My Brain Scratching Affair With Disney Movies Presents: Pocahontas (VI)

As I’ve previously written in the first installment of this series-long ‘editorial’ (if you will), the following posts are created to air out more or less, ‘adult’ grievances and flush out underlying (as well as obvious) themes that I’ve found while watching these childhood movies over again. *Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.* This month’s installment of my return to my head scratching questions and off the wall theories tackles the EVER racist movie Pocahontas.

First things first: I know it’s pretty inherent how RACIST this movie was, but I’m going to mention it anyway. If you guys are unaware of Pocahontas, she was the chieftain’s daughter of a Native American tribe on the East Coast that got in good when the white man came in, took over and basically said “move over redskins, this is our land.” In some ways, Pocahontas was a traitor to her people, but in other ways she help founded this nation in all its racist pride. However you want to look at it, look at it that way. Anyway, I definitely had a couple problems with this flick. For one, this story is GROSSLY exaggerated and deeply racist (did I say it was racist?), but I’ll talk about that during my lessons section. But I had a BIG PROBLEMO with Pocahontas. She passed on a fine male specimen in the form of Kocoum. Yeah, he may not have been the most talkative of the bunch, but he was strong. And I guarantee you, he would’ve been kind AND boy knew about Pocahontas and her wild-woman-diving-off-cliff ways and probably wouldn’t have changed her (like the English tried to do in Pocahontas II, but I’m not getting into that now). You messed up, Pocahontas! YOU DONE MESSED UP!

Not only does she pass him up for the white guy (who ultimately takes the blame for killing Kocoum), but the white guy she passes him up for leaves her (yes, OK, he got shot — big deal) and DOESN’T come back like he said he would! Hmm … you sure know how to pick ’em Po-Po. And was it me, but didn’t it look like Pocahontas’s bff Nakoma wanted Kocoum? Think about it … she was always telling Pocahontas that she’s got a good thing going AND she was the one who ran to Kocoum (not anyone else in the tribe) when Pocahontas was doing the sneaky-sneak with John Smith.  Am I the only person who thought that Nakoma was hoping that Kocoum would see Pocahontas and get all like “forget that ho” and then date her?

Pocahontas-Kocoum-and-Nakoma-pocahontas-13194955-500-272Hmm, I smell a home wrecker…
Just sayin’…

Another thing: what was with all the unattractive British dudes? The only ones worth baggin’ were John and Thomas. AND they gave poor Tom a hard-ass time for not knowing how to shoot. That’s why this damn country is so trigger happy. There were other questionable things in this film, like what the hell were these Indians SMOKIN’?! Think about it: Pocahontas’s best friend was a raccoon, a hummingbird and a talking tree bark. A TALKING TREE BARK. I mean, I feel like there was some hallucinogenics in those pretty leaves that were always circling Pocahontas, no? I mean, how else did she learn to speak English so damn quick — Rosetta Stone? Well, it’s about that time that we get into the thematic lesson portion of this here post, so here we go:

Theme One: America Was Built on Trigger-Happy Racism

Yeah. I had to go there. And we know this is a universal FACT. From the moment that we’re introduced to John Smith in this movie in all his dashing, blonde-headed glory, this dude is boasting about all the ships he’s sailed and all the natives he’s killed. And when he comes to America, the first thing any of these fools do is pull out a gun on some “shoot now, ask questions later” nonsense. Pocahontas sang it best:

You think I’m an ignorant savage And you’ve been so many places I guess it must be so But still I cannot see If the savage one is me How can there be so much that you don’t know?

For real, like how to forage food, learn the layout of the land, or ask the natives for help. Really John, really! And despite them “getting along” at the end, they really didn’t. The white man came back, treated the Natives like shit, ran them off their land, went to Africa, brought slaves over and still acted like they owned the land.

You think you own whatever land you land on… …You think the only people who are people Are the people who look and think like you

Sang it girl. Sang it!

