Feb 26, 2012

We are on the eve of the Academy Awards. It is a time in Hollywood when the stars of movies and films all collide...I mean come together to celebrate each other. Films you've never seen before such as 'The Artist', will be praised, and the dresses will be the best that haute couture has to offer. These are the things that one has come to expect when it comes to the Oscars, but this year is set to offer something different.

This year represents the strong possibility that black women may win both the Best Actress and Supporting Actress awards. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are both the front-runners in their respective categories and both deserve to win.

I may not have seen the movie,'The Help', but I am well aware of the magnificent ability of Viola Davis. She is a skilled thespian whose study of her craft is evident in every role she plays. The woman is nothing short of remarkable and definitely worthy of all the accolades and praises that are being showered upon her.

I'm not as familiar with the work of Octavia Spencer, but just the way she has carried herself during the Award season is enough to make me root for her. The acceptance speech she gave during the SAG Awards was arguably the speech of the night.

Now with that being said, I'm still not in support of the film, 'The Help'. I'm pretty sure people are going to say I don't like the film because it's protraying black women as maids. I can promise you that's not the reason.

Black women working as maids in this country is a historical fact that is nothing for anyone to be ashamed of. It is a truth that many women in our families had to face, and face it with dignity and grace is what many of them did. So trust me, this fact is not my problem with the film.

My problem with the film, as well as the book, is the fact that we as a people are rarely allowed to tell our stories and have them turned into a major motion picture. These kind of things just don't happen for black authors who are trying to share the authentic black experience outside of street lit.

Black authors rarely have the opportunity for their work to go mainstream. For many, the reason for this is simply marketing. Writers like Kathryn Stockett as well as Sue Monk Kidd never have to deal with their books only being in the African American section of a book store, but this is something that someone like Bernice L. McFadden has to contend with when it comes to selling her books.

Bernice is just as brilliant a storyteller as Sue or Kathryn, but yet you'll never know it because her books are not allowed to scratch the mainstream surface. This is the reality for most black authors outside of Terry McMillan or Toni Morrison.

There is a ceiling in place when it comes to the success of black authors. Given the success of the film, The Help, it is obvious that stories headed by a black cast are not the problem, but rather the problem is the people in Hollywood as well as the publishing industry.

I'm not one of those people who can sit by and pretend that this is not a problem. We can sit here and pretend that it's a enough that black stories are being brought to the silver screen, but it's not. If black people are not the ones telling our stories then what is the point. I'm not saying that one must be black in order to understand and relate to the black experience, but there is an authenticity that black authors are able to relate to black characters.

I want to see books like the 'Darkest Child' (you know how much I love that book), 'Your Blus Ain't Like Mine', 'Sugar', or 'Blood on the Leaves' brought to life. These are wonderful books, but yet for some reason they don't get the same treatment as other books. Why is that?

So even though I am rooting for both Viola and Octavia, don't expect to see 'The Help' in my DVD collection.

Watch Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry tear into 'The Help'

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