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20 Reasons To Watch ‘Love & Basketball’ 20 Years Later

"'Love & Basketball' set the tone for my career. I think the first thing you come out with is so important, because it says a lot about who you are."—Gina Prince-Bythewood

Culture & Entertainment

While I knew in the back of my mind that the classic—not just "Black classic" either—movie Love & Basketball was celebrating its (can you believe it?!) 20th anniversary this year, I do want to extend a personal apology to the film's writer and director, the totally bomb creator Gina Prince-Bythewood. The actual release date crept up on me (it was April 16). Still, the movie continues to be "sentimentally significant" enough that the xoTeam still wanted to make sure that it got some love from us before the month ends.

The nostalgia of the film alone served as my motivation to want to pen this, but what really made me want to get it out even more was due to the article, "Black Women's Stories Are the Hardest to Get Made: The Gina Prince-Bythewood Interview". In it, Gina talks about how Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Films produced the movie, how it was Sanaa Lathan's first leading role (I also think it's cool that Regina Hall played the big sister Lena, and she and Sanaa ended up acting together later in The Best Man). With a $15 million budget, Love & Basketball went on to make $27 million at the box office. To this day, it continues to prove that there is a real market for Black filmmakers who tell everyday Black stories that are relevant and oh so very necessary to—everyone.

Personally, I don't think I know one Black person who hasn't seen Love & Basketball at least 10 times at this point. But in honor of a movie that continues to make an impact, for so many reasons and on so many levels, even now, let's review 20 things about why this movie is always going to be worth checking out…a few more times (and then a few times after that).

FIRST QUARTER

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1. How cute were Kyla Pratt and Glenndon Chatman as Little Monica Wright and Little Quincy McCall, y'all? To put time into perspective, Kyla and Glenndon are both now 33. If that doesn't make you sit and think about how fast time flies by, I don't know what will.

2. I dig how thorough Gina was in her writing, right down to finding a "role" for Sanaa's real-life face scar. Although in the movie, the explanation is that it came from Monica showing Quincy her skills on the basketball court, Sanaa said that she actually got the scar from something that went down between her, an oven and some Play-Doh when she was a kid.

3. To this day, Debbie Morgan (who played Quincy's mom, Nona) is still one of the prettiest women to me. And Alfre Woodard (who played Monica's mom, Camille) is definitely one of the best actors of our time. I thought it was dope how they were both Black active mothers who, in many ways, couldn't be more different. I also liked how a commonality that they had is they were both relatively affluent. Black people are multi-layered. Gina has a way of depicting that well.

4. Dennis Haysbert as Zeke McCall. He was a jerk, but with that height, skin tone and voice? He was a sexy jerk. He also loved his son. Many Black men do.

5. It's hard to miss how…combative Monica and Quincy were, even as children.

I don't know about y'all but, to me, I didn't pick up that it was because of that toxic mindset of "Boys hit you because they like you." If anything, I think that "young conflict" happens when big-people-feelings come along before someone is wise or mature enough to have them (which could be quite the argument for why young people shouldn't even focus on having a boyfriend or a girlfriend; just learning more about themselves).

It's interesting, the kind of "roles" that Quincy thought should be played out in relationships at such a young age, like Monica needing to ride on the back of his bike. Hmph. It's also interesting how his stubborn perspective on what a girlfriend "should do" ended up playing out later (more on that in a bit).

SECOND QUARTER

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1. Monica and her mother have a complicated relationship. I get that Monica's mom has walls up because she feels like Monica doesn't respect her (remember when Monica said, "Why? Because I'd rather wear a jersey than an apron?"). Still, a part of me also wonders if Monica's mom is mad jealous because Monica takes risks and because she puts herself first. I also wonder if Monica's mom might feel like she has to compete a bit when it comes to the bond that Monica has with her dad. Families are complicated, y'all.

2. Gabrielle Union's character Shawnee and her fast butt. Hmph. Out here talking about licking sweat off of ninja's asses (in high school) and throwing jabs at Monica every chance she got. Every time I watch the movie, I think back to a girl I grew up with who acted just like Shawnee. They both were mean girls from the pits of hell (Gabrielle actually addressed that she knew that she used to be a meanie herself. You can read more about that here). If there is anyone who I wonder about in regards to what the heck she is doing with her life, 20 years from now, it's Shawnee. I mean, remember, she was the chick who, as Monica put it, while riding with Quincy after a game, "[Shawnee's] sending her coochie through the mail." (That continues to be one of the more memorable lines to me.) We've got OnlyFans now. I'm just sayin'.

3. As Monica and Quincy continued to grow and their relationship continued to evolve, I adore how they had a way of challenging and comforting each other.

Quincy would call Monica out on her stank attitude on the court (and sometimes off of it, if we're gonna be real) while Monica literally provided him with a place to lay his head when he couldn't sleep due to his parents' incessant late night arguments. A solid foundation was being laid, perhaps without them even knowing it, very early on.

4. The dance. Let me back up—the music and the dance...and what followed later that evening. "Making Love in the Rain" (Herb Alpert, Lisa Keith, Janet Jackson) played while Monica was getting ready for the dance. RIP to Johnny Kemp who had his song, "Just Got Paid" featured at the dance itself, along with the Zapp & Roger (also RIP Roger and Larry Troutman) slow jam classic, "I Wanna Be Your Man". Geeze so much happened up in that dance. Boris Kodjoe's character was Monica's date (do Boris or Sanaa ever age? I recently watched Boris in TLC's "Red Light Special" music video and asked myself that). Shawnee got some more shots in (like talking about Monica's "Nike dress"). Monica reminded Quincy that her date to the dance wasn't her basketball Spalding. But, by far, my favorite part was the GIF you're looking at. Sometimes eyes say more than words ever do.

