Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The triumph(s) of Terrance Howard...
Terrance Dashon Howard was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 11, 1969. His parents Tyrone Howard and Anita Williams moved young Terrance to Cleveland, Ohio where he was raised.
Terrance comes from a long line of stage actors and actresses; his great grandmother and several uncles were known in local theater circles, and I think this had more than a small influence on a young Terrance.
Unfortunately, the artistic temperament of his household, couldn't shield him from the bigotry of prejudiced whites and the american social order.
One christmas evening, at the tender age of two, Terrance's live would be changed forever.
21 year old Tyrone Howard took his three sons and his pregnant wife to see santa claus at a local department store called 'Higbee's' in Cleveland, Ohio's Public Square.
Also there, was a 36 year old white guy named Jack Fitzpatrick who was shopping with his pregnant wife.
Now, there are differing accounts of what happened between these two men, but from what I've researched and surmised, this is what took place: Tyrone had left his wife and children in 'santa's waiting line' while he looked for a certain product; when he couldn't find it, he returned to his family.
Mind you, Terrance's father Tyrone is a Black man with a very light-skinned complexion, and in a lot of circles he could pass for white. So when he returned to his family, and his wife especially, who was darker-skinned, Jack the inbred asked Tyrone, "...why'd you let some ni@gers cut you in line?"
After an argument ensued, several witnesses say Jack pinned Tyrone up against a wall, kicked him in the groin and started chocking him.
Tyrone retaliated by grabbing some sort of sharp instrument and stabbing Jack several times in the neck and thighs. Later, Jack perished from his wounds.
Initially, Tyrone fled the scene to avoid the cops who were called; but after a change of heart, Tyrone turned himself in and was incarcerated shortly afterwards.
It's said that the life of Terrance and his family was turned upside down as they had to leave their middle/working class home to reside in a tenement in a rough part of town.
All thanks to the bigotry of inbred Jack.
This incident was broadcast in Cleveland's local paper as the 'Santa Line Slaying'.
This was also the reason Terrance's home became completely unstable after his father was jailed; so much so, that Terrance emancipated himself from his parents at the age of sixteen. At eighteen, he moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Originally, Terrance had aspirations to be a science teacher and was attending the Pratt Institute to pursue that course of study; but once he accompanied his brother to an audition for the 'Cosby Show' and got a part, his life was forever changed once more.
Now, when I originally set out to write this post, I was gonna' call it 'The real triumph of Terrance Howard'; but after doing a bit of research on this man, I saw I couldn't limit his triumphs to just one.
And it's no secret that Terrance is one the Black Diaspora's finest actors. Along with thespians like Don Cheadle and Jeffery Wright; Terrance's seeming ease at conveying pathos and depth of emotion is nearly unparalleled. And his difficult childhood is what gives him such access to the gravitas and range of sentiments he displays so well; so essentially, he took something negative, and made it positive.
This is Terrance's personal triumph; now I'd like to talk about his professional one.
The movie 'Hustle and flow' was an indie film released in theaters in 2005. It was written and directed by Craig Brewer and produced by John Singleton of 'Boys in the hood' fame.
I couldn't imagine anyone out there hasn't seen this film, but for those who haven't, Terrence plays the protagonist 'Djay', a small town pimp who basically becomes dissatisfied with his life and tries his hand at getting into the music industry.
I remember my conversation with a middle-aged co-worker who said she saw the movie and wasn't very impressed with it, even though it had garnered so much praise. I gotta' admit, I didn't think the movie itself was so hot either, even though Terrance was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars.
And then, what made the film so exceptional hit me.
But before telling you what aspect of the film made it great, let's explore the person behind this film's script.
Criag Brewer said this film was dedicated to Sun records founder Sam Phillips.
And good 'ole Sam was quoted as saying, "...if I could get a white boy who sings like a ni@ger, I could make a million dollars."
Shortly thereafter, he began working with a young elvis presley.
Now, this film is set in Memphis, Tennessee, and I remember one of it's white characters saying, in reference to the rise of southern Hip-Hop, "...this music is coming home..."
Like the american south was ever a home for the Black Diaspora; for centuries, up to and including today, the temperment of the american south has its Black citizens feeling like they're behind enemy lines. But just like elvis, this is another attempt at white guys saying they had something to do with the creative ingenuity of Black culture. The next step is to basically claim it as their own (reference Rock and Roll).
'Cause everybody knows, or at least should know, that the birthplace of Hip-Hop is and was in the South Bronx of New York City.
But, Craig is acting just like every other neo-liberal, white supremacist, fair-skinned guy infatuated with Black culture (reference Quentin Tarantino).
Side note: Hustle and flow takes place in Memphis, Tennessee and Quentin Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. Coincidence?
Anyway, the reason I'm calling Craig a white supremacist, is he scripted one of the most stereotypical scripts I've seen in years. He talks about how Hip-Hop music is coming home to the american south, but his main Black character is a pimp...surely, if you have so much reverence for the culture, you could have scripted a different vocation for its main character.
But no matter how 'down' with Black culture white people are, their true feelings will come to the surface about how they always feel superior to us.
Now in order to get the accolades for this film, and a boost into real celebrity circles, Terrance had to play some sort of low life, (reference Denzel Washington's 'Training Day' and Halle Berry in 'Monster's Ball'); but what made this film so exceptional, in spite of it's third rate, bigoted script, is Terrance's powerhouse performance, and the humanity he brought to this lowly character.
Terrance almost singlehandedly pulled an extraordinary performance out of a script and a film that had no business being 'green lit' in the first place.
I remember the scene where Terrance is sitting in a church listening to music while tears streamed down his face; it was a testament not only to his acting prowess, but his ability to call up the gut-wrenching feelings involved with music being 'Djay's' salvation; and it spoke to the day that Terrance's father was plucked out of his life indefinitely.
Terrance's ability to transmit this kind of primal energy radiates off the screen; and it had little or nothing to do with Craig's bigoted, mediocre script.
A lesser actor couldn't of pulled off this kind of vocational coup.
I'm glad to see Terrance get his shot at real acting stardom; of course, again, he had to do something self-debasing to do it (reference also Chris Rock's joke about ni@gers and Black people), but it's a rare man who can up-end this ritual and keep an almost regal aire about himself in the process.
So I say kudos, Hotep and Sutekh to the Netcher/Neter/Negus/God Terrance Howard; keep it Black and strong bruh!