And if you think I’m being a little over the top, look at the lyrics  to the (albeit beautiful) song “Savages” :

What can you expect From filthy little heathens? Their whole disgusting race is like a curse Their skin’s a hellish red They’re only good when dead They’re vermin, as I said And worse They’re savages! Savages! Barely even human Savages! Savages! Drive them from our shore! They’re not like you and me Which means they must be evil We must sound the drums of war! They’re savages! Savages! Dirty redskin devils! Now we sound the drums of war!

You know what that is?

And that sad part? This mentality is VERY much alive today. Thank you Disney for preparing people of color for the real world.

Theme Two: Interracial Relationships Are a Risky Business

Don’t get me wrong now — I’m all about loving who you want to love. But let’s be real — this movie showcased how truly difficult being in an interracial relationship could be. First there was the language barrier (until they smoked some of the good stuff from Mother Willow’s bark) and then there was the whole cultural thing. I mean, just look at the faces of everyone who saw Pocahontas and John Smith Kissing…


Having an interracial relationship is a a tough business, especially if you come from two cultures that are literally worlds apart. However, you have to learn to remain strong and make necessary (and fair) sacrifices to make the relationship work. Stay true to yourself and the one you love, forget the haters and things will work out … hopefully better than they did for Po-Po and John.

Theme Three: ALWAYS Break Off Old Relationships Before Entering New Ones

Tale as old as father-freaking time yo. I ALWAYS blamed Kocoum’s death on Pocahontas AND Nakoma, but mainly Pocahontas. Why? Homegirl knew she was engaged to be married to that fine bear claw tattooed mofo. And instead of keeping it real and saying “Hey Kocoum, I don’t think this whole marriage thing is going to work out for me,” she just sneaks off to see John Smith. And what happened?

Kocoum died … he DIED!

Sigh. If it’s one thing you can take from this movie, it’s that if you are in a relationship (forced into it or not) and you no longer want to be with the person, sneaking around is the worst way to get out of it. It’s better to just make a clean break before anyone gets anymore hurt than they need to be. Yes, Kocoum would’ve been upset and his pride would’ve been low. But how much you want to BET if Pocahontas had just broke it up, Nakoma would’ve been there to pick up the pieces? Please redirect your eyes several photos above, and search your feelings. You know it to be true.

Theme Four: Men Need to Learn How to Ask For Help Or Directions

So, this Ratcliffe fellow, gets on a ship, lands in the Americas, calls his settlement in Virginia “Jamestown” and swears up and down the place is filled to the brim with gold. However, because of his pompous and prideful attitude, not only was there no gold, but he ended up shooting someone and getting in trouble.

Men NEVER like to ask for directions, and this is a prime example of what happens when you don’t. You see, Ratcliffe could’ve just told the Natives “take me to your shiny yellow thing” and they would’ve shown him the only gold they had was corn. OR they could’ve shown him some semi-precious jewels which Ratcliffe could’ve brought back to England. But noooo. He just had to be all “I know what I’m doing!” And where did that get him? Bound, gagged, and on a boat waiting to be tried in England.

Theme Five: Racially-Motivated Deaths Have Escaped Justice For Centuries

OK, so Kocoum comes to Pocahontas’s defense (as he’s told she’s in trouble) and attacks John Smith. They fight and it looks like Kocoum is about to win, but Pocahontas joins in to break it up. When Thomas sees the throw down, instead of helping Kocoum off John,  he pulls out a gun and shoots Kocoum dead.

Thomas shoots Kocoum

John Smith takes the blame, but guess what? He gets off when Po-Po stops her daddy from killing him (in that Old Testament way of eye for an eye, mind you). To add insult to injury, Thomas — the one who KILLS Kocoum — gets to go back to England and everyone’s like “let’s stop the fighting and be friends.” Meanwhile, when John Smith gets shot (and SURVIVES), they lock up Ratcliffe, gag him and get ready to send his ass to prison when they get back to England. Kocoum dies, and everyone’s like “aww, let’s move on.”

