Movie: The Women of Brewster Place [1989] Movie: The Women of Brewster Place [1989]

Kiswana:
Melanie, what help are you going to be to these people on Brewster while you're living hand-to-mouth on file-clerk jobs waiting for a revolution? You're wasting your talents, child.



Mrs. Browne:
Well, I don't think they're being wasted. At least I'm here in day-to-day contact with my people. What good would I be after four or five years of a lot of white brainwashing in some phony, prestige institution, huh? I'd be like you and Daddy and those other educated blacks sitting over there in Linden Hills with a terminal case of middle-class amnesia.



Mrs. Browne:
You don't have to live in a slum to be concerned about social conditions, Melanie. Your father and I have been charter members of the NAACP for the last twenty-five years.



Kiswana:
[rolling her eyes] Oh, God! THAT'S being concerned? That middle-of-the-road, Uncle Tom dumping ground for Black Republicans!



Mrs. Browne:
You can sneer all you want, young lady, but that organization has been working for black people since the turn of the century, and it's still working for them. Where are all those radical groups of yours that were going to put a Cadillac in every garage and Dick Gregory in the White House? I'll tell you where. They burned themselves out because they wanted too much too fast. Their goals weren't grounded in reality. And that's always been your problem.



Kiswana:
What do you mean, my problem? I know exactly what I'm about.



Mrs. Browne:
No, you don't. You constantly live in a fantasy world, always going to extremes, turning butterflies into eagles, and life isn't about that. It's accepting what is and working from that. Lord, I remember how worried you had me, putting all that lacquered hair spray on your head. I thought you were going to get lung cancer, trying to be what you're not.



Kiswana:
[in a frustrated tone] Oh, God, I can't take this anymore. Trying to be something I'm not, trying to be something I'm not, Mama? Trying to be proud of my heritage and the fact that I was of African descent. If that's being what I'm not then I say fine. But I'd rather be dead than be like you: a white man nigger who's ashamed of being black!



Mrs. Browne:
[grabs Kiswana and stares into her eyes, speaking fiercely] My grandmother was a full-blooded Iroquois, and my grandfather a free black from a long line of journeymen who had lived in Connecticut since the establishment of the colonies. And my father was a Bajan who came to this country as a cabin boy on a merchant mariner.



Kiswana:
[quietly] I know all that.



Mrs. Browne:
[squeezing Kiswana even tighter] Then, know this. I am alive because of the blood of proud people who never scraped or begged or apologized for what they were. They lived asking for only one thing of this world: to be allowed to be. And I learned through the blood of these people that black isn't beautiful and it isn't ugly; black is! It's not kinky hair and it's not straight hair; it just is. It broke my heart when you changed your name. I gave you my grandmother name, a woman who bore nine children and educated them all, who held off six white men with a shotgun when they tried to drag one of her sons to jail for 'not knowing his place.' Yet you needed to reach into an African dictionary to make you proud. When I brought my babies home from the hospital, my ebony son and my golden daughter, I swore before whatever gods would listen, those of my mother's people or those of my father's people, that I would use everything I had and could ever get to see that my children were prepared to meet this world on its own terms, so that on one could sell them short and make them ashamed of what they were or how they looked, whatever they were or however they looked. And Melanie, that's not being white or red or black. That's being a mother.

Movie: The Women of Brewster Place [1989] Movie: The Women of Brewster Place [1989] quotes

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