Night Catches Us: A Review

Review of the film Night Catches Us written by my husband Chris Burns:

On January 1st, I dropped a trailer for the film Night Catches Us. I didn’t know a lot about the film but I knew that Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie were the lead actors and to me this meant that it was a movie worth my time. I had generally forgotten about the film since then, until it showed up in our Instant Watch on Netflix.

Night Catches Us is the feature film debut of Tanya Hamilton who wrote and directed the movie. In the easiest description of the film Marcus (Anthony Mackie) returns to Philadelphia where he was a member of the Black Panther Party. Patricia (Kerry Washington) another former Panther still remains in the same neighborhood where a tragic situation has created in her the need to carry on the programs created by the Panthers, although the BPP is no longer in the position of influence it held.

Hamilton uses an artistic lens to capture Philadelphia and the film is more like a study of the neighborhood for photography and videography. The images of the Philly streets are often captured with the street signs in the background, or buildings or abandoned lots, trash strewn streets, in contrast to the images she captures of children playing and people walking from neighborhood stores. Every shot involves a character, in thought, standing face to face with someone or something that seems to be eroding. The score by the Roots recreates a seventies sound without sounding antiquated. Overall the movie is beautifully crafted and at 1hour and 30 minutes the scenes shift and move quickly, which isn’t jarring, but does create questions.

Although the imagery and quality is incredible I could only give the film 3 out of 5 stars. It was not due to the acting, which held together a script that had more potential than follow through. The acting was powerful and Mackie and Washington lend credibility to their roles and depth to lines that lack the needed development to really grasp the time. The Black Panther Party has appeared in film often and there has yet to be a portrayal that has really defined what the Panthers did and how important they are to history. Hamilton does use actual footage of the Death of Fred Hampton and archival footage of the Panthers and their food programs and of course the shots of Bobby Seale and the chants are always there lingering at moments of confusion, but the story is rushed and some plot points are established but not given enough clarity. Black Thought (Tariq Trotter of the The Roots) plays Marcus’ brother Bos, a Muslim who is only utilized in a few scenes, but his voice and the visual depiction of him in his all black clothing and his relationship with his brother could have been a stronger storyline.

What Night Catches Us does do very well is to capture the confusion of the 70s and this makes the film worth watching. The 70s saw the removal of certain political and social walls for Blacks. It seemed that the advancements of the Civil Rights movement had actually given Blacks some status, but the actual facts were that the Black neighborhood became more fractured and the Panthers’ role in the neighborhood, became unstable due to government (national and local) forces that infiltrated and corrupted the organization. This destruction of the people from the inside out, left a whole generation with the ideals of the Panthers, but without the foundation. In other words the destruction of the Panthers created the current state in Black America: People who are unaware of the damage controlled media images and broken homes create in the community. This is given incredible power in one scene with the character Jimmy (Patricia’s brother) who is a young man searching for an identity in a world that is not ready to accept him as a man and a world that does not want to explain to him the past.

While somewhat predictable, with stock characters, Night Catches Us is a solid film that should be watched because it is important and entertaining.

Here is the link to the trailer here on CB Publishing.

The website for the film can be found by visiting

Guest Review: Commentary and thoughts on the film “Skin”

From time to time I like to post interesting articles, movies, etc.  My husband, Chris, and I just finished watching the movie “Skin” which is based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a black child born to white parents.  Below is Chris’ review of the movie.  For more articles and reviews written by Chris, please visit:

Racism creates a vast array of emotions when presented in American society. It seems that the US has the need to own the divisive treatment that is created by people and their personal,social, and learned hatred of other cultures. The US however finds it difficult to actually analyze, and create narratives discussing race. People in America want to forget the past, move on without acknowledging the inherent conflicts that skin creates. Entertainment in America tends to make its stories and movies that deal with racism about popular individuals. While the stories that are beginning to fade away, with the passing of grandparents and elders, are becoming lost in time; other societies that have also progressed from segregation and racism are taking those stories and generating films that attempt to understand the psychology behind skin.

