At the end of recap 4, Cleola was taken to task by Miss Cooper because of her interest in Waka Mani.
The next time we see the Beckwourth crew, they’re in the sitting room and Lewis is singing John Wesley Work II and Frederick J. Work’s Wade in the Water. It’s a beautiful rendition. Anna and Junius are rubbing thighs and smiling at each other, obviously dreaming of the day when they can rub other parts of their bodies. Isaac, as single as ever, is standing occupying space like a lamp post. Richard is standing next to the organ. Creola plays. Jumping Elk, Simon Crow and Waka Mani, ties and all, partake in the festivities. Everyone is relaxed and feeling the music. Richard and Cleola share genuine smiles.
Competitive as ever, Waka Mani joins in, singing in Lakota. Richard isn’t pleased. Cleola continues playing. Lewis and Anna are the first to appreciate his contribution. Junius acts like he’s been bitten on the ass. Simon Crow joins in. Lewis continues with his verses. Anna continues to be pleased with the collaboration. Jumping Elk adds bird song, accompanying Cleoa note for note. Lewis is all smiles and is only days away from full-blown assimilation. He slowly moves across the room until he and Waka Mani are standing side-by-side. Though she hides it well, Cleola’s most likely all squishy in her nether regions. At the end, Richard claps politely. Cleola claps softly. Anna is enthusiastic. Junius’ ass is firmly etched on his face.
Lewis shows respect to Cleola. “Thank you, Miss Banks.” She nods in acknowledgement. Waka Mani follows his lead, adding a small bow. “Yes, thank you.”
Anna, bless her little heart, asks the Indians what it’s like where they come from. Like them or hate them, everyone’s interested. Simon Crow. “Home.” Jumping Elk. “There’s tall trees… older than any settlement.” Waka Mani places a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulders. “Clear Waters. Blue sky.” Simon Crow adds more. “Fish. Game.” It is Waka Mani who gets to the heart of the matter. “And freedom.”
Anna asks a face-palm inducing question. “Do you have families… like the way we do?” Waka Mani and crew are amused. Cleola chastises her. Anna insists that she wants to know. Junius stands up for his woman. “At least she’s honest.” Waka Mani takes the opportunity to spin a tall tale. “Each man takes two wives. Chiefs take six.” Jumping Elk’s is all wtf. Cleola misses his expression and is shocked. For the record, the average man had one wife though out of charity he might have married his dead brother or dead best friend’s wife in order to protect her.
Dinner’s over and Waka Mani’s back in the captive room looking out the window. Jumping Elk wants to know what he’s watching. Waka Mani says they can go home because he’s found a way. Simon Crow joins them and says that it would be a long and taxing journey across the mountains. Jumping Elk wonders if running is wise since they’d be hunted and Beckwourth would only be their prison for three months. Waka Mani insists that they will leave soon. He forgot that there were no chiefs at Beckwourth, only students.
Simon Crow teases him. “Our chief is lonely… for his six wives.” He walks away and pats Jumping Elk on the shoulder. They both laugh. Waka Mani smiles and chuckles.
Outside, Cleola, Richard and Miss Cooper are on a date. Richard is standing and the two women are sitting.
Waka Mani continues to look out the window. Jumping Elk rejoins him. He parts the curtain. They can see the date underway. “Why does he leave the space between them?” Jumping Elk wants to know. Waka Mani gives him the I have no idea look. I’m equally clueless.
The next day, Simon Crow and Waka Mani are unloading wood from a wagon. Two men are telling a story and laughing among themselves. Lewis comes over to help Simon Crow with the wood. Junius is monitoring. He’s not breaking a sweat. The chief’s glares at Junius and then slams his piece down onto the others.
Inside, Anna and Cleola are writing the invitations. Cleola blows on the one she just finished and claims 26. Anna responds in kind with 29. They playfully stick their tongues out at each other. Let the femslash begin.
