Let me start off by saying that I have been a big fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s work since his portrayal of Solomon Northup in the famous movie 12 years a Slave. And similarly, he did not disappoint in this movie based on a story about William Kamkwamba also known as The boy who harnessed the wind as he figured out a way to make a wind powered water pump for irrigation during a dry spell in his village in Malawi. As Chiwetel Ejiofor is British-Nigerian, he had to learn Chichewa to play the role of William’s father and to be honest I would think he was a Malawian actor if I was not familiar with his background. The film which was also directed by Chiwetel has received a Sundance Film Festival award but I am sure you would rather read about my thoughts on the film (maybe just a little bit of arrogance there haha). Anyways, let me commence my review.
Film quality. Even though the film is set in a remote area, it does a good job of kind of romanticizing village life and still depicting it in an honest way. The lighting is perfect for the various hues of brown faces that are part of the story. Both English and Chichewa is used in the film with English being the main language and Chichewa used for dramatic effect where it is most appropriate. The sound quality is also good and as weather is an important part of the story, the different seasons are captured beautifully.
Plot/Story line. I think the story is pieced together very well. The background of William’s family dynamics is appropriately presented and all the main characters are given well rounded depictions. The main supporting character is played by Chiwetel as William’s father and we get to see so much raw emotion from him that is truly unmatched. The movie overall can be a little depressing at times but you have to remember that this is based on a true story meaning that people do go through really tough times. Therefore, I think this movie serves as a reminder to persevere despite life’s challenges.
Cultural representation. I love watching foreign movies because it presents as an opportunity to discover new cultures and ways of life. This movie definitely provides this perspective especially in terms of power dynamics within the Malawian village and how education is perceived in the community. Furthermore, it also depicts local politics and how funerals are conducted. I think what touched me the most is realizing that education is not free in a lot of African countries and that this is probably holding the country back in terms of the creative thinkers that are missing out on expanding their knowledge. In the movie, the main character, William, is clearly a creative thinker and he got lucky in finding resources that could help him explore his problem-solving ideas. I wish that we could all commit ourselves to nurturing our own and others’ creative thinking.
I think when I first saw the trailer for the film, I thought it was going to be a simple moving about a young boy who became a hero. However, this film is much more than that. It has a love story, political context, depth, and a certain richness that just cannot be explained. It is rich in life because of how much well the characters are portrayed. And just before you thought it could not get any better, the local chief is portrayed by the Butler Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air (his real name is Joseph Marcell). Let me tell you that Mr. Marcell did a wonderful job with the Malawi accent as well even though we have not seen him acting for maybe one or two decades now since the end of Fresh Prince. I hope to see more from him, Chiwetel, and the other members of this lovely cast. In case you are wondering, the movie is on Netflix for all to view (If you don’t have membership, ask a friend). 🙂 ❤
For a book that is only 150 pages long, it captures so much of America that is typically left unsaid. In his book, Coates writes a well-articulated letter to his son about the journey of being Black in America. The journey is described historically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually as Coates tries to come to terms with losing a fellow school mate to police violence. Despite this book being short, it took me a while to read because it covers a very heavy subject matter and can leave you feeling a bit sad at times. But this sadness is truly the reality of what it means to be Black in America (just watch the news). I would venture to say that this book should be required reading for all Americans but clearly I am not the president. So here are the five things I learned from reading this thoughtful book:
Howard University may be the mecca of black intellectual thought and black higher learning. The author of the book, Coates, is an alumni of Howard University along with his wife and his murdered college mate. As such, the book might as well be a marketing scheme for Howard University but to be honest, it seems the author is just sharing his honest experience at the institution. I attended a predominantly white institution (PWI) for college so clearly I cannot speak much about historically black college and universities (HBCUs). I think part of why I never applied to one is because I never felt “black” enough in high school and what I was looking for in a university, was a great global representation. However, it was refreshing to learn about Howard University in the book as the author refers to it as the Mecca and rightfully so as many great Black American thinkers such as Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison graduated from Howard University. Fun fact: Taraji P. Henson and Mr. Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, are also Howard alumni.
“They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” Black history is full of rich stories of struggles, greatness, and humanity. As much as oppressors have tried to bury our history, our language, our culture, we must persist to remember our journey. Our journey is what makes us black people. When you don’t know where you come from, you can never fully imagine where you can go. So make it an effort to read up on black history as most schools definitely do not teach us enough of it.
