Category Archives: Culture

19Apr/21

“Them” Is a Nod to Classic Horror With Lots of Gore

THEM

SPOILER ALERT

“Another series requiring me to sleep with my Black Panther nightlight on.” That is all I could think to myself. I’m kidding, I don’t have a nightlight, BUT Them definitely is a series with some really scary moments and shocking – almost unbearable – scenes. I am happy to see a horror series helmed by Black creatives that is receiving a major push on Amazon Prime. Not exactly satisfied with the finished product after watching the whole season, though. 

The acting in the series was great. Shahadi Wright Joseph as Ruby Emory, Deborah Ayorinde as Lucky Emory, Ashley Thomas as Henry Emory, and Melody Hurd as Gracie Henry all play their characters well as the Emory family. I just wish the series could’ve continued to be more compelling instead of shocking. Deborah and Ashley’s chemistry as the lead Black couple was substantial. I could really feel the love they had for each other throughout the series and how they were supportive of each other during each of their mental breakdowns. I’m not going to lie, whenever Lucky got pissed, slapped, or chased someone I was cheering for her because she brought that energy. 

Shahadi in “Us” was scary as hell as she played the doppelganger, this time around she is a teenager haunted by a teenage white ghost and the acceptance of her skin color. I found this to be interesting and made me see her as a household name in the industry. The acting she does with her eyes is a thing of pure talent. The scene where cutting her face out of possession/self-hate had me cringing the whole time.

THEM

Melody as Gracie Emory had some of the scariest scenes. The possession scene had me saying, “Oh hell no!,” mainly because evil-possessed children in horror films are horrifying. Her acting was impressive and helped the fright continue throughout the series. 

Them has great usage of music to enhance the horror. For instance, “Come on Get Happy” by Judy Garland playing as they ride into Compton California is all so peaceful until, on the other side on the loop, it starts to slow down chopped and screwed style as the white neighbors look at the Black family entering their new neighborhood. Their expressions are priceless like someone bringing potato salad with raisins in it to a Black barbeque.

There is a great scene where Betty Wendell’s character is fidgeting with a torn small piece of wallpaper of her perfectly placed and patterned wall. The camera angles were well-timed as the scene reflects Betty’s discomfort of having a Black family in her ideal, perfect, all-white neighborhood. Betty is for sure an annoying character and deserves to be called “dumb ass b*tch!” Trust me you’ll hate her too. Then the series shows her disturbing family upbringing, her jealousy of other women who can have children (because of her sterility), and reveals the truth behind her unhappy marriage.

The storyline in Them is compelling and shows promise within the first few episodes but then becomes a little more disturbing and confusing. There is the rape of the lead character and the murder of her infant son that has made its way onto Twitter but there is also the flashback origin of the man in The Man in the Black Hat that is also gruesome. 

THEM

I was a bit thrown off by the milk man’s character, I understand people can have some creepy characters but I would’ve rather seen more of Wendell’s (Betty’s husband) story. I understand most of his story is implied but there could’ve been a moment where you show the reason for resistance to harm the Black neighbors was because he was also an outsider for being gay.

Da Tap Dance Man was creepy as hell and had to rub all that paint off his face. His character was a good addition and served his role in Henry Emory’s story but I think I’ve grown tired of seeing these minstrel show-style demons/ghosts in Black entertainment. 

The camera work and editing for Them was also impressive. The usage of colors, cuts, and angles really helped to create the feeling for each scene. For example, Henry Emory struggles to eat pie because the sweet smell and taste remind him of the mustard gas tested on him in the military. 

Them is definitely a series you should watch if you like Jordan Peele and the classic horror creatives before. You’ll definitely be reminded of the Topsy and Bopsy episode of Lovecraft Country. You may become disinterested if you like a series with a solid storyline. You can watch now Them on Amazon Prime.

