ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
With documentaries, depending on what youre watching, what is described is pretty much what is
happening in front of you. That can really help you grasp the language on some level. And then you go
out and mingle with crowds to learn the everyday language used on the street, which is different.
Djimon Hounsou in New Movie
Push Interview by Kam Williams
During an interview with me last year, Djimon Hounsou prematurely broke the news that he planned to pop the question to his girlfriend, Kimora Lee Simmons. The casual comment might have landed the Benin-born actor in a little hot water because the model-turned-fashion magnate wasnt yet divorced from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. That might explain why Djimon remained button-lipped about the rumor currently circulating in the tabloids that Kimora is now expecting their first child.
Despite my polite prodding about the pregnancy, the two-time Oscar-nominated actor (for Blood Diamond and In America) with the help of his publicists directed the focus of this tete-a-tete back to his new movie, Push. The riveting flick is a harrowing mindbender which successfully blends elements of X-Men, The Matrix and Memento while adding some of its own unique sci-fi flava.
Set in Hong Kong, it revolves around a group of psychic American expatriates on the run from a U.S. government agency seeking to harness their superpowers for its own nefarious purposes. The film co-stars Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle and Chris Evans.
FYI, besides making movies, Djimon is famous for parading his hot chocolate bod in tightie-whities as the pitchman for Calvin Klein underwear.
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KW: Hey Djimon, thanks again for the time.
DH: My pleasure, man. How is your son doing?
KW: Very well. Thanks for asking. Hes a sophomore at Princeton.
DH: Thats cool. I remember the first time we talked he was still in junior high school and he knew so much about my country. And not too many people know about Benin.
KW: Yeah he had done a project about it in grammar school.
DH: Tell him I said, Hi! and I wish him well and a very successful year, and that I hope all his wishes will come true.
KW: Well, what about you? I understand congratulations are in order for you and Kimora.
DH: [Hesitates] Well, er . . .
KW: Are you free to talk about it?
DH: Not really.
KW: The rumors flying all over the place. You gotta give me something for my readers.
DH: [Sings] Theres a lot of love in the air! [Laughs]
KW: The headline for my last interview with you was: Djimon Announces Plans to Pop the Question. I had no idea that she wasnt divorced yet.
KW: Let me ask you this. If Kimora were pregnant, do the two of you have any names picked out for the baby?
DH: Shhhhh! Sorry, I have a group of nervous publicists behind me shaking their heads saying that questions a no-no. But well tackle it another time.
KW: Can you tell me when youre going to pop the question?
DH: [Hesitates] Hmmm sometime soon. I mean, its been done already, in a different fashion.
DH: Yes! And also Constantine. The premise is obviously the one thing thats bringing all those references you mentioned together. And it was probably that same thing that attracted me to the project, the signs of an occult world that we dont seem to grasp or comprehend at all.
KW: How would you describe your character, Henry Carver?
DH: Hes a government operative who basically hunts down anyone with the psychic ability to see into or alter the future, and then he helps them weaponize that trait for tomorrows war.
KW: You had a similar sort of role in The Island, right?
DH: Yeah, I did some bad things working for the sake of the government.
KW: What was it like working with Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle and Chris Evans?
DH: Its always a pleasant journey when youre working with an actor who takes all the elements of the production to heart. Here, Chris Evans was always watching out to make sure the story flowed and that all the dots were connected. To come to a setting where a fellow actor is so dedicated only enhances your overall understanding of the project and inspires you to do your very best, too.
KW: Sounds like hes a future director.
DH: Yeah, I really think this kid has all the ingredients to be a great director. So, I hope he takes a shot at it.
KW: Coincidentally, one of my readers, Laz Lyles, wants to know whether you have any plans to direct.
DH: Id love to, but Im so aware of everything involved in directing that it discourages me from seriously considering it. There are so many elements in making a movie which have nothing to do with directing. That would be too much of a headache for me. I dont think I have enough patience for that. But I like the idea of producing stories that move me.
KW: What would you say was the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in your career?
DH: Thereve been so many. [Laughs] Which one was the biggest? My coming to America, moving here all by myself, just me, myself and I, with no background in the language and having to learn it on the spot in order to work in English.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman was wondering how you improved your English after making Amistad?
DH: The same way I was doing even before Amistad, which was by a combination of watching documentaries on television and reading books. I would keep watching and reading even when I couldnt understand a word. With documentaries, depending on what youre watching, what is described is pretty much what is happening in front of you. That can really help you grasp the language on some level. And then you go out and mingle with crowds to learn the everyday language used on the street, which is different.
KW: Speaking of mastering English, I heard youre doing Shakespeare soon, appearing in a screen adaptation of The Tempest.
DH: We just wrapped that.
KW: How did it go?
DH: It was quite a production. Thats the least I can tell you. [Chuckles] Caliban was an intriguing character to play, and it was very challenging going through four hours of makeup daily. But I loved working with a cast of such a high caliber: Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, and so many other great actors.
KW: Its usually impossible to assemble such an impressive cast like that simply because of conflicting schedules. How did director Julie Taymor pull off that miracle?
DH: She was smart. She got everybody at the right time.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DH: Things Fall Apart.
KW: By Chinua Achebe.
DH: Hey, you got it!
KW: Yeah, in fact, my wifes book club is reading both Things Fall Apart and The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad this month. So, at the meeting next week theyll be comparing the two authors characterizations of Africa.
DH: Wow! Please let me know how the discussion goes. I really want to call you and find out.
KW: Will do. Is there a question no one ever asks you that you wish someone would?
DH: Yes, but how do I put this. It really has to do with the way how people view Africa, when Africa is addressed. Because I think the generic way of looking at Africa is like its just a bunch of people in loincloths running around chasing gazelles and stuff. Thats the issue, but I dont exactly know how to phrase that as a question.
KW: No, that was good enough. Rudy Lewis asks: Whos at the top of your hero list?
DH: Nelson Mandela, although I have a few other people in different domains.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
DH: A combination, really. Tribal music . . . hip-hop reggae . . . Im sort of cosmopolitan as far as music is concerned.
KW: Djimon, thanks for a great interview, as usual.
DH: Its been a pleasure! Thank you very much. Give my best to your family and Happy New Year!
KW: Same to you!
To see a trailer for Push, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsDWFWupyYU
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 31 January 2009