Jenifer Lewis At UC Davis — A NSFW Review

CAUTION: The words used in this review are almost as colorful as the artist’s own, in print and live on stage. Consider this your final warning!

Sunday morning, at the request of the incomparable Jenifer Lewis, I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, looked myself in the mirror, straight in the eye, and repeated “I love myself.”

(I just caught how that sounds. No, I did not fuck Jenifer Lewis Saturday night. But I absolutely would have if she had let me.)

Then, I ruminated on how to describe Lewis’ brilliant, combustive performance last evening at UC Davis.

So I asked a question that’s familiar to many: WWJD?

What would Jenny do?

Then I knew what to write:

You missed some serious shit! If you didn’t make time to see Jenifer Lewis…pardon me, Jenifer Muthafucking Lewis…last night, tough fucking shit. You missed your blessing!

(As you may have surmised, I’m going to have a hard time getting Lewis out of my system. Aw, hell…I don’t want to! I couldn’t get enough of her last night!)

My pre-dawn post-teeth-brushing exercise was an assignment given to hundreds of Lewis’ fans last night. The entertainer / author promised that, if we did it correctly, tears would flow.

She was right.

Lewis commanded the stage at the Mondavi Center from the second she stepped onto it. Contemporary audiences may know her best as “Ruby” on the hit ABC sitcom black-ish. Lewis is part preacher, part prophet, part Pied Piper, and all fabulous.

Saturday night, the woman sang, laughed, and provided a salve to hundreds of women and men who attended the 11th annual Exceptional Women Of Color Expo & Awards (EWOC). The theme of last night’s event was Women Helping Women: A Heritage Of Healing & Hope.

Lewis was that theme’s perfect messenger. But as informed fans might have expected, the evening wasn’t without controversy.

Appearing 15 to 20 years younger than her 62 years, the force of nature admonished millennials for “acting out” and being “lazy,” and included her own 31 year old daughter in the group.

She cautioned Christians for waiting for “someone external to save you.”

She unblinkingly gave searing commentary on the convicted crimes of Bill Cosby, the rumored ones of Michael Jackson, and the walking, talking, orange crime that’s in the Oval Office.

She shined a light on the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, including a searing indictment of the state’s then governor.

She spoke out about the stigma of mental illness in the black community and her own challenges in conquering the symptoms of bi polar disorder.

And Lewis did all of that via smiles, jokes, songs, and fellowship.

Lewis spent a little time telling stories that are brilliantly documented in her moving, hysterical 2017 memoir The Mother Of Black Hollywood. That book belongs on the coffee table of every African American household in the country. (Aw, hell…on the white one’s too.)

But brace yourself for that read: I can’t remember the last time I read a more honest memoir.

And Lewis encouraged victims of sexual abuse, whether they be eight years old or 80, to “tell somebody. And if that person doesn’t believe you, tell somebody else.”

Lewis’ performance was followed by a brief, very well-intentioned Q & A with Leshelle May, the wife of UC Davis’ chancellor. May tried. She really did, bless her heart. But Lewis was not to be contained last night, and I’ve never seen the persona who could effectively share a stage with her.

Lewis’ performance capped off an evening that included a dinner and awards presentation for several area “exceptional” women of color. All of their brief acceptance speeches were moving, but the highlight was the Executive Director of Black Women United, Elika Bernard, putting a spotlight on a population that was absent during EWOC 2019: transgender women of color. Maybe next year’s keynote speaker / performer will be from that community.

Speaking of next year, the EWOC planners have a formidable task ahead: how does anyone follow Jenifer Lewis?

Aw, hell.

How does anyone follow JENIFER MUTHAFUCKING LEWIS?

Published by Michael P Coleman

Freelance writer. I used to talk to strangers and get punished. Now I talk to strangers and get published.

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