Category Archives: Lifestyle

07Oct/19
Emanuel

Emanuel Documentary is About the Power of Faith Amidst Hate

Inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

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

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

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

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

History of Charleston 

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

Loved Ones

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

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

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

Revisited

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

Survivor of the Emanuel shooting Polly Shepard.

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

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

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

Live and Let Love  

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

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

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

Emanuel

Release: Oct. 11, 2019 

Directred by: Brian Ivie

Distributed by: Fathom Events

 

07Oct/19
black excellence hyperbole

Black Excellence is Not Hyperbole

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

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

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

black excellence hyperbole

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

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

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

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

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

black excellence hyperbole

Photo by NayMarie for Little Sun People

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

17Sep/19

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

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

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

Hip-Politics

Brad ” Scarface” Jordan

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

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

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

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

Hip-Politics

House Representative Sheldon Neely and wife Cynthia Neely.

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

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

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

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

Hip-Politics

Congressman Hakeem Jefferies holding the Hip-Politics Award.

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

11Sep/19

How Ardre Orie Is Changing Black Literature

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

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

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

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

DDF: What was your book about? 

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

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

Ardre Orie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ardre Orie

DDF: How did you get your second book published? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DDF: Why is this book so special? 

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

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

 

11Sep/19
Nonso

Nonso Shows Men How to Dress Without Breaking the Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonso

10Sep/19
Yoga for Everybody

Yoga for Every(body)

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

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

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

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

yoga for everybody

25Aug/19
DC Black Film Festival

The DC Black Film Festival Rocked its Third Year

If you didn’t attend the DC Black Film Festival this past weekend then you missed out on some really great films from some talented creatives. Hollywood still struggles to represent diversity in the industry but, with events like the DC Black Film Festival,  people can enjoy quality films about people of color and not the rhetoric that Hollywood loves to repeat. 

There were over 50 films shown that had me laughing, crying (I call it eye sweat, lol), and, most of all, sympathizing with some of the characters on screen that look that like me.

“People of color have a constant frustration of not being represented, or being misrepresented, and these images go around the world.” – Spike Lee 

Below are some films that I loved.  

We Want to Make It A film that explores the journey of young musicians (Jourdan, 14yrs old, and Tarron) as they strive to make their way from performing on the DC metro to stardom. It’s a very well done piece that shines light on Black youth doing something positive with their talents instead of becoming a statistic out on the streets. 

The DC Black Film FestivalMe Time A hilarious short, done by Iyabo Boyd, that had me laughing the whole time. This film goes into the thoughts of a young Black woman (portrayed by Adnike Thomas) who just wants to find her own peace of mind while reaching her happy place and maybe an orgasm along the way. This film has a Nutty Professor feel as the very talented actress takes on all the various roles in the film. I went from chuckling in my seat to choking on my water with laughter. 

Slave Cry A film, by Jai Johnson, speaks volumes on the issue of token characters that Black people are offered in hollywood. With films like Black Panther having much success and displaying diversity in the Black community, hollywood still has a long way to go. Slave Cry was a well written film that made me feel so bad for the lead character, played by Courtney Jamison, as she learns that no matter the level of talent, the entertainment business still needs to work on diversifying characters in their projects. Thank God we have a well selected Ariel for the Little Mermaid and thank God Jai Jackson made this film artist can relate to. 

Roasted A hilarious short film that has a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off feel which follows a coffee shop employee who talks about his work day dealing with customers, making coffee, putting up with his boss, working solo and enjoying time listening to music while writing. His expression and body language change from animated to annoyance as he switches his focus from the audience to the characters in the film. 

The DC Black Film FestivalEmmett One of the standout features about a boy genius  (Miles Brown from Grown-ish) that deals with social issues, being a championed student of color, and adapting to change and maturity. This great film was both relatable and touching as it took me back to my days in my youth and adapting to life as an over achiever in academics. This film sets the tone as it really touches on some of the issues we’ve all dealt with. 

LiME A story of a young man’s hardwork and success of achieving his goals threatened by bullies who attack him based on his lifestyle. Truly a touching story of how cruel people can be and how beautiful the human spirit can manifest surrounded by the right crowd. Creator/director, Donta Story, put together a great short. 

