Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Redbox and Lee Daniel's The Butler For the Win

I wish I saw Lee Daniel's The Butler in a theater. Buying a copy via Redbox and then viewing it on my laptop did not have the same effect. A powerful film, even with a embellished story line, can really be an eye opening experience for a public audience; particularly if that audience reflects different races, genders, generations. This movie, which has quite the star studded cast, is a reminder of a America's racist bigotry. Some might say it is a reflection of the present (read: Donald Sterling). The movie portrayed an uncomfortable number of contradictions and ironies that black Americans faced before and during the civil rights movement. The protagonist, Cecil Gaines, is trained as wait staff for a white family as a youngster. He later moves north and settles in Washington, D.C. for a 'better' life. The opening scenes are dramatic and since I am not a fan of major spoiler alerts, so in that vain I have abbreviated the movie's sequence of events. 

At that time, D.C. was 'less racist' compared to the gritty South.  Cecil excels at his work and gets noticed. Fast forward a bit and he earns a spot with the White House kitchen staff. I was pretty pleased to see Lenny Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Jr. work alongside Forest Whitaker's character. I thought they both did great. My favorite performance came from the one and only, Oprah Winfrey. I forgot how amazing she is as an actress. Wow! Two thumbs up, Mrs. Winfrey. 

I am sure the predominantly black kitchen staff found it peculiar that they were serving their President and therefore their country, all the while earning less pay and recognition than their white counterparts. Never mind they were U.S. citizens with certain unalienable rights. The real Cecil Gaines, Eugene Allen, served eight presidents throughout his 34-year year career. If that is not service, I do not know what is. 

The Washington Post brought Mr. Allen's story to light in a front-page news story back in 2008. Ironically, I distinctly remember reading that article and coming away with a profound appreciation for that writer sharing this very unique life story with the world. Soon thereafter, Columbia Pictures bought the right to Allen's life, according to Wikipedia. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

I sometimes wonder how I would have managed, survived, dealt with living in a segregated life. Literally, the opportunities I have had in the past would not be possible in an age and society in which my worth was less than because my skin color. That's not to say, racial or discriminatory situations have not presented themselves. They have and they will most likely be a part of my life - for better or worst.
Certain scenes in the movie were very difficult to watch. A few times, I found myself looking away from my screen. Sometimes you cannot handle the truth. If nothing else, the movie is a not-so-friendly reminder of how far we have come and how far we need to go.

I am forever indebted to countless everyday heroes like Eugene Allen. I am fully aware that to much is given, much is expected.

If only everyone thought the same. If only...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chip Off the 'Ol Herblock

It all came back to me.

That feeling that I was missing something. Or that something was missing me. Perhaps, both...? 

I could not believe my eyes as I peered into the window panels of the double doors of the Coolidge Auditorium. One step away from a journalism legend. Mr. Bob Woodward. In town like D.C., his name still rings true, well depending on where you fall on the political spectrum. Regardless, I could not believe my luck that I still got an invite for the annual Herblock Prize. It's a combination of an award ceremony and lecture, plus mingling and munchies afterward. This year's winner was Jen Sorensen, the first female recipient. Her work is pretty darn good. I was unable to attend last year but when I received my invitation in the mail this spring, my RSVP was a swift affirmative. I invited a college friend but she had to back out at the last minute. Sucks for her. 

As a little kid, I honestly thought it was cool to wake up, eat cereal and read the newspaper. I have always been a voracious reader and a lover of words. For years, I would anxiously await the delivery of the Washington Post. I lived in a small apartment with my family but always used reading as an outlet to other worlds.
I distinctly remember learning about the Watergate scandal in school. The names Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were just names I knew early on. I eventually read Katharine Graham's autobiography because of my fascination with the Post and its history, which includes Pulitzer Prize reporting from Woodward and Bernstein. (Herb Block also earned a few Pulitzers for her political cartoons). I highly recommend her book, Personal History! It's one of the best autobiographical novels I have read. 

Back the main event...
Being in a packed room at the Library of Congress with Bob Woodward on stage was inspiring and fun. His candid stories of his colleague and friend Herb Block were enlightening, humorous and insightful. Political cartoons carried a lot of weight and truly impacted the public's perception of national leaders and current events during that time. It was endearing to hear about Block's work and contributions from his colleagues. I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who worked directly for him for several years. All I can say is - it must have been an exciting time to be in journalism, especially at the Washington Post, especially in a place like Washington, D.C. 

Considering that I initially thought I would have a career in journalism, it was fitting to be at this event. I cannot wait to attend more in the future. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day, Work Day

Las Vegas. 

So close, and yet so far away.

My connection flight to casino land was cancelled due to an massive snowstorm and now I am stuck in a Hilton Hotel for the day. Mixed blessings, I suppose, considering I do have freelance work to keep tabs on and still need to firm up my schedule for Social Media Week NYC.

A snow day is a great time to catch up on work or at the very least spend hours perusing my favorite blogs and websites, especially those covering New York Fashion Week. The hashtag, #nyfw, has been trending on Twitter for the past few days - in case you missed it.

I have to buckle down and dig deep to write a draft guest blog post about my career change that began in 2012. Raven Robinson reached out to me and pitched this idea to share my story of leaving my job and shifting gears professionally. She's a certified career coach and is creating a series of posts specific to "taking big leaps of faith". I cannot believe it has been sixteen long, intense months of networking, doubt and research (read: Internet stalking) to name a few. One of my closest friends always tell me to 'trust the process'. This past year has been quite the process and I know there is so much more ahead.

Let the writing begin.

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