Have you ever been to Peckham Multiplex? It’s amazing if you’re on a budget. The last time I went the tickets were £4.99, the carpets were sticky, we were watching Attack The Block and the banter that shot across the audience made the film even better than it was. That was the night I fell in love with John Boyega. I didn’t know how much of a star he’d become but I remember feeling he was special. At the end of 2014 when the Star Wars teaser was released, I screamed a scream from my soul when John Boyega jerked onto the screen. Star Wars has never meant anything to me, but when I saw he was in it, instantly I knew I had to get a ticket, I had to brush up on my knowledge, I needed to know everything there was to know about this war in the stars. That’s the power of representation.
Last night at the 2016 Screen Nation Awards John Boyega won the Male Performance In Film Award and during his speech he took the time to address the sensitive topic of diversity. “To complain about what is going on is not going to benefit us. Be the change you want to be. And continue and focus.” I felt my heart break in my chest watching video of his speech. After all the Star Wars I watched for Mr Boyega and he’s going to turn around and tell me that I need to stop complaining? I felt a fire in me that I haven’t felt since we lost Anthony Mackie to respectability politics. No, I felt more betrayed than I did with Mackie because like me John Boyega grew up in Peckham. We went to the same drama school; you’d be hard pressed to find a black actor or actress in London who hasn’t been to a class at Femi Oguns’ OBE Identity School of Acting. We cheered for him every step of the way because he is living our dreams and we want him to keep going.
To call the work we do bringing attention to the lack of representation in TV and Film “complaining” is to reduce us to children whining that we are not getting our way when we are in fact calling for equality and respect for not only ourselves as disenfranchised black creatives, but for him as a black actor. LOL. Those were my initial thoughts and I did what I do when I get angry, I got ready to drag him in my blog. When I write I do my research first, makes the drag more effective when you have facts and figures, so I went to his twitter because Lydia told me he had clarified his tweets. I was expecting to balk at whatever he had to say. I mean, what could he possibly say that would mend my broken heart?
"Regarding my comments at the screen nation awards (just to clarify) I am not saying that complaints are invalid or should not be heard. I am saying that words without action can't help right now. I agree that we need to be heard but some do the talking and no work. But I do agree ! I didn't clarify. I was full of emotion receiving the award and just wanted to say that there was work to be done. I'm not in this position without the people that champion me. I was in Peckham struggling not too long ago. I'm not above anyone. Really feel bad for not clarifying and quite fearful that I’ve mislead many. Not about the respectability tactics. I’m really sorry."
I felt my heart knit itself back whole from the smithereens into which it was shattered. His words were like a soothing balm because he knew! And more importantly he cared that he might have hurt me- sorry, I mean us, and took the time clarify what he said. It is important to note that it was not an apology but an elaboration. His remorse is evident and shows that he is cognisant that his original statement alone was wrong, as if we are sitting idly by and waiting for hand outs. I find it is always the people in places of privilege who love to tell the rest of us that we need to be patient and stop making noise.
I am happy I didn’t have to resign Boyega to the Hotep Clan and can freely continue to root for him. He has a good heart and a wonderfully glorious future ahead of him. We’re still rooting for you, John. The force is with you.
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