About a week ago, a reader notified me that a review I published to this blog was from a book written by a woman who took part in the insurrection of January 6th. I did not know, as I had published the review months ago. I enjoyed the book, but I have since removed the review and deleted the read’s promotional tweets.
What happened at the Capitol was wild, but America’s hypocrisy amazes me.
Where was this energy when Tulsa and Rosewood’s black people had their homes raided, their communities bombed and their family killed? I have yet to hear the Ku Klux Klan declared a terrorist organization.
When black homes, businesses, and communities were bombed, the people who attacked them were not considered terrorists.
It wasn’t terrorism when strange fruit hung from trees.
Attacks on Black Americans are not considered “an attack on our democracy.”
When they dragged fourteen-year-old Emmett Till from his family’s home, shot him with a 45 caliber pistol, beat him to a pulp, and drowned him in a lake with a 75-pound cotton gin and barbed wire around his neck, his murderers were not deemed, terrorists.
They were acquitted.
When unarmed black men, women, and children are killed, the murderers are not considered terrorists.
Showing pictures of Malcolm X and Fred Hampton’s deceased body all over the newspapers was not “shocking,” nor was it “an attack on our democracy.”
On June 17, 2015, Dylan Roof walked into a church, killed nine black people, and injured one more person. Later, he confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war.
But when he was caught after the search, police did not “fear for their lives.” He was not shot dead.
On May 2, 1967, 30 Black Panthers walked into the California State Capitol building with rifles and shotguns (it was legal to carry back then openly) that catapult them into the national spotlight and made national headlines. From this point on, The Black Panthers were terrorists.
Their headquarter offices were bombed and raided.
Their members were shot and killed.
The laws were changed, making it illegal to open carry.
Where is the outrage, America, when black people are attacked like your beloved Capitol? Where is this energy?
Americans are admonished never to forget 9/11.
Jewish Americans are admonished never to forget the holocaust.
But it is often stressed that Black American’s forget slavery and centuries of oppression.
We are not the same.
Malcolm X said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Today, social media and mainstream media are the newspaper, and if we are not careful, it would have us believe the same system that works for the oppressor is the same system that works for the oppressed.
No way was the Panthers politely told to leave the Capitol in California.
No way did the police stand by and calmly escort members of BLM off the streets during protests.
What happened on January 6th was wild, but it should not be surprising.
We are seeing only the beginnings of the “chickens coming home to roost” (to quote Malcolm) for America.
It is what it is.
“It was horrendous,” a CNN commentator called the January 6th events.
But so was watching a police officer put his knee on the neck of a black woman in 1963. And so was watching a police officer put his knee on George Floyd’s neck in 2020.
Let me make this a bit more plain: You watched a man die on TV.
But this was not considered an act of terrorism. Why? Because the same system that works for America is not the same system that works for black people.
Joe Biden said, “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America. This is not who we are.”
Respectfully, I disagree.
This is America and always has been America.
Movie Night Friday is back with my review of these two movies coming to you in February.
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Victoriyah Smith. Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Victoria Smith (Victoriyah Israyl) and I am from Gulfport, Mississippi.
What was your childhood dream?
My childhood dream was to be able to travel to different countries around the world. I have been blessed to travel to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Belize, Progresso, Montego Bay, Cozumel, Key West, to name a few places. I enjoy learning new cultures and trying fresh foods as long as it is not pork or shellfish.
I feel you. I love traveling myself. Got a travel buddy? Married?
I am married to my wonderful, loving, supportive husband, Willie. We have shared this life together for 21 years.
Beautiful. Let’s talk about writing a bit. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book on June 15, 2020, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Oh okayy. You new, new. Congratulations!
Thank you. It took a lot of work, time, and learning technical things to get it in the correct format for publishing; it was definitely a learning experience. I am now working on promoting my book as I work on writing my next book. I know the process will be more straightforward because of my first experience.
What do you love about yourself?
I love that I am a giver. I enjoy helping others and being a blessing to others who are not as fortunate as myself.
In your own words, what is humility?
Humility is being humble in my heart and my actions. Humility is the opposite of being puffed up and high minded. To walk in humility means to open yourself to understand the pain and disappointment of others. It is a welcoming approach to solving violence, anger, and aggression in relationships and society. Humility is being of no form or fashion, but existing in love and understanding as you seek to understand others when there is no peace. Humility is being as a little child.
I love that part about opening yourself up to understand the pain of others. Victoriyah, what is the best advice you’ve ever been given? What made it special?
