Clare-Hope Ashitey: Professional Black Girl

Any good mix is made better with the addition of Black women- Vincent Deas

The past few days I have been watching the Netflix series 7 Seconds, and I’ve been having some thoughts, the main one being that the show is TRASHHHHHH. The crime drama is set in New Jersey and the entire narrative is centered around the hit and run death of a young Black teen committed by a police officer; a death that other officers help him cover up. The show hosts a slew of unknown actors and a plot line that at times is very predictable.

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When I watched the first episode I was already resolved in my own mind that I was tired of shows that did a poor job tackling race relations, police brutality and the abuse of their powers, mainly for two reasons. My first reason: the issue and the solution are over simplified, leaving us with tv specials that resemble Lucas Joyner’s I’m Not A Racist video. The second reason: the shows paint these flowery depictions of justice being had for people of color when being killed by police; but as of two weeks ago  Betty Jo Shelby, the deputy who murdered unarmed Terrence Crutcher and got away with it, still has a job.

See in real life we hardly get justice because in America justice is rarely served for Black people.

I digress.

Ultimately you can watch the show and make your own opinion.

Black women save the day yet again!

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The show isn’t the point of my post. The only two characters worth any real interest is the two dope Black Queens. One is the talented veteran actress Regina King who plays Latrice Butler. King plays the grieving mother adamant on unraveling the mystery of what happened to her young son and receiving the proper justice. The other is relative newcomer Clare-Hope Ashitey, a English actress who plays KJ Harper a shaky assistant prosecutor, dealing with her own demons, who is tasked with the responsibility of solving this crime and trying the corrupt officers who did it.

This show, like everything else is made better simply by the presence of these two sisters.

Hands down.

Their characters are the most complex and the most emotionally engaging, and honestly if it weren’t for the magnificent job they do I don’t honestly think the show would be as good.

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King’s character Latrice Butler reminds me of so many Black moms that I’ve known. She’s a hardworking mother and wife, who after the murder of her son has her whole entire world rocked. She can’t bare the pain of her loss and yet while grief stricken she intends to lay him to rest and find justice. That’s a Black woman for you.

KJ Harper played by Ashitey, is quite the opposite of Kings role. Our first introduction of her is sitting at a bar drinking when she should be in court. Yeah, homegirl got some issues. She drinks to escape the realities of her day job as an Assistant Prosecutor. Sis is handling these petty cases where she is tasked with prosecuting and imprisoning Black and Brown boys at alarming rates. She knows the reality of the law and how it enacts with our people, and while she still does her job I can only imagine the emotional weight she is carrying.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.08.30 AM.pngOn top of all of that to be assigned the case the murder of this Black boy primarily because you are a young Black woman and it helps the optics has got to be even more demeaning. Her character is flawed as hell but through the progression of the case and once the truth is revealed; she is determined even when she messes everything up, to see this case through.

Black women are the Sugar Honey Ice Tea.

Like I said the show is ehhhh, but being able to witness these sisters talent was well worth it. Their depth and ability to portray these unlikely heroines when all the chips are stacked against them makes it dynamic. I’ve been talking with my people, those that have seen it aren’t exactly here for Ashiteys character. Some see her portrayal as weak, while others can’t find themselves in her character.

I totally get where they are coming from. What I see in her is a humanity that Black actresses aren’t normally allowed to portray. Women who may have flaws but at the same time are in constant progression and development. I definitely want to see strong Black female characters on shows, but I don’t want the portrayal of that strength to be devoid of their humanity, stripped of their right to be diverse, complex and flawed.

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In real life though, Ashitey is this outspoken unapologetically Black young actress from England who is the epitome of Black girl magic. Check out her interview with TMZ where she spoke on race relations and issues in the US as compared to England. Sister is woke.

Ashitey, whose parents are originally from Ghana, grew up and attended schools in England before her start in acting. Not only is she a dynamic young actress, but she also has a degree in anthropology. Brains, beauty and talent: the total package. After a few small roles in movies like Children of Men and other smaller roles in television, the actress resolved to take a break from acting and work a “real” job.

But we all know how it goes when we ain’t living in our purpose right? Ish just don’t pan out.

Her role in 7 Seconds has done a great job of affirming her purpose, as her performance has garnered the attention of Hollywood.

Her complex character is one unlike any I’ve seen and the motivation and inspiration behind her delivery is yet another case of art imitating life. You see while Ashitey may not have been able to relate to the exact lived experiences of KJ Harper, she is more than equipped to understand the reality of Harper as a fellow Black woman. Her insight on life and race and the way that all plays out, gives her the ability to draw from a rich pool of emotions that leave no clear distinction between her character on the show and who she could be in real life.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.08.59 AM.pngIn an interview in Rolling Stones magazine she says, “Between Trump’s election and Brexit, there were all sorts of opinions coming out of the woodwork that I thought had died out a long time ago….I was like, what’s the point? All we do is bad things. The history of humanity is the history of people exploiting each other.”

Sis got something to say and It’s not what your typical 30 year old actress is speaking on. Reading her interview was dope: to see her complexities and how it helps fuel her role on the show. She, like so many of sisters, are so complex and so multifaceted and our biggest mistakes comes when we try to put them in a box.

But I won’t make this mistake any further and my hope is that you won’t either.

Life is made better by the presence of women, but the world is made whole by the presence of Black women. Anything that is already good only gets greater once you throw a melanated woman in the pot.

I’m always excited to see our ladies progress because I understand that a rise of tide lifts all boats. They been lifting us up for so long and I just want to do my part in returning the favor.

True Kings and Queens raise New future Kings and Queens.

Hold it down good people!

 

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