13Apr/21

Newcomer Kyra Jones is Ready to Evolve Like Issa Rae

Unapologetic, blunt, and intersectional are the words to describe the rising filmmaker, Kyra Jones. She has recently won multiple screenwriting competitions (Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition 2020, ScreenCraft Virtual Pitch 2020), is working on a feature (Got to the Body), writing other projects, modeling, and participating in activist work all while working a full-time job… during a pandemic. I could tell after meeting her at the 2020 DC Black Film Festival that she would be someone to keep an eye on and was I right. The day before our scheduled interview she was staffed on season two of the hit Hulu series, Woke. Luckily for me Kyra still had time to tell Taji Mag what life is like as an up-and-coming artist. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with filmmaking? 

Kyra Jones (KJ): I always really loved film and television. I started off as an actor in high school. The only reason I got into acting was because my mom wanted me to have an extracurricular activity. My friend told me she was trying out for the school play and told me I should try out too. So she dragged me to the audition and I ended up getting the lead. 

I didn’t become a screenwriter/filmmaker until I was about to graduate from college. I was studying theater at Northwestern with the intention of acting. I was one of four Black students in my class of 100 theater majors. The theater department isn’t diverse at all. Needless to say, I did not have a great time with my experience. Within the material we were reading, there were no real roles for Black women. The roles were the usual stereotypical roles like maids, nurses, etc. I was like, “ We (Black people) do more than this.” 

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

I know I want to tell stories and I know I want to be involved in art and media. I always liked writing and I was the type of person that could type a good 8-page paper in a few hours. So I was a strong writer in that regard but I never tried to do anything like creative writing or screenwriting. 

In my senior year I realized I should have been a filmmaker, it was too late at that point but I tried to take as many classes as I could. So, you can say I fell in love with screenwriting/ filmmaking my senior year in college. 

*After Kyra graduated her career was sort of in limbo. Her fellow classmates were doing internships, working for production companies, and making the connections needed to succeed after college. She struggled to get an internship because she had made the decision to become a filmmaker her senior year. Since she wasn’t having much success, she went back to acting. 

It wasn’t until the Right Swipe came along. My writing partner and I did not intend on writing a web series we just serendipitously came up with an idea. From there we decided you know what, this is a web-series. This would be the first time I stepped on set for something that I wrote and it was the first time I said to myself ‘this is for me.’

DDF: What do you think you bring to the writer’s room of Woke? 

KJ: I was definitely not expecting to make the writers room for Woke. I was so excited but, when I officially become staffed, I had so much shit to do in order to get ready. I had a full-time job and had to take leave, I had to try and get my ducks in a row in such a short amount of time. I’m just grateful and still shocked. I may have to turn off my camera to cry once the first meeting is over. 

The Woke team is really excited to have me and thinks I will be a great addition to the team. I think my social justice background will be useful, especially for a show called Woke. I think bringing a more nuanced, intersectional perspective to the show, the Woke team will be interested to see what I will bring to one of the queer characters, Ayana (Sasher Zamata).  Plus I’m funny. The Woke team had to read one of my pilots before they approved me and they thought it was funny. I can throw in a few jokes here and there, I think I am funny.

“Progressive art can assist people to learn what’s at work in the society in which they live.”- Angela Davis

DDF: Issa Rae had “Awkward Black Girl” and then later had Insecure, is there a possibility we could see a version of “The Right Swipe” in the future? 

KJ: There will not be another version of the Right Swipe. I do intend on having my own TV show one day. There is already interest in a pilot that I wrote and I am really excited about it. It has some similarities to the Right Swipe. 

DDF: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers? 

KJ: Barry Jenkins, Ava Duverna, Donald Glover, and Beyonce. Lemonade and Black is King are both so good. I know she had a huge team on those projects but the fact there were so many directors and they were one cohesive vision, means Beyonce had to have communicated the vision to the creatives. 

Kyra stated Go to the Body is in the process of getting named talent, developing the budget, and looking to shoot next year with an expected release date to be 2023.

DDF: What women inspire you? 

KJ: Inspired by my grandmother, she is not a filmmaker but she really inspired me. She is very unapologetic and unafraid. I love Issa Rae, she is pretty much inspiration to everyone. And Michaela Coel. Black women everywhere inspire me.