This, ladies and gentleman, is the moment that I realized that I was being taught racially-motivated hate crimes have gone unpunished for forever, and we can expect this saddening trend to continue to go on until we demand justice for ALL our fallen brethren. #NeverForgetKocoum

Theme Six : Sometimes It’s Best to Be Single

Pocahontas single handedly got two men shot, one of whom died. Real talk, who needs all that stress in your life? One guy likes you, but he’s just not your type. Then another guy likes you, but his people won’t accept you as his woman. What’s a girl to do? That’s when you learn that sometimes it’s best to just walk away from all these men and wait until you can get what you deserve (though personally, Po-Po had a great thing with Kocoum, but eh, she wasn’t feeling the dude).

And in the end, that’s what happened. John Smith went off to England with the “promise” of returning (but never did), Kocoum’s death faded in the background and all Po-Po had left was Meeko (the raccoon), Flit (the hummingbird), Mother Willow and her earth-spirit “herbs.” *Of course, until Pocahontas II, where she meets John Rolfe, but we won’t get into that now.*

Theme Seven: Animals Are The Only Things That Truly Know How to Adapt

I had to give a quick shout out to the animals in this film, because as a person fond of pets, I found that the only things that learned how to adapt to their given situations, were the animals. I mean, Meeko saw (well, smelled) John Smith coming and did what he had to do to get food. He even accepted John with the quickness, though Flit took some time. Now Percy, Ratcliffe’s dog, took a little time to adjust. But unlike John Smith (who probably could’ve been healed with Native American holistic remedies instead of traveling on a ship for MONTHS (which could’ve killed him) for “medical attention”) Percy stayed. Why? Because he adapted.

Lesson learned: animals are a million times more accepting AND resilient than humans. BOOM.

Theme Eight: Exaggerating History Makes it Better to Swallow

So for many of you who watched Pocahontas, going “oh, that’s so sad, why didn’t she go to England,” blah-di-blah, just remember that this film was a highly exaggerated version of the truth. In fact, Po-Po was a young girl when she met John Smith, that whole “Daddy don’t kill him” thing was possibly a stunt and/or ritual (if it even happened at all). Then, when her people and the settlers started squabbling AGAIN, they kidnapped her. Yes. They held Po-Po ransom! And when her people couldn’t meet the settlers’ demands, they kept her. And NO she didn’t go to England like she did in Pocahontas II with John Rolfe and decide “I love my Native American ways.” Instead, she adopted Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca, got married to Rolfe, had a baby and then went to England where she was dubbed a princess of her tribe (though they probably didn’t care) before dying on her journey back home.  Of course that’s “too deep” for a Disney film, so you know do what you must to get it out there: throw in some music, boost her age up, and make it all a lesson in racial (in)equality and you’ve got yourself a hit! Sometimes hearing the truth is a hard pill to swallow. And maybe many people wouldn’t have felt inclined to like Pocahontas as much if they told what really happen. So we get a mix of history and fun with Pocahontas being the brave, strong-willed, beautiful, red-skinned chieftain’s daughter who helped disillusioned traveler John Smith paint with the colors of the wind.

My Brain Scratching Affair with Disney Movies (Part V) – Mulan

As I’ve previously written in the first installment of this series-long ‘editorial’ (if you will), the following posts are created to air out more or less, ‘adult’ grievances and flush out underlying (as well as obvious) themes that I’ve found while watching these childhood movies over again.

*Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.*

This month’s installment includes my head-scratching questions and off-the-wall theories about Disney’s retelling of the Chinese legend Mulan.

Continue reading

My Brain Scratching Affair with Disney Movies (Part IV) – The Lion King

As I’ve previously written in the first installment of this series long ‘editorial’ (if you will), the following posts are created to air out more or less, ‘adult’ grievances and flush out underlying (as well as obvious) themes that I’ve found while watching these childhood movies over again.

*Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney has animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.* 

This month’s installment includes my head-scratching questions and off the wall theories about Disney’s most famous tale The Lion King.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I was not and still am not in love with The Lion King. Continue reading

My Brain Scratching Affair with Disney Movies (Part III) – Aladdin

As I’ve previously written in the first installment of this series long ‘editorial’ (if you will), the following posts are created to air out more or less, ‘adult’ grievances and flush out underlying (as well as obvious) themes that I’ve found while watching these childhood movies over again.

*Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney has animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.* 

This month’s installment includes my head scratching questions and off the wall theories about Disney’s diamond in the rough Aladdin.

Another one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, Aladdin is just another enchanted musical film based off of one of the many stories of 1001 Arabian Nights. In the original story, it’s said that Aladdin may have actually been Asian, as the story does take place in the Middle East, which is… near Asia. Either way, one of the many reasons I adore this movie is because of how ‘street’ it feels. While I’m not at all a fan of movies that are set in a country with its inhabitants speaking in another dialect or accent, I let Aladdin slide for his somewhat Brooklyn-esque demeanor though he should sound more like a Habib from Pakistan.

I also liked the idea that Jasmine was kind of tough-as-nails to counter with Aladdin’s diamond-in-the-rough persona. While I did think that Disney was sipping on some Shakespearean ‘Taming of the Shrew’ for his picture of Jasmine, the fact that I believed Jasmine could hold her own in a male dominated world made me respect her. Though I do wish she got more sassy when that man was about to chop her hand off. She should’ve known better though, nothing’s free. They didn’t build the palace for free… or maybe they did (shrugs)… One of my many quirks with this movie is how Jafar played the role of a mafioso, but not to its fullest potential. I say that because he was constantly glamoring the Sultan with his snake staff and never once thought to glamour Jasmine into marrying him. I think that would’ve made things 101 times easier for him, no? But I guess he just liked things the hard way.

Another problem I had: why were the royal guards of Agraba so damn stupid? Not only could they NOT capture Aladdin, I’m quite certain he wasn’t the only person doing his dirt in the city.Was there not enough crime to sharpen their ability to actually capture someone? And how stupid or sheltered rather, were they to not recognize Princess Jasmine when they found Aladdin in his little roof-top shanty house? I mean, even Superman had a bit of disguise with glasses and a curly bang, but she had a hood over her head. You can’t tell me she looks that much different with a HOOD on her head?! And since when is the royal Vizier more important than the Princess? I mean, her saying ‘release him’ should’ve been ten times more important that Jafar calling him in, no? And was it just me wondering or did you ever question how crusty, dusty and calloused Aladdin’s feet actually were, running around barefoot day and night? He must’ve had some serious hobbit feet cause in that hot sun, I don’t know how he did it. Also, I don’t understand how these people just accepted a guy with a flying carpet into their palace without even asking where the hell he got it from. I mean the Sultan asked for a ride on the thing (which I might have asked for too), but didn’t ask “where did you get it from? how old is it? how is it alive?” These people were some kind of slack.Then again, I couldn’t expect any better from a Middle Eastern Sultan who let his daughter walk around in a crop top. Are you kidding me? Okay, sure Jasmine’s body was banging, but she wasn’t a part of some harem. Arabic dudes these days ain’t standing for that hot mess… especially with a girl with that kind of temper… oh HELL no. OH and did I mention, another Disney princess without a mother? Yeah. Now you’re seeing the pattern, aren’t you.