One such film that takes the challenge of bringing light to the absurd nature of superiority is the film Skin. Released in 2008, Skin is the story of Sandra Laing a woman who was born into the apartheid era of South America. The immediate thought generated by this is in regard to Nelson Mandela, however this film does a very good job of focusing on the people who are affected in their day to day existence by apartheid. The film does not stray into a homage to Nelson Mandela and he is only shown in one scene, on a sheet of paper listing the people running in the first free election of 1994. This is important because the narrative created allows the viewer to feel a connection to the family of Sandra Laing, who is important because she is a black child born to white parents.

In the film the actress Sophie Okonedo (Secret Life of Bees, Hotel Rwandaa) delivers a solid performance in bringing Sandra Laing to life on the screen. Her facial expressions, and mannerisms exist somewhere between confident and unsure. Her initial confidence as a child being broken by a system that cannot make sense of itself, is in stark contrast to her young adult life where she forsakes her birthright of whiteness to marry a black man. In making the decision to be with this black man, she isolates herself from her family. Her choice is less of a decision considering the white men her mother and father set her up to date cannot see her as white although her birth certificate states she is.

The irony of apartheid, is the same irony in segregation of the American south. At one point in the film, when Sandra is a child and her father is attempting to keep her status a white Afrikaneer, an inspector measures her head, studies her teeth and examines her body as if she is a slave on a southern trading block. All of these things are given validation by a truly absurd sheet of paper that is only barely shown in the film that has various pictures of black faces, and body parts. This sheet is used as the determining factor of blackness. In a court of law a doctor states that all Afrikaans white and black, have genetic traits which can surface and manifest at any time. The doctor states this to the disbelief of the people in the courtroom. Sandra’s father successfully defends his daughter’s whiteness, although it is her blackness that is evident.

Skin takes a story, that could have easily slid into an oratory on race relations, and creates a story about family and how societal influence can destroy the bonds that blood and logic should maintain. Alice Krige, who Sandra’s mother in the film, is the character that is the most interesting. Her love for her child/children, there is an older son who does not look black, and a younger son who does, makes for an uncomfortable understanding of a completely irrational form of government and behavior. Even in the film when she states that she was unaware of any black blood in her, it seems that there has to be a reason for her child being black, a reason that is the first thought in any person’s head when they see a black child born to a white woman.  The most poignant scene with the mother is when the father is on his deathbed. In contrast to most films that discuss race, there is no compromise in the mother’s behavior when the father wants to see his daughter. What she does is powerful and sad.

Skin is not a film that seeks to answer questions. It is simply a solid narrative that presents the life of a woman who embodies the confused problem of race.

Skin is based on the book: When She Was White by Judith Stone.

CB Publishing

If you arrived at my website by using the address you’ll notice that the address changes to  Natural-ness is a part of a website that my husband started a few years ago to promote and sell his self-published novels, called  CB Publishing.  The site has now evolved to a blog where he along with guest blogger Lisa B (and occasionally myself) post about books, music, culture, product reviews and things related to life in general.

I wanted to bring your attention to the website because there is a lot going on there.  In December, my husband posted his whole fiction novel, Stages a Handbook on Men & Relationships, there chapter by chapter (check the blog archive in the side menu and find the December posts to check it out – very funny/good read).  He has also posted another book, Redefining the Labyrinth, which is a student project he began while teaching at a local Memphis High School that includes essays written by high school students . Along with the books, there are some great Breaking Down the Myths essays on relationships.

If you want to take a short break from hair blogs, love to read, listen to music and/or debate about the issues involved in keeping a relationship, check out the CB Publishing website.

Night Catches Us – starring Anthony Mackie & Kerry Washington

My husband just ran across this film – \’Night Catches Us\’ – Starring Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington – Premieres On Demand October 29th and In Theatres December 3rd.

I haven’t heard or seen any advertisements for this movie. I just had to share this. I ♥ Anthony Mackie!

Here’s the trailer:

Stages: A Handbook on Men & Relationships

Right on time for the weekend and for some people, the beginning of Christmas Break, my husband Chris Burns has begun posting chapters of his book Stages: A Handbook on Men & Relationships on the CB Publishing website. He will be posting one chapter a day, so it’s a great chance to read this very funny, entertaining book for free! Although the book is fiction, I believe that it does offer some insight on what men are actually thinking when they do the things they do 🙂 .