Double consciousness plays a big role in Black America. The theory of double consciousness was coined by W.E.B. Dubois in his book The Souls of Black Folks and it basically describes how Black Americans have to view themselves from both white and black eyes. Society views Black people one way and therefore, we have to understand how we are viewed and reconcile that with how we view ourselves. For example, if a black person is seen in a predominantly white neighborhood, he or she might be stopped by the cops because it is assumed that a black person would not be able to afford to live among white people. Therefore, as much as society can view Black people incorrectly, we should be aware of it but not let it define us which is an act of double consciousness.
Raising a black child in America is probably one of the hardest things to do. When his school mate is murdered via police violence, Coates visits the school mate’s mom and interviews her about how she feels. The victim’s mom speaks of how she afforded her children the best education, trips abroad, and nice cars; and despite all this, she still could not protect her son from police brutality. This makes the writer very vulnerable as he has a young son and realizes that could be his own fate. As such, this experience inspires this book which is essentially a letter to his son forewarning him about such situations and how to cope with life as a black body in America.
Traveling opens one’s eyes a bit more about who you are. I think this is because you are fed with propaganda wherever you grow up and seeing how other cultures perceive you, can show you the biases of your own self-perception. When the author travels to France in his adulthood, he realizes that he could have grown up with a different childhood if he was not born in the ghettos of Baltimore, Maryland where he was constantly afraid for his life. He was also able to let his guard down as he realized what made him stand out was not the color of his skin but his poor French language skills.
Trust me when I say that this review does not do the book justice. It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my entire life. At times, I had to re-read a whole paragraph over again because it is higher level reading written with the vocabulary of a true scholar. It definitely was a challenge from my typical light autobiographical reads such as that by Kevin Hart (link to my review of his book). Despite the challenge, I truly enjoyed every second of it and my mouth often gaped at the intelligent construction of the author’s words. I hope you do too 🙂 ❤
I am not going to lie to you. This book is a very wordy and a long book with a little bit over 400 pages in small print mind you. But I will say that if you have ever been fascinated or inspired by Michelle Obama, then you need to read this book. I learned a lot more about Michelle LaVaughn Obama in terms of her personal life and who she was previous to becoming our first black first lady through this book.
One thing I definitely had never known about Michelle was about her father’s battle with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). I am sure she mentioned it on the campaign trail but for some reason it didn’t register until now. I think this is because in the book, you can really see the progression of her father’s battle with M.S. It is a very deep story especially when you consider that her father never lived long enough to see his daughter grow up to be the first black first lady of the United States of America (the same nation in which his descendants were slaves). Her relationship with her mother and brother are also heavily displayed in the book but one thing I am sure many people will appreciate is learning more about her relationship with Barack.
Obviously, we have all seen the love that Michelle and Barack have for each other. We saw this on the campaign trail when they would give each fists bumps, when Barack would whisper in Michelle’s ear, when Barack always opened the door for Michelle, etc. However, many of us wondered how these two got together in the first place. Some of us know that Michelle was Barack’s mentor at his summer internship as a lawyer but beyond that, their love story was a mystery. This book definitely allows us to see what Michelle saw in Barack and the challenges they faced as a couple, especially in the midst of politics. With Barack serving a country as well as his family, their marriage was definitely not easy as it looks but their love story serves as a reminder that lifelong partnership works when two people are unwaveringly committed to each other.
I was thinking to include this point as the last one because it is something I am sure that we are all subconsciously thinking about: how does Michelle Obama feel about Trump? Well, I won’t overshadow this book review with a discussion about Trump but I will say that Michelle definitely makes it clear how she feels about Trump in this book. She doesn’t dwell on it, and rightly so, but she does discuss it. She also answers the million-dollar question of whether she would ever consider running for office.
In addition to being the first black first lady, Michelle was also the mother to the first black children to live in the white house. Motherhood is a job to which many are called but I think we can all agree that Michelle did a wonderful job with Sasha and Malia. Malia is now a college student at Harvard and Sasha will probably follow in similar footsteps. Growing up in South Side Chicago, I am sure Michelle never thought she’ll be the first black first lady of the United States. In fact, readers will learn that her childhood dream to be a lawyer did not turn out being such a good fit for her. This is why the book is entitled Becoming as it is about her natural progression and evolution as another human on this earth seeking to live a fulfilling life.
