“Talk to Me” talks to the (movement’s) heart, says Davis, telling us to heal

By Guest Columnist Jul 19, 2007

Trailer for "Talk to Me" Beandrea Davis for RaceWire: **** “He’s just a regular-ass nigga from D.C. who likes to run his mouth and for some reason people respond.” That was the moment my heart sank in the movie theater. At that point in Kasi Lemmon’s new film "Talk to Me", we see that the talent of famed- D.C. radio host and community leader Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene is anything but coincidental. Indeed the ability of Greene – delectably played by Don Cheadle – to say the things that during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, everyone else was thinking but didn’t actually say, was what made me love him. Hearing his longtime girlfriend Vernelle and Greene himself, who says he’s ‘just an ex-con, describe him as just another nigga, boggled my mind. Yet the part of me that sometimes doubts the strength of my own talents understands how Greene could be so good at what he did and at the same be plagued with self-doubt. Underneath the alcoholism and womanizing, his deep feelings of unworthiness seemed to be the internalization of lies told to him by racist-1960s America like “Black people can’t ever do anything right” or “Everyone who is in jail deserves to be there.” Greene’s struggle made me think about how much internalized oppression still eats away at Black folks and other people of color today. Had he found ways to heal the years of hurt that ultimately created the cancer that killed him at age 53, how much more of an impact could he have had? Greene is a good reminder that it’s individual people who make up society and that healing from the wounds of racism, incarceration, and poverty have to happen inside individuals if we have any hope of healing injustice on the institutional level. I think almost 50 years out from the height of the Civil Rights Movement, this process has yet to happen on a grand scale. But we need healing on many levels to really change things. We also need to make space for leaders to be humans too, and recognize that as a strength and not a liability. So as progressive activists, lets ask ourselves: how can we heal our minds and bodies to contribute more fully to the change we’re fighting for? –Beandrea Davis is the editorial assistant at ColorLines Magzine. She lives and writes in Oakland, CA. See her healing site, Joyfully Bea Healing Arts, here.