“The discussion of representation is one that has been repeated over and over again, and the solution has always been that it’s up to us to support, promote, and create the images that we want to see.” – Issa Rae

Make sure to check out the current work of Kyra. Also, be sure to be on the lookout for her work on season two of Woke and her feature film, Got to the Body. I look forward to seeing more Black artists like Kyra provide the perspectives and voices needed for everyone to enjoy entertainment.

01Mar/21

Coming 2 America: Hilarious, Nostalgic and a Well Written Sequel

Coming 2 America
Eddie Murphy stars in COMING 2 AMERICA, Photo Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Spoiler Alert

One of the biggest fears I had for Coming 2 America was the plot failing as other sequels have done in the past. The first film is a 30-year-old classic which is why many, including myself, were asking why they were making another sequel period, but this film was well written from the jokes to the plot, even the cameos weren’t forced or left the audience scratching our heads. 

The plot of the film revisits the moments from the first movie. The infamous club scene where Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) are looking for Akeem’s future wife brought nostalgic laughs. The events leading Akeem to have an illegitimate son by having a one-night stand with Mary (Leslie Jones) were pure comedy. Leslie Jones was in rare form. Of course, I wondered why there wasn’t a DNA test done to confirm Akeem had a son but it’s a comedy so that’s not important. 

Playing on the theme of making your path was also written well in the film. This especially goes well with Lavelle doing as a young Akeem did, escaping to America with his love interest, the royal barber, to live his own life. Akeem’s transformation from happy-go-lucky and free-spirited to becoming more conservative was also done organically through each act. 

Tying in Akeem’s daughter, Meeka’s (KiKi Layne) desire to become heir to Zamunda and breaking tradition was not forced into the script and paid off in the third act. You would think since there are multiple storylines in a film it would be a mess but in this case, it was just enough. 

The relationship between Queen Lisa Joffer (Shari Headly) and Mary was also interesting. We saw the two who both birthed children for Akeem become friends and not have a hot-mess relationship. Mary was even able to bring the New Yorker back out of Lisa as they drunkenly sang and danced the “Humpty Dance,” a great scene and transitional moment.

Coming 2 America
Leslie Jones and Jermaine Fowler stars in COMING 2 AMERICA Photo Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The payoff for me was Akeem’s mother being the voice of reason while being absent from the whole film when Cleo (John Amos) asks Akeem what his mother would do when Akeem was in a low place. Other women were also the ones providing words of wisdom. This includes Lavelle receiving important life advice from Mirembe, Mary, and Meeka throughout the film.

Music and Entertainment

Let’s talk about the music and performances in the film because there are some memorable ones. King Jaffe’s funeral was outrageous but desirable because he was able to witness it. He had performances by En Vogue, Salt-n-Peppa performing “What a King”, Glady’s Knight did “Midnight Train to Zamunda,” dance performances by the Zamunda dancers. Who wouldn’t want to go out to this type of celebration? 

Bopto’s (Teyana Taylor) entrance was also another fun musical set with a rendition of Prince’s “Get Off”. I loved this because I am a huge Prince fan. Of course, the film could not go without Oha, the royal orator that sung “She’s Your Queen to Be”, laying down some of Prince’s lyrics followed by Lavelle’s rap portion of the song. 

Cameos and Movie Nods

Coming 2 America
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall star in COMING 2 AMERICA Photo Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Some of our favorite characters portrayed by both Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy return from the first film including the old men in the barbershop, Reverend Brown, etc. The newest addition was Baba portrayed by Arsenio Hall who had me dying every scene he was in. There’s also a surprise performance by Randy Watson, whom I waited for in anticipation with excitement at the end of the film during the wedding, I’m sure people will enjoy it. 

Just like the first film, the Duke and Duke firm from Eddie Murphy’s other film Trading Places had a few scenes. If you don’t remember in Coming to America, the Duke brothers are shown homeless and broke until luck is bestowed upon them. 

Review 

Coming 2 America was a surprisingly hilarious sequel that I would happily watch in theaters. Some may argue but I found it to be just as funny as the original Coming to America. The film also has a great soundtrack featuring songs by John Legend and awesome costume designs with beautiful colors by the award-winning Ruth E. Carte. If you are looking for good laughs, nostalgic musical entertainment, and a good-hearted film, then tune into Amazon Prime Friday, March 5th. Watch the credits for bloopers!

