First, let me commend the choir for combining Sam and Dave’s hit song, “I’m a Soul Man” with that old Black gospel standard, “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord” to form what is sure to become a new and unique gospel hit, “I’m a Soul Man in the Army of the Lord.”
Also, let me recognize Mother Lulla Belle Francis for her delivery of the church announcements this morning and every Sunday morning. Mother Lulla Belle, your diction and annunciation are impeccable, but you might want to work on that subject-verb agreement. Just saying. Amen? [Amen!]
Nevertheless, let us soldier on toward this morning’s message, so if you will, congregation, please turn in your Big Black Bibles with me to the book of Gil Scott-Heron where it is written:
“And then Brother Gil Scott-Heron said unto them, ‘Movies were looking better than ever, and now no one is looking, because we’re starring in a “B” movie. And we would rather had John Wayne.”
Now, let us take just a brief moment to contemplate that “B” in “B movie.”
See, brothers and sisters, that “B” in “B movie” does not stand for Black, though it could very well have, because you see that “B” label is used to designate a movie as inferior, as substandard, as something not to be taken seriously.
And what Brother Scott-Heron is trying to get us to see, in his own inimitable, uniquely poetic way, is that most Americans cannot attend to a reality that is actually real because most Americans, unbeknownst to them, are caught up in a inferior, substandard, distinctly unserious version of reality.
In other words, most Americans are living right smack in the middle of a “B movie.” Amen? [Amen!]
And since in reality, one group controls the reins of power, they—and when I say they, I think you know about whom I am speaking [Hold up hand and point to palm.]—have written themselves starring roles in this melodrama.
But, see, though this reality is inferior, substandard, and inferior, since this is the reality most Americans know, and many of us too for that matter, and this is the reality shaping their worldview, it is of the utmost importance that we are a part of that reality, that we see ourselves in that reality.
There needs to be some diversity in that reality for that reality to approach any semblance of the real. We need to tell our own stories just the way it T-I-S, ‘tis.
But they said, “No!” They said, “But I do not understand this diversity of which you speak.”
And we continued to be marginalized. We continued to be relegated to the background in supporting roles, even in our own stories. Our voices continued to be stifled.
See, we—the people of the sun, Aunt Hagar’s children—have been fighting for years just to be seen and heard, to get a spot off in that light, a light off in that spot.
How long have we been fighting to get just a decent role in their movies? [Too long!]
But you know as well as I do that they ain’t never dealt with us with any sincerity. They put us in their movies, but for some reason, we always end up being the sidekick. They put us on their stages, but for some reason we all ways end up singing and dancing.
And for some strange reason, they got the idea that they can tell our story much better than we can. If I may co-opt a verse from that great Black poetic prophet, Gil Scott-Heron, they sent a bunch of cameras down to the ‘hood to film their people eagerly gobbling up hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary as we stood in the background as supporting characters, watching and grinning, and called that diversity.
Then they look at us and say, “There’s the diversity you always wanted. You happy now?”
Well, we weren’t happy then, but we happy now ‘cause we got our “B-movie,” and we have our John Wayne. And in this “B-movie,” “B” does stand for Black. As in blue black. As in so black it appears purple in the sun. As in Black as the ace of spades. As in black as the dark side of the moon. As in black as the pit from pole to pole.
They say, “But where am ‘I’ in this movie universe you have created. But ‘I’ cannot see myself. Why am ‘I’ not at the center of this story? But this is not at all how ‘I’ would tell this story. Where is the dIversity? ‘I’ knew it! You are racist. That’s that reverse racism!”
But they can just stay mad. They would rather have John Wayne, but they got Luke Cage instead. They can’t stand it when suddenly you snatch the “I” out of dverse. It just galls them. Burns them up.
But if you ask me—and this is purely my own opinion—de verse reads much better that way.
Max Reddick is a humorist and English professor who resides in Jacksonville, Florida.