Season 7

Episode 709: “God Bless the Child”

Episode 709: “God Bless the Child”
Original Air Date:November 26, 2000
Written by::Glenn Berenbeim
Directed by:Victor Lobl
Produced by:

Martha Williamson
Jon Andersen
R.J. Visciglia, Jr.

Guest Cast:
illie Holiday Paula Jai Parker
Charnelle Bishop Kenya Williams
Georgia Bishop Mary Alice
Lamont Antwon Tanner
Leo James Gleason
Renee Porscha Coleman
Guard David Jean Thomas

14-year-old Charnelle Bishop tells her grandmother that she’s going to the museum for an essay she has to write about “finding a piece of yourself in history.”  But she’s really going there to buy drugs from her dealer, Lamont.  Monica tries to forge a bond with Charnelle through her love of music, but Charnelle is wary of Monica.  Monica catches Charnelle in the bathroom lighting up a joint and refuses to give it back until she begins her homework assignment.  Monica tells Charnelle the story of how Billie Holiday fought her own battle against drugs

In flashback, we return to a Greenwich Village speakeasy in 1939 where Billie Holiday is performing, with Andrew auditioning to be her pianist.  But Charnelle isn’t interested in hearing about love songs, she likes music that tells the truth.  Monica resumes the story of how Billie Holiday reacted when she first read the lyrics to the song “Strange Fruit” — the first song to tell the truth about lynching of African Americans.  Monica persuades Charnelle to enter the exhibit of lynching photographs on display at the museum, but after viewing them, Charnelle is surprisingly unmoved.  Charnelle meets with Lamont in the lobby, asking him for something stronger.  Aware that Charnelle’s brother died of a drug overdose, Monica asks why she hasn’t learned from his death.

As Monica resumes Billie’s story, Andrew is eventually able to persuade Billie to sing the song, but she pleads with Andrew to get her the drugs to give her the strength.  But Charnelle is impatient with Monica’s story and grabs the joint out of her hands.  She turns a corner and runs into a security guard, who discovers the joint and calls her grandmother to pick her up.  As she waits, Monica resumes her story, with Billie in worse shape, craving drugs, when Andrew’s “connection” arrives and it’s Tess.  But Tess isn’t there to push drugs, she’s there to push God.  Georgia arrives at the museum security office, demanding an explanation from her granddaughter.  On hearing of the lynching photographs, Georgia forces Charnelle to view them with her.  Georgia asks Charnelle to describe what she sees, when to Charnelle’s surprise, her grandma starts describing the scene from memory — because the man in the photograph was her brother, Earl.  Georgia explains how Earl was not only her brother, but her teacher and her best friend.  He taught her to read, and when her birthday came around, he worked extra hard to buy her a gift, which his employer falsely accused him of stealing.  The gift was her Bible which she is never without and became the source of her strength.

Monica resumes Billie Holiday’s story as she summons the courage to sing “Strange Fruit” before a live audience.  After the song, there is complete silence — until finally, the sound of one person applauding, followed by the thunderous applause of the entire audience.  Monica reveals herself as an angel and urges her to learn from her brother’s mistake and choose life and turn her back on drugs.  Monica encourages Charnelle to hold onto her dream, and to write her essay, and tell the truth for her generation as Billie did for hers.  When Lamont returns with the drugs, Charnelle takes the first step, telling him she’s changed her mind.

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