Category Archives: News

08Nov/19

The New Black Vanguard is a Moderated Discussion About Inclusivity within the Fashion and Art Communities – presented by BAM and Aperture

The New Black Vanguard gives a voice to inclusivity via acclaimed photographers Arielle Bobb-Willis, Micaiah Carter, Tyler Mitchell, and Dana Scruggs. Tickets are on sale for the November 13th discussion happening at 7pm at BAM Rose Cinemas (30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY). Tickets: $20

“The New Black Vanguard is a contemporary Black fashion photography that is inclusive and reflective of a wider world—in terms of skin color, body type, performativity of gender, and class—and also captures, celebrates, and expands the notions of beauty and agency.” — Antwaun Sargent

The New Black Vanguard is a talk moderated by writer and critic Antwaun Sargent as he engages with the work of four emerging and established Black photographers who are pushing the fashion industry towards an inclusive future. The featured photographers—Arielle Bobb-Willis, Micaiah Carter, Tyler Mitchell, and Dana Scruggs — join Sargent as they consider their photography in the collection and the cross-pollination between art, fashion, and culture in cons0tructing an image. The evening celebrates the launch of Sargent’s The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion. The richly illustrated book addresses the radical transformation taking place in fashion, art, and the visual vocabulary around beauty and the body. The evening will also include an audience Q&A and book signing.
Antwaun Sargent is a writer and critic living and working in New York City. He has contributed essays to museum and gallery publications on Ed Clark, Mickalene Thomas, Arthur Jafa, Deborah Roberts, and Yinka Shonibare, among other artists. Sargent has lectured and participated in public conversations with artists at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, MCA Denver, Art Gallery of Ontario, and Harvard and Yale universities. He has also co-organized a number of exhibitions, including The Way We Live Now at Aperture, Then and Now: Chase Hall and Cameron Welch at Jenkins Johnson Projects, and the traveling exhibition Young, Gifted and Black. His first book The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion released October 2019 and will be accompanied by a traveling exhibition.
Arielle Bobb-Willis was born and raised in New York City, with pit stops in South Carolina and New Orleans. Bobb-Willis has been using the camera for nearly a decade as a tool of empowerment. Battling with depression from an early age, Bobb-Willis found solace behind the lens and has developed a visual language that speaks to the therapeutic benefits of creativity. Her work can be seen in a group show in December 2019 at the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam.
Brooklyn-based photographer Micaiah Carter’s work is a singular alchemy of contemporary youth culture, fine art, and street style combined with his certainty that the simple act of representation can be a force for change. His work contains echoes of the Black Power movement and the work of Carrie Mae Weems, Viviane Sassen, Jamel Shabazz, and Alasdair McLellan. Carter is currently working on his first monograph, 95 48, inspired by photographs of his dad and his friends from the 1970s.
Tyler Mitchell is a photographer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in British Vogue, American Vogue, i-D, Dazed, and The New York Times. His commercial clients include Calvin Klein, Givenchy, and Converse. His first self-published book, El Paquete (2015), documents the architecture and skateboard scenes in Havana. He was the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue in 2018, and in 2019 he was included on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list.
Dana Scruggs is a New York-based photographer, originally from the South Side of Chicago. In 2016 she launched Scruggs Magazine, a print publication dedicated to her vision of the male form, and in 2018 she had her industry breakthrough shooting ESPN’s Body Issue in 2018, becoming the first Black female photographer to photograph an athlete for the publication. Later that year, she became the first Black person to photograph the cover of Rolling Stone in its 50-year history. Her clients include Apple, Nike, The New York Times, GQ, and Essence.
New Black Vanguard

(Photographer) Arielle Bobb-Willis, Union City, New Jersey , 2018, from The New Black Vanguard

New Black Vanguard

(Photographer) Micaiah Carter, Sheani , 2018, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019)

New Black Vanguard (Photographer) Tyler Mitchell, Untitled (Twins II), New York, 2017, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019)

New Black Vanguard

(Photographer) Dana Scruggs, Nyadhour, Elevated, Death Valley, California, 2019, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019)

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is recognized internationally for its innovative programming of dance, music, theater, opera, and film. Its mission is to be the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas. BAM presents leading national and international artists and companies in its annual Winter/Spring Season and highlights groundbreaking, contemporary work in the performing arts with its Next Wave Festival each fall. Founded in 1983, the Next Wave is one of the world’s most important festivals of contemporary performing arts. BAM Film features new, independent film releases and a curated, daily repertory film program. In 2012, BAM added the Richard B. Fisher Building to its campus, providing an intimate and flexible 250-seat performance venue––the Fishman Space––as well as the Hillman Studio, a rehearsal and performance space. BAM serves New York City’s diverse population through community events, literary series, and a wide variety of educational and family programs. BAM, America’s oldest performing arts center, has presented performances since 1861, and attracts an audience of more than 750,000 people each year. Visit BAM.org.
Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other—in print, in person, and online. Created in 1952 by photographers and writers as “common ground for the advancement of photography,” Aperture today is a multi-platform publisher and center for the photo community. From its base in New York, Aperture Foundation produces, publishes, and presents a variety of photography projects and programs—locally, across the United States, and around the world.
01Nov/19
Taji Mag Vol 21 Black Love

