FILM REVIEW: “Belle” – It’s Not What You Think

Sometimes a film’s trailer can be its own worst enemy, and it can diminish its chances for success. When I saw the trailer for the movie Belle, a film about the mixed-race daughter of an 18th century Royal Navy Admiral, I had the impression that it was yet another slave film.  This trailer seemed to elude to the inhumanity of racism, particularly against Black women.  After watching films like 12 Years A Slave and Skin—based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a Black woman born into a white South African family during 1950’s apartheid—my soul just wasn’t ready for more of that story (and we’ve chosen the short film above to advertise the film; it features the film’s cast and crew).

When my husband, after reading a review, suggested we see Belle, it was the first indication that my impressions may have been wrong.  So I listened…and I’m glad I did.

Here are 6 things you probably didn’t know about Belle and why you should go to see it this weekend:

  1. It’s not a slave film. This is the first impression to overcome.
  2. It’s a modern story in the guise of a period piece. Set in 18th century England, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay, who was raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield and his wife. Its messages about race, love, justice, and hope, however, transcend the American condition today.
  3. It’s about a strong woman who changes the course of history – not a tragic, objectified, or sexualized one. And, unlike most images we’ve seen of black women in film, Belle is a woman of privilege and aristocracy.
  4. It’s as much about men as it is about women. Belle has a wealth of both male and female characters which reflect all aspects of the human psyche. Women’s rights are a central theme in Belle; however, strong men of integrity are particularly central to the story as well.
  5. It’s about government – physical, and spiritual. Underlining the plot is the classic film battle between good and evil. Two governments exist side by side in the film: one represented by the shackles created by gentry, greed, caste, and slavery, and the other represented by liberty, justice, love, and God.
  6. It’s a family film. It’s the type of film we all say we want to see more of, which illuminates integrity, bravery, heroism, and the good in humankind.  It’s rated PG (for a moment of harsh language, brief violence – and smoking).

The film was inspired by a painting commissioned by Lord Mansfield, which depicts Lady Dido Belle and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray (who is white) as equals during a time when slavery existed as an institution in Britain.  It is a film which turns a corner in filmmaking history, as it is written by Misan Sagay and directed by Amma Asante—both Black women. Belle is a reflection of its eponymous character. It shows the liberty created by the strength and brilliance of a strong woman who is free to write her own story in life.

There are no hidden agendas, just the truth—finally.

THE INSPIRATION: The original painting of Lady Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray.

THE INSPIRATION: The original painting of Lady Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray (artist unknown).

BELLE opens nationwide throughout the month of May 2014. 

Many thanks to Fox Searchlight Pictures for the use of the featurette and images.

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25 Quotes from Dr. Maya Angelou

The world has lost a literary legend.

Memoirist and poet, Dr. Maya Angelou has gone to be with the Lord. She died in her home in Salem-Winston, North Carolina on Wednesday at age 86.

Below is a list of some of her top influential quotes, which do their part to help many of us that stayed behind navigate through life.

On God:

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.

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On love:

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.

The love of the family, the love of one person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society.

On perspective:

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

Nothing will work unless you do.

All great achievements require time.

On being a woman:

I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.

On being black:

Black people comprehend the South. We understand its weight. It has rested on our backs… I knew that my heart would break if ever I put my foot down on that soil, moist, still, with old hurts. I had to face the fear/loathing at its source or it would consume me whole.

I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition.

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.

On life:

I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.

I’m considered wise, and sometimes I see myself as knowing. Most of the time, I see myself as wanting to know. And I see myself as a very interested person. I’ve never been bored in my life.

If you’re serious, you really understand that it’s important that you laugh as much as possible and admit that you’re the funniest person you ever met. You have to laugh. Admit that you’re funny. Otherwise, you die in solemnity.

On humanity:

All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.

Growing up, I decided, a long time ago, I wouldn’t accept any manmade differences between human beings, differences made at somebody else’s insistence or someone else’s whim or convenience.

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On courage:

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!

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Although we may hope for a deferment from heaven’s gates, we praise God for the memory of Dr. Angelou’s voice and spirit.

