” You have the power to say no.” -Sidney Portier
I can get so caught up on what people say about me sometimes, so much to the point that I begin to change things about myself to be accepted by them. I’ve always considered my self a plain Jane. I’ve never been interested in make-up, hair salons or nail salons, I’m more the Monday Night RAW type of girl or maybe a nice PBS documentary. Though some guys would enjoy watching RAW with me, most of them were not interested in the documentary, they were more prone to be with girls who were walking My-Size Barbie dolls that had interchangeable wigs.
At a young age, I realized that if I wanted to be accepted and have a boyfriend, I had to learn to keep up with the competition. I began to hang out with girls that I thought were prettier and began to let them mold me. This method worked for a while, until I discovered that now,everyone was fooling around- and if I wanted to stay in the crowd I had better get with the program.
In Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend plays Bobby Taylor, a young man that aspires to be a renowned actor. During the movie, you are allowed into the vivid imagination of an inner-city male who wants to leave his surroundings by pursuing his dreams. He has a set mind that he will accomplish his goals and has taken every precaution as an actor to ensure success;he acquired an agent, took acting classes and has even been on television.
Though he is an “professional’ actor, he only gets cast for stereotypical roles such as butlers, slaves and gang members. Bobby knows that these roles demean him, but it is the only option that he seems to have so he decides to take what he can get. During an audition, Bobby sits next to another aspiring actor that tells him that these roles are beneath the both of them and that no one should be subjected to such degradation. Though the actor spoke poignantly he ultimately decided to be a part of the production.
After quitting his job and a long talk with a family member, he decides to put all of his attention into his acting career and receives a leading role in a movie playing a pimp. Though he is excited about the role,he still has a longing for a better part that depicts him as a hero instead of scum. On the morning of the first day of filming, the matriarch of Bobby’s family, his grandmother spoke out against the life that Bobby was choosing to live. Bobby’s mother tries to explain that this is Bobby’s dream and that he needs the work.His grandmother combated with a single phrase:
“There is always work at the post office.”
During the filming of his first major role, Bobby Taylor began to think about the example that he was setting for his brother and the mockery that he was making of himself. He decided to give up the role and to go and work for the post office. Though his dream seemed deferred, he still had his integrity and his acting career was still secure. he even landed a role in a post office commercial.
At the age of thirteen I became an unwed teenage mother because I wanted to follow the crowd. I thought that having a boyfriend and a nice outer appearance would make people want to be around me, but it had the opposite effect on my life. I lost friends and the people who were once all gung ho about me having sex began to whisper and make fun of my condition. By compromising myself and my true feelings towards those situations, I created a world of chaos for not only for myself-but for my child and my family also.
When we forfeit our identities to assume a role that was not meant for us we lose the focus of why we were created. We are not meant to fit inside the confines of boxes that people place on our lives. When we are brave enough to look naysayers square in the eyes and refuse to submit to their criticism, we take our power to be individuals.
We must be willing to say no to conformity and yes to creativity.
* Images found on http://www.google.com