Taji Vol21: Black Love

Release Dec 7 2019 | Vol21 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Black Love! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of M’Shari Whaley of Uniquelywiredm and artist/music producer Jaymison Beverly. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, Paine Artistry is Powering Up Black Artists; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature; “Solo Travel: Holiday Travel & Mindful Spending” by dCarrie; “Separation > Domestication” by Jashua Sa’Ra; Wealth feature “Credit vs Cash”; “For the Love of Children” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 21 theme “Black Love;” our Fitness Feature; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Rufus & Jenny Triplett Give Us a Look at 30 Years of Marriage; “#BlackLoveConvo: “Waves Explores the Dynamics and Effects of Black Love” by Dapper Dr. Feel;” Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must-Have Comic Book/Graphic Novel: “Concept Moon” Magazine; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 21 Black Love

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 21

Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

29Oct/19
Dave Chapelle

Dave Chappelle, Social Commentator and Comedic Griot, is Mark Twain Prize Recipient

Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” A quote that is the embodiment of what comedians do in an, of course, humorous and entertaining way. Comedians past, such as Richard Pryor and Red Fox, have perfected this craft, but none today are doing it like Dave Chappelle. He has taken truths of political correctness, social psychology, politics, media, etc., and turned them into thought-provoking topics in joke form.  I would even argue that he could be considered the greatest and most brilliant comic living today.  

Celebration! 

It comes as no surprise that Dave Chappelle is an honoree of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Award this year as he is debatably this century’s funniest comic. The ceremony included a variety of celebs that included Erykah Badu, Yasiin bey (Mos Def), Michael Che, Common, Morgan Freeman, Tiffany Haddish, John Legend, Q-Tip, Kenan Thompson, Chance the Rapper, Chris Tucker, Grant Hill, Tamia Hill and Marlon Wayans. All came with stories about the honored guest who always provides memorable moments. 

Dave Chappelle

Duke Ellington School Band.

The Duke Ellington School Band opened the evening with a performance of the Prince song “1999,” the song that Dave Chappelle can be heard singing in his Netflix stand up, Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones. Chappelle also played the iconic role of Prince in a story by the late Charlie Murphy. They had the whole place rocking as Morgan Freeman’s voice echoed the Kennedy Center introducing the evening festivities. Morgan Freeman served as the announcer the whole night.

Every story told from the perspective of each featured guest in their experience with Chapelle had one thing in common, Dave Chappelle made sure to make every moment memorable and full of laughter. Tiffany Haddish came out in a green jumpsuit with her last name on the breast of it, mimicking the same jumpsuit that Dave Chapelle wore during his shows and even sung “1999” in Chappelle fashion.

“The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.” – Dave Chappelle

A montage of clips played featuring Dave Chappelle from his movies to his stand up, some that I recalled being so hilarious that I couldn’t breathe. A moment that revealed to be unscripted was the adlib of Dave Chappelle’s character, Clayton Bigbsy, the white supremacist. Then Kenan Thompson and Michael Che both brought jokes about the comedic legend while Common, John Legend, Erykah Badu performed hits from their collections.  They were all important as Dave Chappelle had a deep connection with the group, Soulquarians, he even had them all perform at his Dave Chappelle Block Party that he filmed. 

Q-Tip came out later in the night to discuss Dave Chappelle’s importance to the music community as he was known to incoperate hip-hop/soul acts into his work from the Chappelle Show to his comedy tours. Q-tip then brought out Yasmiin Bey to re-create the hilarious moment when he and Dave Chappelle tried to invite themselves in the White House.

In Closing

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle receiving the Mark Twain Prize Award. Photo by Darrel R. Todd.

The night ended in Dave Chappelle fashion with a cigarette in hand and a bunch of hilarious jokes – including one where he mentioned having ‘leverage’ to smoke in the Kennedy Center. He thanked all who have supported him from family to friends and pointed to the woman responsible for existance, his mom.

He even spoke about how at times comics sometimes don’t see eye to eye, in some cases he found a comic to be racist and even bought them drinks to talk about it. Chappelle mentioned that there’s a protected first amendment but there’s also a second amendment in case the first don’t work out. 

Chappelle expalined how his mother called him a griot from African tribes. Griots were story tellers that were in charge of keeping the oral tradition and his mother made sure that she filled him with a lot of history, which he then later turned into deliverable entertainment. This is what makes Chappelle an amazing talent, being able to provide jokes that are informative and thought provoking. 

He also spoke about the times his mother would work all day, then go watch him perform stand up, at times falling asleep from exhaustion, but she wanted to show support for the up and coming comic. 

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle and wife, Elaine. Photo by Darrel R. Todd

As Chapelle ended his speech, or, as I like to call, an improv short set, he brought out Yasiin Bey and Thundercat to perform “Umi Says”. This award ceremony is another moment that can be cataloged in the memories of everyone as it celebrated the comic icon, who has many more years left of providing laughter and much needed comedy. 

Previous recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize are Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009; rescinded in 2018), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011), Ellen DeGeneres (2012), Carol Burnett (2013), Jay Leno (2014), Eddie Murphy (2015), Bill Murray (2016), David Letterman (2017), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2018).

The celebration will be televised on January 7, 2020 on PBS.