East of the River East of the River, by Hannah Peterson, is a compelling story of how a young girl, her highschool mate, and former schoolmate now sex worker connect through exploring the streets of DC. I think this film had great chemistry amongst the actors. Their relationship was very ambivalent, because it felt a little romantic. Nonetheless, the young DC natives did an amazing job!  

The DC Black Film FestivalUna Great Movie Explores the world of a Black female screenwriter and her hopes of getting her film picked up. The film also follows the lead character in her film as the two worlds reflect the difficulties of having creative and unconventional Black love stories, as the character portrayed in the screenwriter’s film looks to rekindle an old love that is of Mexican descent. The creator and director, Jennifer Sharp, explained the difficulty in getting new and fresh content 

The Call Angel Weaver’s work is a film that captures the moment when a girl receives the phone call from her brother locked up in the prison system. The film showcased the unsettling experience of receiving the call, with a hilarious beginning that shows that the call can come at any moment.  

Corey Creator/director/actor, Steven St. Pierre, put together a touching film about a Black man that has a difficult relationship with his wife, who has a drug addiction, and is raising his daughter while shielding her from the ugly truth about her mom. By the end of the film, the audience discovers why Corey works hard to keep his emotions together and his daughter safe emotionally. 

The Right Swipe A show about two female friends that start a business helping men find matches on a dating app by curating their profiles. Although I have had little experience on dating apps, I found the pilot interesting and humorous. When I asked co-creator and Maryland native, Kyra Jones, about the show, she explained, Through our research, we found that Black women and Asian men are less likely to get different matches. Even the cast is diverse, we wanted to make sure that we brought Black love to the forefront of the show. The show discusses how complex and how difficult it is to find romantic partners.” Watch the pilot here!

Together This film was one of the moving films of the festival. The story of Black love between an older married couple as they hold true to their vows through sickness and health. The film left me and those in attendance in tears as we saw the astonishing acting of EFE (2019 DC Black Films Best Actress) and her co-star show love at its best. There is talks of this being developed into a full feature film and I can’t wait to see it. 

Having the Peele Appeal Night at the table and Dog Person are films from the film festival that had a Jordan Peele feel to them. It’s no surprise that the creatives of the films are inspired by Jordan Peele. 

Night at the table A horror film that had definitely gave me a chill, from start to finish, as the film introduces a normal Black family that is more than just that. The director was inspired by the film Hereditary and even coached the lead actress to channel the mother of the film Hereditary. The multi-talented creative describes her films as being consequential pain in two words. 

Dog Person If you loved watching the film Us by Peele or Tusk then you have to see this short film by Justin Fairweather. It’s a little disturbing in some parts but entertaining nonetheless. With a good performance by Jordanna Hernandez, Dog Person left me wanting to see what more films from Fairweather and hopefully a feature that have audiences everywhere entertained. 

Who is Kevin Sampson?

Kevin Sampson is the BrainChild behind the DC Black Film Festival. He said it all started when Think Like a Man 2 came out and he was a little upset while he watched it because it was less about Black love and more of the Kevin Hart show. He explained that “We (Black people) only get a few movies per year and this is how we wasted it and maybe sometimes we need that.” 

He then wrote an open letter to creatives everywhere explaining that black creatives have to do better. Many people including some hollywood actors commented on it. This inspired him to start a kickstarter for a documentary about Black Hollywood. The Kickstarter wasn’t successful but that led Kevin to create the DC Black Film festival. A place where Black people can showcase their talent and love for Black people. 

Fast Facts About Kevin Sampson:
  • Graduated from American University Film school with a MFA in Film & Electronic Media 
  • Created Picture Lock, an entertainment website, radio show/podcast, and hour long film review TV show.
  • Director of the Rosebud Film Festival since 2013. 
  • Created Picture Lock PR to represent independent films. 

The DC Black Film Festival was an amazing event and a success in it’s third year. It is important that we have events like these to not only show people of color on screen or Black culture but the diversity within the Black community. I think the DC Black Film festival will continue to grow to inspire young creatives and encourage people to watch quality films.

Winners From the Festival:

DC Best Film “ We Want to Make It”

Best Student Film “Masks” 

Best Web Series “The History of White People in America”

 Best Short Film “East of the River” 

 Best Experimental Film “Here”

 Best Documentary Feature “Owned: The Tale of Two Americas”  

 Best Narrative Feature “Una a Great Movie” 

 Best Director Mahaliy Ahayla O

 Best Actress Efe

 Best Actor  Roderick Bradford Jr. 

