Review of book Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

In the animal kingdom, a powerful predator sniffs, listens, observes, takes his/her stance, and pounces on the weakest animal in the herd.  So, it is with humans.  Predators watch for their opportunities to find the weakest among the human herd.

Grace is a woman who, out of love, has given half her life for the care of her younger sister, Millie, who has Downs Syndrome and will soon be graduating from her special school.  Grace’s parents wanted to institutionalize Millie, but Grace fought to work and provide solely for Millie’s education and other expenses.   Although Grace traveled out of the country for work, she still led a sheltered life because she allowed herself no social or love life other than to take care of her sister.  This denial of life made her a target.

People like Jack Angel can recognize a person who would be weak to his looks and money.  He watches Grace and Millie in public and decides they will be his next victims.   He does the dance isolating them from the rest of the herd and pounces.  Jack could tell that Grace craved physical contact and love, which he held out to her like a last meal.

Jack put tremendous pressure on Grace to marry him after 3 months.   But, what happens when you marry a predator?   The worst horror of all is when the person you love turns out to be a monster.   Especially when the monster comes wrapped in love, money, talent, and beauty—all the things you would want in a future spouse.  But, pull back the wrapping and you have Jack Angel, a predator.

It’s like watching an accident while driving, but you just can’t take your eyes away.  By page 80, I was nauseous because I could see and “hear” the clues and feel the tension when Grace couldn’t.   Nor did she follow her instincts when things weren’t right.  It was hard to put the book down, but I had to keep breaking away to save my own sanity.

B.A. Paris has written an exquisite horror story from which others would do well to read and learn.  I liked Ms. Paris’ writing style in the third person from Grace’s point of view.   I also liked the way she entitled each chapter either PAST or PRESENT so it was easy to keep up with flashbacks.  This was an intense read.

B.A. Paris, Behind Closed Doors, a novel, St. Martin’s Press, 2016

Written by Rosa L. Griffin


Review of Jenifer Lewis’ book The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir

I always saw Jenifer Lewis as the strong, sexy black woman with the deep voice and the street smarts.   I never knew that she could sing and dance as well.  She has appeared in off-Broadway and Broadway stage, television, and movies.   Everyone has probably had a friend they would say is “so crazy”, but fun, until you’re around him or her long enough to see that something is not quite right about them.   Jenifer Lewis has shared her story identifying herself as that “friend”.  One who can turn you on or off in a heartbeat, lift you up or dismiss you.    But, you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with that person.  They only half-realize themselves that something is wrong in their alone moments.

Through Jenifer’s fascinating show-business life, she hobnobbed with the famous and the infamous.   She fought causes like AIDS, civil rights, bipolar, etc.  She was in the front row when President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination.   She drops a lot of names in the book.  The question is:  Who does she not know?   Seems like she knew or has worked with everybody in the business.

As I read the book, I kept saying to myself as I’m sure people she knew also thought—when will she be satisfied with her accomplishments?  How far does she have to go to be content?   But, I found that no matter where and how much she was performing (throwing that leg up to the ceiling), she never felt that she had done enough to become a star.    When she was up during each performance, she had to come down with men and/or drink in order to get to sleep.  Jenifer found that she was addicted to sex and alcohol, and I would say also to performing.

Jenifer eventually found out that she was bipolar.    I have a friend who is bipolar, but my friend is opposite from Jenifer.   He is not outgoing and refuses to get involved with anyone.   He spends his time watching “reality relationship” TV shows (like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer) in which he says constantly that he will never date anyone because he doesn’t want to go through what those people went through.    I can see my friend in Jenifer otherwise.    Especially in his extreme mood swings— my friend is depressed about what he should be happy about and happy about little or nothing.

In the years dealing with the diagnosis, Jenifer was still up and down, but she had a goal to get well once she knew what the problem was.   I liked the book, especially in how she opened herself up to let you know the good and the bad that usually doesn’t come out until after the star has died.   Thank you, Ms. Lewis, for your honesty.

Jenifer Lewis, The Mother of Black Hollywood

Amistad, Imprint of  HarperCollinsPublishers, c 2017

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Did You Know?   U.S. Time Zones

Before the 1800’s, people judged the time of day by the position of the sun, but railroad builders saw that the sun’s position changed depending upon what part of the country you were in—thus time zones were established in the U.S.  “The expansion of transport and communication during the 19th century created a need for a unified time-keeping system.”