26Oct/19

Exclusive: Harriet director, Kasi Lemmons, Discusses Film, Eve’s Bayou, Candy Man

Harriet director Kasi Lemmons and actress Cynthia Erivo (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

This year, director and writer, Kasi Lemmons, will bring one of the most heroic and inspiring Black woman figures to the screen, Harriet Tubman.  The film, Harriet, stars Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr,. and Jonelle Monae. It is a biopic about the life of Harriet Tubman from her first escape to freedom to being the conductor of the Underground Railroad. The film premiere was held on Oct. 22, 2019 in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian African American Musem. Taji Mag was able to speak with the director, Kasi Lemmons, about her creative process and development of the film. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What was the importance of making this film and will this film impact the future of storytelling from the perspective of Black people? 

Kasi Lemmons ( KL): As filmmakers, we always ask ourselves, what are the great characters? I write from the characters all the time. Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest figures who has lived. So for me, the fact that no feature film has ever been made about Harriet and she is just such an important person for Americans, especially African American women… This hero needs to be brought to the world, a hero to me on the level of Mother Teresa and Gandhi. She’s a real superhero.

In terms of our future as storytellers, the more we can tell compelling stories that people relate to, the better. There are so many women directors right now and there are so many stories to tell, it’s always been a matter of is the industry ready to accept these stories. Now we are in a period where we can have a Black person as the lead and hero in a movie and bring characters like Harriet to the screen.   

(Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): What makes this film different from the other films that are about Black slavery? 

(KL): Harriet, to me, has always been a story about freedom. If I were to ask you to tell me the story of Harriet Tubman, you would say that she escaped from slavery and then she went back to liberate others. To me, those were like the verbs, that is the Harriet Tubman story. 

(DDF): What was your reaction when you found out that you were doing this film? 

(KL): My heart started racing, they just kind of sprung it on me and I didn’t have time to think about it, which was good in a way because I went to a meeting and the producer said it in the room. They surprised me because I thought I was just going to a general meeting. I was able to check my pulse to measure my own reaction and, as I am experiencing it, I am thinking, “your heart is really racing, I think you are very interested in this!” 

(DDF): You have mentioned in one of your articles that this feeling of excitement is like falling in love. Can you explain?

(KL): Find a good film to work on is always like falling in love to me. There’s always a process of courtship; you’re getting to be friends and then all a sudden you fall in love. With this film, I was really intrigued by it from the very beginning. The love started in my research; she is an incredible presence in my life. 

Lemmons with her husband Vondie Curtis Hall and son. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): What was your approach to creating the premonition scenes that Harriet experienced? 

(KL): I went through a lot of stages with it, then boiled it down to its most simple form, because I felt like they were like flashes of inspiration. They took many different forms, she had dreams, trances, sometimes just flashes of premonitions, and seizures. So I started to think about what seizures felt like and tried to make a shocking type of image. 

(DDF): You did some very creative things to create the premonition scene with the various colors used. How did that come about? 

(KL): When I looked up seizures and really tried to read people’s experiences of what seizures looked like to them, I would find the word monochromatic over and over again. I thought that is what I was trying to make it look like. 

(DDF): “What is a man to with a woman touched by God” is a line in the script that stood out to me. How did you come up with it? 

(KL): It’s interesting, that is a scene that I wrote the night before we shot it. The producers and executive producers at Focus Features, wanted me to try and describe what it felt like to Harriet after her husband re-married. So we imagined a scene with Marie where she would tell her what it felt like to her. I put off writing it because it was a hurdle to me – how do you write what God feels like? Then I started to explore what it would it feel like to Harriet, I wrote it the night before the shoot and they (Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monáe) did it in two takes. 

Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): In the film, we see the evolution of the heroic woman icon, how did you go about the character development from Minty to Harriet? 

(KS): There is a huge arc that we felt in her character, she almost becomes different people. From an ordinary woman into this almost mythic side of herself, she names herself and she is apart of that. So we named them, Minty, Harriet, and Moses. Everybody participated in the character development; Me, Cynthia, and costume designer, Paul Tazewell.  We created her and it was a group effort to give you that arc. From Minty and her dress to when she becomes Harriet in her mission costume, it’s a big arc. 

(DDF): What advice would you give to your younger self at the time you made Eve’s Bayou? 

(KL): In some ways, I don’t know if I would give myself any advice. Now, where I am in life, I like the way that things unfolded. Take for instance, after I made Eve’s Bayou, I didn’t know if I was going to make another movie but that was a wonderful thing to think at that moment because I was going for broke. So I put everything into it. I’ve had ups and downs in my career. If I could talk myself through those, I would tell myself that you are going to have ups and downs but if you keep going, you get to travel the world, you’ll meet extraordinary people, you’ll work with some of the most talented people and you’ll have a great time. 

(DDF): You are also doing a CJ Madam Walker series, what brought you to do that project? 

(KL): I have been infatuated with Madam CJ Walker for 20 years. Literally 20 years ago, I was thinking, “You know, it would be dope if we did something about Madam CJ Walker!” So when that came about, I was super excited about being involved in it. Then, Octavia Spencer, she’s perfect for the role. It’s a story that has been interesting for a long time, she is the first self-made Black woman millionaire and you know hair is so special to us black women, we’ve got our own thing. I had a really good time working it. 

