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Revisiting Waiting To Exhale

Kwaku Person-Lynn | , Ph.D. | 3/5/2009, 5 p.m.

Remember when Terry McMillan's book, 'Waiting To Exhale' was No. 1 on the fiction bestseller book list, longer than any other book at that time? The next thing you knew, there was a flood of relationship books. Then, the film came out. That was a momentary exciting time for black folks who like to go to the movie theater. Seeing a quality black film was not always possible, especially about black male/female relationships. Since we like to explore history, which is primarily referenced through literature, let's do something different; go back to 1995, using film as our reference, one that had the community of Afrikan descent buzzing.

One of the first things thought about while leaving the Magic Johnson Theatre, elated from seeing "Waiting To Exhale," was that some white folks were not going to like this film because they did not cherish seeing black folks making a movie more successful than most of theirs, which it was at that time. Sure enough, soon as we got home, the Los Angeles Times review confirmed it. Quotes such as: "It won't stand up to any kind of rigorous examination. The film's serious moments are stiff, standard and not nearly as affecting as what's accomplished with comedy.

'Waiting To Exhale' is easy listening for the eyes if you're in the mood and aren't too demanding." The cultural differences are so apparent.

The other, it was so nice to see a black film, at a black-owned theater, with all those beautiful black folks, right in our own community. One of those cultural things uniquely ours. An American Afrikan audience is part of the show when watching a good black film. Thank you Magic for keeping us from having to go to the Marina, or Westwood, where the soul just don't flow.

Now, to the main, and more dangerous point, commenting on a film that is a happy anthem for many American Afrikan women. Personally, I enjoyed it very much and did not feel threatened or affronted at all. I kept hearing this talk of 'male-bashing,' similar to what we heard about 'Color Purple.' After going through that experience, I decided to go into this film with a completely open mind. We laughed, hurt, cracked up and had a really good time.

In fact, we had the wonderful pleasure of sitting next to a Nigerian sister, who lived in Ghana, finding out we had mutual friends. She is close to seventy and had ten children by the same man.

She said this was her forth time seeing the film, and that she had been there since 10:30am. We got there for the 4:30pm screening, the opening day.

One thing the film did for me, knowing that I have sons who are watching all the time, is having to be kind, fair, loving and honest to their mother, my life partner, every chance out. I don't see how a secure man can feel negative about this film. In fact, it seems to me just the opposite. There were plenty of examples on how a man should not treat his woman. A guilty man would definitely complain, similar to how we saw some guilty women react to Shahrazad Ali's book. If the shoe don't fit, why bother?