Category Archives: Creative

22Mar/20

“Self Made” is a Colorful and Entertaining Look at Madam CJ Walker’s Life

MADAM CJ WALKER

Netflix’s “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” is an introduction to one of the most celebrated Black female business owners in history, Sarah Breedlove. This project is directed by Kasi Lemmons (Harriet) and Demane Davis (Queen Sugar). NBA Superstar, LeBron James, and businessman, Maverick Carter, have joined the project as Executive Producers. Taji Mag was able to check out the series before its release on March 20th and here’s the review. 

Visuals

Once again Kasi Lemmons has provided the audience with the vision of a powerful Black woman taking on a form that transcends reality. In this instance, whenever Sarah has a vision of or is faced with adversity, the audience is presented with colorful dance routines, mocking female logos, and even a boxing match with her adversary, Addie Monroe (I assume this character is based off of Annie Malone). I really found the boxing scenes with Addie to be quite enjoyable. I also found myself waiting to see Sarah give Addie a one-hitter quitter for her trifling ways. 

Octavia Spencer as Madam C.J. Walker and Carmen Ejogo as Addie Monroe

*Spoilers Ahead*

The Walker girl logo that mocked Sarah (and was created by Sarah’s husband, C.J. Walker) was also an interesting concept. It paid off in the end when we learned that the Walker girl was not only designed by C.J. but it was also his ideal woman. This is discovered towards the end of the series when C.J. cheats on Sarah with Dore Larrie.

Performances

Octavia Spencer does an amazing job of portraying one of the most celebrated Black entrepreneurs. She was able to capture the excitement in her facial expressions whenever an idea manifested. Spencer also was convincing when her character was met with doubt or fear, a prime example is whenever she was haunted by her past self with “bad hair”. 

Tiffany Haddish also did pretty well as Leila, the daughter of Sarah. I found it very interesting how the character’s liberal lifestyle was introduced to the audience. It made me want to research Leila’s entrepreneurial success with her business, The Dark Tower, in New York.

Kevin Carroll as Ransom was a standout to me in the series. His performance as Madam C.J. Walker’s legal advisor had very compelling moments. I wasn’t really familiar with his work but, after viewing the series, a thorough Youtube and Google search went underway. I just had to see his other accomplishments.

Another notable character was Ransom’s cousin, Sweetness, played by Bill Bellamy. This role was well written and was a great example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sweetness can be seen as a smart conman who always sought out a quick buck, but in reality he was a man of integrity who only wanted to make it in the world legally. We learn this at the end of the series when Ramson explains his demise. 

Gender Roles

Before recalling what I’d already known about C.J. Walker, I was feeling the support he was giving his wife: uprooting his life with Sarah and moving to a whole different city to help support her haircare business. I bet it was seen as very impractical at the time, but nonetheless he did and they were successful. Toxic masculinity and society’s infatuation with the lighter complexion existed heavily during the 1900s. I’m sure this greatly influenced his decision to cheat on Sarah; however, it doesn’t give him a pass to do so. Blair Underwood did a great job of portraying C.J., then again he always does a great job of portraying the conniving, cheating husband (i.e. Madea’s Family Reunion).

Unity Over Racism 

Blair Underwood as CJ Walker, Octavia Spencer as Madam CJ Walker and Kevin Carroll as Ransom.

This series explores racism, colorism, and gender discrimination in a thought-provoking manner. I kept thinking to myself, what if I was trying to build a business for haircare in the world Madam C.J. Walker lived in? Not only was racism still a major issue at the time, but to fight within my own race about my gender and skin color? Talk about hurdling obstacles! The series really provided some in-depth perspective on how difficult it was to achieve what Madam C.J. Walker did. Seeing the pain she had to go through was quite an eye-opening experience. 

The death of Sweetness (played by Bill Bellamy) gave a sense of closure for Sarah and her rival, Addie Monroe. It made the characters reflect on their biggest threat: racism and gender discrimination, not each other. Sweetness’ lynching was touching, to say the least, as the Director gave the audience first perspective scenes that can only be described as heart-wrenching. 

Conclusion

“Self Made: Inspired By The Life of Madam C.J. Walker” is a beautifully told story. The creatives in charge did a great job of pacing the story and supplying just enough conflict to make the viewer want to binge-watch the whole series on a Sunday night. I am glad I was able to speak with Kasi Lemmons about this project and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the series. I highly recommend giving it a watch. Of course it’s not completely accurate; however, it’s still very entertaining. While we celebrate women’s month at this time when self-distancing is in place, this Madam C.J. Walker series will allow the viewer four hours to escape the current troubles of the world. 

Academy Award® winner, Octavia Spencer, stars as Madam C.J. Walker, the trailblazing African American haircare entrepreneur who was America’s first female self-made millionaire. Inspired by the book, On Her Own Ground, written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, the Netflix original series “SELF MADE: INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF MADAM C.J. WALKER”  brings the uplifting story of this cultural icon to the screen for the first time. Against all odds, Walker overcame post-slavery racial and gender biases, personal betrayals, and business rivalries to build a ground-breaking brand that revolutionized black haircare, as she simultaneously fought for social change.

