‘Antebellum’ Star Janelle Monáe: ‘This World Owes Black Women So Much’

For us Black folk, the fight for social justice in America continues to be a long and arduous fight. Since the day our African ancestors set foot on this land, we’ve endured the chains and whips of systemic oppression and marched arm in arm for our civil and economic rights. Along the way, we’ve witnessed the senseless killing of our Black brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality and white supremacy.

Let’s face it. Today, 400 odd years later and in the midst of an anxiety-inducing pandemic, being Black in America is still exhausting. Our Black brothers can’t go for an afternoon jog without running into the armed, confrontational, and self-appointed neighborhood watch. Or question their arrest before being handcuffed and forced to lie face-down, while gasping for air under the pressure of a police officer’s knee on their neck. The most disheartening of all is that our Black sisters can’t rest peacefully in their beds without trigger-happy police officers raiding their homes with a fatal shower of bullets.

The gut-punch of it all? Justice for Black bodies is far and in between. And the group less likely to see any form of justice? Black women. The women who’ve carried and birthed nations. The women who’ve fearlessly aided and led historic uprisings while fighting on the front lines to spark social change. In the upsetting case of Breonna Taylor, one of the officers responsible for her death has been indicted on “three counts of wanton endangerment” for endangering the lives of those in a neighboring apartment.

One activist who has been vocal about the lives of Black people in America is eight-time Grammy award-nominated artist Janelle Monáe.

“I feel like this world owes Black women so much. At the very least, it owes us peace...I have to actively fight for my own peace,” shared the actress in a recent sit-down with VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle. “It's tough, especially when you see your brothers and sisters, that look like you being murdered and killed, all you can really feel is rage. And when that festers in you, it's hard to shake it. It's hard for me to unwatch the videos I watched of Sandra Bland, of Trayvon Martin, of Jacob Blake, thinking about Breonna Taylor, it's difficult. So, you have to actively fight. I have to actively fight for my own peace.”

In the newly released thriller Antebellum, Monáe plays Veronica Henley, a best-selling author and outspoken sociologist. After speaking on the marginalization of Black people in America at an event in New Orleans, Veronica wakes up as Eden, an enslaved woman working on a Louisiana plantation in a Civil War era. As Veronica experiences the past life of slavery, she (Eden) finds her strength and voice to plan and lead fellow slaves to freedom. Even if she fails over and over again.

“I used to say, ‘Black women are superheroes.’ That's not what I say at all. It's not our job to be superhuman. It's not our job to clean up systemic racism or dismantle them,” pointed out Monáe.

“This film [Antebellum] is a look at what it is like for a Black woman to carry the burden of dismantling and deconstructing white supremacy every single day. We persevere through it. We are triumphant, but we shouldn't have to carry that emotional labor and that heaviness every single day.”

This same weight of responsibility can be seen in today’s oftentimes women-led social movements and calls to action in the streets of America. You can see how it’s cinematically embedded as a theme in the twisted Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz co-directed film. But there’s one thing that must take precedence during any physically and mentally demanding mission for change: rest. And those of us protesting for equality should have loved ones around to serve as a reminder of joy and lightheartedness. For self-care is an underrated superpower.

“I think that it's important to surround yourself around people that if you are doing heavy lifting, if you're out there on the front line, if you’re just having a difficult time, [you can] go watch some comedy films,” encouraged Monáe. “Just be around people that make you laugh. That's really important. I think laughter is something that we can do a lot more of together.”

Watch the full interview with Janelle Monáe above. Also, catch our chat with Antebellum's co-directors Bush and Renz where they talk about how one nightmare inspired the film’s premise.

Antebellum, co-starring Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersey Clemons, and more, is available now on premium video-on-demand platforms.

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Netflix, HBO Max Acquire Streaming Rights To ‘Chappelle’s Show’

Dave Chappelle’s self-titled sketch comedy show is headed to streaming services. The popular series will hit Netflix and HBO Max on November 1.

“The best news you’ve heard all year: Chappelle’s Show is coming to Netflix US,” the streaming giant announced on Friday (Oct. 30).

The best news you've heard all year: Chappelle's Show is coming to Netflix US pic.twitter.com/yMOOaf3BDA

— Netflix Is A Joke (@NetflixIsAJoke) October 30, 2020

HBO Max acquired Chappelle’s Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Reno 911, Nathan For You, and Key & Peele in a non-exclusive licensing deal between ViacomCBS and the Warner-media-backed streaming outlet, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The deals expands on a previously forged $500 million deal between HBO Max and Comedy Central for the streaming rights to South Park.

Chappelle’s Show aired on Comedy Central from 2003-2006. The series came to an abrupt end after Chappelle famously walked away from a $50 million deal with the cable network. The comedian stepped out of the spotlight for a while before re-emerging, and eventually signing a $60 million Netflix deal.

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Omari Hardwick Details Dialing Into His Ugly Flaws For 'Spell' Horror Film

Omari Hardwick is adding "star in a thriller film" to his career accomplishments. After six seasons of playing the fan-favorite James "Ghost" St. Patrick on Starz's hit series Power, he's reemerging onto the big screen as Marquis T. Woods in Paramount's new flick, Spell. His character, an accomplished lawyer, takes his family on a trip to his hometown of Appalachia to attend his father's funeral. After his plane crashes in the midst of a storm, Woods wakes up wounded in a Hoodoo witch's lair and tries to escape Ms. Eloise (Loretta Devine) torturous "healing" to rescue his family before they are sacrificed in a dark magic ritual.

