As my mother and I left the United Artist theater tonight, we walked in silence. I continued to wipe my eyes and my mother just continued to walk, facing straight ahead. We finally reached the end of the block; waiting for the walk sign, my mother turned to me. "When you were born, I prayed that things would be better for you." I looked at her. "Are they?" I asked. She faced forward again. "I don't think so."
My mother and I went to see Lee Daniel's The Butler starring Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. This 2 hour plus film took us on a historic journey of civil rights and changes for African Americans through the 60's, 70's and 80's while telling the story of a butler, Cecil Gaines who served in the White House for 34 years. He saw changes in African Americans during prominent eras. The story was moving, the story was captivating, the story emotional and for me, the story was remembrance.
My mother was born in 1955 in North Carolina. She remembered using the "Colored Only" water fountain, sitting in the "Colored Section" of the bus. She remembered the Sit in at Woolworths and the day the Black students walked into a once White school. I was born during the Reagan era (1986), and when my mother said that she prayed for better, it is the same prayer that I hope for my daughters.
I didn't forget what have overcame, the fight, the torment or the mistreatment, but I forgot how much we endured. The film showed African Americans fighting for equality, what was right, no matter what the consequence was. Of course I was not there, but I admire the fight, the hunger in them. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be writing this post today.
Even though things are better for African Americans, they aren't perfect. With the shooting of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, wrongful judgement such as the women who is doing time for shooting a fire warning, like my mother, I pray for more for my children. I pray that they do not sit in a world where we now just sit still. A world where we rally, shout our frustrations and then go about our day, going to work, school, paying the bills. Continuing to sit still.
The admiration I have for those before us is more than I can express. They didn't sit still, they did more than rally, they did more than shout their frustrations. I wait for the day that we can do the same. I am guilty of this as well. I know that something is wrong, but still continue to go about my life. Not fight for a better life for my children.
What does Lee Daniel's The Butler mean for my children? It means everything; a chance to look at our history, a chance to see our fight, a chance to see us stand up for what was right, a chance to be proud, sad, mad, more importantly they get to know a piece of history that hasn't been told. I never knew that there was a butler that served for 34 years. I find it fascinating because he saw the world change from so many different angles.
I am not going to get into the story or my thoughts about the film. I am not going to decipher it either. I will say that it is a film that you want to take your children to see and it is a film that you want to embrace.
I pray for my children. I pray for my children in a world where racism still exists. I pray, one day, we have the courage to continue to fight. Not physically fight, but the system.