Why are photographers filming in the area?  "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" by Toni Cade Bambara

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Published in 1971, Toni Cade Bambara's story "Blues Ain't No Mocking Bird" is a narrative about a country African-American family who are proud and possessive of independent spirits.  When two white photographers trespass upon their property, the grandmother rushes outside to confront them.  As they do not greet her, but simply say what they are doing, Granny cuts them off with a meaningful, "Good mornin'."

The two men explain that they are taking pictures for the food stamp program of the county, perhaps to document that some people who may apply do not need the stamps because one man remarks,

"I see that you grow your own vegetables....If more folks did that, see, there'd be no need--"

Nevertheless, Granny feels that the men are exploitative and when her husband returns, he holds out his big hand, demanding the camera:

"We filmin for the county, see," say Smilin.  We puttin together a movie for the food stamp program...filmin all around these parts. Uhh, filmin for the county."

But Granddaddy Cain simply pulls out the film, destroying it, then he calmly tells the men, "This is our own place."

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two men, Camera and Smilin, say they are filming for the food stamp program, but that is where the conflict arises. Granny sees herself as an individual with rights. She has the right to privacy and the right to to her own place. The filmmakers are intruders and have invaded her privacy. More than that, they make negative comments concerning her life such as comparing the Narrator and Cathy to the trees and flowers. Granny doesn't see people as objects.

Granddaddy holds out his hand covered with hawk's blood for the camera and knocks the film out. He tells the men to leave; they were standing in Granny's flowerbed. At the close of the story Granny and Granddaddy are triumphant. Granddaddy goes into the house, and Granny is at peace, humming and making cakes. Their serenity has been restored.

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Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

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