10Mar/20

THE COMEBACK QUEEN – How one creator is reclaiming her crown and keeping her dreams alive with Take Each Moment Podcast

Dear Beautiful Black girl. You are the descendant of survivors. Everyone in your lineage has overcome insurmountable odds to make your existence so, and therefore your presence is a blessing. The blood that runs through your veins has been carefully curated by God and circumstance. There is trauma in your DNA, but there is also magic. Keep your heart and eyes open (all three of them) because your destiny is already written in the stars, and I promise you that it is as beautiful as you are.

Love, T

________________

In a society that so often sends us messages that we are less than or unworthy of, it is important to send ourselves love letters that remind us of our truth and our ingrained resilience. Creator and producer, Tatianna Mott, has been sending herself a love letter at the start of each week ever since losing the love of her life to Sickle Cell complications and getting fired from 3 corporate jobs after leaving the theater industry. Tatianna is no stranger to picking herself up and coming back stronger than ever, after allowing herself time to grieve, evaluate, and move forward. These love letters have helped her so much throughout this journey, that she’s compiled them into her hit podcast series “Take Each Moment” which encourages listeners to take time to self-assess and learn from each of the moments in their lives.

“When I first decided to leave the theater world, I was confronted with a lot of skepticism from well-meaning friends and colleagues that felt I was giving up on my dreams,” she says. “In acting conservatory, our instructor once said, ‘If you have a plan B, your plan A will fail. 1 in 10 actors are able to make a living in this industry, look around, are you one of them?’ Being the overachiever that I am, I declared on that day that ‘yes, I am. I WILL be successful in theater, and I will do whatever it takes to prove that I am indeed that 1 in 10.’ I was determined to make it to Broadway and fulfill my purpose of positively impacting the social narrative. I wanted to dispel the lies that we’d been told about our past and our present. I wanted to tell stories that would remind people of their magic in a world that prefers to hide it in a closet. Over the years, I began to realize that the few sassy best friend roles I had been booking didn’t typically fulfill that goal, and weren’t bringing me as much joy as I thought they would. When I asked myself why I kept going and beating my head against that wall rather than trying something different, I remembered that day in conservatory when I vowed to not have a plan B. But see, the fallacy in that thinking is that there’s no such thing as Plan A and Plan B. We’re constantly forced to set up new plans based on what circumstances life throws at us. There aren’t enough letters in the alphabet to accurately count how many plans we’re already following and have previously followed. The key is that each of the actions we take within those plans work toward a particular purpose and goal. My goal was to educate, inspire, and uplift people while obtaining the power of financial stability and consistency. My Plan A was to get up at 4 in the morning every day, pray to get seen at an audition, stress about whether or not I’d get a callback, and work 13 side jobs to keep me afloat until one day Broadway would call. Turns out that plan didn’t have the capacity to help me reach my goal, so I reevaluated and tried a different plan. And then when that plan hit a wall (a.k.a. I got let go from my first corporate job), I tried a different plan. And then that plan inevitably hit a wall, so I tried another plan…and another. Some of those plans completely fell in my lap in the form of an unexpected relationship, a perfectly timed job opening, an unfortunately timed job termination, the death of a loved one, being diagnosed with chronic illness, or a chance encounter with a stranger. Throughout it all, I’ve picked up new skills, new perspectives, new strength, and new faith. Today, I am working as the lead producer/ project manager of the much anticipated Rising Musical Family Debut at the legendary Apollo Theater featuring sibling music group Infinity’s Song and Victory Boyd, hosted by Jon Batiste. I am also finding new and exciting ways every day to work on educating, inspiring, and uplifting others including through ‘Take Each Moment Podcast,’ my new single ‘Cycles,’ and more.

If you find yourself stuck or unsure of your purpose, think about your goals. What do you want to receive out of this life, and what do you want to give into this life? What impact do you want to have during your time here, and what will you need to do to make that impact? What are your particular skills and strengths that will allow you to do that? What resources and knowledge will you need to acquire? How will you obtain said resources and knowledge? And while in pursuit of it, how can you still fulfill that purpose even with what you already have? After recently losing the job of a lifetime working alongside someone I idolized, I was upset yes, but more so, I was hopeful. Life has taught me that low moments don’t last forever, and that I ALWAYS come out with my crown a bit more polished afterward. I trust in the process, and I trust in the divine timing of it all.  I hope you do too.”

Visit www.takeeachmoment.com to listen to Season 1 of Take Each Moment Podcast along with the accompanying specially curated Spotify Playlists of feel-good music. If you like what you hear and would like to join Tatianna on her journey, please consider becoming a sponsor through Patreon (link TBD).

