Words have power. What you think and speak, you start to believe, even on a subconscious level. Words tend to manifest in our lives. A form of magic is at work when you are “spell-ing.” Most successful people will tell you to write down your goals and read them out loud daily. Spell-ing. If this works for success, it must also work for the opposite and adverse results. As an American Descendant of Slavery (ADOS), I cannot refer to a European descendant as a supremacist, a slave master, or even an oppressor. I REFUSE to allow them that power.
African descendants are supreme beings. The oldest known human on the planet is an African woman. We call the continent Mother Africa for a reason. Thus, it would be blasphemous for me to refer to the hatred sweeping through European Americans as supreme.
They are white inferiorists.
* Added to Spell Check Dictionary *
Fully functional, rational thinking adults do not hate someone based on their skin color. They do not participate in the unjust beatings, lynchings, and shootings of people just because their skin color differs. That’s childish, egotistical, jealously. The ‘I want what you have so I’m going to take it’ complex is deep-rooted in their DNA.
They hate our skin. Our noses. Our lips. Our a** and d***. Our creativity. Our divine connection to the Universe. All too bold and too large for them to ever achieve so they do everything in their power to make sure we hate ourselves and prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. They hate us because, despite our lack of resources, we still shine bright and turn coal into diamonds. Instead of congratulating, they shoot us in the back, raid our homes, choke us with whatever body part is available, and threaten to do the same to anyone to attempts to assist us. Inferior.
They cannot be my master.
They may have mastered pillaging, raping, looting, and deceiving, but they are not my master. Owning another human makes you trash, not a master. An enslaved-owner, because my ancestors were not slaves but enslaved, is a despicable title some wear as a badge of honor. That is inferior.
They may have worked their hardest to keep my people down and actually be oppressors, but I still will not call them by such – they’re just bullies and bullies can be dealt with. I will not allow them to think that they hold any power over my life or my community or that I need to beg to be seen as a whole human (because three-fifths *eye roll). I will not plead with them to get their foot off of my neck, I will instead break their ankles.
SYNOPSIS: In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, based on anti-Black hatred fomented by the Dominican government. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929. The ruling rendered more than 200,000 people stateless, without nationality, identity, or a homeland. In this dangerous climate, a young attorney named Rosa Iris mounts a grassroots campaign, challenging electoral corruption and advocating for social justice. Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary, Stateless, traces the complex tributaries of history and present-day politics, as state-sanctioned racism seeps into mundane offices, living room meetings, and street protests.
The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection, Stateless, is an extremely compelling film that touches on a discrimination narrative I find to be all too familiar. Watching the film, I could not help but feel emotionally drained by the actions of the Dominican Supreme Court’s decision to strip people of their nationality, rights, and life altogether. Given the state the United States has been in concerning immigration politics, I can not help but see a possible future where people in our country will meet the same demise.
“As a child, growing up in a Haitian and Latinx household and diasporic communities in North America, I continued to overhear stories about the history of my birthplace relating to race, color, class, colonialism, and human rights. Those observations formed the basis of how I made sense of the world that surrounded me, especially as those notions collided with the racism, segregation, and discrimination that we faced in our adopted countries. Those experiences fueled my passion to dig deeper into the consequences of our deeply painful common history of slavery and colonialism and how we continue to internalize such self-hatred.” – Michele Stephenson
I was really impressed by the work of young attorney Rosa Iris and her pursuit of justice for those wronged by the system. Her effort to free her people of oppression and discrimination so admirably left me rooting for her the whole documentary. I could see the drive in her eyes and the passion for her work pouring from her heart so badly and her wanting only the best for her people. Stephenson was very fond of Rosa’s efforts stating “I fell in love with Rosa and her vulnerability. She was an all-in collaborator, which you could not ask better for a project. She told me that when you get into a relationship of trust with your collaborator, they end up helping you find the story. They know what you are looking for and it’s that kind of exchange.”
It was heartbreaking to watch the system reject Rosa’s cousin, Teofilo Murat, who was one of the unfortunate stateless people displayed in the film.
“She (Rosa) is the one that told me her cousin, Teofilo Murant, he’s stateless and he’s leaving for Haiti. He was a working-class guy, able to pay his rent, and one day to the next he lost his papers, he lost everything. So, we reached out to him and spent time with him before he moved to Haiti. He said I’m outta here because I’m suffering too much, it’s too dangerous, it’s too precarious and he left for the mountains of Haiti. For me, there’s this flipping the narrative of what Haiti means to folks, there’s this idea that refugees have no place and they are in destitute situations. But for me, Teofilo represents a modern maroon. He’s escaping this oppression to what he perceives as freedom in the mountains of Haiti. You can see in the film that Rosa still has faith in the system when Teofilo does not believe the country has his best interest,” explained Stephenson about the origin of Teofilo’s involvement in the film.
