Category Archives: Culture


Taji Vol35: AfroTravel

Vol 35 Afrotravel

Release June 7 2023 | Vol35 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of AfroTravel! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol35 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @_sirenn, @anoobisrising, and @avlonilerose by photographer @theonewillfocus with team @__brushqueen, @ikaika_dboneslark, @adornedintaji, and @egyptbuck. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Chevalier’s Ronke Adekoluejo Explains What Women Helped Inspired Her Role” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, HËS is Making Music that Inspires; our highlighted Hair Feature, Hair Architect Arlene Martin; “How To Travel When Your Budget Says “Chill” by dCarrie; “Nikki Porcher Believes Black Women Deserve to Tell Their Stories” by Nantale Muwonge; Our Vol 35 contributed photo story, “AfroTravel;” Fitness Highlight, Calais Campbell gives his best on and off the NFL field; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Rolled Oyster Mushroom Tacos; Featured Art Piece by Will Focus; Comic Book Appreciation with REFUGE by Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing; “Durand Bernarr is Giving Us Real R&B w/ New Song Leveled” by Clair Daniels; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Vol 35 Afrotravel

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 35

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 OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.


Cait Martin Advances on NBC’s The Voice

Cait Martin
THE VOICE Season: 23 | Pictured: Cait Martin (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

If you’ve been watching this season of NBC’s The Voice, I’m sure you’ve been as happy as we have to witness the artistry that is Cait Martin. Cait’s voice is both powerful and heavenly. Even though I have full faith that Cait will keep advancing round after round, I still hold my breath when she performs.

Cait was a 4-chair turn in The Blinds, beat out her opponent in the Battles, and gracefully slayed during the Knockouts with her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “All The Man That I Need”. Yes, I just said Whitney Houston. That shows you the level of mastery she has.

Cait Martin carved some time out of her schedule to chat with Will Focus for Taji Mag about her experience thus far.
Listen to the Interview Audio here

Will Focus [WF]: I’m just going to start by first saying congratulations, and I want to see how it made you feel just making it to the Playoffs on The Voice.

Cait Martin [CM]: This whole experience, every round you make it past, just kind of blows your mind because the talent is so high and you don’t know what they’re looking for. Ultimately, I feel like it comes down to just preference and who the coach wants to represent them as you get closer and closer to the final. You can sing your butt off, but that might not necessarily be what they’re looking for. So every time you make it further in the show, it’s really just kind of an amazing, blessed feeling.

WF: That’s awesome. Do you have any specific piece of advice that’s helped you excel to this level in the competition? Anything you would give anybody.

CM: This past round has really taught me to trust my gut and my instincts in who I am as a performer. You kind of have to stop saying, okay, well, I wonder what they want or [what] I have to do. You have to just try your best to be your most authentic self and present that because you already know you’re a good singer. You already know you’re going to be a hard worker. It’s just about figuring out how to authentically present yourself the best you can every round, so you have no regrets.

WF: How long do you feel it took for you to realize that component of what you just advised?

CM: I think it took me to get to the Knockout round. I knew I wanted to do something different and something that I could emotionally connect with for my Blind audition. With your battles the next round, you don’t get a say in the song that you choose, so you have to kind of find a way to not only bring yourself to that but also be able to bend and move and shift because you’re singing a duet with somebody else at the same time. So being malleable in that way. By the time I got to the knockouts, I knew I wanted to perform something that was going to just stand out on its own. And I got “All the Man I Need” by Whitney Houston. As I was preparing with that song, I went through so many different times where I was second-guessing myself and I had to really dig into myself and find out, okay, who am I going to be as an artist? I’m not going to be somebody that’s out here trying to sound like Whitney Houston. How can I bring Caitlin Martin to this iconic Whitney Houston song? And that’s really when I started to feel the shift in stepping into my own identity as a performer.

WF: So I actually have another question that’s related to something you just said, like in the blinds. Chance mentioned that your tones, especially your lower register, were reminiscent of Whitney’s. So did he plant that seed for your knockout performance of Whitney’s “All the Man That I Need”?