Kasi Lemmons on set. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): Do you hope to bring more important black women figures to film or tv? Any ideas? 

(KL): Oh, I am sure I will do more films about important Black women figures. Do I have any in mind…maybe? (laughs) 

(DDF): You were in the horror films Candyman and Silence of the Lambs.  Have you had any input or help in the development of the new Candyman film? 

(KL): I have contributed to Candyman already in that I mentor the director for the film, Nia DaCosta, since her first Sundance film. She’s great!   

(DDF):  Will you make your own horror film?

(KL): There is something that I have in mind but I have to be careful because I am extremely sensitive. I have to protect my energy a lot and be careful of what I bring into my life. When I bring in truth, beauty, and righteousness, it’s a good feeling, so I am afraid and that’s the truth. 

The film Harriet was a great film with a lot of exploration of the characters’ bravery, selflessness, spiritually, and intelligence. It stands out as a story about the perseverance of the human spirit against discrimination. Creatively, it is a departure from the usual ‘slave cry’ moments that have become rhetoric in most of the blockbuster slave themed movies and I am thankful for that. Go see Harriet November 1st. 

Harriet

Directed by: Kasi Lemmons

Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., and Janelle Monae.

 

07Oct/19
Emanuel

Emanuel Documentary is About the Power of Faith Amidst Hate

Inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

It was as if a pine cone was lodged in my throat and my heart was sinking into my stomach when I watched the documentary Emanuel. Revisiting the story of the nine black people that were killed in a mass shooting by Dylan Roof in Charleston, SC was an emotional roller coaster that I was not ready for. The Steph Curry and Viola Davis executive produced the film was a chilling documentary that reminds its viewers about the power of faith, the destruction of hate, and the state of racial discrimination in America. 

The intro featured a clip of the moving and memorable eulogy given by President Barrack Obama for the funeral of the Emanuel massacre. I remember this moment and the post devastation that many were in after the event and how the following events further perpetuated the bias that the criminal system had against people of color. 

Nadine Lance Collier lost her mother Ethel Lance in the Emanuel shooting.

Emanuel gives an in-depth perspective of the event and things following it. Those featured include the families of the victims, Dot Scott (Charleston NAACP Branch President), Muhiyida D’bhana (Black Lives Matters Founder), Phillip Pickney (Activist), media that covered the event, historians, South Carolina’s political figures, and survivor, Polly Shepard. 

History of Charleston 

The film starts off explaining some of the historical roots of Charleston, SC and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Going back to the time of the 1800s during slavery, a section of the film I found to be very interesting showed the connection between religion and racism in South Carolina. I really found the short history lesson about Denmark Vessy to be very enlightening and conducted more research about him after I watched the film. He is a former slave that bought his freedom through a lottery and, later, became one of the founders of the AME church. Charged and executed for an uprising of the slaves, Vessey was a very important figure in the AME community. 

Loved Ones

Pastor Anthony Thompson remembering his loving wife, Myra, killed in the Emanuel church massacre.

Pastor Anthony Thompson told a beautiful story about the ritual he had with his wife. They would see each other at the door with a kiss. He expressed how blessed she felt on that day, how much more full of life she was. Stories like this one were refreshing and gave me a break from the wave of negative emotion I felt during the course of the film. 

Another moving story was told by Nadine Lance Collier. Her welcoming and charismatic persona held my attention as she shared stories about her mom, Ethel Lance, one of the nine people killed in the shooting. She expressed how optimistic her mother was and, from her description, I could tell that her mom had a pure soul that the world lost.  

Revisited

It was entriguing how the film summarized an origin for Dylann Roof and his life before he committed his crime. The fact that his actions/ideas were sparked by the Trayvon Martin case was surprising. Society speaks about how rap music and violent video games are the cause for destructive behavior, yet here we have the racist acts of others influencing people to think maliciously. 

Survivor of the Emanuel shooting Polly Shepard.

The most disturbing recollection and description of the massacre was from the survivor, Polly Shepard. She fought through tears as she recalled the events of the shooting, her conversation with Roof, and witnessing him shoot her already wounded son. I felt angered when I heard her speak, I wanted to hug her through the screen, and I couldn’t understand how a “mentally disturbed” individual killed innocent people in cold blood, especially after they welcomed Roof in their church with open arms. 

“Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.” – President Obama, the eulogy at the Emanuel funeral. 

When the film spoke about and showed the footage of how Roof was apprehended, it reaffirmed that America has a racial bias in the law enforcement system that cannot be ignored. I couldn’t help but think about the many innocent Black people that have had police officers draw guns on them and, in some cases, were killed, while Dylann Roof was calmly taken in without force after murdering nine innocent Black people.

Live and Let Love  

The documentary revisited the verdict of the trial, some of the victim’s family members expressed their forgiveness to Dylann Roof. There are many curious about their forgiveness, including myself, but this documentary allowed the family members to explain their reason. 

The film ended telling the stories of the victims’ family members, how they are dealing with the loss, how they are moving on, how their faith has helped them, and their real struggles with the battle. 

Emanuel was a well structured and touching film that I think many should watch. Especially after hearing the verdict and following events of the Amber Guyger case. If you can’t understand the power of faith and forgiveness, the documentary Emanuel will definitely show you how.

