What Black Films Taught Me About Life and Love

Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs in ‘Brown Sugar’ (2002)

We love watching films where it captures the essence of our lives and situations we may have encountered, through characters who appear to look and be, just like us.

I admired most, the chemistry we saw portrayed through such talented black actors and actresses on screen, creating these characters who had their own story and meshed it with their love interest in more ways, than one.

Besides teaching us the do’s and don’ts of love, taking us through the steps of finding it or how to get through its distance, black films of the romance genre, have taught us even more, about life.

Here are a few of our favorite black films that gave us the 4-1-1 on Life and Love:

‘Poetic Justice’ (1993)

Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson in ‘Poetic Justice’ Written and Directed by John Singleton (Gif credit: Tumblr)

‘Poetic Justice,’ was a visual healing experience. Here we had Justice, a very intelligent and loving woman, who unexpectedly loses her boyfriend and she watched him take his last breath, right in front of her eyes. In order to deal with the grief, she starts writing poetry, to coincide with her life as a hairdresser, while still dealing with the loss and trying to regain herself during the aftermath.

This film taught us about how hurt can pull at your heartstrings even after the end of the last thread and you have to face it, until you’re strong enough to build a bridge to overcome that pain. Through Justice’s character, we saw patience and a yearning for change within self but also fear that the same thing may happen again or it’s almost unfair to be put into a situation, where it possibly could. But whether we like it or not, love is bound to happen and like we’ve all heard many times, you can’t help who you love and you can’t fight a feeling. With Lucky’s interference into Justice’s life, almost as if it was the right place but wrong time, they were able to teach one another about feelings and how strong they are, how they can change you as a person and hopefully more so for the better, than worse. They started off absolutely not even wanting to be in the same presence as one another, but found out that they were both suspects of blaming everyone else for why they weren’t where they wanted to be. The result of this, as we saw Justice slowly but surely let her guard down and Lucky learning to listen to another voice than his own, ended up with them eventually letting go of their egos, for each other. Hence, let that ego go, it could be blocking a blessing.

Also the importance of self-worth and having boundaries reflected through Iesha and Chicago’s ‘situationship.’ Chicago was a self-obsessed narcissist, needing someone to feed that negative energy off of and Iesha, her priorities were out of whack and she had the capability of being securely independent but thought a man could fill the void of blocking out her problems of being a potential alcoholic and alone. Although Lucky didn’t step in at first, once Chicago wrongfully put his hands on Iesha, he eventually did and that should be an example for any men in that situation looking upon another man disrespecting a woman in any physical or mental matter.

‘The Inkwell’ (1994)

Adrienne-Joi Johnson and Larenz Tate in ‘The Inkwell’ Directed by Matty Rich and written byTrey Ellis & Paris Qualles

‘The Inkwell,’ has to be one of the most underrated coming of age films in general. We won’t even say “coming of age, black film,’ because it doesn’t need that label to solidify its worth.

A story about self-discovery and recovering from trauma within a young, black male who feels as though he just doesn’t belong, ‘Inkwell’ stated clearly the position of trying to figure out who you are, while juggling who everyone wants you to be. It taught us about connections, like the one Drew and Heather shared, and how they can grow fiercely through anyone and another, due to the fact that sometimes you can just relate and we all need that backbone who shared or shares the same experience, waiting to express that guilt, hurt, feeling of not ‘belonging,’ with someone else. We may come up on the short end of the stick with love, you can fall so fast and think it’s the best thing you’ve ever felt when it’s the first time you felt that way, just to end up finding out, who and what isn’t meant for you, is just a lesson for what’s better to come. More importantly, this film sparked up the conversation of mental health and well being within our black men, how it can sometimes be ignored due to the fact that their supposed to be masculine, emotionless and strong at all times because that’s what they were taught to be. But a lot of times, our black men, men, and society in general, needs someone to understand their head space and to not make them feel like they have to handle lives obstacles, alone.

‘The Wood’ (1999)

Taye Diggs, Omar Epps and Richard T.Jones in ‘The Wood.’ Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa/Co-written by Todd Boyd

I remember my first time seeing ‘The Wood,’ it’s my mom’s favorite movie so I saw parts of it here and there because she watched is so commonly. And finally, when I was old enough to be able to understand the story behind this film, the humor and sense of growth these characters enhanced throughout their journey, I couldn’t help but admire every aspect of it.

The friendship that Mike, Slim and Roland shared was the exact same relationship I could relate back to my big brother and his friends. The way they joked around, their love for the ladies, trying to put one another on game here and there but more importantly, the bond and brotherhood they shared for years, and without a doubt, always having each other’s back.

‘The Wood’ was the blueprint for maintaining friendships with those who started from the bottom and came up with you. It was Roland’s wedding day and him being the clown he is, decides to get drunk and act a fool moments before, making one of the most important changes of his life. But who was there with him, his boys from way back when, still putting up with his bull but avoiding the judgment and more so inputting tough love because like any true friend, they have your best interest at heart.

It was more so ‘brotherly love,’ rather than the four-letter word in general that we seen throughout this movie. And for me at least, I hope my younger brother, nephew and future son of my own, can secure that bond of friendship to embark the best black man they can be, with the support of their brothers, beside them.