CM: Well, I’ve kind of known that a little bit about myself because Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, these great vocalists, are who I grew up listening to with my parents. So I kind of have picked up little nuances and inflections and things like that in my voice luckily was able to lend itself to as I grew and matured. So I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to sing a Whitney Houston song and the fact that I got this one, it was like a little bit of foreshadowing, but I didn’t even know it was going to be able to happen when I got given this one. So it was definitely a really cool moment.

WF: Awesome. So 4 chair turn, right? For you, what solidified you choosing Kelly as your coach? Like, was it the jacket or your mom yelling Kelly from backstage? I’m just kidding, lol. But on a serious note, what was it that made you make that decision?

CM: Well, before we even have the opportunity to get out there to L.A., they ask us – because we don’t know who the coaches are going to be until we get out there and we’re rehearsing our songs and we’re doing everything so, we know for sure it’s going to be Blake because he’s always there, except this is his last season (lol). But we didn’t know that we were going to be having Kelly return. We didn’t know that we were getting two brand-new coaches that had never been on the show before. So they asked if you could have any coach, out of all the coaches who’ve ever been on The Voice, who would you want? And I said, oh, my God, Kelly Clarkson because I see myself in her career. She has the ability to take her voice and adapt it to so many different genres, and so many different types of music, and I wanted to be mentored by someone that would be able to help me kind of go down that same path. So having her not only be an option for me but being the first person to turn within a matter of seconds, I’m like, I got to go with my girl Kels.

WF: How important was that quick chair turn when you saw it? How important was that for you?

CM: The confidence in me wanted to be like, yeah, you got this! (lol) But I didn’t want to let that get to my head at all. So I kind of couldn’t even look at her. I had to look past her, and I’m like, just stick with the song. Stay in the moment, stay present, whatever else happens. Because after that, it’s like, no matter if nobody else turns around, you at least have one, right? You’re on the show. You have the opportunity to be able to do more. So just looking past her, but then I felt the chairs turn around and the audience cheers every time a chair turns around, and I’m like, Dang, everybody okay!

WF: All right. Let’s dial it back a little further. What is the feeling as you start to walk out? I want you to just explain that to me as you’re walking out onto that stage for the very first time, knowing what this could potentially mean to you and who you could connect with, what is that feeling as you’re about to walk out? What is the conversation you have maybe with your mom beforehand or with yourself as you’re entering that stage?

CM: Well, when you’re standing there waiting for those doors to open, you have a producer come and talk you through it. Make sure that you’re feeling confident, make sure that you’re feeling focused, and they help to remind you of why you’re doing this. Remember why you’re here, and channel your motivations and your inspiration as you’re about to get out there on stage. I know you’re nervous, but they said, we wouldn’t put you here if we didn’t think that you could do it. So walking out on the stage, you look straight across, and on the other side of the stage, I had my parents, so being able to see them gave me this kind of sigh of relief before I turned forward and saw the chairs and steadied myself to get ready to sing.

WF: That’s awesome. So in terms of impressions, what do you want to leave on those who you impress upon in terms of who you are, and who they see? What’s the lasting impression you’d like to leave on the hearts of America?

CM: That you can go for your dreams with kindness. You don’t have to compromise who you are as a person. You don’t have to compromise your integrity if you’re willing to work hard and be authentic to who you are as a person.

WF: Regarding your Whitney performance, how important is it to be still and in the moment with a performance like that?

CM: That was definitely the scariest of the three performances that I’d done thus far in the competition. That song is a beast because Whitney is a beast. She is channeling not only so many different types of emotions that she’s trying to convey in the song, but vocally. She’s using every register of her voice in that song. She’s using dynamics. She’s using her range. And I’m like, how can I make a version of this song that’s just as impactful and meaningful without singing? Like, I’m trying to copy Whitney because she’s incomparable. Nobody’s going to be able to sound like Whitney but I wanted to take the essence of what she put into that song and find a way to do it justice. It was a big moment but honestly, after I sang, I felt really proud because of the journey that I had to take to get to that moment with that song.

WF: Let Me commend you, I’m a big Whitney fan. So I watched your performance a couple of times when you did that song specifically and I think it’s interesting because Reba, when she realized the song you were about to do, she said, that’s a big thing! Anytime you hear someone is about to perform Whitney, you’re like all right, that’s a huge undertaking, are they going to live up to those expectations? In that moment you appeared to be yourself covering a Whitney song, I didn’t hear Whitney but I heard her capabilities. I heard the tone of your voice, performing with the skill set that she has which is huge.

