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Black story month

STORYTELLER: Can white people tell our stories better than we can?

WHAT DO the movie The Help (nominated for four Oscars this year), Porgy and Bess (the classic musical) and the bad bwoy series The Wire all have in common? Well, they all tell stories about black people. And they're all written by white people.

No big deal. But it begs the question, can white people tell our stories better than we can? The success of all three would suggest that we have to hold up our hands and accept that anybody can tell our stories as well as we can. At least as far as movie, stage and TV buffs and Hollywood glitterati who hand out the Academy Awards are concerned.

However telling a good story is not the same as feeling it.

To my knowledge, the only white guy who has ever really felt and understood what it really means to be a black man in a white man's world is William Shakespeare.

The historians will tell us that he probably never met a black man in his life. Don't believe the hype.

You only have to read Othello to see how the Bard penetrates the christian soul of a black man only to find that no matter how long you live in Europe and become European, that hardcore no-messing-about African is always lurking in the shadows waiting for the slightest provocation to pop out.


Now tell me that Shakespeare didn't cotch with one or two heartical bredrin back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when ‘Spot The Black Man' was a popular street game of children in London.
And I'll tell you in my best Elvis Presley voice, “Now and then there's a fool such as you."

Elvis of course is another white dude who did a good job of telling the black man's story. But I'm not sure he really felt it. I'm not convinced that he got a glimpse of the ‘old African'.

Here in Britain, the writer of the hit TV series Top Boy was berated by the self-appointed policemen and women of black political correctness for not being  a bruvver.

These P.C. coppers fear that in not feeling it, white writers tend to sensationalise black crime.

But does that make them any less legitimate chroniclers of the black experience than a black writer?

More to the point, if they're not really feeling us, are we really really them?

Is a black writer as legitimate a chronicler of the white experience?

Or do we have to condemn all black writers to sticking to only that which they feel?

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