 

15Aug/19

Luce is a Captivating Thriller That Addresses Racism and Mental Health

Tim Roth, Kelvin Harrison Jr, and Naomi Watts.

High schooler, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), overcame a nightmarish past as a child soldier in Eritrea to become the definition of the All-American teenager. As a valedictorian, track star, and all-around popular kid, his life seems set until he suddenly finds himself at odds with an overbearing teacher, Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer). When his loving adoptive parents, played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, become entangled in the suspicions of this teacher, complex questions of prejudice suddenly bubble to the surface, threatening to expose the ugly truths about all involved. (Tribeca Film Festival) 

Luce is a captivating thriller that challenges views on parenting and prejudice surrounding adoptive interracial families. The film really kept me ambivalent as to what the motives of each character really was. The talented cast peeled back the layers of their respective characters, especially rising star, Kelvin Harris Jr., who portrays Luce as a cunning, charming, and an innocent teenager. The parents did well at convincing us of juggling raising Luce and keeping their marriage together. Octavia Spencer, once again, portrayed a phemonal role as the teacher that has concerns about Luce that may derail his path to a successful college career. 

Luce at Tribeca

At the Tribeca Film Festival, I was able to talk to the writer, director, and producer, Julius Ohna, on the red carpet who explained, “ I want people to ask real questions about the way they perceive things like privilege. We live in these multicultural societies, where the ways that we look at each other can have a real impact on the way people’s lives are led and if we are asking questions that are beyond our blind spots and not looking past them, I think there’s a real change that can come.” 

The red carpet interviews and the showing were followed by a Q&A with the director and cast. I felt there was going to be tension in the room as the film depicted issues that society as a whole tends to leave unanswered. 

The host of the Q&A – writer, director, and radio producer, Rebecca Carroll asked thought-provoking questions. Those very same questions caused a lot of the audience members to leave the building due to the sensitive topic. One of the more difficult questions asked was about how does the white couple feel raising a young black teenager? A question that only Onley could answer since he wrote the film.

Tim Roth and other castmates could only approach the question as concerned parents, nothing more. Boasting a revelatory central performance by Harrison (who also appears this year in Gully) and nuanced work from an electrifying ensemble, director and co-writer Julius Onah twists this tale (adapted with JC Lee from his own play) into unexpected shapes, forcing the audience to examine the characters from every imaginable angle. Tension pulls at the screen, allegiances shift, and the viewer’s own biases are used to deepen the storytelling in masterful ways.
—Loren Hammonds 

Takaways from the film? 

  1. Mental health is still a significant issue that needs to be addressed for people of color, especially the child soldiers, like Luce, who suffer from a tremendous amount of stress and mental manipulation. 
  2. Luce, Tribeca Film Festival

    Caring for family with extreme mental health conditions is a difficult job. The Wilson sisters in the film, portrayed by Octavia Spencer and Marsha Stephanie Blake, gave an in-depth look at how this situation requires patience and a lot of energy.

  3. People still don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation when it comes to racism. While watching this film and attending the Q&A after the Tribeca premiere, I noticed how the characters in the film and people in the audience avoided the issue of racism. 
  4. Immigrants are not evil and they are not novelties. In the film, it is shown that Luce is sort of a token character and he plays the role to a tee to fit his needs. Although it is just a film, it can show how, in some cases, children in this situation can be championed in comparison to another teens who come from a background with non-adoptive parents who happen to be Black. 
  5. Trials and tribulations have no bias. The film does a great job of displaying the temptations and issues that the teenagers in the suburbs deal with that are similar to teens living in the inner city. The teens come from different backgrounds but still face life challenges. 

Nonetheless, Luce is a great, thrilling film that properly addresses mental health, social and racial issues. If you’re looking for a film that is thought provoking and filled with many plot twists, you should definitely check it out. 

Luce is in theaters now. It stars Kelvin Harris Jr., Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Andrea Bang, and Marsha Stephanie Blake. 

12Aug/19

Hip Hop Visionary Missy Elliott To Receive the 2019 MTV VMA Video Vanguard Award

NEW ORLEANS, LA – JULY 07: Missy Elliott performing at the 2018 Essence Music Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Just Announced! Five-time Grammy award-winning artist Missy Elliott will receive the prestigious Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards! There is sure to be a great tribute to her and the hip hop pioneer herself will perform on stage! This will be a special treat for fans everywhere since she hasn’t performed at the MTV VMA’s since 2003. Fans will be looking forward to the performance of her hits “ Get Ur Freak On”, “ Work It” and “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

Missy has had an amazing year thus far from being inducted into the SongWriters Hall of Fame to receiving an honorary doctorate at the Berklee College of Music. 

