THE HELP: ROLE MODELS FOR BLACK MEN IN AMERICA!
Viola Cicely Octavia
By Harold Bell
I have often said my heroes and role models could not run the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds, throw a football 60 yards in the air, hit a jump shot beyond the free throw line or hit a baseball out of the park. My heroes were black women with names like Grandma Bell, Mommy B, Ma Brown, Sister Grace Paige, Ms. Powell, and Harriet Tubman.
The black women that starred in the movie “The Help” brought back memories of those great women who touched my life!
This movie is based on a best-selling novel with the same name. Emma Stone stars as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Abilene and scene stealer Octavia Spencer as Minny.
These are three different but extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 60s, who build and unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk. From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to crossed-even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with changing times.
Washington, DC take notes, especially, Capitol Hill politicians.
Emma Stone plays the writer and white woman who was raised by one of the maids. She returns home from college to discover her maid (Cicely Tyson) no longer works at her home and her parents are very invasive about why she is no longer there.
Ms. Tyson who plays the missing maid makes a cameo appearance. She has long been one of my favorite actresses. As an actress she was one of a kind she refused to play roles that that were distasteful and put black women and black people in a bad light.
Ms. Tyson is a furiously independent woman who still marches to her own drum beat. There was little doubt in Hollywood that she was one of the best actresses black or white during her era.
I remember seeing her for the first time up close and personal at the Florida Avenue Grill. She was having lunch with famed DC civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, the legendary Dovey Roundtree.
My friend and high school and college teammate the late Attorney Allen “Stu” Roberson worked in the firm of Attorney Roundtree. I had met her several times when I visited the office. I was trying not to stare when Attorney Roundtree beckoned me over to the table and introduced me to Ms. Tyson.
I was impressed she was gracious and a beautiful black woman. She later starred in a 1994-1995 television series that depicted the life and times of Attorney Roundtree.
“The Help” was turned down by dozens of movie studios before it was given the green light! The book has been on the bestseller list now for several years. Now those who had an opportunity to the screen rights but said “No” are eating Ninny’s Chocolate pie!
This movie is definitely a roller coaster ride with numerous highs and lows. You will experience anger, tears, laughter and an inspired ending. This movie I recommend to today’s black men and women who think that they cracked the “Glass Ceiling” in Corporate America all by themselves and owe nothing to anyone.
The performances by Emma Scott and Viola Davis were great but the show stealer was “Ninny” played by Octavia Spencer (Mommy B). I think the Chocolate Pie might have been border line too nasty and dirty for my mother but her never give up or give in attitude reminded me of Mommy B.
I can’t remember the last time I spent 2+ more rewarding hours in a movie theatre than the one I spent watching “The Help.”
The movie was based on a true story of some courageous black women in Mississippi. They worked as maids cleaning, cooking and raising some lazy ass white women’s children. Their thanks they were treated like less than human beings.
The movie should follow the best selling book and should be a no-brainer for an Academy Award. The best actress award nominee should be Emma Stone and the best supporting actresses should be Viola Davis and Octavia Davis. There is no way you can nominate one and don’t nominate the other.
But knowing Hollywood and its history it will be a difficult task for Ms. Davis and Ms. Spencer to win the best supporting actress. First, their roles are not ones where they are rolling in bed with some white actor or playing a crooked cop with a gambling habit!
This movie is a reminder for those of us who are keeping it “Real” the struggle continues full throttle.
The struggles of the black maids were during a time when racist and racism was a way of life in America. It was in the turbulent 60s when civil rights leader and advocate Medgar Evers was gunned down in his Mississippi driveway by a coward hiding in the dark.
On June 12, 1963, at the young age of 37 he was assassinated by a White Citizen’s Council member by the name of Byron De La Beckwith. Mr. Evers as field secretary for the NAACP was involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. He fought in World War II only to return home to die on American soil facing the real enemy of black people—racism in America.
President John F. Kennedy followed Mr. Evers in death when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. These two events should give you some idea how brave and courageous these black women were with murder waiting just around the corner. The beat still goes on America!
Sometimes it takes a policeman’s billy club to land upside our heads before we get that needed wake-up call. There was a scene in the movie where the town’s police officers pulled one of the maids off the bus and arrested her for theft. The maid made the mistake of struggling and as the other maids looked on one of the cops took his billy club to her head!
It was this brutal scene that brought all the maids in the struggle together (sisterhood).
