Introduction: Fighting Words
[Start of picture 00:00 to 18:31]
Black Is...Black Ain't opens with Marlon Riggs lying in a hospital
bed hooked up to an IV. Riggs' battle against AIDS is a thread
which runs throughout the film. He says that in this fight he
draws strength from the struggles of black folks because both are
"struggles against the odds..in the face of possible extinction."
One of the battles African Americans have fought over the years is
the struggle for self-esteem and positive definition of self. As
recently as the 1960s many African Americans would not call
themselves "black" because of the negative connotations of the
word. Africa, too, was associated with primitiveness and
backwardness. Even among Arican Americans preference was given to
black people with lighter skin and European features.
- How did the images of Riggs lying in his hospital bed make you
feel? Do you agree with his analogy that the battle against AIDS
is like the struggle of black folks in America?
- Black Is...Black Ain't uses gumbo as a recurring motif or
theme. Why do you think Riggs chose gumbo as his central metaphor
for African Americans?
- Black people used to call other blacks who valued light skin
over dark skin "color struck." Today preference for light skin is
called "colorism." How is "colorism" reinforced through popular
media, television, videos, and film? What are some of the effects
of "colorism" in African American communities today?
- In Black Is..., Angela Davis says that black people "have an
obsession with naming ourselves because during most of our
history we've been named by somebody else." Do you think names
make a difference? What do you call yourself? Does it empower
black people to set the terms for what others will call them? Why
or why not?