‘Precious’ will push your buttons. This big film firmly based on the little novel ‘PUSH’, by Sapphire, packs in just about every painful issue imaginable, sexual and emotional abuse, domestic and spiritual violence, incest, illiteracy, obesity, poverty, mental illness, neglect, HIV, abandonment and deadly loneliness. So many dark demons staring on the silver screen can be hard to handle. Perhaps that’s why it’s kicked up so much controversy. No one gets out of this one free, you can’t see ‘Precious’ without seeing some deep agony you can identify with.
I went to see ‘Precious’ this weekend with a mentoring group, young teen girls from Bed Stuy Brooklyn with their young fly 20 something mentors and a few 30, 40 and 50 something administrators and organizers. The girls read ‘PUSH’ (devoured would be more accurate) before they saw the movie. Afterwards we had a discussion; the girls were so open and ready to talk while some of the adults were devastated and ready for a stiff drink. Some shared direct experiences, like one girl whose friend was HIV positive, contracted from her stepfather, impregnated by him and murdered by him at 13. It was the first time she shared that trauma. Another young woman said seeing Precious smoked out a secret of incest in her family that they are confronting, for the first time. That’s the power of ‘Precious’, as my mama says, you’re as sick as your secrets. However, the one common issue that resonated across the ages was that of blackness and beauty used brutally.
Precious’ very being is excruciatingly confrontational not because of her complexion or her girth but her refusal to disappear. Precious and all the black girl sadness she represents, is right in your face. All of us could relate to Precious’ fantasies about being “other” and her torment for not being the same. (btw, none of the girls noted the complexions of the other cast members). Our stories ranged from a gorgeous chocolate young woman whose last name is Black who went to an all white school (you know where that story goes) to a light skinned 30 something principal whose last name is White, which kids used as her first name. A girl shared how she’s picked on for being skinny, another for being plump, three others for wearing glasses. There was a girl in my elementary school, she was the color of warm fudge, her hair was pressed into a long black icy river and she had the body of Pam Grier by 12, my complete opposite. I dreamed I looked like her. I wanted the male attention her beauty bought her, (too big a burden for a 6th grader). Everyone has a story.
Where the pain gets so deep for black girls and women is that our color is used as a weapon to mortally wound us. Any given day on any given playground an insult will start with, “You so black..” Less often heard, but none the less thrown is, “You light bright white.” (I was just referred as such two days ago). Do you see the absurdity in this? No one has the power over or the power to change their skin, even if they wanted to, so why do we use it to try and destroy, disrespect or discredit each other?
If I call you an “ugly black b*tch” does that elevate my feelings of inadequacy for that moment? If you call me “a nasty white ho” does your fear of abandonment disappear for a minute? Really, what is the payoff? Sisters, we are so very blessed to be such a beautiful bouquet of hues. Our skin, our hair, our bodies in all their diverse glory is proof positive that God is the greatest story teller of all and saw us fit to be such a unique and compelling chapter. It’s time to stop using our precious gift as emotional ammunition against each other. It’s useless. It’s insane.
At the end of our sharing, a girl said “This is an important movie and I am proud of Precious, she did not stay beat down” recognizing the love support and validation she got from friends and professionals. The Precious experience triggers piercing pain and presents infinite possibilities. Precious is here and we are here.
Time to talk. Time to heal. Healing is the revolution.