As the first lady, Michelle could have sat down and decided to just look pretty. Instead, she chose to carve out her own goals and initiatives for the country. She was passionate about attending to military families and to the growing rates of childhood obesity. Her book has the statistics on what an impressive impact she made on these issues so I will let you look into the numbers on your own. I will say that numbers aside, I felt the effects of her Let’s Move! Campaign when I watched Nickelodeon and there would be reminders to go outside for an hour of play. I also felt the diet changes in the public school I went to as whole wheat replaced refined flour. I may be mistaken but I believe there was a time that chocolate milk was not served at school. I loved my chocolate milk but hey I am all for it if decreasing childhood obesity can decrease the lifestyle diseases I see working as a healthcare professional.
I could easily tell you the answers to most of the questions about Michelle but I do not want to ruin the book for anyone. Another token of advice from me would also be to avoid watching all the book interviews she’s conducted so far as it kind of gives the story away. Save those interviews for when you are done reading the book. Trust me. I did not heed this advice and I think this is the reason why I would lose interest in the book at some points. It is a well-constructed, well written, and a well-deserved success story by Michelle LaVaughn Obama. I hope you enjoy it and most of all, learn something from it. Thanks for reading.
I have to say that I mainly read Charlamgne Tha God’s book (Black Privilege) because of the hype. I am not an avid listener of the radio show The Breakfast Club which he co-hosts. I will admit that the few times that I have watched it, he does appear to have a “no bets are off” approach to interviewing people. This is pretty bold considering that he has previously been fired from radio a record number of FOUR times. So this guy has been told “we do not need your services anymore” four times and he still sticks to his radical radio host approach. Now he is even on TV and is one of the most recognizable radio personalities in the U.S.A. Well, he must be doing something right especially considering that at the age of 18 he had already been arrested twice for being involved in drug dealing. Yes, this autobiography is truly that and you’ll come to find out that CThaGod actually has a lot of depth in his thinking and his personality. Here are the four main lessons I learned from the book:
1. Be honest and real to everyone, including yourself. If there is anything that CThaGod is known for is his raw and unfiltered candor towards everybody. This guy calls everybody out from Kanye to Jay Z without a second thought. In an industry filled with YES-men, CThaGod chooses to be the breath of fresh air that gives it to you straight. People will always be apprehensive of criticism but those who are interested in personal growth, usually appreciate it.
2. Connect to your inner God. In his book CthaGod explains that he has been influenced by a Nation of Islam group known as the Five Percenters. This group believes that we are all gods as God lives in all of us. As such, we should all have the ability to tap into our inner strength and wisdom to align ourselves to our true purpose. CthaGod credits this alignment with his inner God to his success and therefore, we must not neglect our spirituality when seeking worldly success.
3. Work for free if you have to in order to get the experience you need for your dream job. CThaGod started as an intern on a radio show in South Carolina and worked his way up to a weekend radio jock. He then got fired from that which eventually led him to work for the Wendy Williams radio show. Since the Wendy radio was just starting out, they were not able to pay CThaGod and he was fine with it due to the invaluable experience he gained from the opportunity. If you haven’t noticed, Wendy also follows the “I am going to ask tough questions” policy as that is ultimately what listeners want to hear. Infact, CThaGod states that Wendy told him that there are two options in radio: a) represent the industry by being nice to artists or b) represent the people (listeners) by digging deep in the questions. Clearly this non-paid experience paid off in the end.
4. Opportunity comes to those who create it. The title of CThaGod’s book is Black Privilege and it is a bit of an over statement (is that a word?). Essentially what he is trying to argue is that everyone has their own privilege which can be as simple as having two legs and two hands. Yes, there might be people with more privilege than you whether due to race, class, gender, etc but you can use your unique privilege to get where you want to in life. In my opinion, CThaGod’s privilege is that he was able to gain fans through his uncanny ability to say what others would shy away from saying. As such, he comes to the table with a loyal fan base that will probably continue to grow over time as long as he stays true to himself.
In my opinion, this book provides hope despite what our current circumstances may be as hard work and opportunity is the classic recipe for success. Thanks for reading 😃❤
The Marshall movie was released last year starring Chadwick Boseman (the Black Panther himself) as probably the most famous black lawyer, Thurgood Marshall. Thurgood Marshall won several landmark cases during the civil rights era such as Brown vs Board of Education which lead to the end of segregated schools. The movie however focuses on one specific case where a black man is accused of raping his white female employer. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone but let’s just say Marshall is the lawyer you would want if you were accused of something you didn’t do. The only sad part about the movie is that for a $12 million budget, the movie only made $10 million at the box office which is not a reflection of how good the movie is. So go out there and watch this movie because I definitely learned a lot from it.