CM: Wowww… That’s a big compliment.

WF: It was an amazing performance, but I think the most quality part of your performance was your ability to command the stage without having to move around the stage. A lot of the people who had large voices who became icons in our past, they’re able to command the stage with just their presence and their voice alone, there isn’t a lot of theatrics. Their voice actually creates those theatrics. It was an amazing performance, for me you became an instant favorite because of that performance. You hold your own in terms of making sure you stay true to yourself. So I just wanted to give you your flowers on that. That was amazing.

CM:  Wow, thank you for that. I haven’t had anyone be able to articulate what they appreciated about the performance in that way and that’s honestly what I was trying to convey. I was most nervous that people would, like you said, say ‘oh she’s gonna sing a Whitney Houston song’ and compare me to somebody just trying to sound like Whitney or try to imitate her. And I really wanted to bring myself to her song and for you to be able to see that – it really means a lot.

WF: You did amazing. From the way you started and then when you pulled that mic away and walked and started performing –  amazing you did exactly what it was you set out to do.

CM: Oh man, thank you! I asked for the mic stand actually.

WF: Oh did you?

CM: I was like I’m going to need y’all to give me a stand for this one. Just give me a moment and let me just sing.

WF: I’m thankful that you’re on the show and you’re doing a great job. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. If there are any last words you want to give to someone who is coming up who is a singer, who isn’t so sure about themselves, what can you tell them that might help them pave the way for themselves?

CM: Trust yourself. Do the work that it takes to find yourself as an artist, don’t try to be anyone else. Take the things you love about music, and your favorite artists, figure out why you love those things, figure out how you can make those things your own, and bring something uniquely you to your performance. That’s going to be the thing that sets you aside for success.

Cait Martin has spent years performing and traveling as a theatrical vocalist on tours and cruise ships. In 2019, Cait got a call that her sister Jaimie collapsed at work from a pulmonary embolism. She rushed home to be by her side, but Jaimie died a few days later at the age of 32. Cait lost her lust for life and spent more than a year living at home with her parents and turned inward. Slowly, she came out of her sadness when she realized singing was her gift that brings joy to others. Cait is currently doing voiceover work and musicals and creates original music on the side.

Follow Cait Martin’s journey on Instagram at @caitmartinsings and be sure to vote for her when the Playoffs are live on NBC’s The Voice.


Chevalier Director Stephen Williams on the Forgotten Music Legend

Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the film CHEVALIER. Photo by Larry Horricks. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

 Inspired by the incredible story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr. in a tour de force performance) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court.

Many names come to mind when influential and famous composers are mentioned, but there are some artists whom you rarely if ever, hear about. One of these artists is Joseph Bologne and Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He was a musician and composer who swooned French audiences with his work. What makes Bologne even more interesting is that he was of mixed race and from the then-French colony of Guadeloupe. Searchlight Pictures has brought the story of Bolonge to life in the upcoming film Chevalier, written by Stefani Robinson (Atlanta, What We Do in the Shadows) and directed by Stephen Williams (Lost, The Watchmen). A compelling story about a multi-talented artist who took Europe by storm. 

Becoming the Director

Williams admitted that the script written by Robinson immediately blew him away. “I felt blessed and had the good luck to be the recipient of the offer to make this film,” Williams said. 

With some of Bologne’s work destroyed by the French government and lost over the years, Williams and Robinson had little to work with. “There were gaps in the story that we had. We tried using our imaginations to [bring to life] his subjective point of view or what we imagined his point of view to be. We tried to walk with him through the course of his life. Our interest was not necessarily being bound by fact but more by truth, which is not necessarily the same thing”, Williams explained. 

In a previous Toronto Film Festival interview, Williams mentioned that Joseph’s story is relatable to some creatives today in entertainment. Williams said, “Let me just say that when I read the script, part of what was interesting to me was obviously an opportunity to tell an entertaining story, but also to introduce viewers to a character, a historical figure, and a time period that maybe they weren’t familiar with. On another level, it felt really personal to me. Joseph Bologne was from a Caribbean island, Guadeloupe, and made his way to Europe as a young man. I was born in Jamaica and went to England as a young man. My life story, I felt, totally identified with some aspects of Joseph’s life story, which were very personal. I can recognize much of the trajectory of his life in my own. A reflection of my own experiences. Sure, the story happened in the mid-1700s in Paris, but it felt like it could have been happening today, minus the wigs and the costumes”. 

