You remember that scene from the Color Purple when Shug Avery was singing “Sista’ you’ve been on my mind… sista, I’m keeping my eyes on you?” (you singing along yet?) Celie sat in her chair, floppy hat, covering her face, hands shielding her smile, totally smitten by Shug.
A star-struck Celie squirmed in her seat as she watched in awe of the dedication that was being rendered by her idol.
It was obvious how much Celie loved Shug, but it wasn’t always clear if the adoration was reciprocated, after all, Shug had no problem reminding her – “You sho’ is ugly!”
What makes this movie a classic? Perhaps it is that in some ways we can see ourselves in each of the characters. From the fighter and “fed-uppedness” in Oprah’s depiction of Sofie, to the special way we see Nettie who invokes ancient inner-feelings within us, igniting a longing for Africa… and culture… and home or just anywhere where we can be free.
Freedom sometimes is born amid confinement and one of the most beautiful and heart-felt relationships in the Color Purple is the undeniable connection between Nettie & Celie, which reveals the awesome love of sisters, torn apart by time and violent circumstance.
Finally, the relationships between the characters and their many friends, family, extended family and communities shows the perseverance, love, and sadly – the multi-faceted, simultaneous abuses you receive from them.
Celie and Shug’s tumultuously endearing relationship is a reminder that we in the diaspora have walked through “ugly” and may see our connection to each other but forget how to make or keep the connections. Perhaps, this is because so many of us have been damaged, don’t know how to love back or have been reminded of our own “ugliness” from time to time when others point fingers and call us names. As Celie said close to the end of the movie, “Whatever you done done to me, already been done to you” — and like an epiphany, I realized, that’s it!! That’s the clincher! Just like Shug, the bittersweet bitterness jumps out as we interact with each other and as we fight to embrace our “sisters”…. but most people only repeat what has been done to them.
YOU SHO IS UGLY
To truly work to the advantage of Afro-Latinas, you have to LOVE yourself too! We as Afro-Latinas should never tear other women down especially never any Afro-Latina women, Black women, women of the diaspora, because there are too many voices telling us we are “ugly” for us to jump in against our own…And when you get it from your own it is one of the most devastating feelings.
SISTER, I’M KEEPING MY EYE ON YOU
Many years ago, I came across a quote by Lillian P. Benbow that states,
When I look at you, I see myself. If my eyes are unable to see you as my sister, it is because my own vision is blurred. And if that be so, then it is I who need you either because I do not understand who you are, my sister, or because I need you to help me understand who I am.
We are truly reflections of each other – the good and the bad and because we are sisters – our connection is worth fighting for – whether we have to fight our own “ugliness” or the ugly that has been done to us, we have to keep working towards inner-love and connection. In the end, we all are uplifted and that is what this work is all about!
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