Haters gonna hate. We all know this modern proverb but imagine if you’re in the 1940s where segregation is the law. Would you let the stereotypes that white people had about your race let you think less of yourself? Your answer then should have been No and your answer today should still be No because there are still people who have segregation mentality.
Always have the mentality of a winner no matter the odds against you. If Marshall could win court cases in the segregation era, you can win at whatever you put your mind to in this era. In the movie, there were so many factors that were against Marshall and his partner but they never took the easy way out. They faced threats for being involved in the case and still went to work like everything was okay. They did their best and that is what life is about. So go out there and do your best.
Sacrifice is inevitable. Due to Marshall’s career that took him all over the country, he did not get to spend a lot of time with his family. This was clearly difficult for him but he knew that helping attain civil rights and helping the innocent from erroneous prosecution was bigger than him. He was purpose driven and eventually, he became a Supreme Court Justice. In essence, he is his “ancestors’ wildest dream.”
Keep a good circle of peers around you. Marshall was friends with Langston Hughes and other black artists at the time. His peers kept him grounded and reminded him of his purpose which is really important especially when times get hard.
Have strong morals and values that you hold yourself accountable to. Marshall once said that “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up” meaning that the law is not always ethical. In your career, there are policies that might not actually be helpful to people and sometimes doing the “right thing” is better than doing things in the supposed “right way.”
May we continue to honor those who have paved the road before us. And may we all continue to be our “ancestors’ wildest dreams.” Thanks for reading. 🙂 ❤
I want to start by saying that every autobiography of a successful person always emphasizes the value of hard work. I think it is somewhat implied in this summary especially in my first thing that I learned from Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes. So let’s dive right in.
Check yourself. Recognize what is holding you back in life. Are you comfortable in your unhealthy lifestyle where you put work first and yourself last? Do you not spend enough time with your family? Are you in unhealthy relationships just because you are afraid of being alone? Shonda shares that she was pretty antisocial and was more comfortable working with her imaginary characters, with her favorite being Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy. It wasn’t until her older sister told her that she is afraid to say yes to things that she decided to dedicate a whole year to saying Yes. Throughout that year, she grew as a mother, friend, work mate, and most importantly as an individual.
Learn how to say NO. Essentially, say Yes to saying No. Before her Year of Yes, Shonda admits to finding it difficult to saying no to people. When people realize you don’t know how to say no, they start to take advantage of you. For example, think about the person that takes on extra work because everybody knows that he/she won’t say no. Don’t be that person. Learn how to set boundaries or you will find yourself drowning and the person responsible for the drowning will be you. I’ll end this with one of my favorite quotes: Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm- Penny Reid.
Know yourself and never compromise who you are for anyone. I do not want to ruin the book for anyone but I think it is common language that Shonda has not birthed any children. However, she does have 3 children. Like Oprah, she doesn’t really believe in marriage. Despite societal norms, she has come to accept that she doesn’t need a man in the picture to have kids or even to raise them. I am personally very option to adoption of children so I was glad to read about a woman who shares similar unconventional values.
Know what love means to you, including self-love. Yes, we should all love our bodies but what if we are in an unhealthy state? Should we not love our bodies enough to treat them as much care as we can. Shouldn’t we understand our unhealthy coping habits like eating lots of ice cream or drinking excessively, etc. Yes, I think a little bit of tough love can be self-love (like saying no to that extra piece of cake when our bodies are screaming yes). If somebody didn’t treat you right, you are quick to think they probably don’t love you. So when we are quick to trash our body, then we should recognize that we are not practicing self-love.
Find your gladiators and love the hell out of them. Your gladiators are the people that fight for you, root for you, and also put you in check when needed. They want nothing but the best for you. They do not limit you to who you are now. They see the best possible version of yourself and push you to strive for that. They know your weaknesses and strengths yet they want you to face your fears. And if you are their gladiator, then you do the same. Be their Olivia Pope, without the being mistress to the president part.
Thank you for reading. May you say yes to the things that scare you. May the year of yes transform into a lifestyle as it did for Shonda Rhimes, the queen of Thursday night television with Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal under her belt. 🙂 ❤