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She’s Gotta Have It, Episode 5
Written by Barry Michael Cooper
Produced and Directed by Spike Lee
First aired on Netflix November 23, 2017

In the Netflix TV series, She’s Gotta Have It, produced by Spike Lee and based on his award-winning film of the same name, the lead character Nola Darling (played by DeWanda Wise) leads a tumultuous life as an African American artist in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. In the fifth episode of the series she begins work as an art teacher in what appears to be a highly structured neighborhood middle school. As the scene begins Nola is late for her first day of teaching and enters the classroom to find the stern and dedicated principal, Raqueletta Moss (De’Adre Aziza), conducting her class in her stead. In the next episode the principal looks over the artwork of the students. One of the students, Reggie, a talented African American girl, has created a highly sexualized portrait of a woman. Before leaving the classroom, the principal makes an appointment with Nola, however Nola is distracted by her phone as the principal speaks. The scene below begins with Nola coming into the principal’s office.

RM - What are you doing here Miss Darling?
ND - What do you mean. You told me you wanted to meet with me at 3:30. It’s 3:30, right?
Oh! As a matter of fact, I am ten minutes early.
RM - You are 24 hours and ten minutes early, Ms. Darling. Our meeting is not until tomorrow afternoon at 3:30.
ND - Can I have seat, please?
RM - Please be my guest.

ND -Thanks. (sighs)
RM - (chuckles) I know how it is when somebody got you sprung, trust me. But that ain’t none of my BI.
ND - All due respect, Ms. Moss, you’re right, that is none of your business.
RM - I agree. But you know what is my BI? These students and their personal welfare.
That’s Raqueletta Moss’ BI. I care about them.
ND - Are you saying I don’t care? Because I do. I care about these students more than you know.
RM - Oh, Ms. Darling, on the contrary. Raqueletta Moss knows that you do care. Raqueletta Moss admires your work and your love for the children. But you don’t know the level of trauma, the level of sexual trauma some of these students have experienced. But I…Excuse me… Raqueletta Moss knows that kind of trauma. And Raqueletta Moss believes, despite your noble intentions, Ms. Darling, that using art to confront personal dysfunction is a self-fulfilling defect. A broken record that never stops skippin’. Do you mind if Raqueletta Moss shares something personal with you?
ND - Okay.
RM - Raqueletta Moss comes from that same environment that Reggie was born into. Raqueletta Moss was one of those chicken-heads cluckin’ in the back rooms, fuckin’ grown-ass crack monster men when she was just 13 years old. Raqueletta Moss is the product of a cracked-out single mom, who pimped her overdeveloped daughter in dark project hallways. Raqueletta Moss was shuffled like a deck of marked cards in the foster care system. Raqueletta Moss thanks God every day that she was adopted from a group home by Albert and Tina Lewis who lived in Canarsie and put Raqueletta Moss on the straight and narrow. After graduating with her master’s in education from LIU on the corner of Dekalb and Flatbush, across the street from Junior’s, Raqueletta Moss vowed to help kids succeed with love, compassion, and discipline. Raqueletta Moss would like to help Ms. Darling deepen her empathy for students like Reggie and realize that emotional scars are like still waters, but they run deeper than deep. Do you understand what Raqueletta Moss is… Sorry. Do you understand what I’m trying to say to you, Ms. Darling?
ND - I…think I do.
Quick question, do you often refer to yourself in the third person?
RM -We all have our ways of coping, Ms. Darling. Have a good afternoon.

Nola Darling’s final question shows how easy it is to miss the full meaning of Principal Moss’ message. So, at the end of the episode subtlety is wisely abandoned and the audience is helped when DeWanda Wise faces the camera and says:

Raqueletta Moss speaks in the third person because she survived her own personal Holocaust by stepping out of her body and saying, “I am not here. I am not here. You cannot hurt me, because Raqueletta Moss is not here”

Thanks to Nora Chapman MSW and Elaine Alvarez MSW for consultation.