Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Friend Who Was Precious

I just watched Precious. I am openly weeping.

It took me a few weeks to even try. I read the book "Push" when i was a teenager. I read the reviews that called Lee Daniels a "pathology pimp" and that lambasted both Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. This will address none of those reviews. That's a whole other blog.

I sit here typing and weeping for a couple of reasons. The lesser one (SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT SOCIAL COMMENTARY) is that I have been witness to a very callous, thoughtless group of people who have gone out of their way to make not only the character Precious, but the actress herself, the butt of cruel jokes. To some degree, it is to be expected. But i was honestly shocked at how thoroughly entrenched MY generation has become in the same self- hating psyche that has plagued generations before us. It has become clear to me that my peers, and even younger, have been trained to dehumanize the black tragic figure. I can name many characters in white movies- obese, considered unattractive, judged to be mentally deficient,- that have never received the treatment that this young actress has (Forrest Gump, Gilbert Grape, I can go on), & are held as heroes even. Sadly, we don't realize the self- hatred inherent in that sentiment. It's divide and conquer. She's not me. That's THOSE black people. Willie Lynch, anyone?

This point brings me to the fact that i knew a girl who had a lot in common with Precious. Except that she was thin, light-skinned and gorgeous. (Would they have felt differently about the movie if Precious were all those things?) So many times since this movie came to be, I've wanted to talk about her but i haven't. I have to now. She was my best friend, my 'big sister'. I hesitate to give her name because she was intensely private in life, and even tho I am going to try to tell some of her story here, I think she'd want me to hold that back. Spirit tells me so. So. We'll call her Veronica.

I met Veronica when i was 11 & she was 18. We moved into the same apt building in Williamsburg. I sweated her cuz she was older and fly and plus there weren't that many black people in the building. She saw something in me and let me hang out. (My mom is the coolest ever & took in all strays so Im sure that helped.) She had a young son, we'll call him Eric. They were both gorgeous. She took a liking to me, and eventually I became privy to her personal life, as well as all manner of shenanigans. We used to fight together (she was vicious in battle) flirt w/ boys together (she had a switch in TIMBS that i've only ever seen on Candace, in HEELS) sing together (I wrote and recorded my first song on her stereo), and more. She had some 'big sister' conversations with me that I am embarrassed to report I never 'man'd up' and had with my ACTUAL sisters.

Veronica's stepdad started raping her when she was 7. At 14 she shot him. She served time in a juvenile detention center (he didn't die). Was released when she was still a teen. Met the love her of life. Got pregnant. Found out that she was HIV positive late during the pregnancy. So Eric was born with HIV as well. Her mom was also infected with the AIDS virus from the same man, and passed when Veronica was about 22.

She was one of the baddest bitches i've met, to this day. She was gorgeous and sexy, fierce and scary (even tho she was tiny, she had hand skills. Actually, she had lots of guns too. I saw them. & i saw her shoot one once. She didn't let me be around for all that tho) brilliant and witty and funny and talented. Her poetry was awesome. We made songs out of some of her poems. And her capacity for love was amazing. It overwhelms me to this day. I would hate EVERYONE if i had had her life. She loved FIERCELY.

She had another child. That child was perfectly healthy. (yep, that can happen. btw) Then Eric died. I believe that with him went her will to survive. She died a couple of years later. She didn't live past 26. I think about her all the time. She always made me feel like i was so talented. I wanted her to be around to see me be successful. I know she'd be so proud.

I haven't yet been able to process whether or not i feel the story was told in a manner that makes a freakshow of this segment of the Black Experience. I'm not promising I won't feel that way. But right now I feel like Precious is a hero just like my friend was. And I am still crying.