Dec 31, 2007

The title alone should have had people going to the movies in large numbers. However, "The Great Debaters" opened on Christmas Day and only made 13 million so far and only 6.5 million this weekend, it didn’t even make the top ten box offices draw.

I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers appalling, sickening, and disappointing. Because we as a people are always complaining about there’s no good Television, there’s no good Music and there’s no good Movies out there. But when a movie like The Great Debaters opened, we sat at home on a long holiday weekend and didn’t put our money, where I mouths are.

Instead we stayed at home and watched re-runs of Flavor of Love; I Love New York and Kimora Life in the Fab Lane. All those idiotic shows that offer nothing more than misguided, stereotypical, cooning and shining mess.

The type of television that networks would prefer you watch and have you believe is great entertainment. They would rather have you and your kids watching that mess instead of The Great Debaters. A movie which will instill in you and your kids a great sense of pride, give you a history lesson and who knew it‘s also entertaining. But, I digress. So here is a brief synopsis of what the movie is about without giving it away:

Tolson: Who is my judge?
Students: God is my judge.
Tolson: Why is God your judge?
Students: He decides whether I win or lose.
Tolson: And who are your opponents?
Students: I have no opponents … merely dissenting voices to the truth I speak.

As you would expect from an Oprah Winfrey's production company, Harpo Films, "The Great Debaters" is a story of self-actualization, self-reliance and triumph.

WITH: Denzel Washington (Melvin B. Tolson), Forest Whitaker (James Farmer Sr.), Nate Parker (Henry Lowe), Jurnee Smollett (Samantha Booke), Denzel Whitaker (James Farmer Jr.), Jermaine Williams (Hamilton Burgess), Gina Ravera (Ruth Tolson), John Heard (Sheriff Dozier) and Kimberly Elise (Pearl Farmer).

This film is based on a true story about a Debate Team at Wiley College in the 1930’s Texas. Prof. Melvin Tolson, the debate team coach is as unpredictable as he’s brilliant. For that very reason students come from far and wide to tryout for his debate team. One aspiring great debater is Samantha, who becomes the first woman to argue her way onto the team. Along with three other college students who are as equally astounding, find their way onto the Team that is inspiring, uplifting and courageous. They all give performances that is worthy of any award. They show society that black voices are equal to white voices in intellect, reason, determination and passion.

This film promotes literacy and articulateness, highlights the significant oral tradition in black storytelling, and depicts a society that, however impoverished and oppressed, valued knowledge and education.

The Team had to face racism, personality clashes, romantic rivalry and that defining moment that focuses them on the prize -- the arguments that will make America a better place to live. They debate, first other black colleges, then white ones, on such subjects as the welfare state and civil disobedience.

The Great Debaters is our history and is most entertaining, and a vivid reminder that we're all living in a country built and then rebuilt by people who turned their passion into logical, rational arguments that moved us, closer to the reality of justice we know today.

It can be a shock at times to realize the moments, and the issues that plagued America 70 years ago are still very much with us today.

Above all, the film illustrates the kind of people in which we came from. The ones we have long forgotten.

Educators and Teachers: I’m calling on you. Have your students to go see this movie. Give them extra-credit when they bring in their movie stub and an Essay titled “The Great Debaters how it made me feel and what I learned from it”.

Parents: I’m calling on you. Take your children to see “The Great Debaters” then return home and discuss it with them around the dinner table.

To All People: I’m calling on you. Go see this movie; you are always asking the question, “Why are Black Men (people) so angry?” this movie will give you just a glimpse of why Blacks in general are so angry. (Lest we not forget, but remember, so that we can move forward). Then you will just maybe, stop telling us we are too sensitive and we should just let our past go. I always find it very ironic that Blacks are asked to let go; but other races, nationalities and cultures can hold on, protect and get upset if somebody says anything about them.

Come on People, we made Tyler Perry’s movie “Why did I get married?” number 1 at the box office, (and personally I didn’t think that to be one of his great works). So I know we can and should do the same for “The Great Debaters”. Let’s prove to Hollywood and America that we are really ready for change. Let’s stop talking about it and actually do something about it. What’s the old saying; “Money talks and Bull**** walks”.

And to those of you who already saw it, go see it again and take a friend. It's worth it.

Lastly, here are some of movies in the past that we have been sleeping on. The Educator and The Icon both feel like any Savvy Sister or wanna be Savvy Sister should see: Akeelah and the Bee; Talk to Me; The Last King of Scotland; Eve’s Bayou; Antwone Fisher; Crash and Malcolm X (all by the way are on DVD) so you still have a chance to support these movies. That is if you go to the store and buy them. Not buy them from the “Bootleg” man.

Peace and Love to all of you as we approach the New Year together.



  1. You are totally correct on this. I saw this movie the day after Christmas all by myself. I left that theater with my head held high and a sense of pride that I have never felt. I also felt challenged to do my part in creating equality and making better future for generations to come. I also went today and brought my cousin along. Before the movie she was feeling lost and not knowing what to do with her life but when we left, she just kept repeating "I'm so motivated, I'm so motivated." This is an excellend film that everyone should see. As a teacher I wish I could somehow incorporate this into my lessons but I teach kindergarten and they are too young to understand.

  2. I wanted to see this on Christmas Day. I will plan on seeing it by myself if I have to. You made an excellent point on this historic movie versa "WhO's Your Caddy". I mean I like a comedy but why is ours kife buffonery and theirs are funny but not demoralizing. I will put the "King of Scotland" on my Netflixs queue. I am so glad that I happened upon this blog.

    God Bless

  3. Thanks for the comments. At least I know that I have reached at least 4 people. My son happen to read the blog on yesterday and he went and saw the movie today. He called to let me know that he was also shocked and surprise on how it made him feel. Keep spreading the word.

  4. I understand exactly what you are talking about but there is one problem. The movie The Great Debaters is about 50% true. The Wiley College never went against Harvard it was USC.And the Samantha Brooke character was actually a meld of several women.There are many faulty facts in the movie. But overall it was a good movie.

  5. Hi,
    Thank you for rejunvinating my mind and the thoughts regarding our youth and the hope for a better tomorrow. I plan to use the movie as a prompt for our church's and the community Black History activities this year. It is a wonderful thing to have such powerful resources to pull from when you need to encourage and strenghten the youth of today. The movie and its truths and some indifferent half-truths is wonderful, I encourage all of us to take the time and watch the movie, not only one time, but watch it again for what we might have missed the first time.

    A retired, still teaching, teacher.