Now we all know that one of the many characters that made this movie was Robin William’s Genie, but this also made me question that actual nature of the genie. Think about it, if a Genie can only grant you three wishes, what good is he to you when your three wishes are up? Do you throw him away until the next person comes to find him or is he like a slave that can only do menial labor that does require a wish like a slave? Can I tell Genie to pick cotton without “I wish” and he’ll do it? I mean, if you can’t wish for more wishes, what good is he afterwards? And so we’re onto to the educational part of this lecture:

Theme One: Not All Homeless People Are Crazy Alcoholic Crackheads

This movie makes a great point of showing children that not all bums and poor people are stinky, nasty alcoholic fueled low lives that sell their bodies for crack. We meet Aladdin who is a bum and a thief, but a kind-hearted one who shares his bread with his (possibly rabid) monkey friend Abu and stray children left to die in the streets. He was a victim of circumstance, not having any parents (again a would be ‘prince’ without parents) or any money to support himself in his adulthood. Aladdin also had tons of sense for a young man who probably never went to school. He was able to secure clothes, food and shelter for him and his pet without breaking much laws, maintain a decent relationship with some of the people in the neighborhood and was able to walk around the streets without people wanting to gag at his odor which MUST have been exacerbated by the hot Middle Eastern heat.

Theme Two: When You’re A Woman, It’s Okay to Be a Bit Bitchy!

So if it’s one thing that Princess Jasmine taught me, I must say that it’s okay to be a bit of a bitch from time to time. Jasmine went through what most females go through on a daily basis with dudes trying to get all up in her pockets and her va-jay-jay and she wasn’t having it. And she held no restraint when it came to telling these guys off. She even let Raja get in on the action and bite a man’s ass because she wasn’t just going to let any swarthy looking ‘ooh baby I’m hot & I got money’ foolio come into her midst without coming correct. She didn’t even like Aladdin in the beginning when he was trying to be Mr. Fancy-Pants with her. If it’s one thing I have to admire about Jasmine, is that she wasn’t standing for any man’s bs. I mean, she caught Aladdin in his lie (even though she didn’t know how deep it went) and made sure to give Jafar a piece of her mind. Atta girl!

Theme Three: There’s Always Corruption in Politics

No matter where you go, there is ALWAYS corruption when it comes to politics and Aladdin is the #1 case in which we blatantly see abuse of power and ambivalence to the needs of the common people. Let me dig into the Sultan really quickly- while in my mind he is meant to be one of the “good” characters, the fact still remains that this man was the ruler of a kingdom where he would rather spend more time playing with miniature dolls and feeding a pretty bird crackers, than figuring out what to do with these homeless people on the street. Why are there no orphanages or workhouses? Why does Aladdin, who’s already poor as it is and has to contend with a (possible lice-ridden & rabid) monkey for a pet, have to give his food away to poor starving kids? Bad Sultan, very bad!

Next you have the fact that the Sultan’s second-in-command is running shit under the Sultan’s nose. Not only does he use his little snake staff to hypnotize the Sultan in order to get what the wants, he runs the palace guards to search for Aladdin, not once but TWICE! The first time, he has them lock him in prison and fakes his death, and the second time they threw “Prince Abooboo” over the cliff! Some SERIOUS mafioso “sleeps with the fishes” shizzz! I have to admit, I gave Jafar his props for that one – the shiz was GANGSTA! THEN he tries to force the princess to be his chick?! That screams scandal! Makes me think of all those politicians with side-piece chicks, or prostitutes… If that isn’t an abuse of power (forcing a woman who hates you to love you), I don’t know WHAT is. BUT my point is that even in cartoons, politics are a risky and often messy business.

Theme Four: Knowing Your Geography is Tantamount

Prince Ali of Babwa? Are you kidding me? And why is it that no one in the palace thinks to look on a map for Babwa? I find it really ridiculous that they would allow a Prince from an unknown country, village, community or whatever roll up in the palace and say I’m here to marry your daughter. What if they wanted to travel to Babwa or join the kingdoms? What would’ve happened then? I mean, when a foreigner marries nobility, usually the woman goes to his kingdom and the territories are merged. Jafar was the only one thinking. Really though, Babwa? This is why as kids, we are taught geography – so when some dude comes in your house from a made up place, you can call his ass out on it and send him packing!