Sunrise: April 4, 1926                                                      Sunset: May 28,2014

Remembering Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou, a  renowned and beloved poet, artist, dancer, singer and Civil Rights activist, died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Wednesday morning. She was 86.

Born on April 4, 1928, as Marguerite Ann Johnson, Dr. Angelou was a celebrated author whose life was chronicled in her award winning autobiographies and poems. She  received over 20 honorary Doctoral Degrees during her career and was a Pulitzer Prize nominee in 1972. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Barack Obama. This is just a small sampling of her honors, and says nothing of the personal impact she had on many.

I feel blessed that I was inspired by the life of this beautiful woman.

Her poem, “Still I Rise” taught me to embrace my “womanness” and walk boldly with confidence. In it, she implored me to “walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my own backyard.” This statement was life-changing to a shy young girl, who’d rather keep her head in a book than be noticed amongst a crowd. I studied her work as an english major at San Francisco State University, and it made me proud to discuss the merits and contributions of an African American writer in a classroom where we discussed Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath.

I received her 2008 book of essays, Letter to my Daughter, as a gift from my own mother a few years ago. In it, Dr. Angelou wrote of travels to Africa as a young woman. I remember that her words were so vibrant and so rich with detail that I felt as though I was in Africa with her, walking among the open markets and feeling the vibrant textiles.

Her personal life was as colorful as her poems. She stood over 6-feet tall, had a wide smile and an unmistakable voice. She traveled all over the world, and before becoming a world-renowned writer, she had several jobs, including fry cook, prostitute, and night-club dancer. She was a  journalist, an actor, writer, director, and producer.

As a writer, Dr. Maya Angelou showed me how to use my words to inspire others; and as a woman, she inspired me to live a life worth writing about.

I’d like to think that Heaven has become just a little more poetic today.

What it Means to be Healthy

There’s always a mad dash to get in shape. All the pounds we pack on during the holidays are issued warrants, where the only judge is morphed into two things: a swimsuit and a mirror. So, with summer approaching and wild motivational stickies becoming my new wallpaper, I felt it was time to get back to the healthy me.

After hearing my sister friends talk about nutrition marketing company Herbalife and realizing that was not for me,  I decided to go for a walk at Kenneth Hahn Park. I got to the park, surveyed the  landscape of trees, grass and rocks, and became instantly motivated. After stretching and warming up my muscles, I stood and began walking. And as I started moving, within moments each step somehow morphed into a personal life challenge. I saw the forward movements of my body come into direct combat with the personal things that had been weighing on my mind. And suddenly, my leisure walk turned into a full out sprint. 

And, I ran.

I kept running. I could hear the beat of my heart, the inhale and exhale of oxygen take over the natural noises of the park and the distant traffic from La Cienega Blvd.  My calves screamed, my head throbbed away; the sting of sweat in my eyes bothered me, yet I kept running. I ran up graveled slopes and up the back of a trail that I thought would never end. I heard the encouraging words, “Go girl” each time I passed another runner. I wanted to say thank you, but I was stuck–a prisoner at war with my own body. I ran so hard that when I finally got to a small resting spot, my body literally gave out and I collapsed. I laid on the grass and stared up at the sky, listening to my heart creating its own rhythm, no headphones needed. I laid there shocked at what I had just done. Almost an hour of complete torture…and then I cried.

I cried for my family.  I cried for my little brother in juvenile hall. I cried for the health of my grandmother. I cried for the spiritual strength of my mother. I cried for the bills that seemed to mount higher and higher. I cried, hiccuped, and cried again. Every issue that I had compartmentalized or pushed to the side broke free. I felt the eyes of strangers on me, some were concerned, some scared.  This man asked  if I was okay but because I could not let a word out, I just nodded.

And all of a sudden, like how the world stands still for the passing of an ambulance, I was at peace. Through my sobs I heard birds chirping, felt a small breeze from the wings of a butterfly and heard, “get up.” I rolled over onto my stomach and sat up. I wiped my face with the back of my sleeve and sat there. Stunned by the mechanics of my body, and my emotional outcry, I whispered, “thank you.” I hadn’t realized that I kept so many things bottled in, tucked away. Tucked away not because I wasn’t strong enough to face them, but because I felt the needs of someone else took  precedence over mine.