The program covered railway travel of every kind from city subways to mountain rail lines—from the Atlantic to the Pacific through 4 time zones.   A 3,000-mile journey that was traveled in 6 months, now takes only 5 days.

The program showed how the building of train routes affected everything:  the traveling “towns” which followed the trains, mining, the contributions of the Chinese, the harm to the lifestyle of Native Americans, the effect of the outcome of the Civil War, etc.  In 1846 Truckee, California, there was a winter so bad that the travelers (Donner and Reed wagons) through their mishaps and mistakes (starting late, taking a shortcut, etc.) had to resort to cannibalism to make it.

“Tough Trains:  The Transcontinental Railroad, USA”, traveler Zay Harding, Globetrekker,, (2017), WETA UK

Evan Andrews, “10 Things That You Should Know About the Donner Party”, April 14, 2016,

“Why Do We Have Time Zones?”,

“Railroads Create the First Time Zones”, November 18, 1883,

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of Movie The Shape of Water


Guillermo del Toro has gone to the heights of fantasy and love in his new movie, The Shape of Water.  He directed and co-wrote the script for this adult Grimm’s fairy-tale-like story of interspecies love.   There is full frontal female nudity and violence.   The special effects are wonderful.   The movie begins with everything in Elisa’s room floating underwater with her napping on the sofa as if she lives underwater.   However, this was more a movie about bullying.

Sally Hawkins plays as Elisa Esposito who is one of many cleaners of the military labs at a base in 1962 Baltimore.   She delivers a heartfelt performance of a mute woman whose signing can’t always be interpreted to her satisfaction.   Elisa starts a relationship with the creature simply by being kind.  She imagines the Amphibian Man could exist in a world where all creatures are accepted.  Also, I did notice that none of the lab cleaners at the military base wore gloves in what could have been very contagious circumstances—blood, pus, etc.  But, there is a secret about Elisa that I will leave to you to find out by watching the movie.

Doug Jones plays the Amphibian Man, who, like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, gets a bad rap for being himself.   The creature was where he was supposed to be.   It’s not an attack when you’re in his turf.  However, his novelty would be worth millions in the right hands.   The very sexy and majestic creature is considered a monster especially when he gets mad, rips out a throat, and tears off a few fingers where before he was only trying to communicate with the humans.  Amphibian Man is bullied and tortured daily by Strickland.   His only fault was to get captured in South America.

Octavia Spencer plays Zelda Fuller, a cleaner of the labs who interprets Elisa’s sign language for others.   Zelda didn’t bully anyone.   However, her husband (played by Martin Roach) did not go to see who was at the door at night nor did he defend her in any way when she was attacked in her own home by Strickland.

Richard Jenkins (one of my favorite actors who adds to any movie in a supporting role) plays Giles, the unstereotypical gay man, talented in art, but who probably lost a cushy job because of his sexual persuasion.   Giles is looking for love and attracted to young men who are not attracted to him (Morgan Kelly as the Pie Guy).   Giles was bullied twice.  First, by being made to produce art work unpaid in hopes of getting his job back, so he was afraid to help Elisa with the Amphibian Man.  And, secondly, even mute Elisa, his best friend, grabbed Giles by the collar in frustration of his not getting the full impact of her signed argument.

Michael Shannon plays Richard Strickland—a man in a prison of his own making and the biggest bully of all.  He is the newly appointed military project head who even put the security chief (David Hewlett as Fleming) out of his own office.   Even in sex with his wife (Lauren Lee Smith), he is vicious and doesn’t like the sounds that women make during sex.   I believe he doesn’t like women at all, and he is the kind of guy who is unlikely to have friends.   He has worked toward the status quo of getting a job in which he can advance, getting married, owning a home, and having children (who seem to be invisible to him).  Strickland caused the most violence in the movie using cattle prods, guns, words, unsolicited touching, etc.  He was truly an “Ugly American”, the real monster.  His cruelty almost caused me projectile vomiting.  You see the horror but you can’t stop looking at it.  Strickland must have had a troubling childhood.

Michael Stuhlbarg plays as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler.  He gives a great performance as a man who is a humanitarian scientist torn in loyalty to both the Russian (Nigel Bennett as Milhalkov) and American (Nick Searcy as General Hoyt) governments who both let him down with their fatal decision to carve up the creature.   Hoffstetler is a good man with the best of intentions.

Cleaner Yolanda (played by Allegra Fulton) was always in a hurry to get home every morning, as the cleaners cleaned at night.