19Feb/20

Jon-Sesrie Goff’s “After Sherman” Spotlights Preservation

Jon Sesrie Goff

The audience was quiet as their eyes were focused on a young Black man who narrated his family origins in South Carolina. His captivating voice segways into one of the most horrifying and inhuman events in recent years – the Emanuel Church shooting. It was emotional but the filmmaker/creative, Jon-Sesrie Goff, was able to orate the event passionately, beautifully and concluding with a peaceful ending. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the artist at the Pop-Up Magazine Winter Tour event in Washington, D.C. for an interview. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What was your inspiration behind After Sherman?

Jon-Sesrie Goff (JSG):  It’s a feature-length documentary, that I started in 2014, that was supposed to be a visual survey of the Gullah Geechie corridor. This area existed from Southern North Carolina to Northern Florida. I was going for a very experimental, lyrical approach and it was not a personal film at all, but then I wanted to use it as an opportunity to talk to my family about our land and our Country, that was not used. I just wanted to use the camera to talk about the land. 

DDF: The short film version of After Sherman is what you are showing and narrating during the Pop-Up Magazine Tour, correct? 

JSG: Yes, the piece has evolved after the Charleston Church Shooting. I had a professor/filmmaker during grad school tell me that I didn’t have the luxury to make an experimental film about this subject matter because it required a strong narrative. For the following four years, I have been finding out through Pop-Up that I was able to hone my narrative voice without it feeling inauthentic. I worked with people who were like “Say this!” and “You deliver it so well!” but it wasn’t me speaking. 

With the shooting, I immediately went back because I didn’t want to be apart of the press mob. All my footage from the immediate aftermath is horrible because I was so nervous. There are moments where I was next to my mom and I didn’t want to film her during the emotional moment; I also wanted to protect others as well. So I took more photographs than video footage. A few weeks later I went back, did an oral history with church members, politicians, and people in the community, which is very different from the film I was making. Then I went back to do the ending shots of me standing amongst the country scenery and other visual treatments. 

DDF: You had a very emotional moment during your narration, how do you get through it every night? 

JSG: This night was emotional because my two cousins were here. They are also heirs to the properties that I mention in the film. My aunt, their mother, appears in the photographs in the film. This was the first time I had family members present at my show on this tour and that was really emotional. When I doing the piece, talking about it or working on it without family members around, I am able to desensitize myself. 

DDF: You are a well-rounded artist. How does this project differ from other forms of media that you use? 

JSG: Well, a personal documentary is one of the hardest things anyone can do. I apologize because I am a cinematographer and kept asking the cinematographers I was working with, why the film was not done yet because it takes a different type of care. I feel like, as a cinematographer and working in commercial spaces, I would be flown in the night before and out the next day, with that there’s no real attachment to the material. It’s just execution and less of myself present in it. When you put yourself out there like that, if you are a thoughtful person, you have to make careful decisions.

DDF: What were some of the reactions from some of your family and friends in Charleston after you showed them the film? 

JSG: After the shooting, there was a Sunday School convention scheduled to be at the church and they still had the convention. Two days after the shooting, kids from Emmanuel church were there. Every year it’s around the same time, so it’s like this weird moment of memorial services and then the convention. 

A year after the shooting, I went back and showed people my work in progress to the Sunday School convention. They were excited to see and pointing out people they know in the film and all the other stuff sort of fades away. I made this film so that people in the low country could appreciate how special and unique our culture is and how valuable our land is, that was it. People in the Emmanuel and Charleston Community have been very supportive of the project. 

DDF: How much did the documentary “Sherman’s March” influence your project? 

JSG: When I first started making it before the shooting. It was an inside joke because I love Sherman’s March, the first commercially successful documentary film. And it’s this guy going back to the south, tracing his family steps and there’s like one scene with black people. I was like “That’s really hard to do?” It’s hard to go down south and the only encounter you have the Black people are with some kids. I respect, Ross McElwee as a filmmaker immensely but I was thinking to myself, “I wanna do After Sherman and it’s going to be about all Black people.” I actually shot the opening sequences shot by shot but it may not make it into the film. 

I was happy to see the show and honored to interview Jon, especially because of his previous work with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Pop-Up Magazine 2020 Winter Tour is wrapping on February 22, 2020, but be on the lookout for the full feature film After Sherman by Jon-Sesrie Goff. Website.

17Feb/20

The Man Behind the Music, Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

The Photograph was a phenomenal film, no doubt. Much is to be said about the collaboration of artists on the project as one of the most impressive elements of this film is the music composition. The film composer is none other than Robert Glasper. Knowing he was responsible for the soundtrack immediately gave me confirmation that The Photograph would be an overall great production. Right after watching, I immediately sought out an interview with the man behind the music, Robert Glasper. I had the chance to ask the multi Grammy Award-winning and Emmy winning artist about his work on the film. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF):  What brought you work on this film? 

Robert Glasper (RG): Luckily, Stella being a fan is what really brought us together. She liked my trio albums so a lot of the music in the film was based on that earlier work.

 DDF:  What was your creative process for the film?

RG:I liked making things up in front of the director. We’d put up a cue and they’d tell me what they wanted to accomplish emotionally and I liked writing there right on the spot. Sometimes it takes ten different tries or sometimes it’s magic on the first try, but that’s just the process that works for me. If the director is there, I can include them in the process and get the best result.

