Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Old School/New School/No School Rules

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A couple of days ago I watched the movie “Stomp the Yard” with a bunch of teens.  Everyone else has seen it at least three times with others boasting they had watched it upward to 5 or 8 times.  One kid had seen the movie at least 10 times.

It was my first time.

I rarely go to the movie theater or rent DVDs online or from blockbuster.  Since I was brought up poor I watch them the way I always have, on free TV with commercial breaks and all.  I like the commercial breaks sometimes because it gives the person I’m moving watching with a way to listen to my critique as the movie is in progress, without missing any of the action.  But this time I watched the DVD version of the movie with the kids and at the end all I could say was,

“Eh, it’s not School Daze.”

Which is unfair of me to say, I know.  The movie came out my freshman year of college and that movie along with Bill Cosby’s “A Different World” gave many African Americans of my generation a narrative that we didn’t have before.  The movie and the show was idealized, of course, as only something that gives you a brief glimpse into  a culture can only be, but many of us felt it captured the essence of what it was like to be a black college student at that time –even if you weren’t on an HBCU campus. 

We were college students who were born right after the civil rights movement but still fiercely black and socially aware.  On my dorm wall I kept a current collage of newspaper articles of racist events not just a reminder to myself of things going on outside my world but something to point to when someone black or white would make the statement that racism was dead.  My friends and I exchanged mixtapes of rap from NYC, trying to stay culturally au courant on a predominantly white campus.

School Daze movie gave voice to my generation capturing the paradox of the 80s black college student.

Dap, played by Laurence Fishburne, was an activist who for most of the movie demanded that his college divest funds from apartheid South Africa.  Juxtaposed against him was his foil Julian (Giancarlo Esposito) whose only concerns were his fraternity and his pledge line.  The movie had several other story lines running through it: light vs dark skin, good hair vs bad hair, and college kids vs townies.  Lee threw a lot of issues into his movie.

Which is just the opposite with Stomp the Yard.  Stomp follows the formula for the majority of dance movies made in the last few years: kid is street dancer but an untimely death puts him/her in contact with an upperclass world he/she would venture into before.  In showing off their dance skills he/she makes an impact on their new environment, becomes elevated and gets the girl/guy.

In these dance movies the music is hip hop and the protagonists can bet either black or white.  What matters most isn’t the storyline but the music and moves that propels the story.  Which is why the movies do so well: everyone can relate and the stories are interchangeable with race.  The protagonist could be a poor white kid from the slums or a black kid from the hood or a hispanic kid from the ghetto.  It’s the musical struggle that connects them all together.

Which you really can’t do with School Daze.  All the characters in the film are particularly black and couldn’t work otherwise.

I wonder if it is a generational thing.  Just like back in my day rap was more diverse with guys who spit knowledge (like KRS-1) as popular as guys who rapped just for fun (like Will Smith) today with rap more mainstream the music has become more prosaic and predictable.  What moved young black kids 20 years ago doesn’t speak to them now.

But then I shouldn’t expect it to.  Twenty years ago many black students were the inheritors of the fruits of the Civil Rights movement.  Not needing to desegregate anything we reflected inward on problems that ailed the black community.

Which is not to say that colorism, poverty, and equality in education isn’t a problem of the younger generation today, but I wonder if younger generation has moved from these issues because they seem insurmountable or if they are worth pondering let alone solving.  And today’s black youth also seems more connected to cultures and peoples outside of the black community than they did when I was in school.

Or maybe they prefer not to work out our issues through cinema or music.

Whichever way I’m still down for the cause and waiting for a good dance sequence to underscore the fight.

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Written by rentec

2 September, 2008 at 9:38 pm

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