This month Black Westchester spotlights, Award Winning Actor and Director, Denzel Washington who turned down a role that was SO Racist it May have Ended his Career before it Started. “The N*gga they Couldnt Kill.” He turned it down and six months later he got Cry Freedom and got an Oscar nomination. He went on to win a Tony, two Golden Globes and two Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor for Glory in 1989 and Best Actor for Training Day in 2001.) When I saw this video I had to share it because of America’s fascination with everything ghetto and gangsta. Imagine how Denzel’s career would have been on a much different path had he jump for the money and took the role despite being against everything he believed in.
During a questions and answer session with students from the University of Mississippi, Feb 9, 2006, Spike Lee said, “When I was growing up, I didn’t know any guys who wanted to be a pimp. I didn’t know any girls who wanted to be a stripper. We looked up to those who were smart. These days if you speak one sentence without being profane, then you’re not black. If you’re not in the corner smoking a joint, drinking a 40, holding your privates, you’re not ghetto, you’re not from the streets, you’re not gangsta. Thinking like that, that’s genocide. The infatuation with being a gangsta is madness.”
Now I do think there is far too much ghetto and gangsta in our music, movies and videos but I do think that flicks like Boys In The Hood, Menace II Society and Hustle & Flow are relevant. The only problem for every Hustle & Flow there is so much garbage and cheap imitations without the same creativity or talent pushed for profit. The same goes for the music we hear all day on all the stations where hip-hop lives.
Sure there are gangstas, pimps and players in our communities but there as just as many educated brothers, fathers who take care of their children and work honest jobs in our communities. The problem comes in with the corporate structure that emphasizes the negative because that is, for them, the easiest sell. Why bother to appeal to the intellect when it is so much easier to go for the eye candy, continuously feeding us with ignorance.
It’s the non stop glorification of gangsterism and ghettoism that Hollywood and corporate America, pushes to make all the money they can while keeping us ignorant at the same time as long as it stays on our side of the tracks. The problem is we don’t only except it, we embrace it and we beg for more. Everything has a place, as long as it’s in moderation.
So a brother from Mount Vernon named Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. turns down a role that at the time would have paid him more than he ever made to that point as an actor and goes on to create a body of work that has received much critical acclaim, it needs to be as publicized as when we get caught slipping by the press. Denzel has shown how you can become one of the biggest, most respected actors in our lifetime and keep your integrity. We have to stop selling our souls and allowing ourselves to be used to further the stereotypes that plague us for false dreams of getting paid in full.
Love Denzel, one of my favorite actors. He talks about Sydney Poiter who probably is my favorite actor.
Makes me so proud to have been raised and grown up in my hometown of Mt. Vernon with this gentleman! Went to high school with him this brother represents the best of Mount Vernon, NY along with former NBA star Gus Williams among others!
Here is my problem with this phenomenon. It is simple supply and demand. If blacks did not support it, producers wouldn’t spend their money to make it. It is insane of us as black people to spend our money on things that denigrate us. I respect Denzel for standing on principle where he draws a line and say, “there are just some things, I will NEVER do for money.” It goes back to the individual’s value system. There are folks who sell themselves for money. Ask yourself which is worse, you selling yourself or someone else selling you? Blacks have to become more personally responsible. Another thing I wanted to address is something Spike Lee allegedly said. Black people are always castigating other black people for not being black or black enough. Only a fool would take definition of himself from someone else. When you allow someone to name or define you, you are acknowledging that, that individual owns you and has power over you. I am self defined.. End of story, PERIOD!!
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