The secretary for the security department, Sally (played by Wendy Lyon) had a great many facial reactions to her new temporary supervisor’s actions.

Marvin Kaye was funny as the Russian bodyguard who ate wherever he went.

John Kapelos was great as the enthusiastic theater owner, Mr. Arzoumanian.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Filmmakers’ Presentation

On Saturday, December 2, 2017, from 1-3 p.m., the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland, Inc., ( hosted the panel discussion “Lights, Camera, Action:  Journey from Book to the Big Screen.”  The event was held at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 4330 Edmondson Avenue, Baltimore, MD  21229.

The panelists were:

  • Odessa Rose, author of Water in a Broken Glass, and In the Mirror
  • Jamelle Williams-Thomas, filmmaker of the movie Water
  • Devin J. Ricks, filmmaker and mogul
  • Teresa Davis, author and filmmaker
  • Leonard Coleman, filmmaker

The facilitator was Wilma Brockington-Parker, BWG Communications Officer and the author of books:  Cinnamon Girl Blues, Office Politics, and Been There, Done That.    The presentation concluded with a 3-minute pitch from individual BWG author/members, a question-and-answer period, and networking.

Author Odessa Rose uses Baltimore City as the backdrop for her fiction.  She was influenced by her mother, who is an avid reader of horror authors, especially Stephen King.   Odessa received her B.A. in English from Coppin State University and her M.A. in Literature from the University of Maryland at College Park.  She is nearly finished her film, “Water”, being produced by Jamelle Williams-Thomas.  On her website,, tickets can be purchased for the March 1, 2018 premiere of her movie, “Water”.   See also,, and

Jamelle Williams-Thomas is a D.C. filmmaker and Digital Engagement Specialist.  She specializes in developing winning social engagement and marketing strategies through channels like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.   As a child, she would create characters and make stories from anything.  Jamelle studied Film Production at Chapman University in Orange, CA where she met screenwriters Mildred Lewis and Jeff McCracken.  They challenged her to rise above the adversity of being one of the only Black female film students at a predominately white institution.  Right out of college she founded her production company, Lodge Street Films.   As a filmmaker, she manages full-scale film production services for Lodge Street Films and strongly advocates for the representation of all facets of the Black diaspora in film and media.  Lodge Street also strives to give those stories a place in the light.  Jamelle has served in several positions in all aspects of film and video projects including production management, location scouting, writing, editing, and directing.   She has experience in fictional shorts, features, and corporate videos.   Her previous work includes Transplant and trailers for Odessa Rose’s critically acclaimed novel, In the Mirror.   George Bernard Shaw is the person from whom Jamelle gets her favorite quote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life’s about creating yourself.”   https: //, and

Devin J. Ricks, a filmmaker, is also a videographer, director, editor, producer, and radio/media personality.  He creates music videos, commercials, weddings, tutorials, and stage plays as well.   Devin graduated from Morgan State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Broadcasting and Integrated Media/Video Production.  He has released over 70 episodes of his online reality show called “Dev TV”, has 3 films under his belt and is working on more to add to his Love Cycle Saga.  Devin also has a clothing line titled “No More Apologies” under his brand The DJR Experience.  The young mogul is on the rise and ready to inspire, motivate, and further our humanities.  He can be contacted at  His website is

Teresa Davis, author and filmmaker is a Baltimore native with five self-published novels to her credit:  Ghetto Misery Uncut, Ghetto Misery Uncut: Street Land Lords Part 2, and co-authored Pistol Whipped, Hysterectomy of the Hood and Dope Dick.  As a filmmaker, Teresa’s work has earned her the 2014 Titan Arts Awards Best Film Director.  She is also the Titan Arts Awards 2015 two-time nominee for Best Film Director of the DMV and Best Film of the Year.  Her films include Laced, which stars Love and Hip Hop’s Momma (Nancy) Jones, The Last Laugh, and the anticipated movie Perkaset.  Teresa also directed and co-filmed the documentary No Hands King, Lor Dev Story, which won first place at the 2017 Born in Baltimore Film Festival Audience Choice and is also up for Best Film of the Year 2017 Titan Arts Awards.  Teresa was also featured in the magazine, Courbe’e Revolucio’n.