“The question of what citizenship means is shaken up in this beautiful documentary. Also, watching anti-immigration bias alongside garden variety racism spread globally, you realize how timely this film is. I’m proud to work with Michèle and bring this story to the world.” – Jennifer Holness, Producer (Hispaniola Productions)
Gladys, another featured person in the film, is a right-winged Dominican of Haitian descent who has a strong dislike for Haitians. When asked about Gladys, Stephen stated, “A couple of years into the project, I felt very strongly about Gladys. The whole right-wing nationalist in the country was so profound and I felt that being there I couldn’t ignore that narrative, that presence, but also I had to challenge myself as a light-skinned person that could have potential access to that narrative in a more intimate way that others may not be able to. I never really confront Gladys with my own ideology because I wanted to get what I could get. I challenged myself to be uncomfortable to get to the point where I can grab the story that Gladys had to tell because she really wanted to tell her story. I barely had to ask questions because she really wanted to make her point.”
Stephenson said she and producers did a casting and they approached a couple of people, who in her opinion were way too aggressive. She didn’t know if she could spend half a day with them. They were men, they were very aggressive when they talked about Haitians with great disdain. She said “their hatred was virulent, it was like spitting out of their mouths. It’s like here in the U.S., do you want the stereotypical hater to be the one to represent the other side and lose the complexity and the depths of the hatred?”
Stephenson also said that when she met Gladys, she thought to herself, “here is this woman that presents a paradox. She presents a certain way, she presents as Black, and yet the hatred she has is hatred for Haitians.” She went on to explain how her friends and colleagues who watched the film in New York immediately recognized Gladys as an archetype.
Filmmaker Michele Stephenson put together a powerful and enlightening piece, that will challenge you to think about the state the U.S. is in when it comes to immigration laws and the awful conditions that some of the Haitians and Dominicans with Haitians parents are in. The imagery and art used to display the sugar canes are visually pleasing and serve as short intermissions from the harsh realities within the film.
My objective is to connect the film to a network of committed partners in the Caribbean region, Latin America, the U.S., and internationally, to utilize the film as a platform for their work on protecting the rights of migrants, and citizens, and to deepen people’s understanding of the intersection between anti-black racism, migration, and citizenship rights.” – Michele Stephenson
Hopefully, Stateless will be widespread and will inform people about the injustices some of the people in the Dominican Republic are facing. I also hope Michele achieves her goal to involve more people and organizations that can help give these people their rightful lives. This film encourages people to work together in this fight against oppression and discrimination worldwide. May this film tap into the viewers’ cores and enlighten their minds.
Hispaniola Productions and the National Film Board of Canada present
A Rada Film Group and Hungry Eyes Media film
Director: Michèle Stephenson
Producers: Michèle Stephenson, Jennifer Holness, Lea Marin
Screenwriter: Michèle Stephenson
Cinematographers: Alfredo Alcántara, Tito Rodriguez, Naiti Gámez, Nadia Hallgren, Pedro Arnau Bros Santana, Jaime Guerra
Editor: Sophie Farkas-Bolla
Executive Producers: Joe Brewster, Anita Lee, Sudz Sutherland
Cast: Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez, Teofilo Murat, Gladys Feliz
My son’s favorite ancestor is Harriet Tubman. In his school report, he said “she helped get a lot of Black people away from where racist people controlled them to a different place where racist people were not allowed to control them as much. I would protect her if she was alive today because she is important.” I hope I’ve taught my son that Black women are important and worthy of protection. These schools and police departments and jobs don’t value us, but we have Black men who cherish us.
Do Black people get to claim self defense?
When Harriet Tubman had her rifle out ready to shoot any slave catcher that threatened the lives of enslaved Black folks, she would have been acting in self defense if she shot one of them. But apparently, self defense is only reserved for white folks. Remember when Marissa Alexander spent years in prison for protecting herself? As a Black woman who stood her ground, she was treated much more harshly than Trayvon’s Martin’s killer–a racist man who didn’t even get arrested the night he murdered an unarmed child. When white people shoot someone to protect themselves, it’s self defense. When Black folks do the same thing, it’s attempted murder.
We can argue all day about the problems between Black men and women, (as well as our gender nonconforming folks). In this instance, however, it is imperative that we celebrate Black men who stand up for Black women. Kenneth Walker protected a Black woman, but in a world where her killers’ comfort is more valuable than her Black life, Kenneth is seen as a criminal.
When I first wrote about Breonna Taylor, I went through it. Like a lot of other people here in Louisville, we are tired of gentrification and empty promises by government officials. We are sick of (and from) the environmental racism and pollution and food deserts. We are out here working one, two, sometimes three jobs to live despite the fact that, in the majority Black West End of this city, Black life expectancy is 12 years shorter than white folks in the more affluent parts of town.