Healthy? No. But the irony in this post is that while I was focused on being physically healthy–eating right and working out–emotionally, I was unhealthy.

I stood up, stretched for a little bit and thanked God for this revelation. To be a better me means confronting things, addressing problems. A healthier me starts internally. I promised from then on, I would create a checklist.  If I do not agree with something, I will talk about it right then and there.  If something negative is said about me, I will go to the source and discuss it. If my family is weak and at the time I am the only one strong, I will thank the Father for His favor and carry the load.

“Lord, you could have just said, ‘let’s talk,’ instead of allowing me to almost kill myself running and scare these poor joggers,” I said to myself jokingly. But nothing is learned without sacrifice. Without a test, there is no testimony.

As I limped away to my car, with sweat pouring down my body, I felt at peace with a better and clearer understanding of what it truly means to be healthy.

Denzel gives guidance to aspiring actors

A video of actor and West Angeles Church of God and Christ frequenter Denzel Washington giving a group of young actors some career–and life–advice surfaced this week.

Washington, who won Best Actor at the 2001 Academy Awards for his performance in Training Day, shares a message that revolves around the idea of God having a plan for each of us, a message that our very own Bishop Blake has spoke of at length.

What is most impressive about Washington’s soliloquy, in my opinion, is him stressing the fact that he was given a path, by God, and followed it, rather than promoting the idea of creating our own path, as if we were our own creators.

Also, in the video, Washington speaks about that itch that we have inside–that desire. And he advises the actors to realize that that itch is not only a desire, it’s a reminder, from God, that you were meant to do exactly what it is your heart desires so passionately.


Christian woman refuses to recant faith, faces death

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Christian woman living in Sudan, was sentenced to death on May 15  for refusing to recant her faith.

The story of Ibrahim, 27, broke  internationally last week. She was born to a Muslim father and an orthodox mother, but after her father left the home during her childhood, Ibrahim adopted Christianity. The court, however, still considers her to be a Muslim.

When Ibrahim refused to revert to Islam, she was subsequently convicted of apostasy, or refusing to recant her faith. She was also convicted of adultery, considering that under Sharia law, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a man of a different faith.

In addition to her death sentence by hanging, Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes as a punishment for committing adultery.

Ibrahim is currently imprisoned with her 20-month-old son. She is also eight months pregnant.

Read the full story here.

On the same day as Ibrahim’s conviction, CNN named Sudan as one of its “8 worst places in the world to be religious.”

This story begs the question: Does Ibrahim’s death sentence say more about the state of humanity or the strength of Christian faith?

Sentencing a human to death, let alone a pregnant woman, because of their specific religious beliefs is an injustice that knows no bounds, but not one that is surprising, especially in Sudan.

CNN reports that conversion from Islam in Sudan is often met with flogging and amputation, as well as death. And in a 2014 report, the Pew Research Center said that Christians are the religious group most likely to be persecuted worldwide.

We will keep the readers of West Angeles updated on this story as it continues to unfold.

Our Children Are Missing: Where Are You?

Close your eyes; picture the face of a child you know and love.  Imagine them in school; happy, learning, growing. Hear your child’s voice; smell the scent of his skin. See her sleeping peacefully at night.  Now imagine your child, gone. Where are they?

A few weeks ago, hundreds of Christian and Muslim schoolgirls were kidnapped from their boarding school in Nigeria’s Borno State by a group of Islamic extremists.  The Christian girls were forced to accept Islam; their captors then threatened to sell them as slaves.  Just months before, 59 school boys were massacred in their boarding school by the same group of rebels; the school was then burned to the ground. And just last year in the United States, over 100,000 children were abducted; many of which are forced into lives in the sex trade.

