“Queen Sugar” is an intertwining tale of the estranged Bordelon siblings of Louisiana. Nova (Rutina Wesley), a journalist and vocal black activist, is the core of the family.
Her sister Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), a powerful and sharp-minded businesswoman skillfully managing her husband’s NBA career, moves back home to Louisiana. She joins Nova and their formerly incarcerated younger brother Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe). After a family tragedy, the siblings must unite and run their dying sugar cane farm. These unique individuals begin on a character-developing journey, some looking for redemption, others freedom.
Through the course of two seasons, the Bordelons fight to keep what little it is that they have, struggling to keep their heads above water and retain their moral compass. The season two finale implodes with a nod to the socially relevant controversy of “Interracial Dating.” In this emotional episode, Nova cuts ties with her lover Calvin (Greg Vaughan), a white cop. She tells him she can’t be her full self while in a relationship with him; him being a white cop and her a black activist. At another time, in another place, they may have been perfect for each other.
The show is now on the brink of a juicy season three. The series regulars appeared, stylish and articulate, for a press conference. Dawn-Lyen Gardner (Charley), Rutina Wesley (Nova), and Kofi Siriboe (Ralph Angel) sat in an intimate setting, surrounded by eager press. The hot question all up and down the conference table: Can a black person date and/or marry a nonblack person and still be considered pro-black? Do we as descendants of enslaved Africans lose a piece of ourselves when we enter such couplings? Is embracing someone nonblack also embracing the hate they may stem from?
I have always been of the mind that you can’t help who you love. But I must admit I have always wondered, did my mother, an amazing, strong, very dark-skinned African queen, see the battles she had to wage for even the smallest amount of dignity? Did she see that and intentionally (or subconsciously) seek out my white father in hopes that her children would be lighter and therefore “have it easier”? I vividly remember living in a mostly white neighborhood in the summer and my mother fretting that I might stay in the sun too long and get darker, and then the other children might not play with me. I have many questions, but the one thing I do know is that my mother’s choice didn’t make my life any easier. In many people’s eyes, I’m not white enough or I’m not black enough. But the one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that my mother loves my father and he unequivocally loves her.
The Queen Sugar cast had some amazing and beautiful answers of their own. Kofi Siriboe said: “When I was growing up, my mama said, ‘You better not bring no white girls home!’ That’s my African mother. That’s no attack on her character or white people, but think about it. Let’s be real. She’s not saying, ‘Don’t bring no white girl home.’ She’s saying, ‘Don’t bring the oppressor home.’
“She’s saying, ‘Don’t bring the people who shamed me and disrespected me home.’ That’s not an attack on white people. Black is not a color. White is not a color. We’re human. We have melanin. Some people don’t. White is a culture. Black is a culture. ‘Don’t bring that culture home that doesn’t respect my culture.’ I understand.
“Until we bring it to the forefront, people are going to feel like they have to play these little games. The truth is, no matter what color you are, you know it. You’ve seen somebody of another race and thought that person was beautiful because they are. Love is love is love and human is human is human.”
Rutina Wesley followed up with: “That’s where I’d love to be a fly on the wall with a couple that is like that, and just listen to what they talk about when they come home, and how a black woman can be supported by her partner, whether he’s white, other or whatever he is, to feel like she’s seen.
“I don’t think it’s always possible, but I know people who are doing it and people who are thriving in relationships like that. All you need is support, love, and to feel seen for you to fly, and I think that with Nova, not that Calvin wasn’t supporting her, I just don’t think he knew how. Maybe she also never asked for that support.”
Lastly, Dawn-Lyen Gardner shared her thoughts from a biracial point of view saying: “I grew up with a black father and nonblack mother. She’s Chinese. She grew up in a black neighborhood. She never claimed blackness, never appropriated. In her immigrant self, she was outside of the black experience, but she saw the injustice of it. It was deeply felt for her. She would enter debate and speech competitions, talking about civil rights, and she would win them.
“For me, part of it is that, if you have the ability to empathize and to completely acknowledge race, trauma, the reality of the limits of your understanding and the respect for that, and you create space for another person to be seen and whole, it’s hard to label that as bad.”
Queen Sugar is definitely a bold show, touching on topics others wouldn’t poke from ten feet away. But did anyone expect anything less of Ava DuVernay? If you’re not afraid of some real talk and are looking for an enthralling drama, be sure to tune in for season three of Queen Sugar; I know I will.