My sister and I went to see the new movie, Southside with You about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date. I was struck by so many things because I have Chicago roots as well. The places, scenes, sights and sounds helped me relive the year and era of 1989.
His old car with the hole in the floorboard showed his bravery all the way back then. I don’t recall him making any apologies for it as he drove Michelle around to various memorable spots. They went to the Chicago Cultural Center for an art show. Its brilliant dome in the ceiling was recently refurbished and brought back to its original glory. I remembered going there a lot as a teen when that beautiful building was Chicago’s Main Library.
While there, they enjoyed Ernie Barnes’ art depictions of black life in the inner city. Barack talked about the importance of art and how J.J.’s art was supposed to help him get out of the projects on the hit television show Good Times. Ernie Barnes’ pieces reminded me of Annie Lee’s works as well. Both artists were uniquely able to capture blacks simply enjoying everyday life.
Parker Sawyers, the actor, truly captured Barack’s essence. He had the tall, lean height, the gestures and the voice intonations down pat. After a while, I felt as if I was looking at Barack Obama, as he took Michelle to a variety of venues in one day.
They later went to the South Shore Cultural Center where there was an African drumming session going on. He had an opportunity to observe Michelle dancing with a little girl and he saw her in a more relaxed mode. Tika Sumpter also did a fine job of portraying The First Lady as she kept reminding him that this was not an official date.
They worked at the same law firm, and she did not think that their dating was a good idea. But he used his smooth ways to show her the many aspects of his personality by keeping her busy. They talked about a lot of things and he could immediately see that he had a thinker on his hands.
He drove his jalopy out to Altgeld Gardens which is out pass 130th Street. The Gardens, as they are affectionately called, are located quite a distance from the city and it was clear that he was out to impress her. He had driven to her house, the Loop, South Shore, to the Gardens and even further as their long non-date continued.
Michelle had a chance to see him in another light while in The Gardens. The people loved and trusted him because of his former work there as a community organizer. She saw how he interacted with his admirers and she heard him speak and move his listeners for the first time.
Their date continued as they talked over drinks, went to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, talked on the Lakefront and enjoyed her favorite flavor of ice cream. They shared a lot about their families and he saw early on that he definitely had a sparring partner. Dr. Maya Angelou, says, “Equals can be friends.”
One review said that the actors lacked chemistry and I was somewhat swayed and had decided not to see it. But I am so glad that my sister insisted that we see it and judge for ourselves. The movie was short, sweet and thought-provoking. It ended with each of them quietly reflecting on all that had transpired in one day, once they had reached their individual homes.
One woman in the washroom complained that it was too slow and that she had gone too sleep. I silently thought, “Too bad.” She had missed a lot of deep conversations that set these two deep thinkers onto a historic path.
John Legend produced the film, wrote and performed the song, “Start.” Here are a few lines:
“Leave your house of mirrors, hear me out…
Fear no consequence, forget your doubts.
I don’t know where the road leads
And we won’t go unless we start.”
Lynn M. September 2, 2016