Film / TV

when spike lee tried a little tenderness

March 20, 2019

I remember the day my mother was fed up with my childish ways: It was around midnight and I had not cleaned the bathroom after she had asked for two days. I was twelve. Once she was off work, she woke me up, scolded me, and demanded that I clean the bathroom. Once I was done, she looked any me at me as I climbed back in my bed and said, “You know I love you, but I need for you to grow up.” I was a pre-teen that was still a child, but she was right. Something about the emotional exhaustion in her voice made me feel guilty, and from there, I knew I wanted to be a help for my mother. Not a burden. For whatever reason I understood how tired my mother was and how inconsiderate I had been. This was a glimpse of maturity in my otherwise immature life.

This moment in my memory is always connected with Crooklyn, namely the scene where the mother wakes up all of her sons and let’s them know it time to carry their own weight. It was time to mature because she was tired, feeling misused, and well, like a working Black mama.

Spike Lee’s tenderness in his portrayal of Black motherhood and girlhood resonated with me by making beautiful and compelling the ordinary Black experience I had not considered necessarily beautiful or interesting before then, just true. Aside from it reminding me of my own childhood moments with my mother, it was the first scene to make me think that perhaps my own ordinary could be cinematic.