Multiple Identities and New Forms of Community
[1:16:42 to End]
The distinction between a community based on unity and one based
on communion is addressed in the final segment of the film. Unity
too often implies uniformity, while communion suggests the sharing
or exchange of thoughts and feelings. Black people, like people
everywhere, belong to more than one community and may have
communion with many different kinds of people.
- Do you believe that "black unity" is an inherently false,
restrictive, maybe even oppressive, concept? Discuss the various
takes on the idea of black unity presented in the film, for
instance, the barber thinks that unity is crucial but Michele
Wallace worries that a circle of unity always excludes someone.
- For many, Cornel West's statement, "There is no one grand
black community," seems to defy common sense. How can you be
black yet not be part of one grand black community?
- Towards the end of the film, one man looks into the camera
and says, "Haven't we had enough of folks telling other folks
what's proper, how to talk, who to love, how to dress, wear your
hair, eat, drink, pray, make love, dance?" Earlier, Marlon Riggs
says, "All black people have to reconcile themselves...to our
differences and get over the notion that you can only be unified
as long as everybody agrees." But doesn't the idea of unity by
definition imply agreement, aren't all communities built around
common values and standards? How can we adopt Riggs' credo
without falling prey to an "anything goes" relativism?
- bell hooks offers a way out of this dilemma of conformity vs.
permissiveness, suggesting a new form of community based not on
unity but on "communion." What does she mean? If unity is
predicated on agreement, what is communion based on? Does your
campus community follow the unity or communion model? What is
lost and what is gained if we move away from the goal of black
unity toward a vision of black communion?
- What does Cornel West mean when he says we all "have multiple
identities and that we're moving in and out of various communities
at the same time"? List the different communities you belong to.
Does your self-identity change when you move from one community to
another? If so, how?
- How do you think Marlon Riggs identified himself? A gay man
with AIDS? A black male? A filmmaker? An activist? Do you
think he allowed an identity to be "assigned" to him or did he try
to construct an identity unique to himself? To what extent do you
believe you're free to invent yourself, and to what extent is your
identity fixed, limited by your race, your parents, and history?
- The gumbo simmering throughout the film symbolizes the rich
diversity among African Americans. But Marlon Riggs does not
explicitly identify the "roux" that can bind together the
different colors, genders, classes, regions, sexual orientations,
etc. of African Americans. Why not? What do you think the
ingredients for such a roux might be?