Hopefully, this movie will be a wake-up call and a lesson for media personalities like Tavis Smiley, Professor Cornel West, Tom Joiner, Al Sharpton, Steve Harvey, etc. The lesson, a house divided will surely crumple and fall!
It maybe wishful thinking but it would be great gesture if President Obama would invite all of the feuding personalities to the White House for a beer and to view the movie “The Help.”
If the President could spare the time for a photo shoot with a can of beer on the White House lawn with a racist cop and a black Harvard professor—-why not? President Obama has a stake in this because the feud centers on him!
The struggles in the black community are ongoing in 2011 for example; a white man makes 20 times more than a black man, 1% of the America population controls all the wealth. The unemployment rate in Black America doubles that of White America, black youth unemployment is 43% and white youth unemployment is 20%!
Justice in the American Court system is still defined for the Black Community as “Justice and Just-Us.” Have you checked out the prison population lately?
The most vulnerable are children and senior citizens. They have no one to lobby for their rights in Washington, DC.
The AARP will make a claim they are looking out for the welfare of seniors. If that is the case how did they just sit on their hands and let the politicians sign a bill not allowing us a cost of living increase for three years?
That decision was a death sentence for most of us. Black male leadership is non-existent. I will jump over ten James Clyburns and take one female similar to the black women in Mississippi. “The Help” had the balls to stand up and say, “Enough is enough.”
The thing that really scared me was a conversation that I was having with NFL legendary running back Jim Brown.
He is one of the foremost authorities on gang violence in the country. I was venting my frustrations about how everyone was using our kids for just a “Pay Day” for themselves. His response almost knocked me out of my chair. He said, “Harold you have got to get over that kids don’t vote so who cares?” I have looked at Jim in a different light since that day. Now I see the great NFL player only!
If you think racism is a thing of our past lets go back to presence day Mississippi and be re-introduce to “I just ran that nigger over.” Follow this link / http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/08/06/mississippi.hate.crime/index.html.
It was several years ago in Texas that a like group of white men tied chains to the legs of another black man and dragged him through the streets behind their pick-up truck to his death! Mississippi is closer than you think.
The month of August 2011 comes to a close on the mall in Washington, DC with a “Celebration” of a stature that resembles the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, instead of a celebration we should be in a state of mourning.
Dr. King has to be rolling over in his grave to know that his family and friends allowed a sculpture of his likeness to be commissioned and carved up outside of the black community! The decision was a slap in the face to black sculptures world wide.
The sculpture was made in China. I would guess the decision makers were thinking like, everything else in America is made in China why not a sculpture of Rev. King!
Someone in the family or in the black community (John Lewis) should have demanded that a line been drawn. The Chinese could care less about black people! There is no way the Chinese would commission a black sculpture to carve up a likeness of any Chinese leader.
There was a no-show by black men in the movie with the exception of a news highlight of Medgar Evers untimely death and a black brother working in the restaurant. We are still a no-show today when it comes to our community. Black women like in “The Help” are an endangered species. Our new theme song is “Its all about me.”
My wife Hattie use to have to make me sit through the end of the movie and see all the credits as they rolled down the screen. Vocalist Mary J. Blige made it easy for me to sit through these credits. She sang the musical score for the movie and it was beautifully done.
We arrived just in time for the start of the movie and the only seats available were down front where it looks like you are sitting on top of the screen.
When we got up to leave we turned around only to discover three rows of white folks sitting in the upper tier of the theater waiting for the movie to completely end. Hattie and I were the only two blacks left. The whites stood up in their seats but never moved toward the exit until we made our move! I guess they were not taking any chances of us starting a riot. Man, a guilty conscience is a bitch.
On the ride home I thought about how those white folks felt watching “The Help.” It was great movie but it re-opened a lot of wounds. And some of us still have not yet completely healed. It is sad that some whites are returning to their roots (plantation mentality) and still have the balls to ask “When are you people going to get over racism?” It looks like never as long as you keep reminding us!
In closing, I still live by the phrase that I coined to end my sports radio talk show, “Inside Sports” in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. “Every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy.”
Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, DC. Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–sports talk radio with classic interviews with athletes and sports celebrities. The show and format became wildly popular. Harold has been an active force fighting for the rights of children for over 40 years with the help of his wife through their charity Kids In Trouble, Inc. To learn more about Harold Bell visit his official web site H. B. Sports Legends.com.