Robert Glasper

DDF: The music definitely matched the tones and colors of the film. How did these aspects of the film influence your work? 

RG: Each scene had a purpose and some kind of emotion behind it that Stella wanted to portray, whether it’s anger, confusion, sadness, happiness, sexiness… Whatever it is, it’s my job to try to match the emotion with music, or musically support the emotion. The great thing about it was that she was very free with letting me be who I am musically to try to get these points across.

DDF: How does music composition for film differ from composition for albums? 

RG: For albums, there’s nothing you have to match it with. When you’re composing music for a film, you’re trying to help tell a story that people are already seeing visually. There’s something already there and you’re trying to attach something to it that emotionally reflects and assists the storyline.  

When you do an album, there’s no visual, so you’re creating whatever you want. The visual is in each person’s head. There’s no director steering you towards what to see or feel, but that happens when you’re watching a film. The director is steering you towards a particular emotion. 

DDF: What movie music composers are you inspired by and why? 

RG: I’m not really inspired by movie composers, I’m more inspired by artists and musicians who do music. If it just so happens that they do a movie great, but there are no film composers I pattern myself after or study, per se. 

DDF: What are some of your favorite film scores and why? 

RG: I like Love Jones film score. This score kind of reminds me of Love Jones because it’s the story of two young black adults that are really artsy. Both films kind of parallel each other and both use music of their generation to tell their story. The Love Jones soundtrack was full of people of the generation and it was really cool. The Photograph is also full of music of the generation. At the same time, it had some throwback stuff that inspired this generation and used jazz as well. The difference is that Love Jones used Charlie Parker and John Coltrane — jazz from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. This one was more modern. It has music from me and Christian Scott; it used jazz of today.

Mo’Better Blues is one of my favorite Spike Lee films and one of my favorite soundtracks. It featured not only Terrence Blanchard but also Branford Marsalis.

Actor Denzel Washington and director Spike Lee.

DDF: I actually thought of Mo’ Better Blues while I watched the film. Was it your inspiration?

RG: Mo’ Better Blues is definitely one of my favorite soundtracks like I said earlier. When most films use jazz, they use jazz from the 20s-60s; they rarely use jazz of this time period. Mo’ Better Blues was made in the 90s and used music and musicians of that era, and that’s what made it really dope to me, so this feels like the same thing for sure.

DDF: What would it mean for you to win an Oscar? Is that the goal? 

Robert Glasper and actor/rap artist Common celebrate their win at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards

RG: I’ve already won an Emmy for my work on Ava Duvernay’s documentary The 13th on Netflix. I wrote the ending song featuring Common and Bilal. So it would be amazing to win an Oscar. Most musicians aim for a Grammy. I’ve been blessed to have a few Grammy’s and an Emmy so to get an Oscar would really be icing on the cake. 

DDF:  If you can choose one song from your catalog to describe The Photograph, what would it be? 

RG: I’d probably say a song I did on my Black Radio album called “It’s Gonna be Alright” featuring Ledisi. It’s saying no matter what the ups and downs of life or a relationship, there’s always sunshine, there’s always a bright side. These particular movie characters had their ups and downs in their relationships and they found a way to make it work, so I’d probably say that song.

DDF: How have you grown as a score composer since your first movie project?

RG: I’ve grown a lot. I’ve just learned how to read and understand directors better. My musical palette is bigger. Understanding how to bring in different vibes from all across the global palette of the world. I’ve had to mix all kinds of styles of music, some I’ve never had to tackle before to bring across one scene. It helps you grow, the more knowledge you have, the better. For instance, in this film, I had to compose some New Orleans music and I’ve never had to do that before. Having to compose styles outside of what you’d be personally oriented to create has just made me a better musician. 

Robert Glasper was a perfect choice for the Photograph soundtrack. His musical talents paired with Issa Rae’s and LaKeith Stanfield’s acting skills plus Stella Meghie at the helm, audiences everywhere are in for a treat. It’s artistic range, both directorial and musical, feels similar to the Spike Lee classic Mo’Better Blues. Anyone familiar with the 90s classic would find this a testament to The Photograph’s contribution to cinema today.

The soundtrack by Robert Glasper also features music by artists Lucky Daye and H.E.R and can be found on platforms like Google Play, Apple, Spotify, etc. Watch The Photograph in theaters now then run and buy the soundtrack. You’ll be thankful you did.

The Photograph Score Featurette

Go behind the scenes with The Photograph composer Robert Glasper and hear how he was able to bridge two time periods to help tell the story. In theaters now!

Публикувахте от Back Lot Music в Петък, 14 февруари 2020 г.

12Feb/20

The Photograph is About Loving Imperfectly

It was the late Toni Morrison who said “Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.” This quote sums up the new romance film, The Photograph. The Stella Maghie helmed project follows Mae, an art curator who learns about her estranged mother’s past through a letter she left behind. This letter leads Mae to a romance with rising journalist, Michael Block.

Issa Rae as Mae Morton in “The Photograph,” written and directed by Stella Meghie.