12Feb/21

Judas and the Black Messiah: The Best Film of 2021 So Far

Judas and the Black Messiah

SYNOPSIS: Judas and the Black Messiah is the story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant, William O’Neal (LaKeith Standfield).

You may say it’s too early to say Judas and the Black Messiah is the best film this year given it’s only February, but damn this film is amazing! Usually, biopic films that take place during the civil rights movement and slavery uprising are too frustrating to watch but this film was well put together from the acting to directing. From the soundtrack to the 70’s aspect ratio style in the first act, the film pays homepage to the 70’s genre of film.  

“ I AM A REVOLUTIONARY, I AM A REVOLUTIONARY!” 

I’ve read the history books and heard some of the speeches by Fred Hampton. I must say, Daniel Kaluuya captured the essence of the activist. His presence in Judas and the Black Messiah is so powerful that even those on set have stated they believed Fred Hampton’s spirit was in the room. During the Sundance Q&A, Kaluuya talked about how he was losing his voice but the crowd was into his portrayal and yelling “I am revolutionary!” that he was able to push through and portray some powerful speeches. 

The Chemistry 

The best chemistry in the film was between Kaluuay and Dominique Fishback. Fishback’s portrayal of Deborah Johnson aka Akua Njeri provided the confidence and magnified the articulation of the Fred Hampton character. She also provided a space of vulnerability for him. Fishback’s talent in spoken word is displayed in this film as she wrote and read her work throughout the film. The two most touching poems were read around act two where she describes the love she has for Hampton and the other is in act three where she questions motherhood after Hampton’s release. Fishback explained during the Q&A that director Shaka King allowed her to show the character’s creativity on screen. 

The love remains but there’s a shift in the relationship of both Hampton and Johnson in the third act, as Hampton’s imprisonment and activism cause him to become more dedicated to the cause. I really felt the connection between the two and I loved Fishback’s performance even more. The ending where she held back her tears and her composure combined with the camera angle was dope! I hope she gets some Oscar buzz.

It’s not easy writing characters like Roy Mitchell but Shaka King does a great job turning this protagonist into a compelling and conflicted character. At times, he is just as conflicted as his informant O’Neal. Especially in the scene where J. Edgar Hoover questions Mitchell on what he was going to do when his daughter brought home a “nigger”. You could see the initial equivocation in his response. 

LaKeith Standfield kept the tension during the whole movie. From when his position was almost compromised after an FBI mole was tortured by the Panthers to him almost getting shot during a shoot out with the police. He basically shifts into paranoia and identity crisis as his portrayal of O’Neal reminded me of how desperate the character was. I often forget that O’Neal was so young and easy to influence. His interaction with Hampton reminded me of films like In Too Deep because O’Neal was able to see the good in Hampton’s efforts and the evil in the actions of the FBI.

It was too crazy to see that O’Neal died shortly after the documentary “Eyes on the Prize” premiered. The documentary featured O’Neal talking about the guilt and struggle he faced after the murder of Hampton. 

Judas and the Black Messiah

I like the fact that Judas and the Black Messiah showed how the Panthers did things and provided services to the community. Hampton’s desire to build with the underrepresented community no matter the color was good to see on film.

Judas and the Black Messiah Summit

Shortly after the premiere of the film at Sundance, Warner Bros. put together an all-day virtual summit featuring the artist and actors from the film. One of my favorites is the conversation between Dominique Fishback and Akua Njeri. The summit also featured LaKeith Standfield, Daniel Kaluuya, and Fred Hampton Jr.

See the Movie!!!

Overall Judas and the Black Messiah is one of the best films you will see on HBO Max and in theaters this year. You will not be disappointed like I was after I watched The Little Things. Sorry y’all, Denzel is still the GOAT when it comes to acting but I’d rather eat a dry PopEye’s biscuit than try to watch that film again. Tune into HBO Max this Friday and check out this great film!

02Feb/21

Relationship between Poetry and the Body

Poetic Introduction – What is A Poem, But a Body?