Please note that the book does contain adult language and situations.  Reader discretion is advised 🙂 Enjoy!

“Catching the Wild Waiyuuzee” – book review

I just had to write a review about this book, Catching the Wild Waiyuuzee (Written by Rita Williams-Garcia, Illustrated by Mike Reed), because it has definitely become one of my two-year-old daughter’s favorites.

It is a lovely story about a mother-daughter relationship  that begins as sort of an adventure.  Shemama has to capture the Wild Waiyuuzee and wet her with her jumbo sprayer, oil her with her nut-nut oil and tame her with her “piney pig’s tail”.

The story ends in a cute surprise that I don’t want to give away.  This is a story that mothers and daughters (or sons) will be able to relate to and will probably enjoy for years. The book has absolutely gorgeous illustrations that my two-year-old just loves.

I hope you get a chance to purchase and enjoy with your little one!

Purchase from Catching the Wild Waiyuuzee

Breaking Down The Myths: If I Want Her, I Can Get Her

Breaking Down The Myths
If I Want Her I Can Get Her

Okay, so this weekend I’m kicking it with my business associates, who also happen to be my boys. We are at the market, in the 90 degree weather selling our various goods and as usual there are tons of women coming down to buy purses and shoes. We are going through the usual convo about who can do what, how we are going to make this money, blah, blah, blah and then we get to the same dialogue we get to each week… women. Now typically my conversation is always a bit codeine (Sedated, yet involved.)  I try to avoid getting way to deep into certain details since I’m married and I could say something that would be disrespectful to wifey. But since we are always in some shape form or fashion talking about women who walk by, I always end up saying something off color. Well, this woman walks pass. She is wearing a sundress and while she isn’t showing off anything, she has a very classy coolness to her and we all kind of say to ourselves she is alright. My guys both go overboard, but I say, “She’s aiight.” Just to save face a little bit, but deep down, I make a comparison of all women to wifey and since my wife to me is the flyest woman out there it’s not hard for me to say that a woman that they think is fine, is just alright. Okay, my comment this time gets my business partner a little perturbed. He sits on the back of the truck and begins to create hypothetical situations. I already know where this is headed, but I get suckered into the convo because they use my wife as an example simply because they know that I will defend my marriage to the fullest. (By the way, one guy is married. The other is not.) Here is what they begin to discuss: Everyone cheats.

Simple enough right? I mean we all have this discussion but typically when the words are between guys they all tend to agree. Here is where the myth kicks in. All men have a built in belief that they can conquer any woman. The more difficult the task, the more the man pursues. But unlike other conversations we have, today was different because my toes were being stepped on and I have to admit I was pulled deeper into the conversation because the fellas threw my wife into the fire. A bit of background here:
1. My wife is a stay at home mother.
2. My children are home schooled.
3. My wife is very beautiful
4. I trust my wife without any doubts.

None of this should be a problem right? Now take all of this into consideration and then take two guys looking to make a point and you get a statement like this, “All b’s (female dogs), females, women (Yeah we all make a distinction between these three…sorry) can be got.” They say this and before I can weasel my way out of the dialogue, my main guy says, ‘even your wife.’

I’m moving a bit too fast and getting a little out of context here. The conversation was a bit more detailed, but you get the idea. According to these two I have the utmost trust in my wife because and I quote, “Your wife ain’t around everyday n—-s in corporate America or warehouse America, so you damn right you trust her. But if she was around these n—–s she could be in the same boat as the rest of these women. All women can get got. If a n—a decides he wants her, its only a matter of time before some smooth, rich, big d–k n—a gets her.”

At this point they know I’m uncomfortable, just like you are reading this. Because I know these are my boys and they are trying to get me to break my demeanor, so they are talking mad s–t. But I say with resolve, “I still trust my wife.” They both, almost like this whole thing is choreographed say, “Shiiiiiitttt.” They then flip the script and ask me this question, “If you had to deliver some shoes to a woman’s house (I sell shoes on the weekends.) and the woman came to the door naked and told you the money was in the house would you hit it?”

