Friday August 21, 1998.
I was in the passenger seat of my 26 year old Father’s Lexus GS 300. I remember the street lights dancing gently over the big, gold body of the sedan. The interior was cream colored leather with wood grain and gold accents. I was very comfortable. Even at 8 years old, I knew that I liked nice things.
We arrived at a stoplight and my old man shook his wrist in a way that would make his silver Rolex with the diamond bezel twinkle and slide closer to his hand.
“We should get there right on time, Champ.”
I remember riding through downtown looking through the sunroof on that summer night. Stadiums and neon signs lit up the promenade. This was back when Progressive was Jacob’s Field and the Q was The Gund Arena. Back when Lebron was a middle school kid.
We were headed to Cleveland’s “Tower City”. A shopping mall, food court and movie theatre inside a skyscraper in the middle of downtown. A had a parent who was very keen on my interests, two of which were drawing and comic books. On this fateful night, we were going to se Wesley Snipes in “Blade”. I was a big Spider-Man fan, so I had seen glimpses of Blade on the cartoon, but I had no idea that I was about to indulge in greatness.
I watched my Father use his charm and wit to not only get free parking, but free Popcorn and candy at the concession stand. He was unreasonably smooth. Tall and lean with brush waves cascading through his bald fade. His outfit a combination of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. His scent, a mixture of Issey Miyake and cocoa butter.
Before I admired anyone I admired my father. Representation in the household, early.
We finally arrived in the theatre, the two of us, a combined 34 years old, took our seats. It was almost like having a big brother instead of a parent. We laughed through the previews inside of the packed theatre, poured some bite sized Reese’s in the popcorn and turned our attention to the screen.
2 hours later.. What the fuck did I just watch?!
My mind was thoroughly blown. From the action, to the cinematography, to the music and story.. Blade had just become my favorite movie, because even as unrealistic as it seemed, it was relatable and very possible to me.
There’s nothing cooler to an 8 year old boy than a superhero, and every superhero I had ever seen in my entire life was white. Batman a rich white man. Superman a mild mannered white alien man. Spider-Man, a broke college white man who didn’t get hoes. But this? This was different. For two hours I saw a rhythmic, shit talking, bad ass WHO LOOKED LIKE ME beat on vampires and slap around police officers. He was so, unapologetically black. The way he fought, his mannerisms, even his diolauge.
He was stern and solid. The “I don’t give a fuck about you or this establishment” attitude appealed to me. He wore all black, drove a cool car and always wore his sunglasses. Blade was like shaft on steroids. Blade was 2010 Kanye West in 1998.
For weeks I practiced sword maneuvers in my bedroom using a ruler. I wore my shades at the playground, amusement parks and my cousin’s house. (Subsequently I lost them at the waterpark.) You couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t Blade.
As a little black boy, For the first time in my life, I was emulating a hero that looked like me. Not a character that I drew or created in my head, but someone on the screen who was the color of my skin.
I grew up on Master William, Dwayne Wayne and Martin Payne. Me Being brash, charismatic and confident is partly due to the influence that entertainers had on me. This is why being represented positively in film and television is so Important. Media molds the minds of the people.
Whether it was a cartoon character like Susie Carmichael or a sitcom character like Steve Erkel, every black person remembers the entity that they saw on the screen who they felt a direct connection with.
Positive depiction of our race is a cornerstone of the Black legacy.
Do you know how awesome it felt to tweet with you all as “The Wiz: Live!” Was broadcasting. To see the pictures of little black girls standing in front of a screen? After 6 Star Wars films and getting a glimpse of more Aliens than black people, how dope was it to see a black lead swinging a lightsaber and leading Han Solo into battle? I saw “Straight Outta Compton” in a packed movie theatre where the entire crowd rapped lyrics. I can’t even begin to expound on that experience.
I don’t know if we’re in a transitional phase or I’m just getting old enough to realIze these things, but I believe that the powerhouse that is black media is slowly but surely getting the recognition that it deserves. It seems as if Tyler perry tried to run it into the ground, force feeding the people with bullshit, but now things are changing.
The black dollar is powerful, and we have to continue to go and support things that appeal to us. If we don’t want to keep seeing movies about Slaves, War, dogs, Cowboys and a White Egypt (all things that white folks love) then we must support are own as much as we can. I knew “Ride Along 2″ was going to be ass, but I still went a offered support to my kind.
The era of us being awarded for being crooked cops, slaves or prostitutes is dying. The more we support the films that WE want to see, the more influence we have over what’s released. The more influence we have over what’s released, the more control we have over what our babies ingest and comprehend.
Growing up I looked up to Ray Lewis, who they called a murderer. Michael Vick who they called a vicious animal killer. These kids get to look up to Barack Obama and Super Cam Newton.
I don’t care what they say about your black ass. Malcolm loves you.
Until next wave…
-International Malcolm, the King.