If poetry is yet another body, then we are blessed. 
What else gets to create, envision, become, and shed more than one body?
A cat may have 9 lives, but we have as many lives as we have pens to paper; 
as we have scattered fleeting thoughts; 
as we have silence. 

What a true blessing it is playing, 
holding a moment still and alchemizing it into whatever we like: 
truth, lies, darkness, light, expression, secrets, life, death,
everything and nothing.

- Sadie Jay
A poem comes from emotion. Emotions are felt in the body. The body is the starting place of the poem, whether you write about the body or not. 

A poem is a container, just like the body. Because the black body is so highly politicized, Black poetry is highly politicized. 

What a poem presents is one thing and when you look more closely it shows itself in another light. Poetry is reflection; a way to understand yourself. 

- Dannie Ruth (excerpt from a cento with lines from Omotara James)

How We Found Poetry

Growing up, I was fascinated with sound, letters, and making words. I loved learning new words and their meanings and the many ways they could be used, reshaped, and used again. 

In the fourth grade, I began studying Latin and continued for many years. Although Latin is a ‘dead’ language, it has given itself to so many other languages. Ninety percent of English words are derived from Latin, while French, Portuguese, and Spanish are direct offspring. 

Ancestors are like Latin; dead bodies in this realm, yet they keep giving to the living. 

As a child, I learned to grieve and often found comfort in writing poetry and journaling. I’ve kept most of my composition notebooks and journals from then until now—pages and pages of me at different life stages. 

At a certain point, writing poetry became a hobby, something I would do when I was bored in class. Sometimes just coming up with lines. Noting words or phrases that were spoken that day. Depending on the class, I would manage to pay attention and play with words and worlds on my page. Writing allowed me to be somewhere else.

– Dannie Ruth

My relationship to poetry sparked in elementary school with my observation that the “trees danced in the wind.”

My fourth-grade teacher seemed so genuinely pleased by my answer that I kept a relatively positive association to poetry, even through the “write a sonnet in iambic pentameter” days of high school.

Poetry became a more focused interest during the quarantine. I started connecting to my body more through movement and dance. I looked to other black women and their life experiences.

From there, I realized people who had an intimate connection to their bodies could access their truth and express it in ways that felt inaccessible to me. Poetry has given me ease in expression.

– Sadie Jay
poetry and the body 
Image with pink and blue gradient background with white text that reads: 
"Write after a shower. Write on the toilet. Write after an argument. Write in and about liminal spaces. Writing can be cleansing. Revisit your writing. Keep adding layers or scrap everything and start all over again."

Try out this writing prompt!

Choose a photo, image, or piece of art. Write a description without naming any objects in the photo.

Ekphrasis & The Body Cave Canem Fall Workshop

I found Cave Canem during my time in The New School’s Creative Writing MFA Program. Their mission is to cultivate African American poets’ artistic and professional growth by offering fellowships, workshops, prizes, and host readings.

Finding them was a relief because it became challenging being one of the few Black poets in my program. Cave Canem is pouring into Black poets who elevate the canon.

– Dannie Ruth

I came across Cave Canem while searching for online poetry workshops. Although I consider myself still very much a novice in writing poetry, I felt a strong desire to explore. 

Among the many transitions that happened last year, I abruptly moved from Brooklyn back to my small beach town in Florida. I had come to my first writer’s block. 

Every week I was encouraged to write and connect. This consistency was calming as my world was in flux.

– Sadie Jay

We had the opportunity to attend a ten-week workshop, facilitated by Omotara James, titled Ekphrasis & The Body. Ekphrasis is a response to a piece of art, and the art does not have to be visual. We make ekphrastic responses daily (memes, comments, shade!). When a piece of art moves us, we usually experience it viscerally before we process it intellectually. In other words, we experience art in the body. The body not only houses these experiences but contains every memory that has shaped us: individually and collectively.

We completed the workshop and are now left to consider: (1) the way poetry can enact itself, (2) our duty as poets to research, explore and respond to the artwork and our respective worlds, and (3) how to cultivate a deeper understanding of our own bodies and the poems that come from us.

