Skip to main content

A Black Annie: Wonderful!

The movie, “Annie,” has been remade and the cast includes a young black girl as the star. Quvenzhané Wallis, a ten-year old black actress is Annie. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Hushpuppy in the 2012 movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” when she was only 8 years old. If you have never seen that movie please watch it. Wallis’s performance is brilliant, moving and powerful, as a child living in poverty and chaos with her hot tempered and ill father.

The new Annie brings a fresh approach to the original movie and Broadway musical. I celebrate the choice of Quvenzhané Wallis for the leading role. She will be wonderful.

Not everyone is happy about this, however, and rude critics have shown up on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere. Some really vicious things have been said about this child actor.

Racism still exists in this country and, sadly, always will, I suppose. It is expressed in people who are terrified of change and feel as though they are somehow losing their white identity if blacks or other minorities are given equal opportunities.

The evolution of life is a wonderful thing if only we are willing to embrace it. Change is not something to fear but to celebrate. To fear other people; to fear growing beyond old prejudices; to fail to adapt in a very diverse country like ours, is to live in mediocrity, suspicion, paranoia, and in some stultifying ongoing panic. People who live like this are dangerously vulnerable to acts of hatred and violence.

There is that great passage in Harper Lee’s radiant and courageous novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” where Atticus, an attorney defending a black man in the deep South, wants his children to have big minds and open hearts. He wants them to love and respect all people. The trial of the black man though is creating serious tension in the town and people are starting to judge and hate Atticus. His young daughter Scout is sensitive to all of this. One day during the trial Atticus sits down with her and says, “As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”

That is a lesson lost on many of us still to this day. I’m not interested at this point in hearing about all of the black crime everywhere. As a White man I am ashamed of what my people have done throughout American history to humiliate, bully, enslave, limit, and bitterly, cruelly, violently brutalize African Americans in this country. We are trash when we do this whatever period of history we are in including this one.

Annie is a fictional character. She happened to be imagined as a little mischievous, gleeful, freckle-faced red headed wonder in the original comic strip, “Little Orphan Annie,” created by Harold Gray in 1924. She is not limited to a particular race. Like all fictional characters she carries a universal persona and belongs to all children. There are Annies in countries all over the world. There are aspects of her in all little girls.

To criticize a black child for being cast as Annie shows not only a remarkable lack of intelligence and culture, it fails to recognize and respect the full strength and grace of her humanity.

Comedian and actor Dennis Leary once famously said, “Racism isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a 2-year-old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.” 

Perhaps a day will come when, with the innocence of children, we move beyond any sense of racism and see that a person’s difference from us is something we can learn from, even something we can admire and revere.

I look forward to seeing “Annie” and watching the breathtakingly talented Quvenzhané Wallis sing and dance and act her way into the changes of our day, changes I fully welcome and embrace, for her and for all of us.

© 2014 Timothy Moody

Popular posts from this blog

The Light in the Faces of Our Incredible Human Family

National Geographic Journalist Paul Salopek is walking across the world on foot to trace the pathways of the first humans who wandered out of Africa in the Stone Age to claim the earth as theirs. His journey will cover 21,000 miles and is estimated to take 10 years. He is four years into his massive expedition and already he has discovered that humanity is mostly kind and generous, welcoming and caring, hard-working and disciplined.
I watched a brief piece about Salopek’s journey on the PBS News Hour this week. I have included a link below.
What is extraordinary about his adventure is his realization that in spite of all the wars and turmoil across the globe, he has learned that “The world is an incredibly hospitable place.” In following the ancient trade route called “The Silk Road,” Salopek has gotten to know a variety of people young and old. And though he has so far encountered a few dangerous situations where he had his water supply stolen, was once ambushed by raiders, and was sho…

Our National Lack of Self-esteem

There is a brokenness in our society, a pervasive moral collapse, a reckless disregard for community, neighborliness, courtesy, and compassion.
Our government leads by this example. Both parties are incompetent to guide us into a more responsible living, into a serviceable structure of humanity. Our leaders are dominated by greedy oligarchs who don’t just want more, they want everything, even if it costs our society its dignity, its soul, even its future.
What is on display here daily is a wretched lack of self-esteem. The loss now influences all of us. We’re all affected in ways that keep us shamed by our actions.
When we feel powerless, aimless, without any higher goals than the accumulation of things and the momentary thrill, we then mute our intelligence. We live by raw emotions—anger, appetite, urges. We don’t think, we don’t consider, we merely react. We push. We disregard. We threaten. We act out. And we fail.
Self-esteem is a learned process. It builds on genuine successes that ar…

Is the Soul Solid, like Iron?

Mary Oliver has a beautiful little poem in which she asks:

“Is the soul solid, like iron?
or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?”

It is both.

The soul, we are told by philosophers, theologians, and mystics, is our essence, the permanence of our true self. It is that part of us that lives beyond death. Or so we are taught by religion. Where exactly the soul exists beyond that, has of course, been long debated.

There are times in life when something deep within us is, as Mary Oliver says, solid as iron and we operate out of some sense of aliveness, confidence, and inner strength. It may be fleeting, but there when needed; or it may carry us through long periods of endurance when we build a sturdy self, confident and capable of our abilities and talents.

This is the work of the soul. This is a part of our spiritual development. This is what enables us to believe there are forces in life, loving and generous and mystical, that nurture and compel us tow…