My father gave me some wisdom as a young adult after I built my home. He was laying a new driveway for me, and I tried to pay him before he had finished the work. My father looked at me and asked, “Have you seen the finished product?” My answer was “No sir,” and then he said,” Never pay for a service in full until you’ve seen the finished product. Even if it’s your daddy.” Those simple words have been special in my life because it gave me the courage I needed to hold people accountable in business transactions as a young woman.
That’s awesome. Why is writing important to you?
Writing has always been an escape for me. When I became a Sunday school-teacher years ago, writing became a huge part of my life as I would write stories of the bible that would help my students to understand the scripture in a greater way. As I have continued my relationship with the Most High, writing has been a central focus of my meditations as I am being guided by my creator to unfold many truths about the bible. I hope that the truths that are written in my books will help others increase their belief in our creator Yah.
Life is not always pretty, as we all experience hardship now and again and this is magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is your best advice for reducing stress?
My advice for anyone experiencing hardship is to understand that there is a purpose for everything we experience. To find the meaning of life is to gain a relationship with our creator Yah and the Messiah Yahoshuah. I believe that by doing that, the Most High gives us understanding and direction in the path we should take in our lives. Pray to our creator Yah, cast all your burdens and troubles on him, and he will lift every burden (stress) and give you peace that surpasses all human understanding.
From the natural perspective, start a hobby, exercise, eat healthily, write more, and evaluate the decisions you are making and set goals to remove anything out of your life that may be causing stress. Our creator will give you the strength to remove those things through prayer.
Beautifully articulated. Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
I enjoy gardening. I grow my own cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. I also have a passion for helping women become their own bosses by giving them the tools they need to succeed. In 2014, I established an organization to work toward that end. It is called “Network of Women Business Owners.” I also enjoy helping the less fortunate individuals in the community with clothes, food, and resources to help them overcome life’s challenges.
Thank you Victoriyah for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, Victoriyah received her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama and her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern Mississippi. Also, she obtained an associate’s degree in Business Management from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. With a passion for helping every inspiring woman become her own boss, Victoriyah shares her proven insights with diverse audiences through training, consulting services, workshops, seminars, and online platforms.
Mrs. Smith is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Network of Women Business Owners, a professional business network established in 2014 in Gulfport, Mississippi. Victoriyah resides in Gulfport, Mississippi, with her husband, Willie, and her (4) children and grandchildren live in Texas. She is available to conduct speeches and facilitate professional development training for professional women groups, organizations, and empowerment business events.
When I started this blog and chose “truth is stranger than fiction,” as the tagline, it was puzzling to people. Someone even reached out to correct, me, saying, “don’t you mean the truth is stronger than fiction?”
No. Stranger is the word I meant.
What it seeks to communicate is that nothing we can create can be as unusual as what we find in actual life, and speaks metaphorically of the unsettling realness of truth—the “strangeness” of reality. You think something is weird until you find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes. You think my blog name and the tagline is strange until you understand what it means.
Everything that is happening right now, I could quickly put in a novel. Except, there is no story I can conjure up that would be equivalent to the real-life terror that blacks face and have faced every day in this country.
As someone who writes Black Historical Fiction, there is a strangeness about what’s going on because what happened in the 60s is still happening. And as I place my fictional characters amid events that actually happened, I realize that I am a character in the present world, a world that mirrors the one passed. Our children and their children will read about what happened this year, and they will ask the question, “what was it like living in a world with civil unrest because of the mistreatment of blacks during a pandemic?”
The first five months of 2020 have been brutal on every level, and we are living in what will one day be part of America’s history, and it must not be lost to us that we are part of that history.
If America were a house, racism would be the foundation on which this house sits. People don’t want to hear that many of the founding fathers were slave-owners. They don’t want to hear about the Slave Patrols turned southern police departments. People don’t want to hear that dismantling systemic racism means to dismantle that system. And people certainly do not want to hear about the spiritual connections between the afflictions blacks have endured, their real identity and heritage, and their place in America.
But there is no one way of looking at everything that’s going on, but this is also what makes writing a powerful tool for shedding light on these truths, exposing prejudices, and breaking down barriers, and eventually whole systems.
Everyone can’t be on the ground. I won’t say “on the front lines,” because I don’t believe there is one way to be on the front lines. The term comes from the military line or part of an army that is closest to the enemy. To be on the “front line” means to be closeted to the enemy, which is usually depicted as physically facing him. But there are other ways to face the enemy, and one way is to write with accuracy.