I say to them, and they know this is coming, “Nah.”

So here comes part B of the same question, “If the woman came to the door, you know her already. She is fine as hell, has a degree and doesn’t want anything from you and no one would ever know, would you hit it?”

I think for a second and before I can open my mouth the scene is straight out of a Spike Lee film they both throw their hands in the sky and say, “Awwww, s–t you bout to lie.” Now understand they throw in the degree because my wife, while she is a stay at home mom, she has a terminal degree (BA in Psych and an MSW). They realize that I ain’t lying about not cheating, but what they are attempting to do is get me to agree that a woman can be got and that all women cheat, just like men. I realize that I sound like I’m full of it when I respond to them but I have to tell them my side and explain that I agree that any man can get any woman. I also realize that any woman can get any man (All of this is within reason, don’t be silly). But I go on to explain something that my wife and I talked about.

Relationships are easy. Most of the time, people cheat or say that everyone cheats because it is what they either want to do, or they are justifying their actions in advance. I tell them, and while they are not going to agree with me, I try to stress this: Men cheat because they make the decision to cheat. They are not content with what they have because
1. The lady they are with is not sexually satisfying them
2. The relationship is not mentally stimulating
3. The opportunity came up and they still wanted to feel like they did when they were single
4. They don’t respect the women they are with
5. They honestly want to make themselves look cool to dudes who have screwed up themselves
I’m not a woman, but I have to think the ultimate reason that both men and women cheat is self esteem. I tell them that if my wife was in the corporate world then of course some well dressed dude would have the opportunity to make a run at her, but I still tell them if she cheats then at the core of it all I must not be fulfilling something for her at home. I am not naïve though and I add, “Sometimes I think we all want to see if it is as good as it looks.” But honestly I still think, my wife is the type of person to weigh the importance of a great home with five to ten minutes of good sex. Just like I realize that what I have at home equates to more than a 30 second to 1 minute round of exciting new sex. (Hey I’m being honest, when it’s new it just doesn’t take very long. Hell sometimes when its not new, it doesn’t take very long, but I make up for it in other ways.)

So, are my boys right about the ‘IF I WANT HER I CAN GET HER’ myth? I guess the guy in me says that they are right. The husband in me says that if you are doing what’s right then even if your wife runs into the players of the world (You know suave, well spoken, rich?) that you will be just fine. I guess.

Breaking Down The Myths: Relationships Are Hard Work

by CDB

Welcome to the first installment of Breaking Down the Myths. After thinking and thinking and thinking about what to write in this section, I finally came up with a series of questions that should have done the trick and allowed me to write a long series of articles, but they all became small next to the idea of breaking down the myths associated with relationships. When we all look at it, after reading the books and articles and listening to all of the radio personalities who claim to be relationship experts, although they aren’t married, and watching all of the talk show hosts who teach us how to keep it together, it still seems that we have bought into the negative ideas of love and all of the ideas and myths associated with the perceived difficulty of developing and maintaining relationships.
These myths have been around so long that rather than the words being considered cliché, they are now taken as law. We assume a relationship will be difficult. We assume and expect relationships to fail. We know that men are going to cheat and that women are going to retaliate. We know every dude is on the damn downlow and that all women have closet lesbian lovers. Shall I go on?

Before I begin giving relationship advice and presenting myself as an expert; which I’m not, but just imagine you are reading this on a burgundy leather sofa in a room with hardwood floors and paintings on the wall by Ernie Barnes (I’m a sports guy what did you expect). The curtains are pulled open and held by gold colored ropes. The skyline is showing through the window. I have a pen and a pad, my glasses are sitting on my nose and … forget it. I’m your therapist doggone it.
Let’s climb into this discussion on the myth of the difficult relationship.