The charges should be dropped immediately and he deserves reparations for all that he endured. #FreeKenny
Look, Kenneth Walker risked his life to defend himself AND Breonna Taylor. Despite the fact that three white men murdered an unarmed Black woman and have served ZERO time in jail, Kenneth Walker Jr. was arrested by the criminals who murdered his girlfriend.
If you haven’t read up on the situation, here is what happened.
Plainclothes officers burst into the home of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY with a battering ram
Since they did not announce themselves, Kenneth thought they were breaking in and tried to defend himself along with Breonna
#BrettMylesandJon responded by firing 20 rounds into the apartment, 8 of which hit and killed Breonna Taylor.
They found no drugs and no evidence of a crime
They were not wearing body cameras
Thankfully, one of Taji’s heroes Judge Olu Stevens advocated for home incarceration instead of jail time. Of course, the police are big mad.
Since Kenneth’s release home, the case has received national attention. Because of local Black activists like Chanelle Helm of Black Lives Matter Louisville and others, there have been protests and demands. The family and their supporters are asking that all charges get dropped.
After receiving hundreds of calls, emails, and inquiries Commonwealth attorney Thomas Wine recused himself. The case was handed over to Daniel Cameron, the first Black state’s attorney in Kentucky’s history.
Known racist police chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement (not resignation or termination unfortunately) following similar protests and demands. While I am happy that he will no longer be the police chief, I am left with questions. Does he get a severance package? If so, how much of my tax dollars will pay for that? Will Breonna’s murder be anywhere on his record? How much is his pension? Is it worth the effort to hold him accountable after he retires?
The central theme in all this is about our ability (and willingness) to protect Black folks. We have made strides in the original demands. Getting those charges dropped for Kenneth Walker is the next step.
How do we protect these Black men?
Judge Olu Stevens is almost always under attack by the FOP and other #BlueLivesMatter racists. Brother Kenneth’s next court date is June 25th. I pray that we can keep them both safe until then.
“The killing of Breonna Taylor, the filing of criminal charges against her partner Kenneth Walker, and the attacks by the Fraternal Order of Police on Judge Olu Stevens for calling out police misconduct, all reflect a criminal justice system that targets communities of color and the poor,” said Stephen Bartlett of Louisville SURJ. “We cannot sit by and allow this state of affairs to continue.”
I have to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for The Lovebirds I thought, “Oh no, will this be Issa Rae’s fall-off movie, her ‘Will Smith Bomb’ she mentioned in her 2018 GQ article?” That negativity was dissolved by a friend pointing out the hilarious bacon grease scene that did make me chuckle. After watching the film, I found out he was right – the combination gave me a night of favorite scenes and a few scenes that will be re-created on Tik-Tok. I recommend people watch this film and here are the reasons why.
In order to eventually succeed, you have to bomb. That’s what every comedian says—that’s when the fear goes away. And I feel like I’m still fearful because I haven’t publicly bombed yet, in terms of my career. Yeah, Insecure is successful now, but where’s my bomb coming? Where are my Will Smith bombs coming? Where, where is that happening?” –Issa Rae (GQ May, 22nd 2018)
Guilt Free Entertainment
At no time did I feel uncomfortable while watching his film. (You know that feeling where you hear or see racist jokes/stereotypes in a film so offensive you can’t ignore it?) The scenes in the film were so well written and performed I was able to enjoy myself and laugh freely. It was a good feeling and that’s the way it should be. A great example of this was a scene where Issa Rae’s character, Leilani, was explaining to Kumail Nanjiani’s character, Jibran, as they were looking at some f*ck boys (frat boys whom they were sneaking up on), and Kumail’s character had no clue what that was and was very curious to know. He wasn’t making fun of the word, he was making fun of how oblivious a person can be to terminology.
More Than Trailer Clips
Plenty comedies present hilarious trailers before the films are released just for the audience to discover that those were the only funny parts of the film. Then you think to yourself, they wasted all this money on a mess of a movie and wasted your time. Love Birds was hilarious! I found myself Steve Urkel snorting a few times, the level of funny was totally unexpected.
I felt like Issa and Kumail fed off of each other’s performances like the Splash Brothers, Clay Thompson, and Steph Curry when they both get hot in a game.
The Lovebirds Chemistry
Yeah, I didn’t know if the chemistry between Issa and Kumail would be good in The Lovebirds. Don’t ask me why, I just didn’t. They were able to play off of each other very well during both the serious scenes and the funny scenes. They definitely showed that they both have range and adaptability.
One of the funniest scenes is the interrogation. They interrogate one of the frat boys and it kind of reminds me of a buddy cop interrogation scene akin to Bad Boys (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith). When I tell you Kumail ain’t got no sense, y’all I mean it!
Imitating life (Spoiler Alert)
From the beginning of the film, where the couple transitions from the honeymoon stage to the ‘here’s your part of the deposit ‘cause we not going to make it’ stage, I really felt. Unfortunately, my ex and I didn’t make it after being almost killed by a crooked cop, but those moments did spark some memories.