In honor of Missy, MTV and Pepsi have partnered together to host a fan pop up event entitled MTV and Pepsi Celebrate the Museum of Missy Elliot. The pop-up event will be in New York from August 24th-25th highlighting the career and work of the multi-talented, transcending musician. 

Several people on Twitter congratuatled the artist and Missy responded back with the following tweet:

https://twitter.com/MissyElliott/status/1160961691527602176?s=20&fbclid=IwAR2IelHerRhkYXTwjIAy37obXyCQ1ZLF2htCjCKwEnXy7i6l_zUEtKHTO6Q

Missy will join the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, and Jennifer Lopez. Tune in Monday, August 26, 2019 at 8pm EDT live from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

About MTV:

MTV is the leading global youth media brand in 180 countries, reaching 450 million households in nearly 30 different languages across every platform. A unit of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA), MTV operations span cable and mobile networks, live events, theatrical films and MTV Studios. 

10Aug/19

Lessons Worth Learning, Especially if You Plan on Teaching Children

As the school year is getting underway, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a classmate pursuing a Bachelor’s in Education with a focus on History. The conversation was centered around how Black and brown people shouldn’t be forcing intersectionality on a movement that is exclusively about LGBT concerns. The topic was about adding black and brown stripes to the flag expressing LGBT identity more specifically and how oppression caused by race and sexual orientation are different. What made this conversation frustrating was having it with a white cis gendered heterosexual male, who identified as an “ally”. He made the argument that we should not combine the two because it is historically inaccurate and bad for both the growth of LGBT youth and teaching the movement. I responded to the notion that race and sexuality have no connection in this conversation with the following: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde. I identify as a non-binary Black gay person. These identities are not separate for me… There is not a core-identity that separates my race from my sexuality because for me they intersect. The racism I experience is often sexualized and the homophobia I experience is often racialized.

His position on this topic alarmed me mostly due to his track in being an educator. He will be responsible for shaping the minds of children and teaching them accurate information. Teaching things like “oppression due to race doesn’t affect oppression due to sexuality” can be more damaging than not having access to education at all. A teacher is also someone who students should be able to confide in and see as a safe space. Having an understanding of how important intersectionality is in relation to the lives of the children we teach is detrimental to the future growth of our students. This also has the potential of leading to trauma or re-traumatization of LGBT youth of color.  His response is best described with this: “The dual identities of yours probably don’t have a “standard core identity” because the concepts are disparate (and I’m sure you understand that), no matter how much you associate the both together in your mind”.  A white cis-gendered heterosexual male told me, a Black gay non-binary person, that my identities have nothing to do with one another and that any issues stemming from them are not linked. This is something that all queer persons of color deal with. Having a teacher who expresses these ideas knowingly to a member of the community is not someone I would want to teach my children.

 Let me be clear, my thoughts are not due to him being a hetero-cis gendered male, they are centered on his ideology and the fear of it influencing him teaching children, more specifically LGBT children, who can be traumatized as a result of his teachings. I offer a few suggestions for those wanting to work with the children in an educational environment, especially LGBT youth of color: 1) Be aware of the issues that the community faces and survey their needs as described. 2) understand personal positions on topics should not hinder your ability to accurately teach and engage students of a marginalized population.

As for more societal takeaways: If you call yourself an “ally,” learn your place. Speaking for others and/or out of place is toxic and does nothing but cloud narratives. It was not his place, especially as an “ally,” to tell me, a member of the communities being discussed, that my race has nothing to do with my sexuality. The next is by not considering intersectionality when discussing issues of gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc. has effects not only on individuals but all members in the respective community. One final takeaway is that if you are going to make an argument about something, ensure you have researched it well. When my classmate said that race and sexuality have nothing to do with the movement it shook me because the movement he is referring to is the Gay rights movement. The gay rights movement was started by Marsha P Johnson… a Black… Gay… Transwomen who threw the first brick at the stonewall riots which marked the start of the gay rights movement. Understanding history is important, especially if you want to be a history teacher…