Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls is an admirable attempt to translate the popular stage play’s message of black female pain and empowerment to the big screen. But is the “T.P.” treatment the best approach for this complex material?
If we could forget for a moment that Tyler Perry’s latest film is a less-than-stellar re-envisioning of Ntozake Shange’s highly lauded, Obie-award winning 1970s choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, we might catch a glimpse of the brilliance that initially made Perry so successful. Though he’s made over 20 films, a filmmaker he is not — but oh, I bet the man could pen an engaging play.
I know it may feel like I’ve been MIA for a spell, but rest assured that I’ve been busily writing at some of my other camps online. Be sure to check out my latest review of Disney’s new film The Princess and the Frog, out in theaters this weekend. Here’s a sneak peek, but be sure to head over to UrbanFaith.com to read the full review:
Months before the film officially hit theaters, black women everywhere were already referring to Princess Tiana of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog like her last name was Obama. That’s how momentous the arrival of Disney’s first black princess felt to us. And while we could compare this landmark animated character to the decade’s other cultural trailblazer, I think Tiana is less President Barack Obama and more Will Smith. I imagine that somewhere in the land of happily ever after, she’s saying to Cinderella, tiara fully cocked to the side while sliding on a pair of black Ray Bans like Smith in Men in Black, “You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.”
I’ll admit I went to The Princess and the Frog fist-clenched, fully prepared to hate it based on the speculative criticism of multiple writers over the past year leading up to the film’s release and my own angst about the cartoon. I’ve waited 26 years to see myself reflected onscreen by Disney, longing to break through the negative self-image the lack of a black princess has reinforced in my life. With only Oprah and a few others to latch onto as a high-profile black woman in America who is the star of the show, I’ve often thrown myself into playing the role of strong, supportive best friend or faithful employee rather than the leading lady in my own life. Black women are never leading ladies; that plotline isn’t available to us. We don’t get the prince or live happily ever after; we don’t get swept up in fairytales. At least that’s the implied message Hollywood traditionally has sent to us.
What do Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin have in common besides their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame status? According to fans of their music, these two soul singers may actually possess the voice of God.
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, songstress Alicia Keys and Jim James of My Morning Jacket were asked to share their thoughts on these titans of the music industry. Both artists couldn’t help but veer into the spiritual realm while describing what they loved about their favorite artists.
Alicia Keys on the incomparable Stevie Wonder:
“Steve Wonder draws outside the lines. […] When I was writing my first record, in Harlem, I heard the most chilling, spine-tingling song ever. It was Stevie’s “They Won’t Go When I Go,” from Fulfillingness’ First Finale, which is probably my favorite album of his. No one is that good. He’s blessed by a higher power–he’s on another intergalactic level.”
Jim James of My Morning Jacket on his love for all things Aretha:
“I buy lots of Aretha [Franklin] on vinyl at thrift stores, which is how I discovered her gospel music. One side of her Amazing Grace double album kicks off with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy” into “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – it’s an incredibly heavy psychedelic experience. Listening to that 12 minutes of music, no matter who you think God is, there is no doubt that God exists. There’s something about her that’s just so natural–like a tree growing or a river flowing or a cloud. It’s just meant to be. Aretha is the sound of God.”
I’ve been so moved by this story of Angela Martez, the woman in Indiana who defended herself from an armed robber by praying. Her compassion and empathy for him, as well as her acknowledgment of his humanity despite her fear in the moment forced him to rethink his actions. The robber, Gregory Smith who is a former member of the military, said no one had ever spoken to him the way this woman had. Martez prayed over him and asked God to remind Smith that he didn’t need to stoop to this level.
On Friday, Gregory Smith appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show via satellite from jail to tell his side of the story and once again apologize to “Miss Angela.” The young man had this to say about the situation:
“I’ve always been a firm believer in God and Christ, but I’ve never walked that walk. And I felt like for the longest time I was in control of everything. Everything was supposed to go my way. And I feel like a lot of the things that I did have before I got into the situation I’m in now, I took for granted…and I lost it.”
What do you think of this story? Did you catch the news on Oprah?
This old video of popular comedian Steve Harvey has been making the rounds on the Internet lately. I can’t believe he gets an entire audience on their feet clapping for Jesus. Wow…it would have been cool if God just strolled out on stage after that and blew everyone’s minds.
Back in April, Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller posed one question to an audience of young adults gathered for Sojourner magazine’s Mobilization to End Poverty event in Washington, D.C.: If you took the elements of a good story and integrated them into your real life, what would that look like?
For months that question has plagued me, quietly challenging me to live a more compelling story in my own life. This past week, Miller released his highly-anticipated new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, which is full of the lessons he’s learned about how to turn an unstructured and random life into a meaningful existence.
This summer, I had the chance to speak with Miller about the new book and asked him what trends he’s noticed in the Church.
COCOA CHANEL: What’s fashionable in faith? What are some of the trends you’ve noticed in the Christian church at large?
DONALD MILLER: I don’t think about church very much. I think because I talk to Christians, people ask me about church a lot. But I’ve never been a pastor. I’ve never been on staff at a church. That’s for much smarter people than me. So I haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about that.
