Regina King finds inspiration in Shirley Chisholm

Photo of author

By journalsofus.com


John Ridley’s powerful drama shows Chisholm’s pioneering campaign from the inside out.

At a glance, Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 campaign for the presidency was the definition of quixotic. She was 47 years old; At the time, she had just served one term (starting in 1968) as the first black woman elected to Congress. (His district centered on the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.) To say that Chisholm was not an experienced Washington, D.C. player would be putting it mildly. and that saw Like an outsider. She wore puffy wigs, schoolmarm glasses, and tasteful printed dresses. There was a slight prim indifference about her, although she lit up whenever she smiled with her right front tooth exposed. She looked just like she was – a day-care supervisor from Bed-Stuy and a devout Christian.

But his personality did not end here. This lady from the church was a fighter of Guyanese and Bajan descent, and she spoke with an ancient grace that had a hint of that island cadence you heard at Sidney Poitier. She was reasonable, all right, but it would have been a mistake to think of her as strange.

In “Shirley,” John Ridley’s sharp and lively internal-political docudrama, Regina King plays Shirley Chisholm with a quiet strength you can’t look away from. At the podium, Shirley speaks with brilliant composure, and in private with little less than that; In her graceful way, she lets it rip. The film begins shortly after he is elected to Congress, and we see him going to the Speaker of the House and asking him for assignment to a different committee – something a new representative does not do. But Chisholm does. King provided her with an unwavering vision and a knowing attitude, as well as a sense of purpose that is unwavering, as well as fearless and stubborn.

“Shirley” then jumps forward four years to the announcement of her presidential campaign. As the film recounts with obvious enthusiasm, the expedition was anything but bizarre. Did Chisholm believe he had a chance of winning? She was so intelligent that she did not know the obstacles. She came in like she really had a chance, she never backed down from it, that was part of her grace as an American. She was challenging anyone to look at her and say, “Why not?” As a presidential candidate, the Shirley Chisholm we see in “Shirley” pledges to speak up for the underprivileged, workers, and citizens of color, but her real message, which is far ahead of her time, is that Politics has been taken away from it. People. She wants to bring it back. That mission begins with his rhetoric, which has a captivating directness that echoes the harsh stentorian slap of Malcolm X’s flamboyant bravado.

Chisholm’s candidacy was not simply an act of faith—it was About this Faith, an investment in the future that people who felt left out of the system, especially Black Americans, could and would achieve. She led the way, and she was right. At one point late in the campaign, she was introduced at a luncheon of black delegates at the Democratic convention as “the only black woman to run for President of these United States.” The Chisholm campaign was really the essence of sanity (she’s laid-back, has the courage to stand up against busing), but “Shirley” shows you that she had to be a little “crazy” to do it. His determination pushes himself to the wall. She plays her husband, played by Michael Cherry, as a loyal spouse who is always there to support her, but disappears into the woodwork. She refuses the role of marginal candidate. This is his message: People who feel left out of the system will only fight for themselves if they stop thinking like outsiders.

Ridley, the veteran novelist, screenwriter and director, stages “Shirley” with the kind of amusing, fast-paced confidence we remember from that rock-solid run of HBO political docudramas (“Recount,” “Game Change”). Comes. This isn’t HBO; This is Netflix. But it fits just as well on the small screen. Ridley, who wrote and directed it, doesn’t engage in jarring existentialist media fireworks. He stages behind-the-scenes meetings with a declarative punch that is just this side of theatrics. The late Lance Reddick, in his last screen appearance, plays Wesley McDonald “Mac” Holder, Chisholm’s chief advisor, and Reddick is wonderful, whether he’s running the campaign or trying to rein in Shirley. Terrence Howard hovers clearly as Arthur Hardwicke. Junior, the finance manager, is attempting to run a campaign with barely any finances. And Christina Jackson, as student volunteer Barbara Lee (who followed Chisholm’s lead to become a famous congresswoman), makes her presence felt, as does Lucas Hedges, as Robert Gottlieb, the boyish law student who sues TV networks for Chisholm’s right to appear in the Democratic debates.

“Shirley” captures the moment that made the Chisholm expedition possible. The counterculture was fading, but it had changed the world, which was deeply reflected in the 1972 presidential election. Chisholm was one of three Black candidates to run in the race. And George McGovern was, in short, the Democratic Party’s first – and last – counterculture candidate.

The Democrats were running against Richard Nixon and all of the president’s men, but Chisholm and the film also treat McGovern as just another part of the old-fashioned white male establishment that she is trying to upend and overthrow. While watching “Shirley,” you would never know that Chisholm and McGovern stood for many of the same things. The film, in one exaggerated scene, is more sympathetic to George Wallace (W. Earl Brown), whom Chisholm visits in the hospital after he is shot and paralyzed. That meeting actually happened (the devout Chisholm believed in forgiveness…and repentance), but Ridley made a misstep by staging the encounter as if the two were old college friends. He fares better in the scene where Shirley, at Diahann Carroll’s (Amira Wan) house, asks Huey Newton (Brad James) for his support of the Black Panthers.

For most of the campaign, Chisholm was winning two or three percent of the delegates. But as the convention approaches, with McGovern still in the lead but not enough delegates to put him over the top, Chisholm tries to rally the black delegates not to sell their votes; Many candidates pledged to him the release of their black delegates. At the time, it was a symbolic gesture, which adds even more mystery to the film. When the delegates and their leaders, such as Chisholm’s friend and colleague Representative Ron Dellums (Dorian Crossmond Missick), turn on McGovern, Shirley perceives this as a betrayal, though she is actually betraying her own innocence. That’s how hardball politics is played. No, it’s not “fair”, it’s not noble, and it’s not idealistic. Shirley Chisholm’s expedition was all three, and as “Shirley” pointed out, this made it not just an expedition but a beacon.

Leave a comment