Chiraq – I refrain from calling it a fantasy

Just watched Chiraq on Amazon video. I know, my review is hardly timely. Chiraq came out last year and you’ve probably seen it. But maybe I’m not alone and some of you haven’t. Chiraq was very much worth the view time. You should see it. Spike is back to that original storytelling style that is so much fun to watch. If you’re a fan of his, you can’t forget Mo’ Better Blues or Do The Right Thing or even where it all began with She’s Gotta Have It. Chiraq is a musical in the vein of the original musical from the 70s, Hair, but in Spikes’ colorful-conscious (as in vibrant set design, lighting and costumes), quirky, culturally-rich way, which is so obviously imbedded with a love for his people. It’s  a hip hopera with dancing scenes and duets that tells the gritty, heart wrenching  story of modern day Chicago, Chiraq. Rachel Maddow covered the story in depth last year on her news show, which was where I learned of the absolute devastation and on-going violence that trumped the mean streets of South Central LA, the details to which made the rise of rappers like Chief Keef and trap music in general make a whole lot of sense. Numbness and guns. Abject poverty. Gangs, the pseudo family necessary for mere survival. Inner city youth culture run amuck. The elders are nowhere in charge while the State gives two fuqs about the situation. For a majority there’s no way out. Numbness, fantasy, violence, faded. Of course gun violence is all over America, but there’s little else like the Windy (inner) City’s concentrated lion’s share. The use of art to tell the story of young black violence in the hood makes a thought-provoking visceral impression. Who has crunched the numbers to ascertain how the African American overall population has been been diminished by such violence? Two percent? Five percent? Nate Silver, eh hem, you wanna let us know?

Spike reminds me that with beauty, fun and multi-dimentional portrayals in black cultural expression, the artist can tell a plethora of stories to help us as a people get back on track to healthy cognition and community strength. The fantasy part is all the violence of the world being snuffed out by a sex boycott organized by powerful, hot dancing girls modeled after the sex strike in Liberia in 2003 for which the organizer Leyma Gbowee of Liberia won a Nobel Peace Prize. Apparent there have been a few copycat sex strikes in Africa like the ones in Togo and in Kenya that had the similar goal of restoring peace in their villages or countries by forcing their men to give up gun violence or no nooky. Apparently they worked to some degree. However, here in America with atrazine in the tap water, along with the lead, and with a lack of any real sense of “Black community” it might not be so effective. Plus Chicago like many an inner cityscape maintains the sort of poverty that calls desperate mothers to be amongst the opportunist scrubs that would break line if it would allow them to eat or feed their families. A sex strike might not hold the fantastic power in Chicago that was suggested it could. For one thing, the men would have to respect the women that said, no. I’m not so sure that African American men as a rule do. Perhaps I’m just old-ish and cynical, but either way, public attention to the issue is everything. Art is catalyst to reality as a spoonful of sugar was to the medicine of days of yore.

I appreciated the cameo by Dave Chapel as well as Angela Basset and Jennifer Hudson acting in supporting rolls. Chiraq also stars Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack and Wesley Snipes. Had I not seen this joint I would not have realized that I was a Nick Cannon fan. I’m feeling this theme song as well as his acting chops. Check the video link below. Warning: explicit lyrics. I also would not have known that I was a fan of the awesomely brown lead actress, Tayonah Parris. Leave it to Spike to blow up a new talent.

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