Figure 1:Regina King -Mother in Brenton’s room (Photo Credit- JoJo Whilden /Netflix/Ben Travers)
If you have not seen the Netflix series “Seven Seconds”, prepare to binge. I was up all night until 7 am on a Saturday morning watching Season 1, and, have been cyber surfing ever since to determine when Season 2 will begin. “Seven Seconds,” the premise of the movie, refers to the amount of time it took for white police officer; Pete Jablonski to shoot a Black boy riding his bike in a park, and subsequently decide to leave him to die in the cold. Sounds familiar yet? The racial and political commentary of “Seven Seconds” provides a relevant and timely story especially as we have witnessed many similar stories demonstrating that “Black Lives Matter” less in the U.S. In fact, the fictionalized story unfolds in a quite familiar manner as the very real, painful narrative of fear that every Black woman feels each time her husband, son, nephew, brother, or a loved one steps outside her doors. Not an uncommon story, but an uncommon one served in this manner in a series.
The spellbinding, heart wrenching, though predictable story is led by the majestic Regina King who plays the loving, committed, grief stricken and relentless mother whose 15-year-old son-Brenton was left to die in a ditch. You must know Regina (Fig. 1), that Black actress who never fails to deliver a stellar performance from her days as Brenda Jenkins on the NBC sitcom 227 (1985–90), as well as superbly cast in “Ray” the Oscar for best picture winning film (2004). Regina has won many awards, but never an Oscar? Yes, that Regina.
Figure 2: The Brothers in Blue-Cops (Photo Credit- Netflix/Marlon Wallace)
Blue Lives Matter
The core of the story develops around a band of brothers in blue- cops, who refuse to allow their colleague to be charged for the death of a Black boy deemed stereotypically a “banger,” or a “thug.” Accordingly, the cops kill, threatene, lie, blackmail and intimidate their way through the system of justice (JUSTUS) to ensure that they are not charged with the crime. Their motivation was summed up by one of the characters who yelled “They are going to f…k you for Ferguson, Chicago, Baltimore … I want you to think about what kind of father you’d be behind bars.”
Figure 3: Russell Hornsby -Father (Photo Credit- JoJo Whilden /Netflix/Jean Hannah Edelstein)
Who is Brenton?
Brenton was not your stereotypical Black boy, despite the justice system painting him as such. He is the son of a middle-aged, middle-class Black couple. His mother works at a private school full of privileged white kids and his father Isaiah played by Russell Hornsby, sweeps blood at a slaughterhouse. They are active church members. Brenton’s beloved uncle (Zachary Momoh who play’s Isaiah’s brother) plays a significant role in the series as recently returned from active duty in the Air Force and struggles between the armed services and the jealous arms of the street as a member of Five Gangs dealing drugs. Brenton loved seagulls and listening to the cars go by as they sounded like the ocean. His motive for being in the park on a bike that fateful morning, was believed or portrayed to have been gang related by the cops and in the beginning was also the belief of his Dad. As the series progressed, the realization by his Dad who had a difficult time expressing his emotions, was that Brenton was leaving his boyfriend’s home that morning. Another complex development in the film where a religious, homophobic father struggles to understand his son, but gets clarity in death with the help of Brenton’s lover, his younger brother (Zachary Momoh) and his pastor.
Figure 4: Clare-Hope Ashitey as Asst. DA K.J. (Photo Credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix/Kelly Lawler)
The fragile, yet determined protagonist, the assistant DA played by British actress Clare-Hope Ashitey, will amaze the viewer with her intensity and great looks. Although I do not recognize her from any other acting role, I instantly became a fan. Her dark-skinned, full lips Black girl magic was as powerful as her brilliance and passion. Her character flaws however seemed like an overreach, ranging from: obvious Daddy issues, alcoholism which led to a drunken rage display that highlighted her inherent bias to racist white cops, and, sleeping with a married man who happens to be her boss and is white. I am hoping that in Season 2 more information is afforded to her backstory as there seems to be too many issues for such an important and already interesting character. Clare-Hope’s character seems kind of overly and unnecessarily complexed like the Viola Davis’ character on “How to Get Away with Murder.” Maybe it is a commentary on the struggles that successful Black women must navigate and the ensuing psychosis that develop as a result. Or is it just common to Black women who are lawyers? Or is this the new Hollywood caricature of professional, badass Black women?
Figure 5: Black Girl Magic-Clare-Hope and Regina (Photo Credit: Cara Howe/Netflix/Maureen Ryan)
Black Girl Magic
These two women (Regina and Clare-Hope) worked their Black Girl Magic in being the ideal team. In one episode, Regina King asserted that the band of brothers in blue has the entire justice system behind them, but, “I only have you.” It was a magical moment as it highlighted the power of the tribe of Black women collaborating in different capacities to right the wrong meted out to our boys and community in general. Although we do not see much of Brenton himself in the series, we know him intimately as he is Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Anton Sterling, and so many others. As we look for solutions within our communities against a milieu of societal ills, what was made clear in this series was that this partnership borne out of passion, brilliance, bravado, and fear, as demonstrated by these two women in their magnificence on screen, is and has always been a potion to save our men and boys while providing hope to our communities.
Nadine L. Leblanc