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.

19 comments:

  1. Are there more movies that show Black people in a negative light than positively? Yes. But, I love Precious because it's the first movie to tell her story, and she triumphs. Go Precious! And, to all the Precious girls who didn't make it, you're in a better place. RIP.

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  2. I just wanted to add tht Veronicas child who was born healthy and lived had a loving father (Veronica's LOVE) and a WHOLE family to keep her safe and loved and beautiful.. and my sister named her 1st daughter after her :)

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  3. So sorry to hear about your friend. But this is a beautiful tribute. The story of 'Precious' hould be just as important regardless of the physical attributes of the main character, but you're right when you say it would have been received differently had a different actress been cast. You obviously had a beautiful friendship.

    I was so upset after reading one review in particular which pretty much said Daniels was portraying the (entirety of the) Black experience negatively -- when no one in their right mind would ever take away from this movie that this was the norm in the Black community. I'll stop here ;) But I'm so glad I clicked your link. Be blessed

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  4. Amazing way to remember a woman that had such an influence on you.

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  5. great post. sorry about your friend...what a sad story and she sounds like an amazing woman.

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  6. thanks for sharing this.. i personally really appreciated the movie for lack of a better word..though it haunted me for days afterwards, it was a window to an aspect of society that goes overlooked and ignored too often,im extremely critical of the tone, affect, stereotypes etc that are perpetuated in films.. and if i think they are exaggerated, or in sensitive or just irresponsible . I have to say i think this was a very well done and tasteful film (considering the subject matter) i found that it tackled the scenarios in a way that did justice to these sensitive matters, in a way that didnt exploit make a spectacle of , or lose sight of the extreme nature of what was being depicted. On top of that it was very artistic and beautifully shot and edited and the actors aside from Lenny kravitz all were amazingly real and believable. I think the negative reviews are rooted in some people need to save "face" and are attempts to ignor some peoples "black shame" for aspects of our community.. they're offended by the airing of dirty laundry, these things are real, unfortunately they happen and i think this movie did a really good job opening people to a world that many dont realize exists in this country.
    its important that "Veronica" and "Precious" stories are told until we start discussing these things they will go on unnoticed or ignored..

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  7. how do such realities exist? i'm never sure whether to be more bewildered at the capacity for evil or the capacity for strength that resides within some individuals. I pray that what your friend went through allowed her to be done with all the pain for eternity, that where she is now is a greater happiness than the suffering ever was.

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  8. I don't even know what to say... But you're awesome Mela, can tell you have a big heart!! I agree with Karuna... xoxo (I haven't seen Precious yet though, #Fail)

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  9. I'm sitting here now, fresh after you told me you were crying all day, with tears in my eyes.

    It's hard to see someone with such a beautiful soul and warm heart give you a wonderful friendship to go home like that. But they are home. And Veronica lives though you, Mela, and I don't think that you or anybody lives that she touched will let her memory fade.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  10. thank you for this post. i appreciate it. i have long felt that "we" are, as a people, having a difficult time facing all the many facets of who we are, where we've been, and until we do, we cannot help the preciouses of this world. we'll just keep looking away, as if it's some mysterious sore we're too afraid to acknowledge. without treatment, the sore will grow and destroy us, and this is one of the things that sets us apart from africans anywhere else in the world. your post, like the movie, puts a face to what's real, and even though i didn't have these experiences growing up, i have family that did, and i appreciate every opportunity taken to acknowledge the sore.
    keep writing!

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  11. That was a very touching story to tell, I myself have encountered people in my life at various stages that were some version of a "Precious" and they have left an indelible mark on my spirit... Thanks so much for sharing that...

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  13. Wow, what an incredible entry, Mela. I am also really impressed with the insight and thought that your readers put into their comments. Makes me wish this was an in-person discussion so that I could meet these souls.

    I have purposely not seen Precious, even though I am very interested in it. I've talked to different friends of mine, they have all been women, and they all, independently, told me the same reason for not seeing the film: they are so upset by Monique's character. Interesting, isn't it? For those I've spoken with, and for me as well, the violence of a mother-- perhaps when in conjuction with the violence of the same child's father-- seems too much to wrap my mind around.

    I know that is naive. I think I haven't seen it because I fear I am simply too sensitive to expose myself to those images. They will stay with me for too long. I felt that seeing Requium for a Dream was a mistake, because I couldn't get the images of each of the characters during their demise out of my head. But, what do you think? I am genuinely asking this:Do you think it is our responsibility to see these sorts of tragic, painful films, because we must awknowledge what happens to our fellow human beings? Do you think it is possible to be "too sensitive" for exposure to such things?

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  14. You shared your friend'story in a beautiful way I am sure that she would be oh so proud of you.

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  15. Precious was an unpleasant movie by unpleasant standards! Who wants to see that on purpose? Its kinda like paying $8.50 and waiting in line for a nigga to punch you in the stomach.

    I said that to say, I believe people make light of the character and actress who played the role of Precious as a defense mechanism. Its hard to feel terrible when your making fun of it. Its a proactive attack on the depression that this kind of movie rolls out for all to wallow in. Its that thick kinda depression that stays with days after you've seen the movie too! I hate precious!!!

    depressing ass movie. fat people ftl!!!

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  16. Just Genius writing. Made me sad about Veronica and family. You touched us.

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  17. I really respect this blog... So many people have taken what this book was about and the movie and degraded its message to fat jokes and colorism... It deeply saddens me. The thing is that we have a long way to go, all of us..and some far more than others in respect the being in each human.

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  18. Wow. Your trill for the vivid report of such a strong person. Much respect.

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