There was also a moment when Leilani was fooled by the happy couple photos another character posted on social media, making her evaluate her own struggling relationship. This is understandable because some of us have been through social media jealously, hell, some are going through it right now.
The film releases this Friday, May 22nd, on Netflix. Make sure to add The Lovebirds to your list of films to stream. I commend Issa Rae for being on this project and making a quality rom-com about an interracial couple. I really hope that The Lovebirds has created an example (not a formula to be consistently repeated) of how diversity in film should look.
A couple (Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme – and hilarious – circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.
The LeBron James Family Foundation, XQ Institute, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation paid tribute to high school seniors nationwide in a one-hour multimedia special event, Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, on Saturday, May 16. President Barack Obama delivered a commencement message during the historic special that also featured an impressive lineup of prominent leaders, educators, and entertainers, including LeBron James, Kevin Hart, H.E.R., Alicia Keys, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Zendaya, Liza Koshy and more. More than 40 broadcast and cable networks and online streaming channels throughout the U.S. and across the world carried the commercial-free program. The commencement special honored the more than 3 million high school seniors across the nation whose final weeks of high school, including graduation ceremonies, were postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.
President Obama said, “With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you ‘no, you’re too young to understand’ or ‘this is how it’s always been done.’ Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.”
He was also joined by several high school students who are part ofthe Obama Foundation’s work to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world, including seniors from Chicago Public Schools and members of the Obama Youth Jobs Corps, a program created in partnership with Urban Alliance. As part of its mission, the Obama Foundation is focused on engaging, training, and supporting the next generation of leaders to create positive change in their communities.
LeBron James said, “Pursue every ambition, go as far as you possibly can dream, and be the first generation to embrace the new responsibility—a responsibility to rebuild your community. Class of 2020, the world has changed. You will determine how we rebuild, and I ask that you make your community your priority. Congratulations, Class of 2020. I love all of you. And remember one thing: you’re all kings and queens.”
Malala Yousafzai said, “The Class of 2020 won’t be defined by what we lost to this virus, but by how we responded to it. The world is yours now, and I can’t wait to see what you make of it.”
The program also highlighted some of the nation’s exceptional high schoolers working tirelessly to affect change both in their communities and on a larger scale as well as some of the country’s most influential teachers including National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, who teaches social studies and history at Virgie Binford Education Center in Richmond, Virginia.
The celebration featured specially curated performances from Grammy and Tony Award-winning artists to Billboard chart-toppers. Following a touching performance by a nationwide high school student choir singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Dua Lipa opened the show with her song “Break My Heart.” Highlights included Alicia Keys’ rendition of her song “Underdog” and “Sometimes” by H.E.R.
Additional talent who participated included Yara Shahidi, Kane Brown, Lana Condor, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, David Dobrik, Dolan Twins, Loren Gray, Chris Harrison, and Maren Morris, all of whom shared messages celebrating the Class of 2020 and their accomplishments, with hope and excitement for their collective future.
As part of the celebration, high school seniors from across the country submitted portraits to the largest-ever high school yearbook. Created by renowned artist JR and his participatory art project Inside Out, the project offers graduates a place to share their portraits and stories while making a collective statement.
Immediately following the broadcast, TikTok hosted the official #GraduateTogether After Party, featuring DJs Kitty Cash, Brittany Sky, and Victoria Monet.
Corporate and philanthropic giving associated with #GraduateTogether will benefit DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund to help meet student needs in some of our nation’s most underserved and under-resourced communities.
Lenny Thomas portrays Dikhan on Tyler Perry’s new series Ruthless. Dikhan is one of the ruthless and intimidating antagonists in the series but, as for Lenny himself, he is far from it. The New Yorker has a heart of gold and an optimistic attitude. Taji Mag was able to find out how unlike Dikhan Lenny really is in an exclusive interview during this COVID-19 crisis.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What brought you to this role?
Lenny Thomas (LT): Thankfully my agent has a great relationship with the casting director of most of Tyler Perry’s projects. I was thrown in the mix through a self take. Mind you, during the auditing process of tv and movies, there are multiple rounds. Lucky me, I got this role off of one self-tape which still, ’til this day, blows my mind. While putting together my self-tape, my agent coached me and I sent it in. A week later, I’m on set with Tyler Perry. I’ve had some success, so I was not a stranger to hard work and diving right in and getting the job done.
DFF: What was your inspiration for the role?
LT: Honestly, if I didn’t have the proper guidance that I did growing up, I could have been Dikhan. Exercising the demons in my life allowed me to tap into this character. Being in the New York area, the undercurrent is kind of negative, so I pulled from dealing with that and seeing the negative characters in my life while growing up.
DDF: Dikhan is the second in command and seems ruthless, how do you think he got to this point?