In another room, Richard approaches Waka Mani with a gift. Sitting at a desk, the Chief’s more interested in a pencil. “This Bible belonged to my brother. If you want it…it’s yours.” He places it on the table. Waka Mani struggles to control his anger. “It does not teach mathematics.” Richard ignores him. “Knowledge without a moral foundation…” Waka Mani isn’t having it. “This book… murdered my people.” Richard proceeds to demonstrate why a mind is a terrible thing to waste. “Men, white and red, were responsible for what happened to your people. Not God.” It’s not that simple. “The missionaries helped the men who came to steal our land.” Richard’s pompousness knows no boundaries. He gives Waka Mani the pencil he must have set aside when I wasn’t looking and made a stupid suggestion in light the conversation. “Why don’t we look at the book of Daniel?”
The Chief’s not giving in. “Slave masters were Christians. Why do you defend them?” Valid question. Richard is flipping through the Bible, standing behind him. “This is a Christian Nation.” Waka Mani educates him on citizenship. “I’m a citizen of the Lakota Nation. I honor the spirit of my grandfathers.” Richard moves in front again. “Hollow words in defeat.” Angry, Waka Mani balls up a piece of paper. Richard adjusts his pants, sits on another desk and reads from the Bible. “Seeing… see not. Hearing… hear not. Neither do they understand. For this people’s ears are dull of hearing and their eyes are closed.” The audio is bad for the quote. Waka Mani looks like he wants to rip Richard’s throat out. Richard is undeterred. “Now do you see how this applies to your people?” The Chief responds, “And yours.” Richard doesn’t know when to stop. “We are Christian and we are free.” He doesn’t impress his adversary. “Free to be what? White?” Richard listens. Waka Mani continues. “You take white man names. You take white man ways. The Christian God has destroyed the spirit of your ancestors. It no longer beats in your hearts.” Gutted.
Richard shows his ass. He puts his finger in Waka Mani’s face. “I will not allow YOU to demean my beliefs!” Mad, he stalks around Waka Mani and resumes his sermon. “There is a lot of value in this book regardless of how it’s been used. It has taught me how to live.” Hearing this, Waka Mani asks question not exactly pertinent to the conversation. “Is it why you won’t touch your woman?” Richard loses his shit and drags Waka Mani out of the chair. “You bastard!” That’s not very Christian.
Fight! Knee to gut. Foot to gut. Attempted punches. Blocks. No hair pulling though.
In the next scene, we see the return of President Duquesne. He’s pacing and circling the two, seeking answers. “Who struck the first blow?” Richard that he acted the fool first. Waka Mani is taken aback and Duquesne, who isn’t polite, tells him to leave. At the door, Waka Mani pauses and regards Richard again. The President relieves Richard of his teaching duties, effective immediately. Richard grapples for words. When the right words don’t come, he apologizes for letting Duquesne down. “It’s not the end of the world, Mr. Singletary. From now on, you’ll work full time with me on the anniversary preparations.” As if anyone has cared about the preparations since the beginning.
The Prez has more news. “Miss Banks will replace you in the classroom.” Richard is stunned. Duquesne makes a point. “She’s the only one who’s qualified.” He thumbs through a book, effectively dismissing poor Richard who doesn’t have the sense to leave. “But…” Huff… huff. “He insulted her, Sir, that’s how the fight began. He’s disrespectful! He’s vulgar! He even…” Duquesne shuts him down quick. “I have made my decision. You may go.” He resumes working.
Still upset, Richard tries to leave, but can’t. “Sir, I respectfully request that Miss Cooper be in that classroom at all times.” I’m sure Miss Cooper has other things to do. Duquesne agrees with me. “Nonsense. Miss Banks will be accorded the same privileges as any other student-teacher.” Yes, lawd. Private time with His Hotness. Richard is remains rooted in place. Duquesne gives him the evil eye and he finally leves. He leaves. I hope he’s thinking of allowing Cleola to study the Classics.
We next see Cleola in the library preparing for class. Richard knocks on the door. She doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about seeing him. He tells her that he missed her at dinner. Smiling, she tells him why. “I’m nervous. I need to prepare for tomorrow.” Tee Hee. She offers Richard a seat. He might not churn her up inside, but she does like and respect him. A smiling Richard moves aside Miss Cooper’s bell and sits. Cleola touches his hand and says she’s sorry about how things worked out. He tries to explain. “I lost my temper. It’s not like me.” More than likely, he’s never had a serious rival for anything before. She soothes him Richard sees some good in the situation. “But it’s an opportunity for you.” Cleola’s happy. “It is. I get to test what I know and get out of sewing.” They enjoy themselves.