Abducted, oppressed, enslaved, and murdered: across the globe, our children are under attack. The violation of human rights is a moral issue, and it is a direct threat to world-wide security, liberty, and freedom. As Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

Now that your eyes are open, what can you do to help?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1.  Join a church. Lasting, fundamental change toward human rights has, historically, begun with the church. From the beginning of time, God has called on His intercessors to gather His people and to follow His instructions in order to promote and establish liberty for all. By joining a church and a ministry, you help to build the numbers needed to affect change, and the strength created in spiritual solidarity toward a common cause.  The church also becomes an essential part of “the village” it takes to raise your children[1]; and helps to create a hedge of safety around them (Psalm 91).
  2.  Activate your activism. Write to your elected officials.  Work to change laws which have created a dangerous environment for our children while granting leniency to child predators. 
  3.  Educate a child (Proverbs 22:6). In spite of the enemy’s attempt to destroy it, “education is still the key” [2].  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has important information on how to help prepare children to be more aware, and how to avoid dangerous situations.
  4.   Pray.  Yes, prayer, fasting, and meditation for a better world works, and one person can make a difference. The Lord’s Prayer asks that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). He sends us the answers.
  5. Have faith. Hopelessness is the first step toward defeat (Psalm 31:24), but the bible reveals the solutions to the moral dilemmas of our time. The recent release of Willie Myrick – the 9-year-old Atlanta child who sang a gospel song for 3 hours, prompting his kidnapper let him go – is why we never give up hope on any missing child, no matter how long they have been missing.

No matter the skin color or the country, we cannot have freedom, liberty, or peace until all in the world do, and we who believe in Jesus cannot rest until that day comes.[3]


·         MAY 25 is both National and International Missing Children’s Day.

·         The majority of the victims of human trafficking are black and brown women and children.

·         72% of the world’s trafficking victims are reported here in the US. 

·         America is the top destination for those forced into slavery to this day.


West Angeles World Missions – Be a part of changing the lives of others in Brazil, Panama, Haiti and Africa. Call 323-733-8300 ext 2760. To DONATE click  HEREhttp://

The International Centre For Missing And Exploited Children  website has multilingual resources and information on legislation. For more information, call (1-703-837-6313), or click here:

National Center For Missing And Exploited Children has a 24-hour hotline, the Congressional-authorized CyberTipline. Call 1-800-THE-LOST(1-800-843-5678), or visit – Start the conversation with your child! has a Child ID Toolkit and other tools to engage the entire family:  Download the child ID toolkit here:

The Polaris Project – Named after the North Star which guided enslaved Africans toward freedom along the Underground Railroad, The Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery. Call (202-745-1001) or visit

United Nations Office On Drugs And Crime has anti-trafficking tools and publications; click here for more information.

By linking to the external sites mentioned in this article, West Angeles Church of God in Christ is not endorsing their services or privacy or security policies. We recommend you fully review the organization, its information collection policy, and/or its terms and conditions .

[1] From the African proverb “It takes a whole village to raise up a child”.

[2] George Washington Carver: “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom”.

[3] Adapted from “Ella’s Song”, by Dr. Bernice Reagon.

Bishop Blake featured on TBN

Tonight at 7p.m. PST, Bishop Charles E. Blake will be broadcasting live from Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) on the “Praise the Lord” program. “Praise the Lord” is a live two-hour program that features renowned evangelists, singers, celebrities and musicians, and provides coverage on worldwide events from a Christian standpoint. The show has aired every week for over three decades. Tonight’s broadcast will air from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Nothing is impossible”

The title of the post says it all.

A video surfaced this week of a man named Ibrahim Hamato, who lost both of his arms in an accident at age 10.

Hamato was an avid table tennis player before losing his arms, and he decided to continue with the sport the best way he saw fit: using his mouth. You have to see the video to believe it.

Hamato, who lives in Egypt, was this week invited to the ZEN-NOH 2014 Web Team Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo, Japan. 

Is this not an example of Christ blessing one of his children with the strength to perform a wonderful feat? The mental fortitude displayed by Hamato, to even continue to pursue the sport despite his misfortune, is something to marvel at.

Almost on a daily basis, we encounter barriers that make us feel as if it will be difficult to move forward, whether in relationships, professionally, academically, or any other arena. It’s stories like these that help us to put things in perspective and be appreciative of the strength that God has blessed us with.

Although Hamato’s physical strength has been severely compromised, he’s only been strengthened psychologically, which is truly a blessing.

Phillipians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”