LT: Apparently, he spent some time in jail and used to be involved with numerous gangs. Decade or so time he spent in jail, something broke him. In this broken state, he met The Highest and they decided they were no longer going to be the victims of their circumstances by taking matters into their own hands, thus creating the life they currently live.
DDF: What is it like working with Tyler Perry?
LT: It was tough, everyone was trying to keep up with him. I have not seen a person work as hard as that man works. We barely passed a 12-hour day somehow. That is unheard of in television, usually, it’s between 12 to 16 hours in my experience. It was all inspiring too because of the people he surrounds himself with. There’s so much love in Tyler Perry Studios, I have never been on a set that had so much love and care. Everyone was taking care of each other. Also, to be unapologetically Black, I have never been around so many Black people on set in my life. It was overwhelming, so many times it was overwhelming. I was thinking to myself, “Is this my life right now, is this really happening?”
DDF: Who have you developed a relationship with on set?
LT: That’s a hard question because I love my castmates. There are 11 leads on the show and the people I grew closest to are Blue Kimble who plays Andrew on the show and Melissa Williams who plays Ruth Truesdale. Melissa, in particular, set the stage, she is perfect to lead the show because her heart is big. I did not notice she was the lead of the show because it was like I was shot out of a cannon into shooting the series, once I got the role. I was still working before I flew out to set, so I was playing catch up the whole time. When I met her I was like, you are unusually nice to me. I’m not used to this, I mean I’m from New York, we don’t treat each other like this.
DDF: What is the best acting advice you have received and who gave it to you?
LT: Best acting advice was from Risa Garcia. She has an acting podcast and is also an acting teacher/casting director. Her advice just blew my mind, it makes life worth living honestly. She says to her students, “When you get these jobs that you’ve been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is after you have some power, then you should empower somebody else. This is not just a grab bag candy game.” That wisdom really speaks to the person I am going to be for the rest of my life.
DDF: What director would you like to work with next?
LT: Steve McQueen! I would love to work with him. He got on my radar with his movie starring Micheal Fassbender called Shame. He just seems like an actors director.
DDF: How has life been during COVID-19?
LT: I turned myself into an introvert years before this happened so staying inside, has not been a problem. The beautiful thing is, before I booked Ruthless, I was going through a breakup and my life was seemingly falling apart. Then, all of a sudden, the Ruthless opportunity comes along and it was like a defibrillator was used on my life. My lady and I started to reconcile and said we would start to build this life together. We unsuccessfully tried to reconcile before but I didn’t have the tools for it. Now I do.
Social distancing has been cool, we have spent several weeks in the apartment and we have been more connected than before. I’m not missing outside. I’m not missing a thing. I want to do my part and make sure no one gets infected by my doing. I’m curious to see how life is going to change but I am hopeful for the future.
As I was watching the first part of the show Ruthless, I developed a disdain for the Dihkan character and was ready to fight him myself. Luckily he is only a character on the show, so I guess you can say Lenny has done a great job at portraying this role. Check it out for yourself!
“Tyler Perry’s Ruthless,” a spin-off of the hit television series “Tyler Perry’s The Oval,” tells the riveting story of a woman named Ruth who kidnaps her young daughter to join her in the dark underworld of a fanatical religious cult. “Tyler Perry’s Ruthless” stars Melissa L. Williams, Matt Cedeño, Lenny D. Thomas, Yvonne Senat Jones, Baadja-Lyne Odums, Jaime Callica, Nirine S. Brown, Blue Kimble, Stephanie Charles, Hervé Clermont, Anthony Bless, and Bobbi Baker.
Years ago, there was a hashtag called #FirstWorldProblems. It showed the entitlement of mostly Americans. For example, there would be a picture of a person in agony as if they were experiencing severe grief or pain. The caption above the picture would read, “When you can’t get WI-FI throughout the house and want to game.” It shouted privilege and entitlement.
Now, entitlement has risen again in the midst of this pandemic, but sadly it’s not online. It is in real-life. Entitlement shines like a raggedy lace front. Others are watching baffled while the person wearing it doesn’t realize they look a hot mess. What really burns my grits with this display of collective whining is the use of the words “oppression” and “freedom.”
They aren’t oppressed. Their freedoms haven’t been removed. They are inconvenienced!
As a Black Southern woman, when I hear oppression I imagine the life of my ancestors. I don’t have to go too far back in time because my mom grew up during the Civil Rights Era. My grandparents grew up in the Jim Crow era. Seeing as I did an ancestry test and have a small percentage of European DNA in my veins, it’s suggested that one of my great-grandmothers was given no other choice but to lie down with a man that had power over her. Have you seen some of the things that enslaved Africans around the world had to endure? Does your paper thin mask bring you as much pain as an iron bit, pronged collar, and shackles?