Loving Imperfectly 

The beginning of the film starts off with a VHS interview of Mae’s mother saying she wishes she could love others like she loves her work. Her mom’s obsession with her work (and emotional abandonment of Mae) causes the adult version of Mae to live her adult years unbalanced and living day to day laden with her past. This aspect of the film is crucial because it shows how mental health plays a huge role in our relationships and lack thereof.

We see a poignant example of how mother-daughter relationships (and the way in which they treat each other) is, for sure, generational. Here, Mae’s mother was kicked out of her home because her mom was sick with cancer and didn’t want her daughter to see her waste away. Mae’s mother did the same in keeping her own cancer a secret from her daughter. These actions seem cruel in the moment, but they were only loving imperfectly.

Fast forward, we see two people romantically loving imperfectly, not knowing what to do. They’re walking on the tight ropes of dating, afraid of heights, and praying to God they make it to the other side where meaningful relationships reside without falling off. Let’s be real. Nobody wants to fall off that rope just to jump up and do it all over again with someone new and unfamiliar.

(from left) Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield) and Mae Morton (Issa Rae) in “The Photograph,” written and directed by Stella Meghie.

Taking a Chance 

One aspect of the film I find undoubtedly relatable is Michael dealing with his emotions. After being dumped by an ex whom he planned to marry, finding vulnerability within himself again in a loving relationship was a difficult task, I’m sure. We see this in The Photograph as Michael falls for Mae and is entranced by her beauty. I know many have been in this situation. I know I have; building with a woman like Mae, a woman who fears heartbreak and is consistently ambivalent when things get serious.

When Michael finds the love he’s been looking for and his emotional barriers shatter, all this is threatened when he’s hired by his dream job at The Associated Press… in the UK! Far from New York and from Mae, the internal struggle commences as he figures out how to break the news to Mae. I thought to myself, “What would I do?”

Interestingly, Maghie told Mae of a similar scenario that her parents experienced years ago. After she learns of Michael’s decision to relocate, she (as her own father did years ago) decides not to fight for the love of her life and just let things play out as they would.

(from left) Asia (Teyonah Parris) and Kyle Block (Lil Rel Howery) in “The Photograph,” written and directed by Stella Meghie.

Family Dynamics 

From the positive imagery of a happy black family consisting of Lil’ Rel Rowery, Teyonah Parris, and two beautiful little girls to Mae’s father and stepfather, the family dynamics shown were awesome. It’s amazing how so many aspects of Black relationships are portrayed without crossing over into the comedic genre we’re so used to seeing in Black cinematography, i.e. Welcome Home Roscoe or Death At a Funeral.

One can really appreciate the directorial angles during dialogues, the lighting, and the colors used to add to the ambiance of scenes. Add to that the sheer talent of the cast. I’m very happy to have seen The Photograph and look forward to watching it again, just to see what else I can fall in love with about this film.

The Photograph is a necessary film for our culture and for our future. It is our Mo’Better Blues and, most importantly, it is a deep dive into what’s needed for Black people to have successful relationships – honesty, patience, therapy, and understanding. I am happy this film exists and I look forward to the many conversations it will stir up. This film is a must-watch I would personally like to thank Stella Maghie and the cast for giving this film life.

The Photograph

Starring : LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae

In theaters February 14, 2020

Writer/director Stella Meghie on the set of “The Photograph.”

10Feb/20

For Love, For Faith, For Life

From creator Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace”) and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and inspired by the life of Isaac Wright Jr., “For Life” is a fictional serialized legal and family drama about an imprisoned man, Aaron Wallace, who becomes a lawyer fighting to reverse his own life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. His quest for freedom is driven by his desperate desire to get back to the family he loves—his estranged wife and daughter—and reclaim the life that was stolen from him. (ABC/Giovanni Rufino) NICHOLAS PINNOCK

Powerful is the one word I can use to describe the series For Life. Taji Mag was able to attend a DC advanced screening of the pilot and it did not disappoint!  The compelling series is influenced by Issac Wright Jr. who was falsely convicted under New Jew Jersey’s kingpin law. The series displays the strength of the human spirit and having unrelenting faith, how the justice system fails, and how all hope looks lost. Family dynamics, the corruption, and transition from the prison environment to life outside the prison walls are luring.  The series is so good, I only saw the pilot of the show and I’ve already downloaded the ABC streaming app to watch future episodes.  

 “ It was important for me for the audience to see what it’s like first hand, what the experience was like being imprisoned. That part where they had an innocent man, he goes to jail, he has to strip himself of clothing, he is talked to a certain way, he is mistreated and made to feel less than. That was really important to show.” – Nicholas Pinnock

For What?

The show follows as the lead character, Aaron (Nicholas Pinnock), is wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for many years. While serving time behind bars, he utilizes this time to become a lawyer. I questioned how this is possible but the pilot does a good job of explaining how Aaron was able to achieve this. 