While sitting down with the movie's director Mark Tonderai (House at the End of the Street, Hush), it didn't take much convincing for Hardwick to make a decision around being involved with the project. In fact, it was what Tonderai said about his past onscreen roles that sealed the deal.

"He really, he really lit a fire under me. He said, 'They're all great. They're all good. You've done your part. But I don't know if you've really, really shown all that's in you,'" Hardwick shared with correspondent Jazzie Belle in a sit-down interview with VIBE. "He said, 'Yeah, you've shown so many different colors as an ex-football player, but there's just this layer to you that when I look at your eyes. I see a guy that can really go to a very, very broken, broken vulnerable place, and we haven't seen it.' And I want to take it upon myself to be the director to get that out of you.' And when he said that, that's what did it for me."

In the challenging development of his character, Hardwick admitted he had to dig deep into the unpretty parts of himself to authentically deliver his role and gave the same advice to a younger family member looking to start his career as an actor. "I said, 'I need you to go back into it, and quietly do it...You'll keep that coolness going, but you'll find that swagger, even more, when you get really, really cozy with the stuff you don't like about you.'

"That's what had to happen in this movie. I got right with stuff that I was not really cool with over the years...When I got the role, we didn't know COVID would be here. But now that we're here, I'm glad that I thought, 'Okay, Omari, you got to go real broken. You got to go real ugly.' And so that process was not very easy for me, because unlike [my] 20-year-old cousin, I'm so far from that. I've tried to get away from everything ugly about me, but I had to go so deep back into it."

Watch the full video interview above and see a couple of written highlights below. Spell is now available on premium video-on-demand platforms and screening in select theaters.

On what made him gravitate toward this movie genre:

Definitely the bucket list check-off of trying to get to the point in my career where I can say I've done damn near every genre, if not every genre, so this definitely was a check for that. I didn't want to get down with just horror. I knew that feeling of what every comedian made us laugh about, and saying, "When we look at the scary movie the black people gone in five minutes!" I knew what that felt like and I didn't necessarily (laughs) want to become that in the world. I think at this point in my career, you know, I don't think I would have gotten the script where I'd be taken off the board that quick if it was just horror. But when you add the psychological thriller to the horror, then I think it's the right sort of combination of two for me to say yes to....for me to say yes to.

On lessons learned while working with Loretta Devine:

I would say the constant attention to detail. I think the elder statesman and the elder stateswomen of our industry...they tend to be so detailed-oriented because they had to be. And they didn't have access to as many things as we do. So I looked at her in a way of, "Am I in method? Yeah, I'm in method." She was constantly studying, and it kind of makes you go like, "I guess I should study."

The [one] scene is like, I don't know, like six hours of just her leaning over and telling me about voodoo and hoodoo and what it all means. And yet, in between takes she's like grabbing her script. So there were times I would just stare at her like, "Wow, it's the detail." But Snoop Dogg once said he wants to be the weakest in a room. And he said, "I'm real strong." So to know you're real strong, but yet you want to be the weakest in the room, that's what it felt like being around Loretta. Like man, I thought I worked hard.

On whether he ever believed in any superstitions:

Being an athlete, for me, it's like, I believe in, once you win, you can't change much of what you were wearing when you won. There are definitely moments where I never washed my socks for a long time because we were winning. I believe in that stuff, man. And that's swampy. You talking football, basketball, I mean, baseball, I played in those, all three of those sports I played, all in high school. So there were moments where definitely you could see teammates stopping by my locker and doing a double-take like, "Damn, O." There's definitely that. (laughs)

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Kenya Barris To Make Directorial Debut With Richard Pryor Biopic

Kenya Barris has signed on to write and direct a forthcoming biopic on Richard Pryor for MGM. The movie studio acquired the film in a heated bidding war, Deadline reports.

The biopic will mark Barris’ directorial debut. In addition to directing and penning the script, the Black-Ish creator will also produce the film through his company, Khalabo Ink Society. Additional producers include Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, through her Tarnished Angel imprint, and Tory Metzger for Levantine Films.

“The way Pryor did what he did — with truth and specificity that was somehow self-aware and self-deprecating, and said with an unmatched level of vulnerability – that was the power and impact of his work,” Barris said in a statement. “Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”

There have been several attempts to bring Pryor’s story to the big screen, including in 2016 when The Weinstein Company teamed with Jennifer and Lee Daniels on a script by Oscar-winning screenwriter Bill Condon. Mike Epps was slated to start as the comic legend, and Oprah Winfrey was going to play his grandmother, Eddie Murphy as his father, and Kate Hudson at Jennifer.

Pryor began his comedy career in the early 1960s playing local clubs around New York. By the following decade, Pryor rose up the ranks to become one of the most popular Black comedians in the genre appearing in films like Lady Sings the Blues, The Mack, Uptown Saturday Night, Car Wash, Harlem Nights, and The Wiz. Pryor was also a talented writer and producer (he wrote his stand-up comedy specials as well as other shows such as Sanford & Son, The Richard Pryor Show).

The 65-year-old comedian passed away from Parkinson’s Disease in 2005.

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