I had to go see Equalizer 2 with Denzel Washington. I have been a fan of Denzel since he played Steve Biko in Cry Freedom. I remember going to the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, London, to watch the film on my own. What was happening in South Africa, at the time, meant the world to me, and I had to go see the film. Needless to say, I fell in love with Denzel’s black body! Although, I sometimes groan watching some of the parts he has played over the years (like Training Day and Safe House, which makes me ask the question, “Why Denzel?”) I still go see every film he is in! Although The Equalizer and Equalizer 2 are very violent thrillers, Denzel Washington (as Robert McCall) plays the part of a sacred warrior. He is a retired special forces agent turned avenger, who no longer follows orders to kill, but lets his heart decide. His quiet storm (rage) is directed against those who have harmed the “innocents,” in memory of his wife, Vivian.
In the opening scene of Equalizer 2, Denzel is reading from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between The World And Me. I immediately sat up straight in the cinema. I know that I am in for a treat. And I was not disappointed. Shades of blackness colors this sequel unlike the first. Equalizer 2 features my favorite piece of Jazz music, In a Sentimental Mood by John Coltrane (and Duke Ellington). Coltrane is my favorite Jazz musician.
Jazz and Kora music are (for me) the highest musical expression of Black/Afrikan people; and more beautiful than any other music in the world!
And I say this being Jamaican. I was born and bred in reggae music and my favorite album of all time is Til Shilol by Buju Banton. If I desire to be spirited then I have to listen to Buju. If I desire ecstasy, clarity, communion from spirit, to read or write, then Jazz and Kora Music it is.
Between The World And Me is presented in the form of a letter. Coates is writing to his adolescent son about the story of race on the American landscape. A landscape shaped by torture, theft, and enslavement, after being acquired through murder. The World, for Coates is one secured and ruled by savage means. For example, the police officer of America, carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy (a legacy which gave them a strange birthright; the right to beat, rape, rob, and pillage the black body), and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be Black. In America it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage. And, because it is heritage, the destroyers will rarely be held accountable.
The book is divided in three parts. Part 1 opens with a poem from Sonia Sanchez:
“Do not speak to me of martyrdom
of men who die to be remembered
on some parish day.
I don’t believe in dying
though, I too shall die.
And violets like castanets
will echo me.”
Part 2 opens with a poem from Amiri Baraka:
“Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone’s
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air
We are beautiful people
with african imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants
with african eyes, and noses, and arms,
though we sprawl in grey chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.”
Part 3 opens with a quote from James Baldwin:
“And have brought humanity to the edgy of oblivion: because they think they are white.”
Coates wrote his letter to his son, with african eyes and african imaginations. His message to his son is not one of martyrdom. What he wants for his son is for him to grow in consciousness because he does not have the privilege of living in ignorance. As Coates puts it, “You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels.” Coates’ letter is about ringing the alarm, for a beautiful people, and warning his son about the people who think they are white. The people he calls the Dreamers. However, the book is a strong potent message of love with a kind of obsession. We who are Black parents know this love. It is the scent of violet. We live with the twin flames of blue fear and red rage. It is the reason we understood when Prince sang, “I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.”
In Equalizer 2, that fear and rage animates the film, because Denzel plays not only an avenging role but also a fatherly role to another significant black body, Miles (Ashton Sanders); alluding of course to Miles Davis and Jazz (Ok, that was where my mind went). Its an affectionate relationship of protection and guidance; echoing the love Coates have for his son which compelled him to walk the air to write the book.
I had bought Between The World And Me, probably a year or so ago. I skimmed through it and put it on the to read shelf. This summer I moved it to the center shelf of my reading/writing desk — the space for books I wanted to read or reread. In late July 2018 I read Between The World And Me and loved it. I immediately called my best friend and told him what he was going to be getting for his birthday present as he was soon to be a father (his beautiful son has since been born and I am a godmother for the very first time!). I told him that I could see why Ta-Nehisi Coates has been compared to Richard Baldwin (which, reminds me, I now need to reread Baldwin’s Last Interview). However, in Equalizer 2, the film went further and link Coates with Fredrick Douglas! (Yeah that clip of the Fredrick Douglas’ mural was not an accident. That was purposeful!) Denzel even went so far as to give the book to Miles! Denzel did not give him any of the 100 books he was reading in memory of his wife. No, he gave Miles, Between The World And Me! A book relevant to The World Miles was growing up in.
A scene from Equalizer 2: Robert McCall with Miles.
When I had finished reading Between The World And Me, I thought about doing a quotes post on the book. But then I thought, maybe it was too late, because Coates now has a new book out (which is now on my wish list)! However, watching Equalizer 2, made me realized, “Nah! It Aint Too Late!” The film gave me an opening. Here is Denzel acting like Eleggua/Esu at the crossroads. Love it!
And yes, please go and support Denzel by watching this film, and if you are a Black father (or mother like I am), please buy Between The World And Me! It is true what the great Toni Morrison has said about the book. Indeed, it is required reading.