Emanuel

Release: Oct. 11, 2019 

Directred by: Brian Ivie

Distributed by: Fathom Events

 

07Oct/19
black excellence hyperbole

Black Excellence is Not Hyperbole

“If our education is not about gaining real power, we are being miseducated and mislead and we will die ‘educated’ and misled.” – Amos Wilson, 1993.

You may remember from grade school that hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not to be taken literally. A couple of examples are “this bag weighs a ton” or “her smile was a mile wide”. These exaggerations are sometimes used in educational spheres in this country where we talk about the ‘achievement gap’ and say things like “children of color are able to excel”, and “there is no reason these children [Black children] can’t do exactly what their white counterparts can”. These statements insinuate that Black children are striving to reach a status or level that white children hold. It is oxymoronic to insinuate that it is the goal of Black children to reach a status of white children because Black Excellence is not hyperbole; it is fact.

If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, why doesn’t society acknowledge our children being as excellent as they are?

black excellence hyperbole

Blake Barrett drumming at his Graduation from Little Sun People | Photo by NayMarie

The Gesell Early Screener (GES) is a test which measures the typical development cycles of children from birth/infancy through their childhood. It shows if a child is at risk for learning or developmental delays. These tests overwhelmingly show that children of the African Diaspora are far more advanced than their European counterparts. Studies found that in early development, Black children were sitting up, making eye contact with speakers, crawling, and attempting to engage with their surroundings earlier than their white counterparts. The developmental cycle of an infant is very quick, which is why we know the things that an infant should be able to do by a certain number of months until they reach about two and a half years old. When speaking on his book, Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children, Dr. Amos Wilson states, “forgetting our history is like a child forgetting they learned how to walk or talk.” We must teach our children their history, the true history, so that they know how to walk and talk as the African children – the natural geniuses, the Exceptional Light Beings – that they are!

If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, why do we find that many of our Melanated boys are outperformed in schools in contrast to their white counterparts?

Last year, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a 68 page study, entitled The Opportunity Myth, that claimed to explain in detail with statistics to prove “what students can show us about how school is letting them down – and how to fix it”. But in 1997, Michael Porter was already speaking about The Opportunity Myth in his book, Kill Them Before They Grow: Misdiagnosis of African American Boys in American Classrooms. His book details the overdiagnosis of Black Boys with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) which, under the guise of supporting the child, is actually a crippling agent in the development of the child’s ability to think critically. Brother Michael reminds us in his text that “Oppressed people become equal with their oppressors when they are no longer oppressed” and reminds us that in order to overcome our oppression we will have to develop a definition for education that meets “our reality and our real needs.’’

If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, how do we shift the low expectations that are held for Black children in and out of the classroom?

black excellence hyperbole

Photo by NayMarie for Little Sun People

Black Excellence is lifelong, as we are students of life. In this country, most of us begin our formal pursuit of knowledge in public American classrooms. Our great Baba, Ancestor Asa Hilliard, reminds us in SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind, “Study is a requirement for our redemption”. We must study with ourselves and with our children outside of the classroom. Yes, we know that the African diasporic infants are able to naturally develop faster than their white counterparts. But this is Babylon, a degenerative government, a backward education. There are many evidences of society that are as backward and anti-African as they come. So we must diligently study and show ourselves improved. Baba Hilliard goes on to tell us in his text that “Africans have a long history of educational excellence” and gives a historical perspective that will shift how we view ourselves today. We must study, teach our children practical habits of study, study alone, study in groups, find joy in study, find solutions in study. We are excellent in all that we do, so we must study excellently so that we can grow in our African selves.

17Sep/19

Hip-Politics Awards is Aiming to Become the Mecca of Black Politics

Left to right: Hip-Politics Founder/Executive Director Cameron Trimble, Brad “Scarface” Jordan, and Trae the Truth.
photos courtesy of Curtis Thurston.

The Congressional Black Congress (CBC) hosted a week full of events celebrating with galas, lunches, and panels galore, but there was one event that combined hip-hop, one of the most celebrated genres of music today, and politics – the first annual Hip-Politics Awards. The event was held at the @1015 Lounge, which featured an array of honorees and guests who included Brad “Scarface” Jordan, rapper Trae the Truth, New York Congressman, Hakeem Jefferies, Michigan House Representative, Sheldon Neely, and The Source founder, Dave Mays. 

Hip-Politics

Brad ” Scarface” Jordan

With the political season around the corner, Brad “Scarface” Jordan, the former member of the legendary hip-hop group, The Geto Boys, has thrown his bid in for Houston City Council. The news broke after the current seat holder, Dwight Boykins, decided to run for mayor. When asked about his bid for city council, Jordan stated: “It’s not about what he gave me, it’s about what I took from him. What I took from Boykins was that he wanted me to explore running for mayor. Me on the other hand, having no political background, I have a passion for my people. With that said, it made me want to step up and run for the city council. I was supposed to be prepping for 3-4 years but now I am in the fire. Win, lose, or draw, I hope it will inspire other candidates like me to take control of the narrative. Let’s be real with ourselves, we have not been in a position to take care of our brothers and sisters. I am here to change that, it’s our turn.”

