Trapped in the Fence:
Radically loving Black women, Black femmes, and Black queers as we discuss the film Fences
I am a sucker for a good play adapted into a film. I love the film versions of A Streetcar Named Desire, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and my all time favorite- Lorraine Hansberry’s, A Raisin in the Sun. In the tradition of good writing making good films, August Wilson’s Fences works as a motion picture. There is brilliant acting, and the writing adapted into film was executed quite well. This is perhaps Denzel’s finest work since Devil in a Blue Dress. Fight me!
And it was nice to see some new-old Black faces, who have no doubt been working for years. Kansas City native, Stephen Henderson does wonderful work interpreting the character, Bono, and Mykelti Williamson showed up as Gabriel. And of course, Viola’s performance was beyond stellar.
This film adaptation of Wilson’s important work is quite timely. The film provides Black folk an opportunity to explore Blackness at a variety of intersections- if discussion is done honestly around this film within the Black community, then most of us should be uncomfortable. I’m gonna take a stab at embracing discomfort below.
The fence has us all trapped.
The Troys of this world, alongside white supremacy and patriarchy, are the reason Black women, Black femmes, and Black queers experience intimate violence within the Black community.
Let me take a step back and explore the Troys.
Troys are Black, cisgender, heterosexual men (or the performance of those) who have been wronged by white men, and feel the need to exploit that wrongness on the most vulnerable Black bodies, the ones living on the margins of the margins of Black manhood. They feel owed by the system, and that entitlement shows up in their closest relationships- relationship to their fathers, their mothers, their sons, their daughters, children that have yet to hold the power to self-identify, and good friends.
Fences is not only a story of poverty, alcoholism, and the unrealized american dream.
Fences is not only an exploration of Black fatherhood.
Fences is not only an exploration of Black spousal relationship.
Fences is not only a depiction on how this murderous system throws away Black, mentally-ill, poor folk.
And Fences is not only the telling of a Black man withered down by a system meant to mentally, emotionally, economically, and physically kill Black people.
Fences is also a story on how a monster birth a monster.
Fences is a story on how the lives of Black women, Black femmes, and Black queers have been ruined by white supremacy, at the hands of Troys- before we even take our first breath.
Fences makes me weep for Black women.
I can no longer protect the Troys, and blame white supremacy and patriarchy. We can no longer sit idly, as if we are deserving of violence. We must call a spade a spade, as Grandma Bertha would say- though, she also struggled holding the Troys accountable.
We must begin to tell the truth. We must stop making excuses for the Troys. We can no longer give them a pass because of the burdens they carry, as we carry the same load.
My good friend, Jameelah Tamira Jones, said it best, as she spoke about white feminism and Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectionality in a piece entitled Throwing the Rock and Hiding Your Hands: White Women and a Revisiting of Intersectionality. This is not exactly the same focus, but I think a similar dynamic that exist within the Troys. Perhaps, yet, another conversation on what intersectionality actually is. Troys throw rocks, constantly throwing rocks, and then point the finger at white people (men)- attempting to absolve themselves of any of the responsibility.
The Troys are manipulative, and are skilled at having us forget the violence that they’ve caused, until the next violent episode.
I am reminded of the scene in this film, when Troy brings home his baby girl and Roselee would have no part of her. Troy shuffled to the porch and sat on the stoop, with Raynell in hand. He began to talk to the baby referencing the child’s future, and began to sing his daddy’s song. He did this loudly. He wanted Rose to hear the moment. He played on her emotions, and her allegiance to him and the Black family. He played on a Black woman’s emotions, and allegiance to him and the Black family. He knew exactly what he was doing, as Black women have always been the backbone, the laborer, and the punching bag of the Black family.
He knew he would get what he wanted.
Hear me! Hear me! Black women, Black femmes, and Black queers we do not deserve the violence. The Troys are not entitled to our bodies and spirits.
We have to move beyond our guilt, our fear, and the responsibility we carry to hold up the entire damn Black community, through our labor and self-sacrificing behaviors. Our lives depend on it.
And my Black mother’s name is Rosa Lee.
This is the work of Cody Charles; claiming my work does not make me selfish or ego-driven, instead radical and in solidarity with the folk who came before me and have been betrayed by history books and storytellers. Historically, their words have been stolen and reworked without consent. This is the work of Cody Charles. Please discuss, share, and cite properly.
the aspiring urban blogger @PhaedraParks speaks of- Cody Charles is the author of The Night The Moonlight Caught My Eye: Not a Review but a Testimony on the Film Moonlight, Radical Friendship Contract: 10 Expectations for Loving People Fully, 10 Common Things Well-Intentioned Allies Do That Are Actually Counterproductive, I Will Burn My Name Onto It, Higher Ed Hates Me, and What Growing Up Black And Poor Taught Me About Resiliency. Join him for more conversation on Twitter (@_codykeith_) and Facebook (Follow Cody Charles). Please visit his blog, Reclaiming Anger, to learn more about him.