5. And that eye contact ultimately led Monica giving her virginity to Quincy (did she always keep her bedroom door locked or what? Quincy sure was in that room a lot) with the help of another jam, "This Woman's Work" by Maxwell. If anyone recalls the first time when they had sex (especially if it was with your first love), you can vouch for that being a pretty realistic scene too (shout-out to Quincy using a condom). I'll leave that right there.

THIRD QUARTER

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1. All these women hatin' on our girl Monica. Next up—Sidra's (one of Monica's teammates, played by Erika Ringor) hatin' tail. The thing that I really liked about Monica's college years is she was really figuring out her own voice and desires on another level. The thing that was difficult-yet-necessary to watch was Quincy realizing that parents are just people and his father was a man, not a god. Gina also did a wonderful job of revealing how men emotionally suffer; how it can have a domino effect on so many areas of their life when it's not properly addressed.

2. I'm pretty sure that another super memorable scene for a lot of us is when Monica and Quincy played strip basketball in his dorm room (with Guy's song, "I Like" playing). A part of the reason why I smile whenever I see this, I think about how fine Omar Epps was during that era; anyone who went to college with me knows that we had a guy on the yard who looked a lot like Quincy. A LOT (whew!). Anyway, did anyone peep the foreshadowing in the movie when, after the game, Monica said, "I won" and Quincy immediately said, "I wanted you to"? We'll pick back up on that in the fourth quarter.

3. I'm not sure how many think pieces have been done on how Quincy was emotionally stunted in some ways. When he and Monica were kids, he had semi-chauvinistic ideas of what girls should and should do and, in college, not much had changed. Remember how passive-aggressive-aggressive he was when he wanted Monica to stay out past her curfew once he found out his father cheated and lied (and lied and cheated)? Or how he had the nerve to invite her to go to Burger King with him and Monica Calhoun's character but then, later that night, had the balls to say to Monica, "If basketball is all you care about, why you bonin' me? Why don't you bone Dick Vitale?"

Y'all, toxic masculinity is not masculinity itself. Men are not created to think or act like women. Toxic masculinity is when a man doesn't understand his purpose as a man, a woman's purpose as a woman and how those differences are designed to balance one another. Quincy, in this "quarter", in many ways, was toxic..because he was in unresolved pain.

4. In fact, one more example of Quincy's toxicity was skipping out on Monica's game, showing up at an afterparty (drunk) and then trying to make her feel guilty for not wanting to have sex with him. Interesting how he struggled with celebrating her if he wasn't "the man", huh? Pretty sure he learned that from his home life. (Hmm.)

5. This leads me to another point. Remember how, when Quincy went to talk to his mom about his dad and Nona showed him those pictures that she got from a private detective of his dad with another woman. As someone who is a child of divorce who also got TMI from ALL of my parents, if you're a mom or dad who's reading this, that's NEVER a good idea. Children, as they are old enough to handle it, should know the truth, but not if it's being used as a weapon. You have no idea how that can scar us—well into our adult years.

FOURTH QUARTER

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1. A wise person once said, "Karma has no menu. You get served what you deserve." Call me petty if you want, but I did enjoy how life came full circle for Monica and Sidra when Monica beat Sidra in that championship game in Spain. I also like that they were able to come to some real peace. I think that prepared Monica for some other "healing moments" that came up in the final quarter of the movie.

2. Who didn't see a mile away that Tyra Banks' character, Kyra was the absolute worst match for Quincy (remember when she went out of her way to hold her ring finger out at the hospital or how she "we'd" Monica as Monica was leaving?). Ugh. Sometimes it's the wrong one who shows you who the right one truly is. I read between the lines when Quincy told Monica that he called her when she won All-American and when Magic Johnson retired.

Time and distance don't change love. People do.

3. All things work together. For me, a hard scene to watch was between Monica and her mom. Oh, but how necessary was that? I personally think that a lot of Monica's uber-defensiveness was because she and her mother were always on eggshells with one another. Before Monica and Quincy could have a real conversation, she needed to with Camille first (although when Camille said she had to "put her dreams on hold" to have her kids, I do wonder how Monica processed that). It's a reminder that a lot of us could stand to heal from our childhoods before trying to build a lasting relationship with someone else.

4. Case in point. Remember when Camille said to Monica, "You know Monica, something that always drove me crazy about you, and I have to admit, it made me jealous, but I always admired was the fight in you…remember when I said Quincy could do better? I was talking about you." Because Monica and her mom had started the process of forgiving each other and some walls were able to come down, Monica could really hear her mom and that, I believe, played a significant role in her "heart game" with Quincy.

5. And then there's the final scenes of Monica and Quincy; of Monica playing for Quincy's heart and—here comes the result of the foreshadowing from the Second Quarter—Quincy wanting her to. There were some good one-liners in the last 15 minutes, wasn't there?

Monica: "I've loved you since I was 11 and it won't go away."

Monica: "I'll play you [for your] heart."

Quincy (after Monica loses): "Double or nothin'."

After it's clear that Quincy indeed did know that he was about to make the biggest mistake of his life by marrying someone else, my favorite scene is at the very end of the film, when he and Monica's daughter watched Monica play at her basketball game. Love & Basketball, indeed.

The best stories are relatable ones. And, I believe that Love & Basketball will always be a fan favorite because it's not perfect. It's not a fairy tale. It is simply real and full of Black love. And that is to be both adored and commended. So yeah, I felt that it was only right to honor Gina and the movie by recapping 20 reasons why, 20 years later, her brainchild is still celebrated and appreciated. From the script, to the cast, to the soundtrack and everything in between, thanks Gina. The movie and you are still dope…20 years later.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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