One of the interesting moments in the series is Aaron’s representation of other prisoners that were wrongfully sentenced. I was intruged by how Aaron becomes a cerebral assassin when going againist the opposition, the same lawyer that placed him in jail.  The acting and writing is so well done, the audience in attendence for the screening cheered during Aaron’s small victories over his cases and filled the room with gasps whenever he dealt with unfair bias. 

“I really connected to it. I have family members who have been formerly incarcerated and I have two really good girlfriends that have partners who were formerly incarcerated and I know what it was like for them to stay connected to the person that they love. Having to travel states, planes, trains, and automobiles to stay connected. I understood their dynamic and that’s what I leaned into to create the role.” – Joy Bryant

For Love

(ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
TYLA HARRIS, NICHOLAS PINNOCK

Aaron is driven by the love for his family. His wife and daughter are who keep him motivated and in pursuit of his freedom. I felt there were many family dynamics explored within the show. From the relationship Aaron shares with his wife during his visits, to the distance placed between Aaron and his daughter. The show does well at displaying the chain reaction that occurs when a family member is placed in prison for a long sentence. “Do I give up on them?” “How much hope do I really have in their innocence?” These are some of the questions that plague the minds of the members involved during the incarceration of a loved one. I definitely felt an emotional tug when Aaron interacted with his wife during a prison visit. Their situation could not break the love they had for one another, even when life looks as if one of them is actively moving on, showing a bond with someone you love is impossible to break. 

“What happened to me and what I had to do started from somewhere. 9 times out of 10 it usually starts with the family. It starts off with your parenting and what’s instilled in you as a child. I would like to take the time out to recognize my parents.” – Issac Wright Jr. 

(ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
NICHOLAS PINNOCK, ERIK JENSEN

For Life

Throughout the pilot, there is an interesting transition as Aaron goes into the court bathroom dressed in an orange jumpsuit and coming out changed into a suit to represent his client. Only to return to the jail system where his life is threatened and his integrity challenged. 

Aaron is definitely a character you want to cheer for during the pilot, many in the theater did, as he attempts to take on the corrupt players in the judicial system, which include those that sent him to prison in the first place.

I really felt the cold, concrete walls that inclosed the inmates as the camera followed Aaron through his daily rituals.  

“A prison is broken down into three parts; administration (wardens, assistant warden), custody (the guards), and the inmate population. While the real stuff happens on the grounds with the inmate population, custody doesn’t want the administration to know because they want to continue to keep control of the prison. When this happens it is an environment of me against you with the inmates and custody. As an inmate, if it even looks like you are getting friendly with a guard somebody will be coming in your cell at 3 in the morning with a shank. It’s a very dangerous environment.” – Issac Wright Jr. 

If you love Power, you will definitely love For Life. With similar plot twists, scene breakdowns, and spectacular acting, the series will be undoubtedly one of the best series this year. 

Drama series “For Life” premieres TUESDAY, FEB. 11 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC.

Starring: Nicholas Pinnock, Joy Bryant

Executive Producer: 50 Cent

FOR LIFE – ABC’s “For Life” stars Timothy Busfield as Henry Roswell, Brandon J. Dirden as Darius, Joy Bryant as Marie Wallace, Tyla Harris as Jasmine Wallace, Nicholas Pinnock as Aaron Wallace, Indira Varma as Safiya Masry, Mary Stuart Masterson as Anya Harrison, Glenn Fleshler as Frank Foster, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Cassius, Dorian Missick as Jamal Bishop, and Boris McGiver as Glen Maskins. (ABC/Matthias Clamer)

01Feb/20
Taji Mag Vol 22 #SoGothIWasBornBlack

Taji Vol22: #SoGothIWasBornBlack

Release Mar 7 2020 | Vol22 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of #SoGothIWasBornBlack! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Bymsha Browne’s Photography team highlighting Herbalist, Toni Bernard. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, Take Each Moment Podcast; our Community Spotlight on JuJu The Web Series; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: A Simple Exercise in Broadening Your Views on Travel” by dCarrie; “Heart and Mind are a Power Couple” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “#BlackLoveConvo: Rhonda Mitchell M.D. Series Creator & Cast Member talk Love, Work, and Exes” by Dapper Dr. Feel; Earth’s Cabinet is Realigning the Boy with Holistic Teas, Steams, and Oils; Our Vol 22 theme “#SoGothIWasBornBlack;” Comic Appreciation with Sankofa Guard; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Musician, Gregory Wilson, is Your New Favorite Black Nerd with Glasses; Featured Art Piece by Craig Carter; Must-Have Graphic Novel: “Divine Mother” by Komikka Patton (Martian); Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 22 #SoGothIWasBornBlack

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 22

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.

