Sunday night, my husband and I watched Oprah’s interview special on The Butler. A movie about an African-American man who works at the White House as, you guessed it, a butler. It’s based on a true story and spans thirty-five years. It shows the racism and struggles that this family has to endure and the triumphs as well. The actors in the movie are big names, Jane Fonda, Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, John Cusack, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, Mariah Carey, Minka Kelly, Liev Schreiber, Terrence Howard, and the list goes on.
There were many emotional scenes Oprah showcased while she interviewed Forest Whitaker, and the director, Lee Daniels, but there was one sentence that Forest Whitaker said that stuck with me. “There are many ways to protest.” He went on to clarify and say that you didn’t have to be a part of the Black Panthers or participate in the counter sit ins to be an activist.
This struck me as something that we as artists, inherently do, whether you are an actor, painter, sculptor, or writer. I know when I write, I tend to showcase social injustices. Some of these are intentional and some I don’t realize they’ve come through until the book is finished. I feel that it is my way of trying to get people to logically think about where they really stand on an issue and why.
I think this instinct stems from growing up in my family. There were nine of us, my aunt, my parents and my five siblings. Some of my family questioned things, but only on a surface level, afraid that if they dug too deep, they wouldn’t like what they saw. Some accepted status quo and refused to see any other point of view. And some really delved into both sides of the issue, changing their minds back and forth until they came to an opinion they firmly believed in. However, we did not talk about our journey. It was personal and private and not to be shared. Rarely, did we argue one with another about hot topics.
This way of growing up has made me feel the need to express myself in the written word. So, I too feel, as Forest Whitaker, that while I do not hold signs and march, I am still protesting the injustices of the world.
Do you agree with me or do you feel the only way to protest is to be visibly seen and heard?