Houston native rapper, Trae the Truth, let it be known he was appreciative of being an honoree at the Hip-Politics Awards explaining, “It’s a blessing because  I get to create more of a legacy, you know? It’s nice to know people stand with me and behind me, showing what we can become.”  He added, “There’s a lot of people that need it, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you can assist people and help them to not give up and not tap out. Everybody needs encouragement, I needed it when I came on,” said The Truth explaining the reason for his philanthropy work within his community. He also spoke about building the community up like the late and talented rapper Nipsy Hussle.

Trae the Truth’s new album, “Exhale,” released on August 23, 2019 and he expressed the purpose of his new album is “clearly the truth, I mean that’s what my name says. Life is important and that’s what I am trying to promote right now.” 

House Representative and Green Justice award honoree, Sheldon Neely, and his wife, Cynthia, were delighted to be in attendance at the first annual event and expressed pride in what they were witnessing at awards. Neely stated, “I am grateful to be selected as one of the honorees tonight, especially being a representative from Flint (Michigan). Three things come to my mind. Number 1, I am very grateful; Number 2, I am very proud of the positivity that I see here tonight and; Number 3, I want to congratulate all these young people. It’s very refreshing to see the amount of African-Americans in a professional setting, it just brings life to all that I’ve been fighting for and standing for. I’m really rejuvenated by this atmosphere.” He then stated “I think people need to be aware of what’s going on with our African-American youth and millennials, I would hope that we can draw more young people into this type of atmosphere and they can actually see.”

Hip-Politics

House Representative Sheldon Neely and wife Cynthia Neely.

Known for quoting rappers during his speeches on the house floor, Congressman Hakeem Jefferies responded positively to his selection as an honoree saying  “It’s a tremendous honor, Hip-Politics is a wonderful organization that combines millennial political empowerment and hip hop culture. I look forward to being supportive of it in any way that I can. We want to make sure that we continue to promote the music, the culture and the social justice responsibility that we all have during these complicated and challenging times.”

Jeffries noted that his two favorite rappers are Biggie and Tupac, but he claimed Jay-Z as his selection for a living legend.

Founder of the Source magazine and Source Awards, Dave Mays, enjoyed his experience at the awards. He explained his support for Hip-Politics, saying “I recently created Dave Mays Media, I got to meet Cameron (one of the founders of Hip-Politics) at a Hip-Hop Museum pop up that I put together. He explained what they were doing with Hip Politics and ever since that moment, I have tried to come out and support the organization. That is why I am here tonght.”  

Hip-Politics podcast co-host, Mike McQuerry, was proud of the success of the organization. McQuerry talked about the origin of Hip-Politics stating, “We try to fuse Hip-Hop and politics together. Cameron is more of the hip-hop one and I am more of the political one since I work on Capitol Hill. I have been working on the Hill for 24 years. Hip Hop and policy are easy to combine together since a lot of the rep content out there now reloves around politics.” 

Hip-Politics

Congressman Hakeem Jefferies holding the Hip-Politics Award.

Hip-Politics Founder/Executive Director, Cameron Trimble, was very happy with the turn out of the event.  He annotated that “the hip-hop generation is strong. To see the turnout, to feel the energy in the room, to see some of our legends come out, this event shows that hip-hop has the power to effect change. Hip-hop has the power to mobilize millions of people across racial and socioeconomic demographics around the country. This is what I like to call the Superbowl of Black Politics. Putting on this event was a blessing and it’s only going to get bigger!” 

11Sep/19

How Ardre Orie Is Changing Black Literature

With the loss of literary great Toni Morrison, the world looks to many great authors who can create inspiring works as she has – talented authors like Ardre Orie. She is an author, playwright, ghostwriter, and Black creative who has worked with many high profile clients and told many moving stories. Taji Mag got to speak with her about her career and her inspiration for writing.  

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Dapper Dr Feel ( DDF): When did you write your first book? 

Ardre Orie (AO): I wrote my first book at the age of 10 when I was in elementary school.  At this age, I was one of those students that talked a lot and my teachers were thinking maybe we need to give her something else to do. My teachers gave me a special assignment, the opportunity to create something, anything from drawing, painting, etc.

DDF: What was your book about? 

AO: I decided to write a book about women in my neighborhood and how they were examples of excellence. I thought they would be great role models to the young women in my community. 

I completed the book and then got it published. Next, I hosted a book signing, I invited the press/media, and I had a big article in the newspaper. It was pretty amazing because I had no idea that is what I would be doing as a career 30 years later in life. 

Ardre Orie

DDF: What was the next book you wrote? How did you develop it? 

AO: The second time I wrote a book, I resigned from my job as an assistant principal at an elementary school in Florida. After that I relocated to Atlanta with my family. I made the decision to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurship. 

As I pursued this goal, I had not gone to school for entrepreneurship and it was a learning curve for me. I started a non-profit organization where we taught entrepreneurship and leadership skills to young ladies. We were servicing 500 families of women and children. 

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” – Lorraine Hansberry

DDF: When did your non-profit start and what was your next move? 