Leonard Coleman, videographer, rapper, and actor partnered with Teresa Davis five years ago and has worked on such projects as Laced, a film starring Momma Jones of Love and Hip Hop, The Last Laugh, and Teresa Davis’ anticipated film, Perkaset, which was inspired by Leonard.  Teresa wrote the film after Leonard developed cellulitis of the skin, which left him wheelchair-bound for a year.  In an effort to lift Leonard’s spirits, Teresa created the character “Little Head” for Leonard, who did a lot of the scenes from his  wheelchair.  He also filmed from that very same wheelchair.  Since regaining his ability to walk, Leonard has worked on other great projects, such as Ghetto Misery Uncut and the documentary No Hands King, Lor Dev Story, which was the Born in Baltimore Film Festival Audience Choice Best Film of the Year 2017.

Rosa L. Griffin





Music from the Magnificent Seven

A few days ago, I heard the soundtrack of the 1960 version of the movie, The Magnificent Seven, on WBJC (91.5), the local Baltimore, MD classical radio station. The music was composed by Elmer Bernstein. Just listening to the composition on the radio brought back the individual scenes in the movie. This old-West style movie was the re-make of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese movie, Seven Samurai, and was nominated for an Oscar. The music was in parts humorous, adventurous, and tender, with Mexican beats.
The 1960 version was directed by John Sturges, and starred Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Horst Buchholz, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn (heroes), and Eli Wallach (villain). The heroes were trying to protect a village of Mexican farmers who couldn’t afford to hire them.
The newest version/remake was made in 2016 and directed by Antoine Fuqua. This version starred Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcio-Ruffo, and Martin Sensmeier. The villain was Peter Sarsgaard, who portrayed a robber baron and gold-mining tycoon who wanted to own all the land in the area. The music was composed by James Horner and Simon Franglen.

I liked each version of this movie–the hero theme, the actors–the fact that it was a western started it off right.   I like westerns.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin


V O T I N G !

The 2018 Maryland local elections for governor and other officials takes place as follows:

  • Primary Election, Tuesday, June 26 (Early voting, Thursday, June 14 through June 21)
  • General Election, Tuesday, November 6 (Early voting, October 25 through November 1

For a voter registration application, visit

Source:  Northwest Voice, November 2017 (A free publication serving Owings Mills, Pikesville, Randallstown, Reisterstown, Windsor Mill, Woodlawn and Catonsville), P.O. Box 47266, Windsor Mill, MD 21244, Phone:  410-508-1424, Web:, Email:, Publisher:  Kenneth C. Brown,

If you want to know who is running for office, visit this link:

Submitted by Rosa L. Griffin

Why I don’t hate commercials—two

“Now, coffee is a sin all by itself.  It has to be a sin to smell so sexual everywhere I go that I have to have it whether at McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts.  I blame my father for introducing me to coffee that was literally whitened by milk!” (Quote from my essay on Cravings of the Junk Food Kind, December 19, 2015)

Imagine you are a woman who knocks on a strange man’s door in your apartment building and asks him for coffee because you have run out.  He gives you Nescafe Gold Blend.   Then, in another commercial for that brand, she meets him at the party of a friend.   Eventually, in another commercial in the series, he drops by her job to give her something, probably more Nescafe (Taster’s Choice in the United States).

Creepy, you say?    Not in this serial commercial.   They eventually start dating.   Look how  coffee brought them together.    But, in real life, I would definitely be hesitant about knocking on his door.    That leads me to believe that she had seen him in the building before and knew exactly in which apartment he lived.   That could be creepy from either side.   But, this commercial serial was tantalizing at the least and I’m sure I bought some Taster’s Choice back then.

The actors were Sharon Maughan (episodes of TV series MacGyver, Inspector Morse, Murder She Wrote, etc.) and Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Killer TV show, Percy Jackson:  Sea of Monsters movie, etc.).   The “couple” was British and the commercials ran in England in 1987 and 1993.   They changed their accents for American television in 1990.   Each commercial ended on a cliffhanger, and resumed from where it left off the last time.   The commercials were “sophisticated and relatable” and sexy.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin





Review of Purple Hibiscus–A book by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Ms. Adichie’s book, Purple Hibiscus, was painful for me because I feel for those who are abused in any way.   However, I found the look into Nigerian culture extremely enlightening.   This book centers on the use of religion to “civilize” a people, in this case a Nigerian people.   The important themes are love, sin, perfection, money/wealth, appearance, tribal ways/culture, poverty, purple hibiscus, and religion.


