Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

by Toni Cade Bambara

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Why are photographers filming in "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird"?

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The photographers appear to be filming in the area on behalf of the county for the food stamp program.

In the story, two men are taking pictures of the area residents, their homes, and their belongings. Although the men appear friendly, Grandma isn't too happy about their intrusion into the family's private lives. She tells them to go, but they insist that they need the pictures. One of them asks Grandma if she would make a statement for the film, but she declines to do so. He observes that she has a garden and comments

"I see you grow your own vegetables,” he smiled real nice. “If more folks did that, see, there’d be no need—”

The speaker leaves his sentence unfinished but what is his insinuation? Is he trying to suggest that people should be more proactive in securing their own welfare by growing their own produce? Here, the author uses a literary device called aposiopesis, which literary means 'becoming silent.' It presents a dramatic effect and leads the reader to question what the men's motives are for taking pictures. So, on the surface, the men are taking pictures for the food stamp program, but their resolute persistence and inconsiderate behavior (at one stage, they are standing in Grandma's flower bed) calls into question what their true motives really are.

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

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

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."

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