We must take time to unpack poetry as it relates to the body fully. Write and connect with us as we engage in this process. Whether you consider yourself a novice or experienced poet, check out the Spring Workshops offer by Cave Canem. A lottery now chooses community workshops, and participants receive a stipend of $250 upon completion. Submitting can’t hurt.

Taji Vol26: Diasporic

Release Mar 7 2021 | Vol26 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Diasporic! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @TheOnlyWayIsMarbz by @_OKOBE_. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Jingle Jangle: The Film Every Child Needs While Growing Up ” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight on Greeting Cards by Adeyemi Artistry; our highlighted Hair Feature; “Solo Travel: How Travel Made Me A Better Person” by dCarrie; “The Texture of Education” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “The Chaos Theory of Education” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 26 contributed photo story, “Diasporic;” Fitness Highlight: @eliteperformancenyc; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Jalapeño  Honey Po’ Boy; “Are You Financially Prepared For This “New Normal”?” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece by Janelle Naomi; Comic Appreciation with Ezerea, Tales of the Zauberer by William C. Davis; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 26

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

27Jan/21

Black Luxury Brands to Frequent: La Vie by CK

Let me start off by saying that La Vie by CK blew me away. I knew our people were talented but La Vie by CK is on another level! They instantly blow away anything you can get in your Ann Taylor’s or your H&M’s. The women’s bathing suit selection has some of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever seen.

The Greece bathing suit (understandably sold out), will absolutely have all eyes on you as you lounge poolside at any resort from Miami to, well, Greece! The white fabric of the sleeves is light and airy, giving you the look of a goddess come to earth, and the ankara print trim around the white bodice will beautifully complement melanated skin, from the lightest oak to the richest ebony. Most of the selections are named after African nations and are created from bold and colorful Ankara prints.

“The Greece bathing suit (understandably sold out), will absolutely have all eyes on you!”

Their current selection is a masterclass in garment construction, Claude Kameni’s eye for design and an appreciation for the black body is something that you can only get from brands run by people who look like us.

A photograph of 3 women of color, lounging on a large rock in the middle of a lush green forest wearing ankara print bathing suits
Swimsuits from LaVie by CK’s LE VOYAGÉ collection; Photo Credit/MC Gregor Lapierre

La Vie by CK also offers couture gowns which, if the ready-to-wear pieces are any indication of quality, will absolutely be worth every dollar spent – from the consultation all the way up to the design and finishing of the final product. A quick run-through of the brand’s Instagram can give you a good look at the kind of quality couture gowns and outfits Kameni is capable of.

The brand is featured on Beyonce’s website and was even brought on to design a wedding dress for the indelible, forever iconic Jennifer Lewis for the Golden Globe and NAACP Image award-winning show, Black-ish. The outfit, like many of her pieces, features a bold red Ankara print, a long flowing train, billowing sleeves over a simple but stated pant.

Jennifer Lewis wearing a La Vie by CK ensemble on the set of Black-ish; Photo Credit/ Claude Kameni

I could go on and on about the thought that goes into the construction of each garment and how they look on melanated bodies, but then this would be a book. Instead, go check out La Vie by CK for yourself and tell them I sent you!

21Dec/20

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a Gift To Chadwick Boseman Fans Everywhere

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (2020) Chadwick Boseman as Levee. Cr. David Lee/NETFLIX

Synopsis: Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await trailblazing performer, the legendary “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey (Academy Award® winner Viola Davis). Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As the band waits in the studio’s claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious cornet player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) — who has an eye for Ma’s girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry — spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories revealing truths that will forever change the course of their lives.