AO: 2009 is when the non-profit started, the economy was not doing well as this was during the recession. I thought to myself, I really need to be selling something, to really make a profit. I had all these women and girls and, with that, I decided to create a cosmetic line. It consisted of lip gloss and lipstick. I knew I had an audience that loved that, so I started to make the products. This placed me in the makeup, beauty, film, and entertainment industry in Atlanta. At this time, Black Hollywood was forming in the area. 

Ardre OrieDDF: What made you come up with a cosmetic line? 

AO: I started to notice that there were a lot of women that were concerned with self-esteem and I wanted to be able to get this message out about these products. The name of my products were called I Love Me, but I didn’t have the budget to advertise the company traditionally, so that had me look at what I had in my hand and what I had available to me, and that was the ability to write. So I decided to write a book that only showcased women and their different stories, but it would also serve as a marketing tool for this cosmetic line to promote it. That is how the book evolved, it was out of a need to market a product, to market a message, to market a brand that I was creating.

DDF: You had a unique way of advertising the book, tell me about that? 

AO: While developing the book, I enlisted 21 women and teens. I hosted a casting call. I got the women to come to Atlanta to have a makeover, particpate in a photoshoot, then I interviewed them and I turned around and wrote the book and their stories as if I was them. This was my introduction to ghostwriting. I remember what I did for my book when I was 10. I studied the industry after that book; it was successful. I had a signing at Barnes and Noble and then I started to receive calls for writing. 

DDF: When did you start seeing yourself as a ghost writer? 

AO: One of the first clients was from VH1. They had a show coming out and they wanted to know if a book could be made in a short amount of time. The book did well and so did the show.  I started to receive more calls after that via word of mouth from VH1, MTV, We TV, Centric, etc. This is when I started to understand that I had found my niche as a ghostwriter. 

DDF: How do you approach your work as a ghostwriter? 

AO: As my career as a ghostwriter progressed along the way, I developed my processes and how I approach situations. The most important thing is that I grew up in a home with a counselor – my mother was a counselor for 35 years. It was through her, I learned how to listen very well. I learned to not only listen to the words but to also the delivery, the emotion attached to those words, and the yearning of their souls. 

DDF: How are the working relationships with you and your clients during a project? 

AO: The reason why my clients say “That’s what I was trying to say but I didn’t know how to verbalize it!” is because I try to listen deeply within them. Like what motivates them, what drives them, I am trying to understand their pain, trying to understand the things that make them truly happy, how they find true joy, the things that cause them pain along their journey. I try to pay attention to things that just deal with words. I approach all projects like that no matter if my client is a man, woman, child, etc. There is no difference in the process, but each person’s story is different. 

Ardre Orie

DDF: How did you get your second book published? 

AO: When I went to publish my second book, I was doing research and I looking up companies to help me get published. The first quote I got was for $10,000 and this included me doing the writing myself. I was like oh my gosh, I just walked away from a career that took me ten years to build. I am married and have children and that amount of money is nothing just sitting around for me to spend for that kind of project. In that moment, I thought that I would never become an author even though I know that I can write, I have a story to tell, and I know that this project can help other people. That was very disheartening to me, it caused me to do a lot of research about the industry. In doing that, I found a second company that cost $6,000, which was still a stretch, but I made the decision to make an investment in myself because if I don’t make an investment in myself, then how can I expect anyone else to do the same? 

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston

DDF: What is the origin of your publication company 13th and Joan? 

AO: After I started to learn more about the industry, I soon started writing theatrical productions and screenplays because my creative juices were starting to flow. All this content flowing from me and I realized that I could create this content and it wouldn’t cost me a dime to create. It was the same thing in elementary school. It was then that I decided I needed a company that is about the promotion media, especially for stories of color.

We publish everybody, 13th and Joan does not discriminate when it comes to the content we produce, but I just realized there is no home for people of color to tell it with some sauce on it. We believe that our books use correct grammar, sentence structure, and that our projects are in alignment with the industry standard for well-edited books, but we want to be able to add flavor to our books. We provide stories that mainstream told us that there is no market for. 

My research is what lead me to understand that there was not a black-owned publishing company. Some of these companies that do exist, have been in existence for over 95 years. If you trace back 95 years, you can clearly explain why we weren’t having our own publishing companies.

“A thing is mighty big when time and distance cannot shrink it.” – Zora Neale Hurston, 

DDF: Out of all the books you have written, which is your favorite? 

AO: I have so many favorite books that I have written but there is one that touched me. The author was so in love with the finished product that he wanted to add my name as a co-author of the book. The author’s name is Thomas McClary (Rock and Soul: Thomas McClary Founder of The Commodores). Lionel Richie, also one of the founders of the Commodores, was discovered by McClary. Richie was playing an instrument and not singing, McClary is the one who encouraged Richie to sing. They founded this group at Tuskegee University and they were Motown royalty.  He also was the first person to integrate schools in Lake County Florida. We had to do over 60 years of research for the book. Through that, I learned a lot about history. 

DDF: Why is this book so special? 

AO: It is very special to me because we were able to tell his life story, achievements, and all he had to overcome as a Black man during a difficult time. I am proud to give the story to any Black boy or man to show them what they are capable of.

Follow Ardre Orie on Instagram or Facebook and be sure to visit her website!

