Toni Cade Bambara’s My Man Bovanne is a story about the changing values in the black community. The story is in the first-person narrative and is related by Hazel, the protagonist, who starts dancing with a blind man, My Man Bovanne, at a party. She is chastised for it by her children who do not like her conduct, moreover, wanting her to help get them some favors for their political party. Hazel refuses to bow down to other people’s opinions, even if it is her own children, and, recognizing a deep gap of understanding between herself and her children, ends up taking My Man Bovanne home to take care of him. The children of Hazel want to prove that their ideas are better than those held by her and that they are, indeed, blacker (i.e. more genuinely African-American) than their mother or her generation ever was – a case of the kettle calling itself blacker than the pot.
When Hazel gets up to dance with My Man Bovanne who, she is quick to point out, “ain’t my man mind you” (Bambara 3), she does so because she feels that he is being ignored and could do with some company. She remembers how he helps people and how the children like him “Or used to fore Black Power got to hold their minds and mess em around till they can’t be civil to ole folks” (Bambara 3). She is, of course, lamenting the fact that times are changing and that the values the black people held with regard to their old have changed now. The children are changing their ideals to find their own black identity and in doing so they end up proclaiming that their parents are not true to their identity or not black enough. As Hazel laments that she “can’t get Black enough to suit me” (Bambara 4).
The three children of Miss Hazel take her aside to talk to her about her dancing with My Man Bovanne, telling her how they do not approve of it, with her daughter proclaiming that Hazel is acting “like a bitch in heat” (Bambara 5). Hazel, who is extremely hurt by this, tries to put it off as a generational gap thing, with her son replying how a generation gap is “a white concept for a white phenomenon. There’s no generation gap among Black People” (Bambara 6). Thus, he is implying that their mother is out of touch with her black identity and is ascribing to white notions.
In her witty style of writing, keeping the feel of the story real by using the Southern slang to write the narrative in, Bambara has spun a tale of ideals and changing times. The story has a very sentimental tone to it, with Hazel reminiscing about how things used to be before her children started questioning her blackness that is. By using Hazel as the conduit, Bambara points out just how, with the evolving times, and in an effort to discover themselves, children come to decry their parents to be less true to their identity. Whereas the parents feel that the children have let go of the ideals in support of others that are futile. This phenomenon could be termed as the kettle calling itself blacker than the pot.
Bambara, Toni Cade. “My Man Bovanne.” Title of Collection. Ed. Editor’s Name(s). Place of Publication: Publisher, Year. 3-10. Print.