[NB: There will be blemishes of profanity in this post. I apologise in advance!]
I saw Seven Pounds tonight with a mate at the cinema. I know the film did not open to great reviews, but I could give an F really because I have always been a Will Smith fan. It opened last week here in the UK to the #2 spot, exceeding what I thought it would do after the not so glowing reviews, but it just proves that even in a drama, Will still shines.
With Viola & Taraji’s nominations and Will’s bankability as a box office succes, I want to know, what does black star power, if such a thing exists, what does it mean to you? I think it is one of those concepts that is wholly exclusive to your perspective. I see a black star as someone who has succeeded in their line of work by setting an example and being a role model of sorts, not necessarily a black star who is famous just for being famous.
To me, that includes African-Americans like Will Smith & Beyoncé and Black British people like Idris Elba & Lewis Hamilton and Africans like Djimon Hounsou. Yet to me, it does not include people like Lil Wayne. Not because I am averse to him as such (A Mili was an alright tune), but because I do not think he sets a good example for young black men to follow with his drug use.
When I was thinking about who was a black star with true ‘power’ to me, it really reminded me of the ethos of Frantz Fanon’s book, Peau Noire/Masques Blancs. I know I quote from it a lot because I am quite a Fanonian but I think with that book, he was trying to deconstruct the hatred of the black man and the black women, who do not truly want to be themselves. So, in terms of visibility, do black entertainment stars help to heal this wound of inferiority that some black people have (ie, the ones with colour issues?)
I don’t know. And maybe no one knows the answer. Black stars in entertainment cannot be responsible for people with colour issues. Those people need to heal themselves. But what I do know is the visibility of black people in entertainment & sports is vital because it is what many young people look too for guidance and strength.
Self-esteem is built on the idea of building up confidence, brick by brick. Black people in entertainment do this for many young people. Which is why, it is so important for these black stars to be aware of their power and be responsible in some of the images they create because if they are catering to young people, they need to be aware that they have the power to affect how young black people see themselves.
Which is why I love what Idris Elba has done with his career. He has done phenomenally well for himself and has made black people who live in Britain look fantastic. I just hope the more black people who step into entertainment always remember that they do have a responsibility to help the black cause, not necessarily politically but culturally in the sense that they represent us, and the image of us.
As my brother says, keep fighting and keep smiling. In this vein, these black stars should continue their struggle and ours, too.