February is Black History Month: The Green Book movie

By Rosalie Tirella

I watched the movie GREEN BOOK yesterday. It’s a good, educational, engrossing family flick but I, as an Italian American, felt there were way too many goofy, lovable, stupid Italian American characters in the film, most notably one of the main characters: Tony-lip, Don Shirley’s driver for the life-changing concert tour thru the Deep South. Tony couldn’t have been too thick headed – more than a good lug with a quick temper – if he cared for, grew to love, accepted the gayness of Don – and KEPT HIM SAFE. He navigated places like the Alabama and Louisiana of 1962 with a gay, black man – a guinea greaseball, half-n***, to most Southerners. He couldn’t have been that dumb if he did such a great job!

Still, I liked the movie, the somewhat simplified, nostalgic version of reality. The film showed you: back then, in the South, segregation was the norm, lynchings happened, Black sharecropper were slightly free slaves … .Tony and the “Doc” managed to survive the dangerous tour – a tour of courage for pianist Shirley – and become great friends. Friends for life.♥️

The Green Book – a “guide” book for Blacks if traveling through the American South in the 1950s and early ’60s was a kind of underground railroad for African American tourists: places you could eat, rest, play in back then without getting killed. Places where you and yoyr dollars were welcome – often dumps but filled with fellow African Americans who were on vacation, wanted to meet you or hang out in the motel courtyard. A good time – and you got to see your country. The Green Book itself really isn’t shown too often or discussed at great length in the movie; it is treated as it was at the time: a resource. It’s the experiences of the two men that are the heart of the movie. A different hurt in different Southern places – often the capital cities of the South where, you’d think, all those educated, well-off white people would be more hip to the truth. But they weren’t. Don knew that. Tony learned that. Tony felt for Don, had empathy. Plus they just “clicked” as two people often do, becoming real friends. And together they broke through some societal barriers – for the night of the concert at least. Don was trying to doing his part to desegregate the South – like Harry Belefonte – through his music, intelligence and grace.

Every Worcester Public School junior and senior high school student should watch this film in her/his social studies class – with an insightful, sensitive, knowledgable Worcester Public School teacher.

How many of them are Black?