Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am @ The Ross

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It is obvious that Toni Morrison was the main arbiter of the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, The Pieces I Am is more a review of the First Lady of Letters; more at a filmic admiration of her and less, much less, a discovery of anything new about this linguistic engineer of the English language.

I anticipated a documentary with an overview of her usual literary accomplishments, especially her novels, yes, of course, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, and her Beloved, the latter for which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Oh, yes, much on Beloved, accompanied by a film clip from Jonathan Demme’s film of the same name and the story of Margaret Garner, on whom the main character Sethe, played by Oprah Winfrey is based.

I expected her to talk about the emotional swerve she experienced when learning about winning the Nobel Prize. She does. Her tenure as a copy editor and her fight for economic parity working as an African American woman in the white male dominated world of publishing. She does. How she raised her sons Slade and Ford as a divorcee—she does. And the power of language and writing—she does.

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As the film progressed, however, I began to realize that what Greenfield-Sanders presented onscreen was all I was going to get. Any discussion of her novels Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, A Mercy, Home, God Help the Child, Love, and most disappointing, some conversation on her children’s books on which she collaborated with her son, Slade and her volumes of essays on topics such as writing, morality and goodness, school integration, race and the imagination … did not make the cut.

The documentary felt muted. I left in a silent anger, a silent anger I am monitoring even as I am recording this review. The Pieces I Am is but a regurgitation, then a distillation of interviews and commentaries past. It has a very present firewall that kept at bay my longing to learn more about our beloved Toni Morrison. You see, I had studied Toni Morrison in college; she was the Major Author I chose for my doctoral comprehensive exam. Even before college, I studied every single note—every jot and tittle about my beloved Toni Morrison.

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All of this I write to make known this: The Pieces I Am is for you, the audience who has a modicum of information about Toni Morrison. It is for you, the audience who has no other knowledge of her other than that she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 and the swirl of controversy surrounding the Nobel from fellow writers.

It is for you, the audience, who curries an interest in literature, writers, black women writers, and Toni Morrison. It is for you and me, the teacher, who needs a teaching tool to situate any of her works for the students. No longer will you need to cherry pick interviews on youtube or print literature—they’re right there for you, for me, for us in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am

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With these notes, I strongly encourage you to see Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. It is an intellectual, fun overview of our First Lady of Letters. Her friends and colleagues defer reverence for all of her literary achievement and social currency. Friends and colleagues such as Angela Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Fran Lebowitz, poet Sonia Sanchez and Robert Gottlieb—the latter who was her colleague and editor. But the greatest gift in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am is Toni Morrison … Her presence … She is there in all of her joy.

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Tireni Oyenusi ~ The Interview

Tireni_4W4A3821Tireni Oyenusi is a gifted actor who is laying the groundwork to live up to his name, and what a name. Tireni is short for Tirenioluwa, which means “he is yours, God”; his surname, Oyenusi means “the crown of full worth”. The origin of his name is Yoruba, an ethnic group from the country of Nigeria, Africa.  

His heartbreaking portrayal of Donte, a young male forced to confess to a crime he did not commit in the short film A True Crime (dir. Marques Green), Tireni proves his skill in moving into the heart or the “full worth” of a character. He is intuitive. He is smart. He is focused. Want to know more about Tireni Oyenusi? Read The Interview.

What prompted you to decide on acting as a profession?

I started acting because I love the feeling of taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster. I already enjoyed playing pretend at home like any kid does. So to do that as a profession, where people can enjoy and be inspired by my work, I couldn’t resist.

When did you start?

At 5 years old. I was cast in church plays. It was just honestly complete fun for me.

What do you like about the process of acting? 

I love how I can completely, like, put aside my persona and take on the identity of a totally different person in each character I play. There is something freeing about that. It can almost be therapeutic at times.

I want to entertain people, make them laugh, make them think, make them just become more sound minded people in general.

~ Tireni

It can get personal, close to you, yes?

Yes. I put a little bit of myself into each character, and, each time I prepare for a role, I discover more and more of myself. It is like a whole big serious game of make believe. I get to act out a person’s fears, ambitions, hopes, dreams, downfalls, and insecurities.

You’re in a business wherein every actor has to navigate rejection. What keeps you motivated when that happens?