 

11Sep/19
Nonso

Nonso Shows Men How to Dress Without Breaking the Bank

Taji Mag (TM): Nonso, as a trained doctor of pharmacy in Nigeria, how did you transition into lifestyle fashion in Toronto?
NonsoCHUKWUNONSO Ezekwueche aka Dr. NONSKY) (N): Nice question. I’ve been asked this question a million times. It was not a transition per se. I have always had a flair for fashion from a young age and I came from a family of fashionistas that paved the way for what I’m doing right now. I also never dropped my Pharmacy career, I am currently in pursuit of my license to practice here in Canada.

TM: What is a signature piece that is necessary to complete your look?
N: Definitely jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, watches, lapel pins, etc. I always feel incomplete without a sprinkle of accessories here and there. Accessories are like vitamins to fashion, we should all learn to use them liberally.

TM: Your tagline is, “I show men how to dress without breaking the bank.” What’s a tip for men who want to look great on a limited budget?
N: First of all, I would like to let you know that you don’t really need to spend money on luxury, exorbitant designer clothes to look good or make a fashion statement. Not that I have anything against them, I have quite a few myself, but my point is you can still look your best in affordable clothes. The trick is finding your personal style, reviewing what you have in your closet, see what needs to be added or discarded, then, most importantly, mastering the act of perfect color matching and only wearing the right fit of clothes and shoes.

NonsoTM: How has fashion helped to transform your esteem?
N: It’s no doubt that what you wear has a significant effect on your self-esteem and I’m certainly not left out. Putting on a beautifully designed suit elevates my spirit, extols my sense of self, and helps define me as a man to whom details matter. How I look has a lot to do with how people receive me and how I feel about myself. Fashion is my getaway place when I’m sad or depressed and shopping for new clothes for whatever purpose has a way of boosting my self-esteem.

TM: What advice do you have for rising fashion influencers?
N: Consistency! It certainly won’t be easy at first. I felt like giving up a few times because I wasn’t getting the recognition I felt I deserved but I never gave up. Focus on creating excellent content that would resonate with your audience and attract new followers and sponsors to you (content is definitely king). Keep learning, there is always a learning curve. Collaborate with other fashion influencers, learn from each other, and soon you will be flying.

Nonso can be reached easily via email to [email protected] or via a direct message on Instagram at @_nonsky!

Nonso

10Sep/19
Yoga for Everybody

Yoga for Every(body)

We breath, we move, we surrender, and we practice awareness when we do yoga. All things capable of the human body but have been manipulated in a way so that Black, brown, and yellow black bodies are excluded. Yoga means to yolk, to unite and to find union with self and others. It’s in this practice that all bodies are welcomed, all bodies are capable, and all bodies are valued. So why has there been a lack of representation in class and in front of the class? I’ll keep it simple; systematic oppression, colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, just to name a few. Not to be discouraged, overtime our representation has grown. There are more yoga teachers of color and more students of color. We are decolonizing the world of wellness one yoga class at a time. Image exchanging energy with someone who navigates the world as you do, with similar experiences based on the color of our skin. The meditation will be different, the intention will be different, the overall architect of the class will be different because the teacher can relate and teach to what is needed while holding space authentically.

yoga for everybodyYou don’t have to imagine this type of yoga experience. It’s available and accessible, you just have to know that it’s out there. Meet these five yoga teachers who provide just that in their yoga classes here in NYC. Yahaya, Dre, Jazmin, Angelica, and Jo all teach yoga, and other forms of fitness, in spaces that flow with diversity, inclusion, and representation. Yahaya and Jo work closely with a non-profit organization named SLAP (Self Love Affirmation and Preservation), teaching low cost and sometimes free yoga classes in and around Brooklyn for the community. Jazmin teaches at Harlem Yoga, where she can give back to the community she was raised in. Dre teaches at Y7 Studio where he offers a space for people who have experienced trauma, big or small, peace and inclusion. Angelica, who also teaches at Y7 Studio, teaches to hold space but also for body positive representation. When is the last time you’ve met a plus size female yoga teacher of color who stands at 6’2? Most likely never! But they are out there.

If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable, distracted and or disconnected in yoga, consider taking a class with a teacher of color. Find a studio that is Black-owned, or search for an independent grassroots studio in your neighborhood that employs people that look like you. You may find a new passion for this practice because it feels safe, familiar, and relatable. Yoga is for every(body) and therefore everyone should be represented, in class and in front of it. Angelica wants everyone to know “that they can do yoga no matter their age, physical ability, shape, color, or flexibility level. With more teachers of color, we also see more diversity in body types. All too often we are presented with “the yoga body”; slim, white and tall. It’s all over the internet, TV, and most media platforms. If it’s not marketed to us, if we are not casted for wellness photoshoots, and if we are not in spaces teaching yoga how could anyone of color feel that it’s for them?

Yoga for EverybodyStart here with this article. Yoga is for you and there are yoga teachers of color out there. They are showing up to hold space because they want you to connect with your breath, your body, and your higher self. Yoga is a philosophy. It is a comprehensive system for wellbeing on all levels- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is a system of techniques meant to enrich life. Most people start yoga for the physical benefits like increased flexibility, strength, and balance but they quickly find that there is so much more; body awareness, stress reduction, and self-confidence. So, when’s your next yoga class? These teachers and many more are waiting for you.

yoga for everybody