29Jan/20

Star Wars: A Universe Where Black People Don’t Die… Except for Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu

The new Star Wars is a piece of sh*t!” my friend yelled into the phone as we exchanged our reviews of the most recent highly anticipated hit film, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. “Yeah, but did you notice something? Lando didn’t die!” He’s one of the few remaining characters from the first trilogy of Star Wars films… and he’s Black! As I explained, his tone seemed to lighten right along with his mood. I could literally see my point sinking in. Well, he still thinks the film is shit, but at least Lando and Finn survived the events of “Rise of Skywalker”. Not to mention the survival of other Black characters in the film franchise and Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian, alike – an honorable mention to Moff Geidon exquisitely played by Giancarlo Esposito. In stark contrast to your typical sci-fi story, Black characters have and still are eluding death as if there were some direct relation to Marvel’s Deadpool himself. This may sound odd but in a way it is history if you think about it? A major franchise that doesn’t kill off its minorities in the first 5 minutes of their appearance. 

Finn portrayed by John Bpyega and Jannah portrayed by Naomi Ackie in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Don’t get me wrong. I, and surely many others, were pissed about the wasted potential of the Finn character, but at least he and Jannah (another Black female character) survived the war just as their chances were beginning to look bleak. I must be honest, as I watched Finn’s sacrifice, it prompted a deeply dramatic “Nooooooo!” after seeing him destroy the satellite that would doom the Resistance. All that changed once he and Jannah were saved. I was really happy to see Finn make it to the end because, let’s face it, not too many Star Wars characters make it through myriad close calls but he did, and to that, I say “Celebration!” (in my Dave Chappelle voice). 

We’ve for years witnessed Black people suffer early untimely deaths in horror movies and in action films while sparing their counterparts. It’s refreshing to see one of the most-loved sci-fi franchises of all time manage to keep minorities alive, especially the Black characters. 

A Shout Out to Disney Plus and The Mandalorian Writing Team!

I was already excited about the Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian, because Bubba Fett is another favorite of mine. Yes, I love the fact that the series has some awesome creatives like Jon Favreau and I admit I’ve fallen in love with The Child aka Baby Yoda, but what I love most is that the Black people in this series haven’t been killed off! 

While watching the series of events leading up to Greef Karga’s betrayal (in true Lando fashion), I was forced to relive deep feelings of disappointment but was also kind of relieved to see him survive what could’ve been a deadly gunshot wound. I recall at that moment yelling “Don’t die, Apollo!” (a reference to Carl Weathers’ portrayal of Apollo Creed in the beloved Rocky series). I was most definitely having a flashback to Rocky IV. There was another moment in which he escaped death after being ambushed by flying carnivorous creatures only to be saved by the cute little Baby Yoda and The Force… of course. 

Next up, the villainous Moff Gideon: Leading a large group of StormTroopers, he tries to convince the Mandalorian and crew (Greef and Cara) to surround baby Yoda. 1st things 1st, hats off to Giancarlo Esposito as a great actor, especially as a villain (check out his notable performance in Breaking Bad as Gustav Fring). He definitely evokes a feeling of disdain. As an avid watcher of film and television, I should know to detach from characters because, after all, they’re not real. Giancarlo’s Breaking Bad character, Gustav, *spoiler alert* had already suffered a gruesome death and was also a dope villain, so to see it happen again would be downright wrong. Yet I knew a character like Moff would need to die. While watching the latest episode of the Mandalorian, something inside of me thought he wasn’t dead or at least didn’t want him to be dead after his Fighter ship crashed, and of course, I was right! Once again, I felt good that the Black person didn’t die and that they could make good use of a good character. 

What About Windu? 

For all you die-hard Star Wars fans, I haven’t forgotten Mace Windu, one of THE dopest saber-wielding Jedi the Star Wars universe has ever seen. His death was terrible but not surprising since Sam dies in pretty much all of his sci-fi films. To witness the Mace Windu die in Star Wars Episode III hurt my heart. I just knew Samuel L. Jackson was going to say “Yes, you deserve to die and I hope you burn in hell too!” whilst destroying Emperor Palpatine. And why does Palpatine’s face look like a Walking Dead zombie using an aging filter?  But I digress. Instead, he had his hand chopped off by the annoying Anakin Skywalker and fell to his death by the hand of evil Palpatine. All I could think was “at least we still have Lando Calrissian”. 

Jar Jar Binks Who? 

What about Jar Jar Binks you may ask? What about him and who cares?

As a true fan who’s privy to the ultimate turnout, I know the trend of POC (people of color) surviving in the Star Wars universe will likely come to an end in future seasons of the Mandalorian, but as we enter into 2020 I can say with pride that I really love Star Wars, a Universe where Black people don’t die. 

28Jan/20
bam futurelit

BAM and Graywolf Press present FutureLit: A Conversation & Celebration — Feb 6

BAM partners with Graywolf Press to present an evening of readings and conversation with authors from Graywolf. Donika Kelly, Danez Smith, and Malcolm Tariq will present their original work, prompting dialogue about what the future of art holds, written and otherwise. After the conversation, drinks, light snacks, spaces to mingle, and comfortable corners to read will be available to audience members. The event will also include a dance party where audience members are encouraged to continue the conversation through movement.

Books will be available for purchase through Greenlight Bookstore, BAM’s official bookseller, with selections by featured authors available at a special 15% discount for attendees of this event.

bam futurelit

Donika Kelly is the author of Bestiary, which won the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her second full-length collection, The Renunciations, from Graywolf Press, is forthcoming in May 2021.

