SUPPORT BLACK OWNED BUSINESSES
Mel’s Fish Shack in Los Angeles
“Have been eating there for years. Came back to L.A. 3 yrs and went there [for the] fish and bbq dinners. As good as ever.”
“Amazing cioppino! Really everything is great though.”
“The fish was good, you can sit and watch them cook the fish as well.”
Black Stories Film Series #3:
“Boyz N The Hood” (1991) is a coming-of-age film, written and directed by John Singleton in his feature directorial debut. Singleton initially developed the film as a requirement for application to film school in 1986. It was semi-autobiographical, as he drew upon his own upbringing and the lives of his friends growing up. He attended USC School of Cinematic Arts, and then in 1990, upon graduation, he successfully sold the script to Columbia Pictures, and insisted he direct the project. He ended up getting nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for this picture, and, at the age of only 24, became the first African American and the youngest person to have ever been nominated for that award.
The film follows a young man, Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.) throughout his formative years, raised first by his mother (Angela Bassett) and then his father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). His struggles mimic the struggles of any other teenager in America – he wants to lose his virginity and his best friend (Ricky Baker played by Morris Chestnut) is working to get a good grade on the SATs – except they are in one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. In some ways, this film perpetuates the stereotypes about Black Americans in urban areas as it takes place amidst frightening gang wars, high racial tensions, police helicopters circling the neighborhood at all times, and guns in every pocket.
Much of the film centers on the relationship between father and son, as Furious works hard to build his sons character while acknowledging their threatening environment. This is paramount to the story because he is one of the only young men in his friend group who has a father figure at home, leading many of the others to be pulled into the “brotherhood” which revolves around gang violence. This week (in June of 2020 during the protests following the videotaped murder of George Floyd), a powerful sign was held up by many young Black children in the protests, which read: “They kill our fathers and then make fun of us for not having one.” A prominent stereotype that exists about Black communities in America is that the children are fatherless, but those that comfortably accept that stereotype fail to recognize that the reason behind it has more to do with the mass incarceration of Black men in the United States or the structural racism that lead to impoverished and desperate communities which turned to gang violence as a means of survival and power.
Further, “Boyz N The Hood” addresses another racial inequality through the character of Furious Styles, which is gentrification. He explains to a group of young men, “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” There is a sense of understanding that the kids growing up this way are set up to fail, and in order to make something of themselves, must fight an uphill battle, which subtly illustrates the systemic racism that exists within America that is finally being reckoned with, roughly 30 years later.
The notable difference between “Boyz N The Hood” and the other films in this series thus far (“Do The Right Thing” and “New Jack City”) is the black on black hate and violence. There are several scenes where an African American cop mutters overtly vicious slurs at the lead characters, and then, of course, the gang violence depicted is all happening within members of the black community, as they fight against each other. The hostile cop that shows particular hatred toward other Black men, played by Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, presents a unique dynamic that I have yet to fully understand.
With intricately nuanced characters, we see some experience resentment (Ice Cube as Doughboy), some holding tightly to their virtues (Nia Long as Brandi), some fighting against being called a hoochie or a ho (shoutout Regina King as Shalika) and some making it seem cool to have a binky well into your teenaged years (Dedrick D. Gobert as Dooky).
It, like “New Jack City,” coincided with the Rodney King riots, which happened the same year. “Boyz N The Hood” shows violence in predominantly Black neighborhoods through a more innocent lens. It is genuinely heartwarming, devastating and provocative all in different ways, and gives a thoughtful depiction about a side of life that can be so often depicted lacking empathy and understanding about the why. Excellent piece of cinema.