Fifty years ago, on Feb. 1, four black college students sat down at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. The “Greensboro Four,” along with friends and supporters, returned to the counter every day for six months until the lunch counter was desegregated.
“We feel that this place here and this entire building is holy ground,” says Skip Alston, Guilford County commissioner. “What took place here on Feb. 1, 1960, was very holy and ordained.”
As Black movies go, Preacher’s Kid is a refreshing change of pace — a contemporary parable that presents a balanced portrayal of African American manhood and an authentic view of Black church life that confronts the stereotypes head-on.
The movie begins with a church scene — a pastor who can whoop, church mothers wearing elaborate hats, and a gospel choir that can sho’nuff saaang.
The lead character is the pastor’s daughter, a soloist in the church choir whose voice is soulfully angelic. Only problem is that the good girl likes devilish guys. So she spurns the good guy on the way to finding her dream love. Or so she thought.
Church girl meets bad boy, bad boy physically abuses church girl and church girl nearly loses her soul. Bad boy is, of course, handsome, muscular and dark complexioned. Church girl is, of course, pretty with “good hair” and light skin. And yes, there’s a heavyset Black man dressed as a “big momma” wearing a gray wig who, with left hand on his hip, dangles a gun in his right hand like a chicken leg.
It might sound like a typical Black film or play on the Chitlin’ Circuit, but Preacher’s Kid, written and directed by Hollywood actor and producer, Stan Foster, is actually a refreshing and even inspiring take on the genre.
Foster screened Preacher’s Kid last month at Regent University’s School of Communication and Arts in Virginia Beach. The movie stars LeToya Luckett (Angie), former member of the R&B group Destiny’s Child, and R&B artist Durrell “Tank” Babbs (Devlin).
Preacher’s Kid, which opened in theaters this past weekend, is about a 20-something church girl who grows bored with the routine of worship services and looking after her widowed father. Angie wants to explore the world and follow her dream to be a star, so she runs off and tours with a gospel play. Along the way, she gets severely burned by Devlin. Eventually she comes to her senses, gaining a greater appreciation for what she has at home. It’s the modern female version of the parable of the Prodigal Son.
As the Regent audience yelled, “Lord, don’t do it,” and “Girl, don’t believe him” at the screen, I watched Foster sitting in the front row. He was fixed on the screen, seemingly studying every frame.
“Every time I watch it, I’m thinking about what I could’ve done differently,” Foster told me afterward. “I’m wondering if the audience is catching some flaws.”
Only Foster saw the flaws. The audience loved the film.
Black films tend to follow stereotypical formulas. Foster, who began his unconventional career (he didn’t attend acting or film school) in the 1980s as an actor in the Emmy-winning CBS television drama Tour of Duty, aims to diversify the mix. Preacher’s Kid, actually criticizes the genre’s flaws. Foster consciously rejects stereotypes such as skin color, where, the lighter women are slim and more lady-like than their darker, heavier and sassier sisters. For example, he originally wrote the lead for darker complexioned R&B singers Fantasia Barrino and then fellow American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson, both of whom had to back out. This opened the way for Luckett’s first acting role. She is wonderful at playing a character that is authentic, like the sister who lives next door or your daughter.
As a Black husband and father, I often find it difficult to watch Black films because of the negative ways men are over portrayed — violent, irresponsible, lazy or absent. Preacher’s Kid enabled me to exhale. In the characters of Bishop King (Gregory Alan Williams), Wynton (Sharif Atkins), and Ike (Clifton Powell) there is a balance of well-rounded Black men who are like most of us in the real world — positive, though flawed. And, unlike typical Hollywood love stories, the hero is not the most handsome guy.
“I intentionally didn’t want a pretty boy to be my good guy,” Foster told me. “Instead, I wanted a guy with a pretty heart.”