Write the truth. Write it as raw and as bloody as it is in real life. Pass down stories to the next generation that will teach them the truth about who they are. Take Toni Morrison, for example, who in the 60s and 70s chose to publish the books of black writers telling the truth and exposing lies. Books play a significant role in educating a people, and miseducation has a lot to do with what is and is not, written in books.
Writers are, therefore, also on the front lines and in a powerful way. In the words of Nina Simone, “you can’t help it. As far as I’m concerned, an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.”
As devastating as things are right now, what black writers write today, be it a poem or blog post or scholarly article, can make a difference in the next world.
As an author, I am always thinking about ways I can add value to my audience. It’s easy to point the finger when you don’t see people being as supportive as you think they should be, but I am the person who will always look at me first. In doing this, I have thought about what support means, not from an author/entrepreneur perspective, but from the perspective of the reader/audience member. Why? Because I was a reader before I was a writer.
This has led me to think about the importance of authentic support.
I think authenticity is important even when supporting others. No one can be bullied, into supporting. It has to be in them to do it. It has to be part of who they are. People have to be passionate about whatever it is they are supporting.
Authentic – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
It was easy to get upset with people for not being supportive until I realized the truth: People support what is true to their personality, spirit, or character. It doesn’t matter if we are of the same family, organization, or group. People will support what is in alignment with who they are. It has to speak to them.
There must be some connection or commonality between the supporter and the movement, some kind of bridge connecting the two that makes the support worth it. When I think of it this way, I am more at ease with those who don’t support me because I realize it’s not personal. If the support is to be genuine, the person must first feel some kind of connection to whatever it is they are supporting.
I can’t speak for others, but I know that in my experience in the Indie Author community there is a lot of talk about being supportive but the thing is, people, don’t support just for the sake of supporting. I know we would like to think of it this way but that’s not the truth. If I am being real with myself and looking at this from the reader/audience/observer’s perspective then I have to admit that we support what we believe in. If what is being offered isn’t in agreement with that belief, we will probably be less supportive.
I learned that if I am being my authentic self, then I will attract authentic support.
I come from a movie family. My aunt used to collect VHS tapes and then later, DVDs. If she were still alive, she would have every movie streaming app there is and collect Fire Sticks. We are a family who walks around quoting movie lines and seeing if people can guess what movie it is. It’s only right that I feature a series on this blog about movies. Movie Night Friday is nothing new. It is a segment I started on this blog years ago (2015) to feature my favorite films and why I love them. My favorites are broken down into different categories, though, so Malcolm X could number one in one category Lean on Me in the next, Boyz N Tha Hood in the next, The Great Debaters in the next, and Revival in the next.
Revival! features a star-studded, mostly black cast in the retelling of John’s book, featuring the resurrection, life, and ministry of the Messiah. Viewers will watch the bible play out through some of their favorite actors and musicians in a mixture of onstage performances, gospel songs, and spirituals, so that Revival! becomes more than just a movie, but an experience. Michelle Williams playing Mary Magdalen, Chaka Khan as Herodias, Wendy Raquel Robinson as the woman with the blood issue, Kenny Lattimore as Lazarus, Harry Lennix as Pontius Pilate and Mali Music as Yahoshua, Revival! is a part short film, part musical, and part broadway play.
What attracted me to Revival?
When TriCoast Entertainment reached out to me for a review, my first impulse was to watch the trailer. As a spiritual person who believes in the bible but not a Christian, I wanted to make sure this was the kind of film I can stand behind, support, and promote. When I watched the trailer, the first thing that piqued my interest immediately was the almost all-black cast and, even more, the black Messiah.
Many African Americans do not see themselves in scripture and are thus convinced they are not there and have nothing to do with this powerful historical text. Further, few films reveal the actual physical appearance of the people of the bible. Where are we? It is a question I often hear from black people when discussing scripture. Some of us don’t think we were there at all. But the truth is that many of the people’s nationalities in the bible, including the Israelites, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, were black-skinned people.
I think the Pharisees did an excellent job of being hypocrites (haha), and they were in some of my favorite scenes, but my most favorite part was the scenes where Yahoshua is fighting off the temptation of the devil. Taken from Matthew 4:1-11, the creativity of the temptations had a modern touch. Still, it did not take away the reality of the devil’s persistence in his attacks and how we must be just as persistent in our resistance to those attacks. In the movie, these attacks take various forms, such as Satan as a man sitting at the beautiful dining spread to tempt Yahoshua to eat during his fast and command the stones to become bread (Matt. 4:1-4). Another instance is of a little boy and another seducing woman trying to entice him with her body. The best of these scenes for me was when the devil transformed himself into that of a little boy on top of the Hollywood sign and there tempted Yahoshua to jump.