‘Love & Basketball’ (2000)

Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps in ‘Love & Basketball’ Written and Directed by Gina Prince- Bythewood

‘Love & Basketball’ taught me about the foundation of building a relationship and maintaining that passion for whatever God has called upon you to do. Monica and Quincy’s relationship started off rocky and continued to do so as they became older, more mature and signified a love-hate relationship. But if there was one thing they could agree on in the beginning stages of their complicated relationship, was their love for none other than basketball and how it made them feel superior, just like the things and people we love makes us feel, no matter the moment in time. Their friendship was built on commonalities, which strengthened their romantic turn and made them realize the person they loved, was right there beside them, even if it wasn’t always, together. It took time and distance, juggling select partners and falling out of love with what you love because you couldn’t do it with who you love, to make these two realize how much they mutually needed each other.

Another key point was the results of Quincy’s father’s infidelity and how that impacted Quincy and his mother. For him to look up to his father, following in his footsteps and making his dream come true as he watched his son not only make it to college, but also play ball seemed almost pointless, after seeing the damage his father initially caused to the family. But it made a clear point that you can despise the actions someone committed within your life, but the real winner is the person who chooses to forgive and be the better person that makes even greater decisions, in the end.

And we know it’s more than likely a very rare occasion when someone literally backs out of marrying their significant other the day before for someone else, who actually lost the bet in a game of one-on-one. But it’s ‘just a movie,’ in the end and Monica and Quincy being in a relationship seemed to not settle with anyone but who they always found a way back too. I personally, will forever stan, for the McCalls, sns.

All is fair in love and basketball.

‘Brown Sugar’ (2002)

Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan in ‘Brown Sugar’ Written by Michael Elliott and Rick Famuyiwa, directed by Famuyiwa

When was the first time you fell in love with Hip-Hop?

The inclusion of the importance of Hip-Hop music in the black community and culture, although not fully depicted throughout this film, was a major key in general.

It gave insight that besides memorable lyrics, flows and trends, hip-hop tells a story within many spaces of our minority communities and the people who present the records so well. Hip-Hop gives us a chance to voice the power of the people and our circumstances within a time then and now, when those outside of our lives, didn’t want to listen to what we had to say. Sid and Dre’s connection rooted from the beginning of hip-hop, in which developed their relationship over time. One’s love for hip-hop can be as evident as their love for someone in general, or in any form of a relationship.

It’s possible to love someone more so due to important times in your life you’ve shared together. That connection that Dre and Sid had came from the moment they witnessed hip-hop music in 84’ and that carried throughout their life because of its significance in their careers and what got them there in the first place. Sid got an extremely promising occupation as Editor-in-Chief of XXL Magazine, while Dre became a music executive looking for the next big thing and if that wasn’t enough to signify their relationship with hip-hop, then I don’t know what is. But the problem with their connection was it being a roadblock to additional opportunities outside of the music. Dre was set to get married but didn’t, due to the fact that his fiancé to be, wanted more time to explore her options with secret rendezvous. Sid on the other hand, found a great guy, but couldn’t fully enjoy it because of the feelings she had kept for Dre and vice versa. The smart thing to do was not get into something you’re not ready for, in the possibility of hurting someone who was victim to what you couldn’t move on from. The true moral being, you’ll feel when it’s right and you’ll feel when it’s wrong, your mind presents the decision but your heart always, makes it.

‘Just Wright’ (2010)

Queen Latifah and Common in ‘Just Wright’ Directed by Sanaa Hamri and written by Michael Elliot

Leslie Wright was the ideal ‘homegirl,’ who some of us could probably relate to all too closely. A hardworking, lovable and outgoing woman who just couldn’t find the right guy because they see you more as a companion or you just generally, don’t see a relationship as a priority but also don’t mind openly dating.

She lived in the shadow of her more outspoken and seemingly more beautiful cousin in her eyes, Morgan, who could easily land a guy with a snap of a finger, but Leslie held her own up as more of the life-handler and carrier of those old-school values.

The relationship between Leslie and mega pro-baller Scott McKnight had a shady upbringing as he fell for her cousin, who ended up jetting because of his temporary injury and a fear of losing out on money. Leslie, being the miracle worker she is got him back in the game on the court and in life and they grew to know each other and eventually fall. Although the two were more alike, sharing the same passion for the game and Leslie believing in Scott when the person he eventually was supposed to marry, walked out, their love story almost met a short-end when the gold-digging cousin returned. Leslie packed up her things and left and it took a reality check for Scott to realize who was down for him, when he was down himself.

‘Just Wright,’ taught me about perseverance and self-consistency. You may feel like you’re down on your luck in the love department but most of the time, it’s a test of patience and loving yourself enough to wait for someone who can love you just as equally. We can look around and see it through everyone but ourselves as we’re building business relationships, more friendships or even trying to strengthen them, but while doing so, feel as if we’re lacking in the love department, when the reality is, your time just hasn’t come yet. And trust me, it will.

Although there are a ton of black films we can appreciate for its sense of life lessons and hacks, along with learning a sense of maintaining communication and growing as a person as we fall in love, these were just a few to highlight some of those significant keys. As we inch into 2018, we hope to see more influential and impactful black cinema in the aspect of life and love so we can keep adding, to our book of black film knowledge.

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