by Joelle Monique | AV Club
They murdered Emmett Till, and it hurts all over again. Directed by Misha Green, “Jig-A-Bobo” sees Tic, Leti, Diana, and Ruby discover the impact that the murder of a 14-year-old child leaves on a community. The beautifully written and hauntingly gory tale reaffirms the rules of magic, as most of the crew’s secret are brought to light.
The details of the day, the unrelenting heat of the summer, the smell of his rotting corpse wafting in the air, the reality of the brutality of his murderers causes mourners to become physically ill as they left the church. Everything, every aspect of that reality, feels like horror gripping the fabric of reality and dancing gleefully. As one woman proclaims, the only thing left to do is pray. For Diana, who believes a sheriff murdered her father, who has not seen or heard from her mother in days, who recently lost her best friend, the day is unspeakably cruel. Tic proclaims this reality as a “rite of passage” for every Black American child. He speaks, not of murder, but the reality that the life of a Black child, and anyone who resembles that Black child, means nothing to the country in which they reside. Cops can barge into a home unannounced, steal your life for no reason, and business will continue as usual. Much worse, the system that should protect will do everything in its power to make loved ones, acquaintances, and other brown folks responsible for that theft of life before taking ownership of its responsibilities. Learning this lesson breaks the heart and fractures the mind. Home should be a safe place. Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” takes on an entirely new meaning.
The police discover Diana after she’d run off from the funeral. Her hurt manifests as rage when she hears the sound of children laughing. A simple joy her best friend won’t ever have again. For a while, I wondered why Emmett Till. Foolishly, I hoped magic would protect him, but this show has never shied away from the reality of being Black in America. Poor Emmett would still be kidnapped, beaten, and eventually murdered.
Misha Green and the team choose to point their lens at an oft-overlooked reality, of those left behind after a hate crime. How does a community process violence done to a child? How do friends and family cope? How are they treated by their community? On the South Side of Chicago, stores closed and an entire city stood vigil to mourn a lost child. The police bum-rushed Emmett’s best friend, harassed her, terrorized her, and spit on her for very little information. Then they delighted in her terror. Home should be a safe place.
When Diana finally makes it home, Montrose and his anger await her. He chastises her for running off and bangs on the bathroom door after her outburst. Her rage meeting his rage doesn’t allow for much communication. He tries to explain what he wishes he had known when white folks took his friend’s life. The initial pain is only the beginning. The indignities will keep coming in the form of Rastus on the Cream Of Wheat box, or a drawing of a pickaninny playing with a pristine white girl on a book cover. Reminders of Diana’s second class citizenship follow her everywhere. No safe place exists. Two caricatures of dirty Black girls follow her to the train, to Leti’s house, and the home of the Police Chief.
Anger drives Diana right into harm’s way. Watching the cops stand over her and demand she answer questions about her mother was horrifying. Diana understands that how she answers could mean the end of her mother or the end of her own life. But it’s thrilling to watch her spit on the cops who terrorized her, to hear her name her mother with conviction, to watch her bravely march into whatever reality might be waiting for her. As she faces society’s racist, minimalist of an 11-year-old Black girl, Naomi Wadler’s “March For Our Lives speech plays over the scene.
“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news.I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential. I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they mattered. To say their names. Because I can. Because I was asked to be. For far too long, these names—these Black girls and women have been just numbers. I am here to say NEVER AGAIN for those girls too. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls too. People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. That’s not true. My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what’s right and wrong. We also know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol and we know that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.”
Diana tries to beat the demon girls out of existence with a lead pipe, but when Montrose appears, he can’t see what’s causing her pain. His understanding of her hurt and pain doesn’t grant him access to her view on the world, or how it hurts her. To be so loved and still so alone in her pain must be devastating for Diana.
Meanwhile, Tic’s kept Christina waiting in a mausoleum, and she’s none too happy about the inconvenience. But when Tic reveals the key she’s been looking for, her attitude changes. The distant relatives decide to make magic. This isn’t hocus pocus; this series takes the rules and boundaries of spellcasting seriously, as seen with the Orisha in episode three. According to Christina, the materials needed to cast a spell are three-fold: energy, intention, and a body. “That’s how you upset the balance of nature without a disaster,” she explains. I think of the ways laws support unjust actions, the bodies that pay the cost of those actions, and who profits. A protection spell requires blood or piss instead of chalk to stick. Only hard work and sacrifice bring about safety.
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