I was watching Juice the other night. It’s one of those films I typically stop and watch all the way through…not because of the plot, which is actually pretty good, but because of Cindy Herron—my childhood crush. This particular time, however, my focus was on “Steel” Thurman, played by Jermaine Hopkins. His role in the film was actually pretty underrated. It got me thinking about other roles he had. The first one that came to mind was Phat Beach, which was sneaky good. And then there was the film that really shot him into the spotlight. That brings me to this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: Lean on Me.
How I first came across this subject? If memory serves me right, I saw Lean on Me for the first time in 1991. I was at my first-ever sleepover and I watched it with my friend’s family.
What it meant to me then? I was in 1st grade at the time…only 6 years old. What could that film have possibly meant to me then? I remember the Hopkins’ Sams character hugging Mrs. Powers (Sandra Reaves-Phillips) after the new alma mater got Clark’s blessing. I also remembered how nasty Lynne Thigpen’s Leonna Barrett was.
What it means to me now? Last year was the 30th anniversary of the film’s release. Of course, what it means to me now is far different than what it meant to me 29 years ago. Today, I think the film is a national treasure…one that should be shown in every school across the nation. There were so many things in the film that touch me now. Think of the “HNIC” argument Clark had with Frank Napier and then Napier softening afterward with “c’mon, let’s get something to eat”. Think of the underlying meaning of Powers’ version of the Eastside High alma mater. Think of Lynne’s portrayal of Leonna Barrett…a role that puts her amongst the greatest villains in the annals of film history.