Part of it is because I’m way up here in Portland, and we’re largely an unchurched community. And I notice when I leave Portland and I go to church somewhere how foreign it feels—its literally like you’re going into a different country. It always strikes me as weird. There’s no social commodity for being a Christian here. There’s no benefit. Where you can go to the south or the southeast and one of the things your employer may want to know is, “Do you attend church?” So here, if your employer found out you attended church, it would almost assuredly cost you something. And not that they would be against you, they would just think that you’re weird. And so for us, we’re a small community of people who cling to each other and cling to Christ and live it out in a very real way. There’s no gain.
To read more of my interview with Donald Miller, head over to UrbanFaith.com. Be sure to leave a comment by October 19th to enter to win a FREE copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.
On Wednesday’s episode of The Oprah Show, Mackenzie Phillips, daughter of The Mamas & The Papas front man John Phillips, unveiled a secret she’s kept hidden from the public for decades: she was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with her father for over 10 years. The actress, who made her film debut in “American Graffiti” at the age of 12, details this relationship and her battle to overcome drug addiction in her new book High on Arrival.
Steeped in the aftermath of Wednesday’s show, Mackenzie reappeared on the The Oprah Show via satellite from New York to discuss the public fallout from her allegations. Following the show, Mackenzie claims hundreds of friends have come forward on Facebook sharing their own stories of incest and applauding her for speaking her truth. Not everyone is happy, however, about the release of this private information. Michelle Phillips, stepmother to Mackenzie who is the last living original member of The Mamas & The Papas, adamantly denied the allegations to reporters and called Mackenzie mentally ill.
On Friday, Oprah sat down with Mackenzie’s sister Chynna Phillips, to see how she feels about the news and how her perspective is being shaped by her faith in God. Before a live studio audience, Chynna told Oprah,
Who among us has not done something that we are highly ashamed of in our lives? All of us have. So who’s going to cast the first stone? […] In my faith, as a Christian, God has told me that I need to forgive,” she says. “I need to forgive and not return an eye for an eye. Am I happy that Mackenzie has put me in this position that now here I am having to discuss all these things? No, I’m not. But at the same time, I have to forgive. It’s a lifelong process. I’m not going to digest this information [overnight]. It’s 13 years later, and I still haven’t.
I think Mackenzie’s on a healing path as well. I wouldn’t say that we’re polar opposites. I mean, we have two different stories. But Mackenzie’s on a very healing path and I’m hoping she’ll take everything out of this book and really go out there and try help to people who have similar experiences. I’m a Christian. I am singing for Jesus now. I’m truckin’ for Jesus. And you know, if I had one piece of advice for my sister it would be, get the Lord on board, ’cause you’re gonna need it.
Later in the show, Oprah asked Mackenzie what she thought of Chynna’s advice to get God on her side. She responded saying, “Well, first of all, God is on all of our sides’–even dad’s. ‘Forgiveness is mine,’ saith the Lord. Isn’t that it?”
Chynna is currently a singer-songwriter serving as one half of the Christian music group Chynna & Vaughan. The duo just released the album One Reason on Tuesday. For more information, please visit the official site for Chynna & Vaughan.
This Thursday, September 24th, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City is hosting a special evening with Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group CFO, Derek Ferguson. The Harvard Business School (HBS) graduate who holds down the bottom line for Diddy’s empire will be sharing what challenges he faces as he lives out his faith in the midst of the music industry.
In a past interview with the HBS alumni magazine Bulletin, Ferguson explained why he feels peace about working in the industry, despite the negativity he encounters:
“I don’t think we’re called to run away from controversial environments. We’re called to run to them and try to create change,” he says. Acting on that credo, Ferguson also leads a weekly Bible study for employees of Bad Boy. “I was never the type to wear my faith on my sleeve. It seemed inappropriate,” he recalls. “I had to overcome that barrier because I felt so called to take action.”
Tickets are available now at Redeemer.com for $20.
On Thursday night, NBC premiered its hilariously smart new sitcom Community, starring Joel McHale (E! Network’s Talk Soup) as Jeff Wingate, a lying lawyer whose license has been revoked. The show centers on the drama ensuing when Jeff heads back to school and in an effort to win a girl, poses as the board certified Spanish tutor for a study group of misfits at the fictitious Greendale Community College.
In this week’s pilot episode, there was a quick-witted dialogue between Jeff and British professor Duncan (played by John Oliver) about moral relativism.
Duncan: I’m asking you if you know the difference between right and wrong.
Jeff: I discovered at a very early age, that if I talk long enough, I can make anything right or wrong. So either I’m God, or truth is relative. and in either case, booyah.
Duncan: Oh interesting; it’s just the average person has a much harder time saying ‘booyah’ to moral relativism.
I look forward to seeing what this show has to offer in the coming weeks. Obviously, the spiritual content will likely be minimal, but the intelligent humor is sure to be a hit.
If this doesn’t make you feel spiritual, I don’t know what will.
And I love Michelle. She’s just like, “Yeah, that’s my husband. He’s the President of the United States. Totally normal behavior…”