Chadwick’s on-screen performance was captivating and his charm was irresistible. His years of theater experience are on full display in this film. I felt as if his performance was a gift to his fans and anyone who loves good acting. There are many plays that are turned into films but not all plays are translated well. *Cough Cats! *Cough* American Son. Yeah, you know those were bad. Queue the Kerry Washington memes! 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020): (L to R) Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, Director George C. Wolfe, and Chadwick Boseman as Levee. Cr. David Lee / Netflix

I shouldn’t expect anything less than great work, since the film was based on the play by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, August Wilson. The same energy and passion audiences received from his plays, like “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” is the same energy in the film. I can say August’s works are written so well they can be translated in any form with the right cast and so far he’s had nothing but some of the best involved in his work or anything based on his plays. James Earl Jones has won a Tony for Fences, Denzel and Viola Davis won a Tony, Golden Globe plus Oscar nominations. Now Viola Davis is back with another award-winning performance and Chadwick Boseman was one of the greatest actors of our time. With COVID stalling plans of the theater performances, the film is a satifsfying substitute. 

Chadwick’s character, Levee, personified what it meant to be a Black man at that time. His own band, nice clothes, a good woman, and a dream of ownership are in his sight during a time where racism and deceit are major spoils to his plans. Yet, Levee is optimistic about his talent and charm and believes an open promise will bring him closer to his dreams. Chadwick does an extremely beautiful job and shows range with the character in acts one and three. In the first act, he talks about how his mother was raped by a group of white men and how one of the men slashed him across his chest. He spoke with so much conviction that I could feel the pain Levee was carrying, noting that behind his winning smile was so much hostility. This scene pays off even more later in act three when he and Cutler (played by Coleman Domingo) talk about God. It is at this point Chadwick challenges Slo Drag about God and mocks him by threatening to harm Slo Drag with a knife. 

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM(2020) Chadwick Boseman as Levee, Colman Domingo as Cutler, Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, Michael Potts as Slow Drag and Glynn Turman as Toledo. Cr. David Lee/NETFLIX

Viola Davis’s performance… Oscar-worthy is how I describe Davis’s performance as Ma Rainey. I could barely tell it was Viola underneath the make-up. Davis captured the essence of Ma Rainey from the way she walked to the way she talked. Ma Rainey knows her worth and lets everyone know. Black, white, male or female, Ma Rainey imposes her divaesque persona on anyone she encounters. Ma Rainey is also the only LGBTQ character in her songs and relationship with Dussie Mae (played by Taylour Paige). I was laughing whenever her white manager would beg her to record or for her signature for contracts, she would get what she wanted every time. An interesting aspect of the film was powerful and in control, the artist was inside the recording studio, but on the outside of the studio, their white counterparts were perceived themselves to be superior.

It was good to see Glynn Thurman in the film as the wise Toledo – although he will always be Colonel Bradford Taylor from “It’s a Different World” and Preach from “Cooley High.” He and all the cast did a great job bringing Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to the screen. The film is definitely a must-watch and should be continued to be praised for storytelling. It made me appreciate the time Chadwick was on this earthly plane. 

August Wilson’s play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom celebrates the transformative power of the blues and the artists who refuse to let society’s prejudices dictate their worth. Directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted for the screen by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the film is produced by Fences Oscar® nominees Denzel Washington and Todd Black. Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown, Jeremy Shamos, and Jonny Coyne co-star alongside Grammy® winner Branford Marsalis’ score.

31Oct/20
Taji Mag Vol25 AfroFuture

Taji Vol25: AfroFuture

Release Dec 7 2020 | Vol25 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of AfroFuture! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @NoriRaneMUA (by @BymshaBrownePhotography with @NYCNory). Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Jurnee Smollett Talks Lovecraft Country, Activism, and Breonna Taylor” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight on Nichelle Consulting; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: Are You A Performative Global Ally?” by dCarrie; “Micro Betrayals?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Building the Image Nation” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 25 contributed photo story, “AfroFuture;” Fitness Highlight: @itsdreamsworld; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Wontons; Think Tank, “Lack of Love” by Brianna Burnley; Earth’s Cabinet LLC, Aligning Your Body Holisticly; “The Garden Metaphor Of Finance” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Lovely Leo Skincare Awakens All of Your Body’s Senses; Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 25

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

Why Lovecraft Country “Jig-a-Bobo” Scared the Sh*t Out of Me AND is Worth Watching!