They aren’t oppressed. Their freedoms haven’t been removed. They are inconvenienced!
As a Marine veteran, I think about my last deployment. While deployed to Iraq, I would see Muslim women with their faces fully covered. Their faces were fully covered and it was over 110 degrees in the desert! Some Muslim women in the Middle East make a choice to cover and some obey the wishes of their husband to avoid torture. This extreme display of patriarchy exists in other countries resulting in the policing and managing of women’s body. Have you seen some of the issues trending in the Middle East and Africa? Does your inability to not get a haircut bring you as much pain as genital mutilation?
They aren’t oppressed. Their freedoms haven’t been removed. They are inconvenienced!
The irony of these whiners is they often tell other people to get over it and pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Yet, they are angrily protesting keeping six feet of distance, having less than 10 in a group, cancelled concerts, and no haircuts – THIS oppresses them. I’m convinced that many of these people are toxic, damaged, and/or hateful on the inside. They are forced to spend time with themselves and now are realizing how harmful they truly are. Their own nefarious energy is eating away at them but, rather than look inward, they point a finger at a person or group of people, not acknowledging the true definition of oppression or freedom stricken. Not realizing the irony that they are oppressing others and removing their freedoms. Only because of an inconvenience…
How do I even start an article like this? I want to write something that gives us hope and makes me think I can raise my seven-year-old safely, but that doesn’t feel genuine. My mind frantically darts back and forth between advice I’ve gotten over the years about surviving and staying safe as a Black woman.
Be quiet. Go to school. Don’t get pregnant. Get a good job. Keep your hands in plain sight. Don’t talk back. Be polite. Hands up. Try not to upset them.
But has any of that ever kept us safe? Is there something different I can do to be less of a target? Could Breonna have done anything differently?
A couple of years ago, before I moved back to Louisville, I was living in Oakland. A young Black girl named Nia Wilson was brutally murdered by an apparent white supremacist in broad daylight. She and her sisters were at the MacArthur BART train station when a white man named John Lee Cowell stabbed her and her sister. Of course, they said he was mentally unstable because white men are never guilty in the eyes of the law. Just like the three white officers who gunned down Breonna have been living their best lives over the last two months.
It doesn’t matter how many accolades and awards and assets we acquire. At the end of the day, the mayor and the governor and the president and your good white friend at work will still take pride in doing the bare minimum. Police will continue to act with impunity because the destruction of Black life is incentivized. I keep seeing people post about the system being broken, but it seems to be functioning effectively. We cannot acknowledge the inception of international chattel slavery, while in the same breath express our disappointment in the system seeming to be broken. White supremacy is operating exactly as it was designed to operate. It is a tempered genocide that kills just enough of us to keep us subservient while not exterminating too many so that the means of free and cheap and easily exploitable labor can keep on pushing.
Am I wrong?
Am I next?
While Mayor Fischer approved a budget that would make him look good and while Attorney General Daniel Camron strategized about how to sue the governor for keeping the state closed for safety during a pandemic, Breonna’s killers were getting paid.
Breonna Taylor’s job was to save lives. She was an EMT. She was just at home. Most of us are just at home. Police–without cause or a warrant or any concern for a Black life–forced themselves into her home to take her life. Think of how many times you have crossed through the frame of your door, relieved to at least be temporarily shielded from little side comments about your hair or nails. I know I feel safer when I walk in the front door and don’t have to worry about flashing lights. My house is BBQ-Becky and Permit Patty free. Our homes are supposed to offer some reprieve from the constant assault on our minds, bodies, and spirit.
I tense up when I see the police. I feel disgusting inside when they smile at me and try to high five my son. There is an eerily pervasive unspoken truth. They know we can’t do anything in those moments. Our own people may speak out against us in the hopes that it will bring them closer to the safe negro archetype. Without big college words, I just have to say point-blank-period that I am tired of this shit. And I can’t even save myself, so how could I save anyone else?
My expression of joy in the midst of this ongoing war feels like a betrayal to women like Breonna who have been slain for the sake of white supremacy. Free financial coaching classes didn’t do shit to save Breonna. Showing up to work on time with a smile on my face despite my pain ain’t stop bullets from ripping through her body in her own home.
I can’t save Breonna because she is already gone.
And I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault. The police pulled the trigger, but I was focused, with my head down, trying not to be a target. What does any of my success mean if I can’t keep my people safe? I keep seeing her face in front of a Louisville Metro sign. My timeline oscillates between stories of her death and quarantine games. No shade to any of my friends because that was me too. I don’t fault anyone for posting about birthdays and graduation, no I am not mad at my people for finding cause for celebration.
Instead, I am ashamed of the white folks who exist in ignorant bliss, adjacent to our suffering. The ones who continue zoom meetings without any notion of what it means to have to live in fear and still file your paperwork on time. I continue to be disappointed by our government officials who have not put the full force of their dollars behind the efforts to get justice for Breonna’s family.
