Are Those Movie Tears?

Very few movies or TV series have made me shed tears. Sincerely, I can’t remember anyone. That was until I saw the 16th episode of the second season of Blackish.

I had gone through the first and second season with an odd smile or laugh here and there, it wasn’t exactly one of the funniest sitcoms I have seen but it was still enjoyable. That was until episode 16 of season 2.

As an avid reader, music lover and movie junkie, I understand the power of emotion in art, but it is not often that I get connected to an artwork like that. Furthermore, it is easier to connect better with music and books. Movies just don’t do it for me.

The worst kinds of movies for me are those “artsy” or “message-bearing” movies. They just seem too pretentious and I find it almost impossible to connect. There are a few exceptions that hold you spell-bound right from the beginning to the end, this Blackish episode wasn’t exactly like that. It was more subtle, enjoyable, yet intellectual and revealing.

As a student of history, realizing that the peak of the works of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King happened after the independence of Nigeria brought me to a realization; you were better off being a Nigerian in Nigeria than being a Black American in the USA as at October 1, 1960. This was very true until the ride up to the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970.

I have seen clips of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, read their speeches and writings, heard them speak, yet none have ever left me in tears. I have watched President Obama give heart moving speeches, listened to other black speakers of note, connected with and understood them, yet no tears, but how what is supposed to be a comical movie be the breaking point?

Truth is most times we as Nigerians hear of police brutality in the USA or worse still, massacre by terror groups like the “Fulani Herdsmen” or Boko Haram insurgents, we are at a disconnect with the victims, so it ends up being a “their problem” and not “our problem”.

When we hear that a village was razed to the ground and over fifty lives were lost, to us it is just a statistic and nothing personal about it. As a matter of fact, a better percentage of Nigerians will only show outrage about lives lost momentarily, they’ll never be moved to tears nor be moved to take action unless a family member or friend is lost to one of such heinous acts.

Watching over thirty episodes of Blackish made me have a little bit of connection to the “family” unit of the characters, I could understand their conversations better than I did at the beginning, I got more of their “in” jokes and nuances, it was therefore more personal when Andre said looking at the President Barack Obama inauguration, he and Bow had their hearts in their mouths, watching Barack and Michelle Walk up to the inauguration. They were scared someone would get through and snatch this “Victory” from the jaws of Black folks around the nation by getting Barack Obama shot dead right there.

Looking back, I can remember a slightly younger version of myself briefly entertaining that same thought around that time, but never fully realizing the potential implication of that. I knew it would lead to widespread violence, but having not yet properly understood the impact of Martin Luther King’s and Malcolm X’s death, I didn’t know the historical, political, cultural and economic significance.

As Andre said those words, it sounded quite surreal to me, for the first time, I was connecting with the fear of black folks in America. Obama dropping dead there could have meant a Black Man never rising to that position again, it would have made parents begin to teach their black sons and daughters that “you can be anything in this country, except being the president”, it would have opened another chapter in interracial relationship, not just in the USA, but in the rest of the world. It would be the end of the world as we know it and we would have never gotten to meet the coolest American President in world history.

But looking back now, Zoe came in to join the family already following the news report, and telling them that she was already aware of what was happening, she tried to mention exactly which case was currently causing the uproar. Different names were mentioned and the family kept pointing out that it was someone else. Pops mentioned later that this whole incident was now a recurring thing that he had seen play out over and over again since his childhood days.

It felt sad that even after a Black Man had gotten to the highest office in the land, black young men are still being gunned down by officers of the laws meant to protect them on the streets of the USA. Meanwhile in Nigeria, a Fulani man rising to the highest office in the land was seen as a license to destroy and kill any enemy without fear of repercussion by his tribesmen.

Watching men and women shed tears as 75 people were buried in Benue state, without it being a result of any accident or natural disaster, I can’t help wondering “When will it all end?”

As a writer, artist or performer, it is easier getting a laugh or a standing ovation than getting people in tears. This episode has gotten me to appreciate writers, actors, producers and performers even more. I hope I can do the same one day. (And often too).

Wilson Joshua is a Video Editor, Content Creator and Creative Writer.
Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. @IJoswil