“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.”  (I Corinthians 13:4-5)

Love is not a word I use for inanimate objects, but toward human beings and even pets.    But, if 15-year-old Kambili’s father believed in love, he could not have treated his wife and children the way he did.   Nigerian culture allowed a husband to go out and get a younger wife since Kambili’s mother only produced two children for him.  But, why would a man pound his recently pregnant wife against a door in the children’s hearing 19 times until she was unconscious and miscarried?    This made no sense since the mother had been trying to have a third child for six years.


Should a priest have burned the hands of a young male ward (the father) with scalding water when he was caught masturbating?  Where were the forgiveness and the love?   Where was the priest’s punishment for not showing patience with his young ward?  The New Testament Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23-24).  Either the Catholic religion in her book is based on Jesus Christ’s example of love or the Old Testament “eye for an eye”.   Which is it?


Who is perfect and who is the judge of perfection?   When 15-year-old Kambili didn’t make number one among the students in her class this year as she did the year before, she expected to be physically punished.    Her brother when younger had his pinky finger mangled by his father for the same sin.   But, her father, I believe, took it out this time on her mother, who was constantly being mentally and physically abused because she wasn’t perfect in her husband’s eyes.    Some might say that the father was frustrated and fearful about his publication being threatened or the coming overthrow of the government, but that was recent.   So, his wife was supposed to be grateful and just keep accepting the abusive situation so that she and her children would not put out on the street by a second wife.

Jesus Christ said to his disciples that “you will do even greater things than I have done” (John 14:12-14).   He didn’t suggest that they do worse things.   The father in the novel decided what made anyone he met perfect.   Even the children’s finger nails were cut to a chafing shortness.


The father had two businesses—a political newspaper and a factory that made consumable products like juice, wafers, etc.—which made him wealthy.   He had company cars and his personal cars.   So, he gave money away just to show how Christian he was.    He took care of the community of people at his vacation retreat every Christmas, gave money to groups of vendors without buying anything, to some beggars, and rescued his workers from political retribution.   What he refused to do was to help anyone who did not worship as a Catholic as he did.


Kambili’s father was dark like her paternal grandfather, but there’s where the resemblance ended economically, spiritually, etc.     Kambili had long hair but her cousin and aunt had close-cut hair.    Skin coloring, hair length and texture, body size and shape also made a difference in her culture just as it does in most cultures.

Tribal ways

Should the father have nearly kicked his daughter Kambili to death because she wanted to keep a home-made picture of her tribal paternal grandfather who she was only allowed to meet twice before her grandfather’s death?    Although Kambili’s father was raised tribally, he ran away to the Catholic Church as soon as he could as a child and hated tribal language that her grandfather spoke.   Kambili’s father spoke as if he were British at her school.

Generally, Catholic priests disdained Nigerian ways.   However, a young Nigerian priest was adept at combining Catholic beliefs like Jesus Christ’s love with his singing of tribal songs which Kambili’s father said was the young priest’s confusion.   Kambili wanted to leave with the young Nigerian priest when he was leaving to get his first post in another country, but she was too young for him and he left without her.

Those who still worshipped in the tribal ways were excluded from her father’s philanthropy, including his own paternal father and another elder who grew up with his father.    Kambili’s father regarded his wife’s father as if he “walked on water” because he looked nearly white and also worshipped as a Catholic before his death.


The local college where Kambili’s aunt worked was not kept up and the students rioted several times in protest which didn’t help much.   The community of people who were under Kambili’s father’s care were poor for the most part, and heavily depended on him for the gifts of charity he brought to those who worshipped as Catholic.   When he was elected as community leader, he demanded that all pagan undertones be removed from his title-taking ceremony.   Along the way to their vacation two weeks per year, there were half-naked mad men near the rubbish dumps, some of whom urinated at corners.

Purple Hibiscus

Beautiful red hibiscus plants grew everywhere including in Kambili’s garden outside of her father’s house.   However, one of her aunt’s college co-worker/friends created a hybrid purple hibiscus.   Her aunt gave her a cutting from the purple hibiscus to take home.   The hibiscus was considered a malaria cure.


Kambili and her family had to recite rosaries and other church traditions while at home and when traveling.   But, her cousins had freedom in their family to have an opinion, to watch television, to play outdoors, to not be number one at everything, etc., and they turned out to be mature, respectful and fun.

When Jesus left the earth by death for us sinners, he gave the remaining disciples the task of “doing even greater things in the world than I have done”.   I don’t believe He meant for them to do worse things than his example.  (John 14:12-14)

Other resources:


Written by Rosa L. Griffin