We live in a world where Hollywood is a place everyone strives to be apart of. It represents the epitome of success for some and the place everyone wants to be. Here, celebrities are worshiped as gods. Most people aren’t taken seriously or acknowledged for their art, whether music, writing, or theater, until they have become promoted on a mainstream level. Therefore, inspired by the scripture where the devil takes the Messiah on a high mountain and tells him to throw himself down (Matt. 4:6), Mali and the little boy sitting on top of the Hollywood mountain was a brilliant idea. It was also a good idea to portray the devil as an innocent young boy since we know that he can transform himself into an angel of light (2 Co 11:14).
Least Favorite Scenes
I enjoyed some of the songs, but the combination of several mediums was my least favorite part. I would have liked to see the film part as a consistent thread throughout (like a movie) without being jolted from the narrative for someone to sing for three minutes. At times it did work, but there were also times I was immersed in the story and then snatched out of it. I think the musical/stage play part could be a separate production of itself so that it doesn’t disturb the transition between scenes and distracts from the core story.
The lady with blood flow was also my least favorite scene because the scripture doesn’t mention anything about the woman’s flow of blood coming from bruises. Based on Lev. 15:25-33, I understood this flow of blood was a literal flow of blood as in a menstrual cycle. Wendy Raquel Robinson’s acting was excellent, though, as usual.
Mostly All Black Cast
I have to bring it back to the mostly all-black cast! This is hands down my favorite part of the film, and I’d like to end this review with a bit more context to explain why I think this is so important for African Americans to see.
According to Revelations chapter one verse 14-15, the messiah is described by John as having hair like white wool and feet like burnished brass as if refined in a furnace. So, when he shows up in this film dark-skinned with full lips and a full beard, it is refreshing. If Yahoshua were to walk the earth today, he would do so as a black man, so we are not only looking at ourselves, but we are looking at the truth. Initially, the descendants of both Shem and Ham were black people. Gerald Massey, English writer and author of the book Egypt the Light of the World, wrote:
“The dignity is so ancient that the insignia of the Pharaoh evidently belonged to the time when Egyptians wore nothing but the girdle of the Negro.”
Sir Richard Francis Burton, a 19th-century English explorer, writer, and linguist in 1883 wrote to Gerald Massey:
“You are quite right about the ‘AFRICAN’ origin of the Egyptians. I have 100 human skulls to prove it.”
Scientist, R. T. Pritchett, states in his book, The Natural History of Man:
“In their complex and many of the complexions and in physical peculiarities the Egyptians were an ‘AFRICAN’ race.”
And finally, the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the 5th century B.C.E., saw the Egyptians face to face and described them as black-skinned with woolly hair. Consider also that the word Ham in Hebrew is Khwam, and it means “hot, burnt, and black.”
If it is true that the Egyptians were black, and we know that they were, then it is also true that the Israelites were black. The Israelites became a nation in Egypt (the land of Ham). Jacob’s sons arrived 70 in number (Gen. 46:27, Ex. 1:5) because of the famine, but as Joseph ruled Egypt (Gen. 41), his brothers did not at first recognize their Israelite brother among the black Egyptians. (Gen. 42:8)
Additionally, Moses passed as the grandson of the Egyptian Pharaoh for forty-years. (Acts 7:23)
How could this have happened if he didn’t look like him?
“Moses had to be of the black race because he spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s place. He passed as the Pharaoh’s grandson, so he had to look just like him.” – KRS One, “Why is That”
For this, Harry Lennix’s mostly black cast is necessary because while the world has come to accept, in part, that Ham’s descendants were black, the world has not come to fully embrace the black origin of the descendants of Shem, the original Hebrews.
Moses, Abraham, The Prophets, and even the Messiah, would have looked like African Americans had they walked the earth today. I believe that Lennix’s decision to make Yahoshua and most of his disciplines black is not just a form of creative expression but a powerful re-education of black biblical history.
I give Revival! four out of five stars.
I want to extend a thank you to TriCoast Entertainment for the opportunity to review the film REVIVAL starring Harry Lennix (The Blacklist, The Five Heartbeats, Love & Basketball, Ray), Wendy Raquel Robinson, Chaka Khan, Michelle Williams, Mali Music, and other musical legends.
*TriCoast Entertainment has released REVIVAL onto various digital & DVD platforms (Amazon, iTunes, FLIXFLING, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Google Play), Walmart, Target and Best Buy.