Danez Smith is the author of Homie and Don’t Call Us Dead, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and finalist for the National Book Award. They live in Minneapolis.

Savannah, Georgia-bred poet Malcolm Tariq is the author of Heed the Hollow the winner of the 2018 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and Extended Play winner of the 2017 Gertrude Press Poetry Chapbook Contest.

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 yearly during the spring and highlights groundbreaking, contemporary work in the performing arts with its Next Wave 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.

Graywolf Press is a leading independent publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of twenty-first century American and international literature. We champion outstanding writers at all stages of their careers to ensure that adventurous readers can find underrepresented and diverse voices in a crowded marketplace.

07Dec/19

Barber Shop Chronicles Puts a Magnified Lens on the Diasporic Experience of Black Men

Barber Shop Chronicles

Inua Ellams. Portrait by Franklyn Rodgers.

Barber Shop Chronicles is one of the most ingenious plays I have watched in a long time. Finally, the Black man is not the villain, overly sexualized, the slave, or the savior for damaged Black women. He’s just human and is trying to figure this sh*t out like the rest of us! Originating in London and making it’s New York debut at BAM’s Harvey Theatre, this play is a real life look at the interpersonal relationships between men in our diasporic community. The barbershop is historically known to be the only place where our men have received any type of therapy. It’s where they discover who they are and how to treat one another and their community. Playwright/poet, Inua Ellams, and his all-male, 12-person cast do a phenomenal job of expressing true emotion and giving the rest of the world insight into what it’s like to be a melanated man. It plays in the humourous pool of sports, relationships, and race but then deep-dives into identity, fatherhood, generational trauma, and politics. 

Taking place in six different barber shops in London, Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, and Harare, Barber Shop Chronicles weaves us through the connections and similar experiences of these men despite their location. Each episode is sewn together with cultural music and dance that adds to the personality of the play. Every man is relatable on some level to someone you personally know or have come across. I attended the play with my partner, Will Focus. At the end he was in tears, which is a rare sight, so I couldn’t wait to hear his thoughts.

NayMarie (NM): Soooooo, what were your thoughts?
Will Focus (WF): The comedy was spot on. I noticed that they mixed several dialects from all over the diaspora. The fact that they were able to do it so seamlessly and still show that people were able to communicate in their respective dialects was awesome. I love that they drew the importance of speaking in a common tongue and having a dictionary that translates to Twi.

NM: What else?
WF: What I liked, on the political side, is the comparison between Winnie and Nelson [Mandela]. The fact that Winnie was the true hero then Nelson was brought in like how I view the Black pastors in America.
NM: As a pacifist?
WF: Yea, a pacifist. Someone who’s looking to put out that flame because it’s getting a little too hot for the European massives to handle. Or it’s a little too effective. What better way than to use her husband? I also liked the comparison between nigger and kaffir. What better way, specifically for the white audience who may not understand how significant that word is but can feel the weight when paralleled with the word nigger, to compare the use towards Africans. I like how they spoke of reclaiming our land and the one guy noted about how many of the Europeans had to die and it was retorted that African people died too. How they look out for the European but ignore the African lives lost. I love how it was reiterated that we took it BACK. It was ours to begin with and taken from us. I also like that they pointed out that the African slave trade was the biggest massacre, bigger than the Holocaust. I thought those dynamics, from a political perspective, from a social perspective, were excellent.

Barber Shop Chronicles

Tom Moutchi and David Webber. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

NM: And the tears?
WF: As it suits me personally, what brought me to tears was the Father/Son relationship dynamic. How the family is expressed through their lens in London and Africa also happens to Black boys and men in America. It shows that this is a consistent issue among us. It was funny how the drunk/disheveled one who most people would judge, had the most information. Early on, he told of how he allowed European children to call him kaffir for a pound, or twice for two pounds and it upset all of the men in the shop. Later, we discover he did it because he lived with his grandparents, after being abandoned by his father, and they were poor. It’s how he made money to survive. When he was confronted with reconciling with his father, the emotional overflow led to the truth of the situation and that brought me to tears in terms of the reality behind that. Then it was the phrase of “boys growing up to be their fathers” and me having two sons. In one scene, they said, “a child will show you how to raise them.”
NM: Word, that spoke to me.
WF: That hit a chord for me because the difference in the dynamics I have to take with my two sons is VAST, even with my daughter. They have ALL shown me that I have to approach them differently. Then it showed the older generation of men who are kind of detached from emotion with their children and don’t realize the damage they have done.
NM: That beating them is the solution…
WF: And leaving it at that without ever reconciling for the damage that they’ve done. And that’s broad and sweeping.

We chatted for a solid hour, but we want you to see the play for yourself! I would love for it to be made into a film and played on kweliTV to reach a wider audience. In the meantime, follow Inua Ellams and Barber Shop Chronicles to see where they’re playing next. It is worth all of the awards it has already received and then some. You feel it in your soul and are elated to see these conversations given priority. 

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