by G. Brown
Martin Luther King gave us the wisdom that “the ultimate measure of a man…is where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Comedian, actor, producer, writer Martin Lawrence hopefully knows that quote especially since he’s lived through some controversy a time or two. He was sued by former co-star Tischa Campbell on his wildly popular 90’s sitcom “The Martin Lawrence Show” for sexual harassment; A nasty divorce from then wife Patricia Southhall who described the comedian in an affidavit as “abusive” and “…can’t be trusted alone” with their 16-month daughter because of his drug abuse; He was arrested for punching a patron at a nightclub; And then there was that bizarre meltdown that ended with Lawrence running down the middle of L.A.’s Ventura Boulevard screaming, “They’re trying to kill me!” That last escapade earned him a trip to the hospital for what else–“exhaustion and dehydration”(You know, like Kanye West just recently suffered.)We’ll come back to that a little later in this story.
I recently stumbled across an old interview with Lawrence circa 1994 or 95 from the “Arsenio Hall Show”. This wasn’t your typical Hollywood balling interview with Lawrence talking about his “latest project”, but instead the comedian steered the conversation towards some serious issues.
Lawrence talked a lot about his Mom and the wisdom she often spoke into his life like when the media lashed out at him calling him a “clown” and a “buffoon”. Lawrence said his mom reminded him to walk in the purpose of his namesakes. His first name was after Martin Luther King and his middle name Fitzgerald was after former president John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK)–he says, “two good people who tried to bring this world together“. And that Lawrence thought was his mission as well, but instead of politics and activism, Lawrence’s call was joy and laughter.
She told him to remember who he was…a comedian–it was his job to make people laugh. Then Lawrence said his mother reminded him “to think of the times you’re living in You can’t even drive down the street. Racism still exists, we’ve got to admit it.People we don’t speak to each other …we’re pulling guns and taking each other. [sic] This world ain’t supposed to be like this. This is all wrong. We’re fighting for the wrong things. Everybody measures success in having a big car. Having a big house but success is measured in your happiness. Because if you ain’t happy, it don’t mean a damn thing.” The crowd went wild applauding. Lawrence added that his mom also helped him to remember “if we get back to why we’re really here—man ain’t God, God is God…So to all the people that would call me a clown, buffoonish, say I’m silly, who is this kid?’ I walk with the faith because Momma told me so, I’m Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence.
Then Lawrence talked about being Black in Hollywood and remembering when he was younger saying, “back in the old Hollywood, I saw Black people in movie theaters damn near every week“. Martin recalled movies like “Let’s Do It Again” with Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier heading up an all Black cast. Lawrence noted in Hollywood of the ’90s, there were fewer movies about Black people, starring Black people that appealed to Black people. He said, “now we have to wait for Denzel to do a movie or Wesley Snipes like they’re the only ones out here. We’ve got to put our heads together to do projects to give the consumer, people what they want. And stop letting the government tell us what to give them.” Lawrence said Black stars should pool their capitol to fund their own projects, make their own movies instead of having to ask Hollywood powers that be to give Blacks the money for it.
Then Lawrence said something that probably ruffled a lot of feathers–he defended signer Michael Jackson who was accused of sexually molesting young children. Lawrence said Jackson had been built into this mega star and kids were told to look up to him. Then, the same media and ‘powers that be’ tried to destroy him by deciding Jackson was guilty before he even went to trial.
The following year after Lawrence’s eye-opening interview, his show was cancelled by FOX. Then a year or two later, the episodic meltdown of Lawrence reportedly running through the streets screaming “they’re going to kill me” happened. Many later speculated that Lawrence said all the things that Hollywood bosses didn’t want said…like Black empowerment, Black unity, how Hollywood destroys people’s careers and reputations, harmony and serving God.
It’s interesting how many times we’ve since seen that pattern repeated. Michael Jackson takes on Sony for control of his own music, he’s labeled a pedophile and dies mysteriously. Prince takes on Warner Brothers Records and one minute he’s healthy, the next minute he mysteriously dies. Lauren Hill tries to speak truth and is thrown in jail for dodging taxes with the IRS. Bill Cosby dares to reportedly talk about buying NBC and now his career has been shredded, his reputation ruined and he’s on trial for drugging and raping women. Katt Williams calls out the so call industry powers that be–or the Illuminati as they’re known—and all of a sudden he’s being arrested repeatedly and his reputation dismantled as each arrest is covered by mainstream, corporate media.
Lawrence survived his ordeal to bounce back with big movies like “Bad Boys” and “Life”. But his biggest hit was the franchise films “Big Momma’s House” which required Lawrence to don a dress, wig and lipstick to play the role of a woman which many see as a trend of emasculating Black men who want to succeed in Hollywood.
The interview might be two decades or more old, but the truth of it hasn’t changed. Blacks in Hollywood are still fighting for more acting opportunities, working to come up with the money to back their own projects and support one another. And as we’ve seen recently with Kanye’s meltdown, Blacks are still fighting foes that most fans can’t imagine.
Here’s that entire interview. Take the time to watch for a seldom seen serious side of one of Hollywood’s funny men.