Theme Five: Be Careful What You Wish For

So of course, there is the element (as with ANY genie tale) to ‘be careful of what you wish for.’ Though Aladdin wished for money and a title, he was given a heap load of trouble with almost ‘sleeping with the fishes’ and well, being revealed as a poor hack. Then we had Princess Jasmine who wanted to be free and live a life without restrictions and found her hand nearly chopped off. Seems that if you want to be free and uninhibited, you end up poor and even then you’re not free from the law in your ass for stealing. And things also got worse when it came to Jafar who initially wished to be sultan, then a powerful sorcerer and then finally a genie. When asking for power, we see here in this Disney tale, it’s something that always leads to a serious downfall. This touches again on the subject of corruption in politics and ultimately the idea of power being the root of evil. But then we also think of what happens when you ask for simplicity – Jasmine may have found a guy she liked but what was she gonna do? Live the rest of her life as the common-law bride of a street rat? Hmm…

Theme Six: You Can Change Your Life, No Matter Your Circumstances

Now this is a  serious rags-to-riches tale that can probably do a world of good to anyone out there who is looking to better their life. Not only did Aladdin come from nothing, he came from being one of the most disliked street urchins of Agraba to the princess’s main squeeze (WOOT)! Sure he lied, but what rags-to-riches story doesn’t have a little fib, here and there? A lot of people make themselves out to seem more than they appear. And that’s all that it comes down to right? Faking it ’til you make it! But on a serious note, it does give those out there with nothing to them the hope that maybe some day, they will find a banging rich girl bored with life to be their sugar mama.

My Brain Scratching Affair with Disney Movies (Part II) – The Little Mermaid

As I’ve previously written in the first installment of this series long ‘editorial’ (if you will), the following posts are created to air out more or less, ‘adult’ grievances and flush out underlying (as well as obvious) themes that I’ve found while watching these childhood movies over again.

*Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney has animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.* 

This month’s installment includes my head scratching questions and off the wall theories about Disney’s favorite little fish The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid

I really enjoyed this movie as a girl. Jodie Benson did a fantabulous job with her vocals in this movie and how can anyone forget the song, “Part of Your World.”  This adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale is pretty darn good, especially since in the original version the prince marries the woman he thinks is his ‘savior’ and The Little Mermaid, well… dies. In this version, we’re introduced to a precocious little red-head named Ariel who falls madly in love with a human. We’re given tons of wonderful colorful characters to love including Flounder the gullible guppy and Sebastian the musical crab. While, this is yet again one of my FAVORITE movies to watch — its musical content is enough of a reason to watch — I have some questions to ask: Continue reading

Giant Life: Radha Blank’s ‘SEED’ Takes Roots in Harlem

The off-Broadway production SEED explores the present day situation of children growing up abandoned and confused, while touching on class struggles. The play begs the question, how far would a person go to make sure a child is safe?  Written by Radha Blank and directed by Niegel Smith, the play is one of two works the National Endowment of the Arts awarded a $90,000 grant to in November 2010.
The play centers around Anne Colleen Simpson, (played by Bridgit Antoinette Evans) a ‘burnt-out social worker’ leaving at the pinnacle of her 15-year career to write a novel of her great triumphs and knowledge of the field. Upon leaving her job, she encounters a young boy named Che-Che (played by Khadim Diop) who is more than just what meets the eye. This chance encounter turns both their lives and those of the people involved up-side down.
The stage provides the audience  with sounds and sights of the Harlem neighborhood thriving projected onto a large screen. Cleverly crafted to look like real life scenes, the play adds elements of spoken-word, street vernacular, and realistic dialogue that leaves the audience filled with a comical and almost jarring taste of modern-day real life situations that for some may be close to home.

