This is the first thing I’ve read/heard that makes me want to see Avatar. Not that that’s the point of the article or anything. I’m just sayin’.
Philly hip-hop poet Ursula Rucker celebrates black history at Montreal’s Festival Voix d’Amériques
Famed poet and Philadelphia native Ursula Desiré Rucker cannot believe she has never been invited to perform at an event during Black History Month. Ever.
“It’s the weirdest thing,” says Rucker, who headlines Montreal’s internationally renowned Festival Voix d’Amériques next week. “Growing up, my family joked it was the shortest month of the year. But today, for me, [Black History Month] is all year long.”
Rucker shot to fame in 1994 after she nervously stood before an audience on open-mic night at Zanzibar Blue in Philly, the City of Brotherly Love most folks these days call “Killadelphia.”
…In many ways, Rucker has become the hip-hop nation’s Maya Angelou – if Angelou’s words were stamped “Explicit lyrics.”
But Rucker isn’t R-rated so much as she is brutally frank about issues ranging from womanhood and slavery to love and politics. For instance, right now many blacks are deeply insulted by John Cameron’s movie Avatar, basically a racist piece of s*** white folks have made the top-grossing film of all time.
Avatar is yet another “white messiah” fable – much like the films A Man Called Horse,Dances With Wolves and At Play in the Fields of the Lord – and Rucker is having none of it.
“The most important thing I try to impress upon my children each and every day is to be who you are even if others think differently,” says Rucker, a married mother with four sons aged 5 to 15. “We went to see Avatar and it was the same old story as Pocahontas: The oppressor comes in and makes everything better. I don’t Facebook much, but I had to post something! My 11-year-old son was like, ‘Must you always be ranting about something!’ But if I don’t speak my mind, then that’s not me!”
…For many white folks, that clenched fist basically means black power. But Rucker is for everybody. In fact, she grew up in a mixed-race family in Philly.
“My mom is Italian and my dad is black from Virginia,” Rucker says. “Growing up was pretty cool except when I was really young. I had issues with it. When I found out everyone else’s mom wasn’t white, I started feeling strange. Sometimes when I was little I’d be embarrassed to go out [with my mom]. Then when I hung out with my mom’s family, one of my aunts would use the term ‘coloured.’ They were old-school.”
“But then in college I got revolutionary. Being light-skinned in the 1980s was interesting in America.” Those years helped shape Rucker and her sweet “song-speak” on her landmark 2001 album Supa Sista before she wowed audiences at the 2005 Amnesty International Australia Freedom Festival. Still, after all these years, Ursula Desiré Rucker has yet to headline a Black History Month event back home in America.
Which is why she is so looking forward to being the guest of honour at the Festival Voix d’Amériques here in February.
“Being a person of mixed race isn’t an issue for me [anymore] – I’m so comfortable with who I am now. I’m proud of both [my racial heritages] but,” Rucker says with typical fire, “I lean [more] to being black in America because that’s where I’m needed most.”
I didn’t think the movie’s message was that the whites came in and made everything better. They came in, destroyed everything, were conquered, and then forced to leave. The over all message I got was that the white people were stupid, self centered, and failed. I did not love the movie, but I didn’t think white people, as a whole, were portrayed as saviors.
Great post, Tiff. Thanks.
I agree with Bethany. I felt like the story was far from being a “messiah” tale about a white person who saves a race of “savages”. The central character as a white man, actually, is impotent. He doesn’t gain strength until he obtains a Na’vi body AND learns their (very deeply spiritual and wise) ways enough to be able to use it properly.
The story revolves around the protagonist’s is own personal evolution as his eyes are opened to the horrors of what his own people are capable of. He doesn’t save the Na’vi – the Na’vi save him. I think calling this tale “racist” is shallow at best, but leans more toward ridiculous.
As a Native American person, I wasn’t offended by the film at all, which very closely models the Na’vi after NA tribal peoples and their customs. I feel that some people are always going to look for reasons to cry foul. It’s sensationalism at its worst, and it sucks.