Lovecraft Country
Diana Freeman (Jada Harris)

If you haven’t been watching Lovecraft Country, you have been missing a great series! It’s filled with fear, adventure, history, monsters, and awesome storytelling. The recent episode, “Jig-a-bobo” has more scares and interesting plot twists out of all the episodes so far. Did I mention it has the scariest demons I’ve seen in my life! Episode 8 is worth watching for the following reasons. 

Emmett Till Tie-In in Lovecraft Country

It’s hard to imagine Emmett Till was murdered in 1955… that was only 65 years ago! His murder was an interesting story to tie into the series. The murder did happen in Chicago where the series takes place and the act committed by Till’s murderers was horrifying. Misha Green did a really amazing job showcasing how each character is affected throughout the episode with Diana Freeman (Jada Harris) feeling it the most since Emmett was a close friend of hers. Jada’s performance during this episode definitely made me feel for the character – I was impressed with her character being the focal point. I really felt the opening scene with all of the Black people waiting in line to view Emmett’s body. 

Lovecraft Country
Bopsy (Bianca Brewton) and Topsy (Kaelyn Harris) 

Topsy and Bopsy Are Scary As Sh*t! 

In my 36 years on this earth, I can say there is not much that scares me but Topsy (Kaelyn Harris) and Bopsy (Bianca Brewton) scared the shit out of me! From their acrobatic, eerie movements to the remixed song “Stop Dat Knocking” by A.F. Winnemore (Ralphel Saadiq you ain’t right making the song that scary), the whole set up had me, glad I watched the episode during the day. I mean, I can honestly say Topsy and Bopsy scare me more than Freddy Krueger! 

I just hope Diana Freeman does not die, I know the evil Captain Seamus Lancaster said she was “Dead anyway” but I still hope that Leti, Atticus, and crew find some way to keep her alive. SPOILER ALERT: Poor Diana Freeman has lost her father, friend Emmett, possibly her mother, and she’s been cursed with having two demons trying to kill her. Talk about when it rains it pours. 

Christina and Rubi’s Relationship

If you been wondering what is going on with Rubi’s (Wunmi Mosaku) and Christina’s relationship in Lovecraft Country, you are not alone. I mean body changing in werewolf fashion and all, the level of connection and relationship can be confusing with these two. I would say Rubi has a closer bond with Christina than she does with her own sister after watching the last few episodes given that they have been sexing each other in their transformed counterparts and they are living together. I found Christina reenacting Emmett Till’s death very interesting. Christina trying “feel” the anger and pain Rubi is going through after Till’s death makes me wonder how much she does care for Rubi or how close she is willing to get?

Succubus in Love

Episode 8 also sees the arrival of the Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung), the love interest/ succubus of Atticus during his Korean war tour. How painful it had to have been for Leti to hear about Atticus’s Korean War fling with a nine-tailed fox demon and to also hear he may meet his demise? News like that would drive any person insane but given the recent events, Leti understands anything is possible. She also understands how much Ji-ah loves Atticus because of Leti herself being in love with Atticus. I just wonder if this is the last we will see of Ji-ah? 

Leti and Tic

I haven’t seen a love take so many turns like this since Dwayne and Whitley from a Different World. They love each other no doubt but with all of the chaos going on, at moments it looks like their relationship will not last. With a baby in the picture, I think it’s safe to say these to will find a way. That, plus Atticus went through a portal to the future and was given a book written by his son. It’s crazy how they both know Leti is pregnant but hide it from one another. Which makes you wonder why they don’t tell each other and what will happen going forward in Lovecraft Country once they do? 

Lovecraft Country
Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett

The Beast and protection 

I have to be honest with you, I was happy to see a Shoggoth appear just in time to save Atticus at the end of the episode. Not because it saved Atticus and Leti but because I wanted to see what bigger role if any the big ass scary monsters would play? The Shoggoths are what lured me more into the series! 

It was also good to see Atticus can now cast spells or at least one spell. I really felt Christina was lying to Atticus about the spell. Knowing he has the ability to use spells, it will be interesting to see how it will play into the storyline. Leti has also seen the protection spell placed on her by Christina working via deflecting bullets. Now that the couple (and child) are protected what will happen in future episodes? Find out Sundays at 9 pm on HBO and streaming service HBO Max.