Image courtesy of Columbia University School of the Arts
As the story progresses we learn more about Anne, who actress Evans describes as a person “who’s greatest gift is over-identifying with the children she serves. This also means she’s not able to let go when her job demands it and she’s asked to confront some those relationships.” Anne captivates the audience within the first fifteen minutes, as she delivers a seminar mixed with spoken-word and prose, detailing the accounts of children who were products of homes that couldn’t care for them. Bridgit’s portrayal of the character is endearing, as we see the wounds and failures of this woman break down her already fragile strength.
Of these failures, we encounter probably Anne’s biggest failure personified in Rashawn. An inmate for murder, Rashawn was quite possibly the biggest blemish of Anne’s career; a blemish that we learn she continually tries to redeem in multiple ways. The play takes a dark and harrowing turn when Pernell Walker (below) takes the stage as the young woman she herself describes as “left to raise herself, with no guidance, no adult and left to her own devises.” When Walker takes the stage it’s hard not to ask how she was able to play such a broken and complex character:
“I grew up with a lot of Rashawns in the South Bronx. She is the personification of what was left in the the 80′s crack epidemic, sexual abuse and drug addiction. She is an amalgam of everything that was happening and a survivor of the system, even though she’s been aged out.”

Image courtesy of Times Square Gossip
Khadim Diop plays Che-Che (whose real name is Cherokee) and is received as an intelligent 12 year-old caught between worlds within worlds. Already dealing with societal pressures of growing up in “the hood,” he constantly struggles with being what his mother wants him to be and who Anne knows him to be. There is no real compromise in the matter and this alone adds a great deal of friction in this already gripping drama.
The play is not without some comic relief to sweeten the dramatic scenes. LaTonya, Che-Che’s mother, provides a street smart sass that garnered plenty of laughs from the audience. LaTonya raises Che-Che in a Harlem project housing, all the while working the register at a Duane Reade and attending GED classes.LaTonya believes that she’s protecting Che-Che the best way she can, despite obvious instances of verbal and light physical abuse.  Jocelyn Biop, the actress who plays LaTonya, describes her as “a strong-willed, opinionated, sassy and protective. But at the heart of it all, she’s hurt.”
This hurt stems from LaTonya’s former lover and Che-Che’s father Twan (as played by Jamie Lincoln Smith) who we initially think is a dead-beat dad though he’s anything but. Twan, (who is allegedly based on the playwright’s brother, takes the stage with a loving embrace of his son. The two are apparently close, though we are asked the question if this is enough to ensure that Che-Che will grow up to be the bright, well-adjusted upstanding man he can be.
“Twan is a struggling to prove that he’s not a dead beat. He’s a strong guy, and a construction worker who thinks that he’s doing the best to provide for his son…until he meets the social worker.” The audience learns of the beginnings of Twan and LaTonya’s relationship and how Twan’s late education ultimately broke them apart. Now, education has returned as the underlying issue with regards to raising their child.
For the cast, this play is truly a labor of love, with all members coming to the project in almost a predestined way. For Diop, getting the part of Che-Che came  by through his mother’s connection with Blank- “Radha went to college with my mother and saw me grow up and knew that I really liked acting.” For Walker, it had been that Blank had seen some of her work, sought her out and the pair “hit it off.” Smith learned of the part through a friend who was also a playwright and friends with Blank. Bioh had seen the workshop and became enamored. She tried out for the part and got it with ease and as for Evans this play came to her literally a day after she decided to get back into acting and after only a day of preparation, she earned the part of Anne and dazzled the audience in an emotional performance.
SEED opens the audience’s attention to the little real-life situations that happen right under our noses everyday and forces us to open our eyes to the consequences of our actions on the lives of the generation after us. As Che-Che struggles to find his place in the world with his educational talents, we see the adults in his life try to do right by him at all costs, though we are left wondering if the adults in charge understand what’s right for him. With a phenomenal troupe of actors, stylized dialogue, minimalistic setting and deep rooted message, SEED thoroughly shines through the shadows of other Off-Broadway productions.
SEED ran in its last show at the National Black Theater in Harlem on October 9th.