed exactly where he wanted it to be, and even though onlookers may not see his structure it is apparent in each of his works.

The viewers and the audience cannot be coached through the art presented by these genius minds, but they must be open and intelligent enough to decipher the message that is plain before them. Spike Lee places the image of a black man angered by a smudged shoe to present the irony. This is not to celebrate his reaction, but to place the audience in front a mirror and say "Do you like how you look?".

Have I not taken away an understanding that goes beyond the color of my teacher?
Have I not integrated this understanding and these notions into knowledge I already carry?


Now what can my teacher learn from me?
She began by suggesting Spike Lee meant to poke fun and add less seriousness to the issues presented in 'School Daze'. She suggested that the color issues in 'Do the Right Thing' between many different races carried more weight. I disagree.

As a person of color, the racism that exists within my race breaks my heart more than a white man calling me a Nigger. Light skin vs. dark skin/Good hair vs. Bad hair. This is as old as time, and they never go away.

So, what defines me?
The color of my skin has never been a burden for me to carry. Luckily, the people that I surround myself with are "color blind" and I haven't experienced overt racism. Due to this I am also a bit crippled because I do not factor in race.

Interestingly enough I am more defined by my sexuality. I cannot hide that I am black because this isn't coming off. I cannot hide the texture of my hair because it grows from my head. What can be hidden and what sometimes is forced into the "closet" is my sexual preference.

Should any of this matter? Absolutely not
..but people die over it all the time.

I'll continue to be proud: