A few nights ago my husband returned home from work with a hankering to take in a good movie. Before I could make it into the kitchen to fix his dinner plate, he began digging into the movie box beside the television for a movie he’d brought home a few days earlier. “I want you to watch this movie with me,” he suggested, while shifting a few things around and on top of the dvd player to set the movie up in the player. “It’s called Belle and it’s about a rich slave that..” I stopped him right in the middle of his speech like someone had just pressed pause on a remote control. “I don’t want to watch any fictional nothing about slavery,” I responded, with slight repulsion. He went on to attempt to sway me by substantiating the truth the movie was based upon. I agreed to give it a watch but made no promise to remain awake til the end. Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to watch another movie about African-Americans being mistreated. I spend a sizable portion of my reading time researching the history of slavery and I just wasn’t in the right mind frame to sit through a motion picture about it.
I’m glad I did. What I feared to be a part two of Twelve Years A Slave, a great movie by the way, turned out to be a Belle of a history lesson. GuGu Mbatha-Raw plays the role of Dido Elizabeth Belle–A young woman born in 1761 to an African slave and a white British Naval Officer who was stationed in the West Indies. Dido was automatically born into slavery, but after her father was knighted and promoted to admiral, he returned to England with her in tow. She was around four years old when they arrived in England and was immediately entrusted in the care of her uncle, a white 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife. Though, via outward appearance, she was perceived to be a privileged slave, the niece of a wealthy Chief Justice and his wealthy wife who were commissioned by her deceased father to play the role of guardian over her bequeathed fortune, Belle’s younger life was still salted with the hatred and bitter treatment all slaves receive. She was a rich slave who wore fine garments and was trained in proper etiquette, but was shunned from eating amongst other white guests when they came to dinner due to social restrictions. She was an astounding pianist, but the color of her skin rarely afforded her the opportunity to share her gift with the outside world. Due to later rulings on the unlawfulness of slavery by her uncle, Belle went on to marry a Frenchman who fell in love with the soul below her skin, built a family, but died at the tender age of 43.
Much of Belle’s story reminds me of the truth African-Americans are still facing today. Although Belle was of proper descent (she had a rich white father who was from a proper english family), she was simply another form of slave. In today’s world, African-Americans are home owners, successful business owners, and wealthy entrepreneurs with families. But, we still live under a scope everywhere we go; big brother, the new form of slavery. It’s like we’re forced to live this higher standard in order to be revered as a people who should be afforded to be called what’s right with civilization. This struggle alone is killing us softly. Dark skin, brown skin, light skin, and fair skin is just that, skin. This world was created for human beings and that’s what we all are underneath our skin tones. I feel almost ashamed to say in this new millennium I still live for the day that love will rule over everything.
If you get a free hour or two, sit down and watch this movie.