Breaking ground as the first black woman to own a sugar mill in Louisiana comes with a cost of resistance and prejudice. From the moment Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) comes into contact with sugar mill titan Samuel Landry (David Jensen), he has made attempts to sabotage, intimidate or simply send the message that her presence is expendable.
In “Live in the All Along,” Charley and Remy (Dondre Whitfield) return to the field where she’ll host the Brown Sugar Festival when she receives news that it’s now unavailable due to “scheduling mistakes.” Just then, Landry steps out of the truck, his deceptive nature evident through his smile as he apologizes for his auction to “help out the local farmers” interrupting her festival. It’s another petty tactic to set her back (like telling her the wrong time to make her late for the Sugar Cane Society meeting in “Drums at Dusk;), and her patience begins to run thin as she speaks her mind. (Also, did you catch that “you people” comment he mumbled as he walked off?)
“Let me tell you something, Sam. Now, maybe you can get to people who don’t have a spine but I have a backbone, and I am not going away.” —Charley
Remy ultimately finds another venue after several failed attempts, but that, too, backfires because of Landry’s influence—yet another blow to the festival. Davis (Timon Kyle Durrett), who reminisced about their college party days, suggests that she scale back: “I know how you roll, Charley. It’s going to be great.” (Side note: Davis’ familiarity with Charley is pretty awkward when Remy is in the room). Throughout the episode, we continue to see the lengths to which Landry will go to undermine the Brown Sugar Festival—Charley’s trucks out of New Orleans are trapped in a roadblock for instance. With rain dampening the outdoor festival, she’s ready to call it quits, but tith the support of her family making a way, the festival is held inside the Queen Sugar Mill for the St. Josephine community. Despite the down-home fun people are having, Charley is visibly disappointed in her vision not coming true. But the bigger picture is what she has provided for the black community.
“You don’t have to have a sugar cane festival like theirs for it to matter.” —Nova
That same point of supporting the community is the driving force of Nova’s TV appearance earlier in the episode, with her boyfriend, Dr. Robert DuBois (Alimi Ballard). I’ve been expecting Nova’s sense of hesitation, even after acknowledging that she no longer wants to push him away, to reemerge. When their relationship hits a snag once Robert challenges her on air during their discussion of the Zika virus, she’s angered. Accusing him of trivializing her work, she refuses to return to Louisiana with him. Later, when he unexpectedly arrives at the festival, the two have a serious heart-to-heart. In the midst of apologizing, he seems enchanted with a vision of them becoming the face of a movement, also revealing an intense fascination for the magnitude of her work. Her potential. It often came off as if he couldn’t separate Nova the woman from Nova the journalist/activist. Even telling her “I love you,” he presses her about whether she’d move out of the Ninth Ward, but she’s wary of him pushing her outside of herself.
The moment she said, “I shouldn’t have to disappear into you to make this work,” and how he didn’t know her, my gut said she’d pull the plug. And that she did.
Robert: “I know you. I know what you could be.”
Nova: “And that’s the problem. I think you’re a very good man… but you’re no good for me. I don’t need you to dream for me. I like what I’ve got.”
In the midst of the chaos, one tender moment that I loved was between Aunt Vi (Tina Lifford) and Darla (Bianca Lawson) during the festival. An emotional Darla shares that the unexpected happened: Her parents returned her call after six years and they’re coming for her wedding to Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe). Though she’s afraid that her father won’t see her for who she is, Aunt Vi says that it’s his problem and tells her not to hide. Just as Darla shared the angst of her addiction with Aunt Vi in Season One, Vi opens up about her abusive relationship with her first husband and carrying people’s perception: “I remember even after Ernest ran his butt out of town, folks looked at me a certain kind of way,” she says. “I wanted to hide. Then I realized, if I don’t shake this off me that’s all they gon’ see.” It was a sweet moment between them sharing a similar space and for Darla to be seen for who she is despite her past.
Ashley G. Terrell is a freelance entertainment writer based in Michigan. Her work has appeared in Ebony Magazine, The Huffington Post, Black Girl Nerds, and more. She is currently working on her first novel and is the creator of the blog, The Carefree Black Girl Chronicles of ASHLEMONADE. You can follow her on Twitter>