I have experienced a lot of rejection. I’m not gonna lie. There are times I wonder if I should really be pursuing acting especially when I see many other kids being cast left and right. Then, I draw on a very personal reason why I decided to act in the first place. It wasn’t for jobs or fame. It was to glorify God, to have fun, and to put on a great show.

How do you approach an audition?

I think of auditions as mini shows I get to put on for like 2 or 3 people. If they’re the only 2 or 3 people who see my performance, well, I just pray and hope they got something good out of it.

In Tireni’s quest to tell stories through acting, I want him to be successful in keeping and growing in his faith. I encourage him to remain authentic and not compromise his beliefs as he works to make a positive impact through entertainment.

~ Adetola Oyenusi, mother

 

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as Donte in A True Crime

In what ways do you navigate working in a highly competitive business?

I just try to focus on myself and my craft. I constantly remind myself why I got into this business in the first place. Everybody is on a different path, and I think it is my job to do the best I can on mine. Of course, I always try to learn from my colleagues and teachers cuz they are crazy talented!

How do you self-care?

Hmmmm. Well … I definitely pray a lot. Prayer is essential, and honestly? It calms me down. I try to read at least a chapter of the Bible every day. I haven’t been faithful all the time so I definitely need to get better at it. I love a good movie, and watching one is always a nice break. I like to eat too.

What are your ultimate goals?

My ultimate goals are to book a lot more roles because acting is the way I have chosen to make a positive impact on the audience. I want to entertain people, make them laugh, make them think, make them just become more sound minded people in general. In all, though, I want to glorify God through the talent I have been given and allow his grace to move through me and inspire people.

Tirenioluwa Oyenusi

He Is yours, God

The Crown of Full Worth

Nigeria Yoruba …

Tireni

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Raise Hell: The Life and times of Molly Ivins @ The Ross

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I’m a Texan. I drive a pick-up truck. I drink beer. I hunt. I’m a liberal. So What?

Let’s have fun, do good, raise some hell! Dance with them what brung you! That’s what Molly Ivins demanded.

Directed by Janice Engle, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, documents the life of the late outspoken journalist, activist, and columnist, and author of her New York Times best selling collection of essays Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?; and, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America; and, You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You, another collection of essays.

There is no narrator to guide our thoughts in Raise Hell. We feast on her interviews and speeches and the voices of her friends, family, and colleagues. She is a fellow southerner with a booming southern accent; a maverick and outsider as she describes herself. Engles makes known that this 6 foot Texan carried the heart and soul of journalism into political moments what with her witty and raucous insights, especially on the former President George W. Bush whom she affectionately named Shrub.

I accidentally became an authority on George W. Bush. Like the guy who climbed Everest, it was there.

Over the course of her career Molly Ivins, navigated the waters of journalism during the time when men dominated the papers. A fast paced documentary, Engles backs up and allows Ivins to delve onto the landscape of Texas Politics

Texas has always been the national laboratory for bad government.

and, later, into the terrain of national politics

We keep pretending that the political spectrum runs from right to left; it doesn’t. It runs from top to bottom. It’s not those people in Washington; It’s not those people in your state capital. This country is run by us.

Political digs and insults aside, Raise Hell showcases a woman—a privileged southern white woman–born into a staunch Republican family. Her political views tantalized her father, General Jim Ivins the authoritative gas and oil executive because, as one friend revealed, General Jim could control his family and those who worked for him but he could not control his liberal-minded daughter. To add such insult to his psyche, Molly dared to bring an African American man to the Ivins home and, get this, General Jim arrived to find him swimming in the pool! – this in the heat of America’s civil unrest. Oh yes she did, too. Even The New York Times could not control her.

They wanted Molly for the unique voice, for the iconoclast, but they wanted her to fit into the times, but as we say in Texas, that dog don’t bark.

~ Linda Jann Lewis, Oral Historian

Through an objective lens, Engles brings to us a journalist who found her calling, and as did the late Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Ivins realized words have power, and Ivins squeezed from them the juices of their influence.

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Her friends boasted that she could drink any man under the table; and drinking with the good ol’ boys gave her power and access into circles closed off to women. But that power and access had a price, and Ivins paid dearly for it with bouts of alcoholism. Later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. But she kept on living. She kept on talking until the last edition of her spark and wit. In 2007, Mary Tyler “Molly Ivins” passed away of breast cancer at the age of 62 in her beloved Austin, Texas.

 

 

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