She died in her home.
Breonna should be alive.
Now, I am left to wonder what I should do. Hell, what can I do? I will end this with the family’s demands as guidance for how we should respond.
1. Demand the Mayor and City Council address the use of force by LMPD.
2. Fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna. Arrest, charge, and convict them for this crime.
3. Provide all necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council #CPAC.
4. Create policies for transparent investigation processes due to law enforcement misconduct.
5. Drop all charges for Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, who attempted to defend them and their home.
6. Release the 911 call to the public for accountability.
By request of the family and local organizers, please do not add additional demands that have not been confirmed by the family.
POST about Breonna, using the hashtags #BreonnaTaylor and #JusticeForBre. Her story has yet to receive the national attention it must to cause local systems to respond. Share her story, images of her smiling face, and tag the responsible parties. On Twitter, use @LMPD, @LouisvilleMayor, and @GovAndyBeshear. On Instagram, use @LMPD.ky, @MayorGregFischer, and @GovAndyBeshear. We can not stop until she receives a response.
MAKE CALLS & SEND EMAILS for Breonna to the investigative agencies, institutions and individuals in charge and make the demands known!
Steven St. Pierre is a budding creative/actor I met at last year’s DC Black Film Festival. While interviewing him during my coverage of the film festival, he mentioned how he started film making just recently and that Ava Duvernay had been an inspiration to start on a desirable path towards acting. After the interview, we kept in contact and I watched his progression. Little did I know, he would be achieving a lot more than he could imagine. I had an opportunity to catch up with the rising creative.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): How does it feel to have so much success for your short film, Corey?
Steven St. Pierre (SSP): The success has been great! The way I have been perceived for making something great, for myself. Last time we spoke in person, I was halfway into my festival run and we went to places like Canada and DC and I had entered the film Corey in multiple film festivals in the New York area.”
Note: St. Pierre’s short film Corey has won multiple awards that include but are not limited to: Best Short film at the Validate Yourself Film Festival, Wavemaker Award at the Everybody Digital Film Festival Black History Month Edition, Audience Choice award at the Astoria film festival, Best Short Film winner and Grand Prize Winner at the Queens City Film Festival.
DDF: You won big at the Queens City Film Festival, what’s next?
SSP: After I won the grand prize award, I now have the opportunity to have my next short produced from the Queens City Film Festival. The prize is worth $50,000. Taking the passion I had into my own work turned into something I could have never imagined.
DDF: That’s truly a blessing! I remember you telling me about the trials and tribulations you had putting Corey together. Your co-star, Chantal Maurice, put on a great performance, how has her career been since the short film?
SSP: Chantal has since moved to Atlanta P-Valley (Starz), Queen Sugar, Dynasty, and other projects that are coming out later this year. She’s killing the game.
DDF: What women have influenced you?
SSP: My mother and grandmother, the women who raised me in my household. Just seeing their work ethic. My mom worked two jobs, to this day she still works two jobs to help support my grandmother because she is not doing well. Just really seeing all the sacrifices shes made, as an adult, I have developed a deeper appreciation and respect for her.
I have to give a shout to my work mom and my assistant director Catherine, she just retired. Always supported me, always had my back, she was amazing. When you are in the workplace, you always need an ally and she definitely was that for me.
Ava Duvernay has really been an influence on me. I don’t know how many people are aware that before she was a filmmaker, she was a publicist. She was pounding the pavement, making everyone else’s dream come true and she decided, at what some people would think as an older age, to pivot her whole career. I feel like that has been my journey as well.
“I was a film publicist, so I represented a lot of filmmakers and I was always around them. I [started thinking], ‘They’re just regular people, like me, with ideas. I’ve got ideas.’ That’s literally how it started. It was definitely a career change; I didn’t make my first little short until I was 32.” – Ava Duvernay
DDF: You had your biggest role as a co-star on High Maintenance, how was that experience?
SSP: I got that role not too long after I spoke with you in DC, it’s my first major network role. I felt like I finally cracked that code. Going out on auditions is tough, especially being new to the scene, but it’s going on four years now. It brought two passions together because I am playing a basketball player. I played ball growing up, so going into the audition I felt comfortable. I got offered the job via email and was excited! That was the most excited I have been in a long time.
DDF: What are your other goals?
SSP: My ultimate goals are to establish myself in the industry so I can have the visibility to reach people from places in my community. Letting them know they can do anything they are passionate about. Even today, I go to a lot of career days for my friends who are teachers or are a part of programs for children. I think it helps children see someone like me, who is making it, but not a huge celebrity, to let them know goals are attainable. Otherwise, if they see someone who is a huge celebrity they won’t think things are attainable. They can also see the grind I am going through, so when I make it further into my acting career, it will hopefully inspire them.