Content, she asks him to show her where he left off in the text. He turns to a random page. Cleola’s already hard at work. He puts his hand on top of hers. “I could find Miss Cooper and arrange for a walk.” That’s not on her agenda. “Richard, I really need to finish this. I don’t want to let the school down.” Richard’s hurt. She’s completely shut him out. Earth to Richard. A Black woman doesn’t have the luxury of half-assing on the job. Unnerved, he collects his white gloves and answers the question she asked earlier. “Mixed fractions.” She doesn’t look up. At the door, he stares at her. She’s engrossed in the preparations. After he leaves, she looks up with a concerned expression on her face. Something has changed between them. A shift in power?
That night Anna and Cleola are in their room. Cleola is still in her uniform. Anna is in her nightclothes, head wrap and all. Anna says that that Richard missed Cleola at dinner. After Cleola says she talked to him, Anna gives her a meaningful look. “He’s a good man, Cleola.” Cleola orders her to sleep and playfully straightens Anna’s wrap. She moves to the sofa and undoes her belt. Anna is playful, too. “Yes, teacher.” Cleola smacks her with a pillow. Anna tries to fire back. Cleola takes charge. “It’s against the rules to hit a teacher.” Anna throws the pillow anyway and misses. They giggle.
Meanwhile, Waka Mani’s back on the roof of the house doing a little light reading, The US Constitution. He puts the book down and whittles while he reads.
The next morning, Richard is pacing outside of the classroom. Cleola appears. Richard takes her by the arm and says he came by to wish her good luck. She thanks him and he offers reassurance. “Now there’s no need for you to be afraid. I’ll be close by.” Awww, he’s so sweet. He gives her a light kiss on the cheek. “You just shout if you need me.” She nods, he steps aside and she heads for the classroom. Junius comes out of another room and reminds her that he’s right next door if she gets into trouble. She appreciates his concern. Richard is still there. She gives him a little wave and takes a step forward. Lewis steps out. “He’s inside. I don’t think he’ll be a problem, but if you need…” She finishes for him. “… I’ll just shout.” He gives her a reassuring nod. When was the last time we saw three unrelated Black men caring about the well-being of a Black woman in a movie?
The music we associate with Cleola and Waka Mani begins playing even before she enters the room. She goes in. Waka Mani is rubbing his lips with a finger. When he hears her walking, he drops his hands, grasps the desk with both hands, and makes a weird face. Cleola sees him from behind and like me, is perplexed. She marches to the desk, puts the books down and writes Miss Banks on the board. This amuses Waka Mani. He stares at her. Uncomfortable, she begins the lesson. She speaks and writes on the board at the same time.
“If your wives cooked half your meals for six weeks, how many meals would each wife have to cook to share the burden equally?” She asks Mr. Moni for his best guess. He just looks at her. She’s not pleased. “You’ll want to divide by seven, was it?” He speaks for the first time, clearly enjoying himself. “Six.” She says he’s right and corrects her mistake on the board. He confesses he’s not married. She confirms that he’s a chief, so nothing has really changed. He opts to tell her that John Moni is a missionary name and to his people he’s Waka Mani. She’s fine with that. “Then I will call you Waka Mani.” Nicely done, Cleola.
She explains that they’ll be doing mixed fractions and equations. He wants to know how that will help him. Cleola doesn’t understand since this is where Richard claimed they left off. Waka Mani is miffed. “That is not an answer.” She’s perplexed, but she won’t give up. She insists there are many practical applications, such as trying to destroy a US Army installation. Then she does the math thing. Waka Man asks the most relevant question ever. “Who would do this during an attack?” The equation goes like this. In the armory, each rifle has two bullets and it takes four bullets to kill each soldier. How many bullets would you need to kill 120 soldiers? Waka Mani’s answer is gold. “One rifle for each warrior.” Cleola stops breathing for a second and tries again.
She writes another problem on the board. He chews his pencil. She’s mad. “I will not let you run me out of here, Mr. Waka Mani.” At first, he pretends to not know what she’s talking about. Then he gets to the point. “Then teach me what I want to learn.” She asks, “Which is.” He answers. “Government, politics, business.” He walks towards her. “Mixed fractions will not help my people.” It’s all a bit too heavy for Cleola. “Those are not my areas.” There’s a chair in front of the teacher’s desk. He sits on the back of it. “We could learn together.”