First, the fact that Black women love Black men to a fault could be one of the foundations of the hard work myth, but that is another topic altogether. Second, sisters who seek to save men (poor cats) or only date certain types of men (rich cats) actually create and sustain the myth of the relationships being hard work. I feel that I am attacking.
Am I placing the blame on Black women here…? Yes and no, I hate ambiguity and indecisiveness, but as with any discussion there is always a refutation and this is not a definitive article.
Relationships are a two sided coin but women do tend to make things a lot more difficult than they have to. Relationships are easy to maintain. If everyone is honest about important things and you lie about small things, your relationship will be fine. Is it this simple? Yes it is. See, most of the time a man does not want to argue and a man will avoid an argument. But women push the issue on things and then misunderstandings take place and everyone ends up hurt and frustrated when the initial reason for arguing was: Why don’t you drive today, I’m tired.
There are very straightforward guidelines for maintaining a relationship and keeping everything easy going. I call them the Caveman Commandments
1. Give man sex often – Many difficulties often stem from the fact that a man might be a bit flirtatious. Now I’m not saying a brother is going to stop flirting, but if he has something to remind him of why he got with you in the first place then he is less likely to act on the flirting. I’m not just talking about the good hard working 30 second loving that us men typically do, make us want to work hard for it. Dammit sneak up on me naked!
2. Don’t get mad when you catch me looking – This is important. Just because I look at another woman doesn’t mean that I am going to cheat. I’m a man. I look at butt. Like John Coffey in the Green Mile, “I can’t hep it.” Don’t get pissed off at me… unless I’m looking on a regular basis. If I’m doing that and I don’t care if you catch me, it’s a wrap.
3. Give men sex often – Oh did I say that one already? Well, at least you know this is important. If I have to go more than a week and a half and your friend is not visiting, trust me I’m either going to start looking at porn or I’m going to start taking the flirting thing a step further. Once again, “I can’t hep it.” And yes, it only takes a week for your man’s eyes to start wandering.
4. Tell me what you want me to do – I’m stupid. Fellas I almost feel bad about this one but man you can’t argue. We are stupid. We don’t feel the same way you (women) do about things like talking, hugging, talking, well just talking. You might really be interested in the latest method of building a stronger relationship, but in all honesty at the end of the day if I don’t get butt, hell I can’t hear anything. I go right into ‘Charlie Brown’s teacher is talking mode.’ (Women you can tell when this happens because we resort to words like, “Yeah, that’s real. I agree one hundred percent.”)
5. Make me talk with you – Don’t let me shut down. If you see something is on my mind, don’t automatically assume it is you or the job. Take me to dinner, not a fancy restaurant, just some pizza and video games and get me to chill out a bit. (We like to eat and one hell of a pizza can actually remedy a lot, no kidding.) Then ask me what’s up. After that give me some butt and I’m straight.

Relationships are not difficult. In all honesty, no jokes, when you approach a relationship with the mentality that it is going to be hard work, you have already generated bad feelings and created problems. Relationships are fun and sometimes challenging but on the whole, the process of learning someone takes a lifetime. If you get bored then problems occur and a relationship can be hard to maintain. But women, men are not going to initiate new things. If you can get a brother to read a book, see a movie, go walking, hiking, go to a museum (especially contemporary art museums, they always have naked art in those), try a new restaurant, read a newspaper, try something different then your relationship will remain interesting which is key in keeping the relationship smooth. This is not ‘hard’ work, this is ‘fun’ work. I guess I’m placing a lot on women to do to make the relationship ‘fun’. Well, this is an unfortunate fact that exists in relationships, men are perfectly content with going to the gym, watching the game and kicking it with the fellas. Everything else is not as important, so women things will fall on your head. It’s not fair but at least you are reading it now. I have one more thing to throw in here to make relationships work… women, keep it tight. I was asked once why Black cats, chase White women. My response was pretty basic and honestly it was a very generic answer, ‘white women are less confrontational and White women work out’. But then I thought about the fact that most of the Black dudes I saw with White women, had fat White women and that kind of killed my answer. Back to the topic, men are like water, we seek the path of least resistance. Now I write all of this with one caveat, men you will have to meet women half way and stop being so lazy (and if you did something to get the women you have to at least do what you did once a month).
The myth of relationships being hard is just that a myth. If we all stop entering into relationships with this cliché in our heads we lay the groundwork for relationships to be less stressful and less about work. Relationships built on the premise of ‘fun’ work will last longer and create more understanding couples.

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