Steven St. Pierre looks to continue his success as a creative and achieve many of his entertainment goals during his career change. With Ava Duvernay serving as an inspiration, St. Pierre knows that, with hard work and persistence, the sky is the limit.
Follow Steven St. Pierre on social media or check out his web page here.
BAM launches DanceAfrica digitally with a series of public programs celebrating the nation’s largest African dance festival and its community. Programs launch May 18th with offerings that include conversations with Abdel R. Salaam, Rennie Harris, Ronald K. Brown, Mikki Shepard, DanceAfrica Elders, and more; online dance classes; streams of past performances; FilmAfrica; and other programs that bring the joy of the festival into audiences’ home. The popular Brooklyn bazaar goes digital for the first time in 43 years highlighting 20+ small businesses through an online marketplace, May 14—June 15.
DanceAfrica digital public programming has been specially created in response to the current world environment, with audiences seeking compelling ways to connect with their community and explore the arts from home. BAM’s longest-running and most beloved program is a community celebration, welcoming all to observe. The celebratory events will continue the series of unique digital experiences offered by Love from BAM. Visit BAM.org to join and view a weekly schedule.
May 21, 2020/Brooklyn, NY—DanceAfrica—the nation’s largest African dance festival—continues its celebration through May 29 with special Memorial Day weekend programs, including a live dance party, a conversation with Mikki Shepard, and more. Visit BAM.org to join and view a weekly schedule. Detailed information below.
Mon, May 25 at 11am ET
DanceAfrica, The Early Years
Mikki Shepard, the original producer of DanceAfrica, discusses the festival’s inaugural year and how the program grew, from 1977 to 1984, complemented by video clips from past DanceAfrica performances. Free and open to the public. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
Mon, May 25 from 7pm—9pm ET DanceAfrica Dance Party with DJ YB Keep the DanceAfrica celebration going with a live, virtual dance party featuring a set by DJ YB. During the dance party, DanceAfrica will encourage donations to the mutual aid group Bed Stuy Strong, a network of neighbors helping neighbors in central Brooklyn during the COVID-19 crisis. Join DJ YB for an evening of Afrobeat, funk, soul, rock, jazz, and hip-hop stylings. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
Tue, May 26 at 6pm ET
DanceAfrica and The Council of Elders
The DanceAfrica Council of Elder members Mamma Normadien and Baba N’goma Woolbright join Abdel R. Salaam
and Charmaine Warren to reflect on their DanceAfrica wedding ceremony (1983) as well as their participation in DanceAfrica over the years, both as Elders and as longtime stage managers. Free and open to the public. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
Wed, May 27 at 6pm ET
DanceAfrica and The Council of Elders
DanceAfrica Council of Elder leaders and longtime members Mamma Lynette White-Mathews and Baba Bill (William) Mathews join Arts Consultant Stefanie Hughley for a discussion on performances over the years, complemented by video clips from DanceAfrica performances in 2011 and 2019. Free and open to the public. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
Thu, May 28 at 6pm ET
Education and DanceAfrica
Karen Thornton Daniels, Sabine LaFortune (RestorationART), Coco Killingsworth (BAM), and Abdel R. Salaam share their experiences and insights about the essential and evolving role education has played in DanceAfrica. Free and open to the public. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
Fri, May 29 at 2pm ET
Bantaba West African Dance Class
Karen Thornton Daniels and Farai Malianga lead this bantaba dance class with a focus on a variety of dances and traditions from West Africa. Free and open to the public. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
Fri, May 29 at 6pm ET
DanceAfrica Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Coco Killingsworth, Charmaine Warren, and Abdel R. Salaam gather to talk about the beloved program and the passing of the torch after Founding Artistic Director Baba Chuck Davis’ transition. Free and open to the public. JOIN HERE. For more information, visit BAM.org
FilmAfrica Co-presented by BAM & AFF, Inc
BAM partners with African Film Festival, Inc. to present online screenings of a selection of modern African cinema classics. For prices and more information visit BAM.org.
Opens Thu, May 21
Aya of Yop City (2012) Directed by Marguerite Abouet, Clément Oubrerie (85min)
Mother of George (2012) Directed by Andrew Dosunmu (106min)
Rafiki (2018) Directed by Wanuri Kahiu (83min)
Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008) Directed by Chai Vasarhelyi (102min)
Opens Thu, May 28
A Screaming Man (2010) Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (92min)
Chez Jolie Coiffure (2018) Directed by Rosine Mbakam (71min)
I Am Not a Witch (2017) Directed by Rungano Nyoni (93min)
National Diploma (2014) Directed by Dieudo Hamadi (93min)
Fri, May 15—Sun, Jun 14
DanceAfrica Digital Bazaar
DanceAfrica’s popular free outdoor bazaar goes digital this year, creating an online marketplace highlighting small businesses offering the finest fashion, food, jewelry, and crafts. Free and open to the public. For more information visit bam.org/bazaar