Richard interrupts and he claims he’s sorry to intrude. He gets a little trite with Waka Mani. “You are required at the reviewing stand directly after this class.” Waka Mani nods. Richard’s posturing means nothing to him.
Richard repositions the bell on the desk and praises Cleola. “You’ve moved on to equations, very good…” Waka Mani agrees. “… equations help me kill soldiers.” Richard is speechless. Cleola thanks him and sits down. As a gentleman, he goes for her chair. He walks out, back straight. Waka Mani offers commentary. “He crows like a Rooster.” Cleola offers her own. “So do you.” He moves over to her desk and leans closer. “Teach me what I want to learn.” She wants to know why she should trust him. His reply is arrogant. “Because you want to.” Virgin yes. Fool no. “That is not an answer.” He gives her one. “Because it’s a challenge.” There. That right there is chemistry.
It’s night again. Anna and Cleola are in their nighties washing up. Cleola makes an announcement. “I want to be a teacher.” Anna is tickled. “Oh, what happened to becoming a race woman?” Cleola’s clever. “Well, that was a dream. Teaching is a possibility.” She’s all smiles. “I’d be a good teacher.” Anna has her number. “I suggest you don’t share this new found passion with anyone else yet. Someone might take it the wrong way. ” The writing is on the wall. Cleola gets defensive. Guilty as charged. “This has nothing to do with him.” Anna is rolling her eyes with her entire body.
Cleola lists his defects. “He’s rude. He’s surly. He’s utterly detestable.” Anna reaches a different conclusion. “They do have a certain animal charm.” Ugh. Cleola gets nasty. “You sure you don’t want him for yourself?” Anna gets an attitude of her own. “I didn’t say, John. I said they.” The testy moment passes. Cleola changes the subject. “What would you think of my hair in a Gibson?” Anna has sense. “It’s too soft to stand up on its own.” Cleola disagrees. “I think it would be rather flattering.” Anna has advice, sarcastic advice. “I suggest you ask Richard.” Cleola shows her butt. “Yes, ma’am.” Tension. Tension.
The next morning, the guys are back to workon the reviewing stand. Richard isn’t there and Junius is supervising. While the Alpha’s away, the Beta will play. Simon Crow and Lewis continue their bromance. Waka Mani’s sawing in the background. Jumping Elk and Isaac are working together. After Junius orders Lewis and Simon Crow to take their load of wood elsewhere, the two men sit and joke. Lewis whispers, “I thought slavery was over.” Simon Crow concurs. “Hunting buffalo is more fun.” It continues. “Picking cotton pays mo money.” These guys. “This is better than learning science.” They laugh. Lewis reminds us that he’s on Team Lakota. “Waste.” By the way, that word is pronounced “Wah-stay.” These guys are precious.
Sick of the Black-on-Lakota love fest Junius does his best to ruin the mood. He marches over to Isaac and asks if he’s heard the news about Richard’s father. Of course, not. Who would tell Isaac anything of importance? Junius speaks loud enough for Waka Mani, who is sawing away, to hear. “They’re going to award him the Medal of Honor.” Isaac wants to know why. Junius is cold-blooded. “Killing Indians at Crock’s Crossing.” Waka Mani comes to a full stop. He throws Junius the glare of death. The brother continues to be an ass. “It’s a great honor.” Isaac is oblivious. “Do you think they’ll promote him to Colonel?” Junius is skeptical of that. “A Negro?” He doesn’t let it end there. “We will make a way for ourselves. We’re just as good as anyone from Princeton or Yale.” Waka Mani’s still glaring. Junius is genuinely excited now. “A Negro with the Congressional Medal of Honor! Wa-hoo!” Waka Mani stomps his piece of wood in half. He’s fired up.
On that note… to be continued.
DISCLAIMER: Unbowed is the copyright and intellectual property of FILMANTHROPIC and Mildred Lewis. No copyright infringement is intended, only thoughtful discussion. Perhaps a few more people will secure a copy of this marvelous film themselves.