Sunday, April 04, 2010

Mo'Nique: Spreads the Love

I was so happy to be in the house to see Mo'Nique this evening at her "Spread the Love Tour," at Oakland's Paramount Theatre. Afterward as my friend and I walked to the car, one of the kids walking ahead of us said to his friends, "I shook the hand of Precious's mother." That was so funny, but we could certainly relate--we wished we'd gotten the opportunity (smile).

I was reminded of shaking the hand of the person who shook President Obama's hand and then before washing it, sharing the handshake with a few others. It was at the Alvin Ailey 25th Anniversary season tour in Berkeley last year.

Oscar award-winning actress Mo'Nique's topics tonight ranged from weight loss to orgasms, parenting two boys at 42, her husband, Sidney Hicks, the perks of purple haze, Harriet Tubman, black men, and Michele and Barack Obama and why she used so much profanity on stage.

Besides the repeated uses of the n-word, I found her delightfully refreshing and beautiful. Pretty legs and strong arms and shoulders, she looked great in a black dress just above the knee, with raised bodice, with narrow straps. In black heels that showed off her legs Mo'Nique strutted on stage, and called all her big girls to the front where they had spectacular seats. Cameras were okay, so we were firing away all night. At one point Mo'Nique told someone to stop recording her.

I found her comments on black women telling and true ... and her observations on our first lady and her husband, Michelle and Barack Obama, also correct.

"You know he wants to cuss out some of those cabinet members." She observed.

It was a case of laughing to keep from slapping someone in a few cases this evening, laughter certainly a more peaceful response as her comments hit tender, still raw and painful places.

Mo'Nique spoke of having the first lady's back as her patriotic duty--she did a little salute and a march. This duty meant that she wouldn't allow anyone, not even the Queen of England, to insult Michelle Obama.

"I might not get invited back to the White House," she stated. Before the Obama's Mo'Nique said she'd never cared to visit the White House or who was there. She failed history, because it was "his-story" not ours.

She said not to believe everything you read about her as she painted her face white, warrior marks a distinctive feature tonight.

Watch out!

It's as if something is loosened and freer now in the artist ... now that she has more keys on her ring, allowing her entrance into rooms formerly guarded. Who knows? it was refreshing listening to her talk about whatever she wanted to talk about uncensored.

We haven't come a long way from the place where the only safe black folks are those laughing, dancing or singing, but well perhaps this is where the truth hides and "The Spread the Love Tour" is a 21st century camp meeting where Africans led by abolishionist Mo'Nique with a mic not a shotgun sat or stood tonight plotting our escape from internalized sterotypes about ourselves that keep us enslaved and set a part.

I guess on the eve of the rebirth of Christ, one could even say, she has been resurrected, after media crucified her or at least tried. Look at Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, Gabriel Prosner.

All the big sisters were out tonight showing some love for the sister who made them proud to be in their bodies, made them claim their beautiful selves.

For all the Sarah Baartmans, whom property of another were objectified and ridiculed, Mo'Nique has reshaped and revisioned African feminism and African beauty for them and the legacy western culture still mythologizes and we buy.

If she does nothing else public in her life, Mo'Nique should be applauded for being out there, taking the hits, being bold where others cannot and would not. Glamorous and intelligent, an articulate black woman who cares about her people, especially her sisters, especially the one's society has forgotten and excluded from so much--Mo'Nique represents our time to shine and takes the spotlight with her and illuminates us in all our various non-standard shapes and sizes.

Seriously you should have seen all the black women on the front row when she called her big girls down front to sit in the VIP section. I'd never seen anything like this before and for that alone, I applaud her and support her work as an actress and talk show host. I also like how she has placed her marriage in the public discource and her parenting: tongue in cheek, she loves as it challenges her as an older parent. Black families and black love are something we don't see enough of and like the Obamas, the Hicks, the Washington's and the Ruby Dee/Ossie Davis examples are ones were never tire of just because they are so few.

One of the comics, Tone-X, who opened the show said that we'd never see him with a white woman ... becasue he loved black women.

Hers is the lovely smiling face on Jet/April 5, 2010, Miki Turner's story, "Mo'Nique: Staying True to Herself," a glimpse into the woman behind the camera or off center stage, but for a public person, there is really no time when one is off.

For Mo'Nique, what life's about is honoring one's ancestors, enjoying each moment and remembering what counts, and for her an important task is raising up Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to get the Oscar for her role as "Mammy" in "Gone with the Wind." She plans to make a film about this woman to lift up her name.

Just as McDaniel could only play certain roles in film, it's true of black actors today, especially black women--Mo'Nique's character in the film based on Saffire's novel, PUSH, the psychotic mother of "Precious," is part of that canon, as is the mammy or McDaniel's "Mammy" who took care of her boss's home and children.

That McDaniel was recognized as separate from the family as a character or by extension person in her own right, extended the reference off the stage for black women and for black people. Seen for so long as "Bob's Mammy" or "Jennie's Jane," what she did, for the moment at least, was to exert her personhood, her humanity unconnected to a chattel history. She asserted her freedom. (One can see this as well in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, where she has given life-her own life, to her mammy "Calpurnia." On the 50th Anniversary of the novel, TheatreWorks is producing the staged version by the same title in Palo Alto, it opens for previews April 7, and is up through May 9. Listen to a conversation with Cathleen Riddley who portrays this character on 4/2/2010).

Sometimes freedom is such a small thing which huge implications.

I think, this is part of Mo'Nique's attractiveness, this ability to be free, and her freedom, what one could say the Love Tour is all about: helping audiences, particularly black women, let go and be free.

Photo credit: Wanda Sabir (of course, smile). The other photos are of opening performers: Rodney Perry and Tone-X. DJ Ant was spinning.


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