Our Favorite AFRICAN Actress…Meryl Streep

Here’s a riddle, actually two: When can something be SO right and SO wrong at the same time???? When can one statement, spoken by the same person, ignite the ire and indignation of Blacks and Whites–equally??? It took some doing but Meryl Streep has somehow managed to do just that!! Smh! Recently I saw the satirical genius, Paul Mooney’s one man show. One of his funniest bits included a section informing the audience that Meryl Streep would soon be playing the role of Michelle Obama, while Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock battled it out to see whose going star as Harriet Tubman. We howled with laughter. But in light of Ms. Streep’s recent comments–turns out the joke might be on me! A number of my friends shared this clip of Meryl Streep’s press conference asking me to weigh in. Knowing that I think she’s one of the best actresses ever–right up there with Ruby Dee, they wanted my read on events at the all white Berliner’s Film Festival, of which she was appointed Chair, wherein she asserted: I’M BLACK! Okay…I took a little poetic license, but I’m not too far off. That said, it is my practice, (maybe due to years of journalistic training), to always check sources–especially ANYTHING I see posted online because there is nothing more gnawing to me than to see folks quoting and sharing bogus online rags and spoof sites as their news source. Convinced that is not the case in this instance, where does one begin??? On the one hand, Meryl Streep is absolute correct: WE ARE ALL AFRICAN (technically). We know this with scientific certainty because of the groundbreaking (albeit much suppressed) research on mitochondrial DNA which has traced ALL humanity back to woman one: EVE of sub-Saharan Africa. I went digging for the full interview to be sure that it wasn’t a clip taken out of context…it wasn’t. In fact, it wasn’t until after watching in its entirety that I found myself truly perturbed by the misguided statement, which while not taken out of context, was absolutely USED out of appropriate context!! It came off as EXCEEDINGLY arrogant–at best and EXCEEDINGLY ignorant and insensitive at worst. This has got to be a quagmire like no other for Diva Streep. On the one hand, outrage of Blacks for obvious reasons and then on the other, outrage of Whites at the public acknowledgement that they might be from Africa! When we live in a world where I, or better let’s use a marquee name like Cicely Tyson…(IOW, a talented,’darker hued African’) would be CONSIDERED to play in a major cinematic rendering of, let’s say, Queen Elizabeth, THEN, and only THEN, should one of my far fairer hued “African” sisters, such as Streep, or in this instance Anglina Jolie, be allowed to play Queens like, Cleopatra. To persist with this practice that so skews the history of “Black Africans” is the epitome of, dare I say it? WHITE PRIVILEGE. It is hurtful, demoralizing, selfish, and plain-ole WRONG! I’m sure I speak for every African-American thespian (the ones you don’t have to ask, only to look at to know what they are) that we would LOVE to partake in this kind of diversity. But, given that that is not likely to happen anytime in the foreseeable future, I find Ms. Streep’s comments…reckless, disappointing and rather dangerous. Artists are supposed to be a little more evolved than this. We are the wayshowers, yet in the area of role equity, we keep these blinders on and continue to be part of the problem.




February 23 2016 Reply


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