Working with Kelvin Harris

Kelvin Harris Junior is being dubbed one of the most talented young Black actors of our time. Williams had nothing but praise about the young talent. “Yeah, I mean, Kelvin is just a fantastic talent. He’s just, you know, he’s a really intuitive actor. He first has to feel that person’s reality… He imagined what it, you know, what it could be. All the violin bowing that you see in the movie, that’s Kelvin. The fencing that you see is Kelvin. There are no tricks, no CGI, and no stunt doubles. It’s all Kelvin. And all of that is a product of the immense dedication and hard work he brought to tackling this role”, Williams explained. 

He continued, “We wanted to honor and respect the period in which the story took place but then also open it up tonally so that it felt contemporary at the same time. So it didn’t feel like a stuffy period piece, you know? It didn’t feel like Masterpiece Theater. It felt like something that was vital and energetic and kinetic and felt of now even though it was taking place in pre-revolutionary France. Calibrating that balance was tricky.”

Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the film CHEVALIER. Photo by Larry Horricks. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Bologne’s Life

For portraying people of color in France, director Williams said, “France had a number of colonies at that time, right? And again, in ways that reflect much of what happens today. A lot of people of African descent, from the diaspora, from the colonies, made their way to France and made their way to Paris. So much so that the character you see portrayed in the fencing scenes is a real guy whose real concern at the time was that too many people of African descent were making their way into Paris. They’re undocumented. We need to have a census to get a handle on how many of these people there are so that we can ultimately send them back from whence they came”.

Williams explained, “if that doesn’t strike you as being contemporary, then nothing in the movie will. There were a lot more people of African descent in Paris than is normally acknowledged in cultural output at that time. And it was imperative that Joseph’s mother, Nanon (played by Ronke Adekoluejo), a formerly enslaved woman from Guadeloupe, would make that connection with that community in Paris and use that strength to help inform him.”

When asked what he thinks people will get from this film, director Stephen Williams explained, “You know, hopefully the audience is entertained because it’s an entertaining story. Joseph’s life was lived on a grand operatic scale. The music is dope; hopefully, people leave the movie having learned something about somebody they never knew before”.

Chevalier opens in theaters April 21st, 2023.


The Super Mario Bros. Movie…A Nostalgic Good Time

Photos Courtsey of Universal Pictures

Title: Super Mario Bros. Movie

Release Date: 4/5/2023

Run Time: 92 mins.

Starring: Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Khary Payton as Penguin King, Chris Pratt as Mario, Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, and Jack Black as Bowser aka King Koopa

Synopsis: Based on the iconic Nintendo video game that debuted in September of 1985, brothers Mario and Luigi journey from New York to the Mushroom Kingdom to stop the ruthless King Koppa and his goons. 

Worth Watching: 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a good watch for not just fans of the video games, but also families who simply love wholesome fun. From the film’s start, audiences are treated with easter eggs from the franchise; even the opening theme from the popular Mario Bros Super Show is reimagined in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. It also paid tribute to extended Mario Bros games like Mario Cart, Luigi’s Mansion, and the arcade classic Donkey Kong. I definitely had flashbacks of my younger years of game-playing with side-scrolling two-player modes. The directors and crew understood the assignment for this film, and I’m glad they took their time to put together a quality project. No, The Super Mario Bros. Movie won’t win an Academy Award for Best Screen Play, but it is entertaining.

I enjoyed the world-building and beautiful visuals that brought the scenes to life. The editing team should certainly be commended for the effort made to bring the audience into the various worlds. I was especially pulled into the vibrant and fun Mushroom Kingdom.

The ‘power-ups’ was one aspect of the film that kept me on the edge of my seat because, just like in the game, the characters were not sure what power they’d received. Seeing the ‘power-ups’ on screen also brought me joy because I always wondered what they would look like outside of what the 90s live action film portrayed.

Mario and Luigi

When the announcement of Chris Pratt voicing Mario was met with unfavorable posts, the popular opinion on Twitter and other social media platforms was that the film wouldn’t be well-received. Unlike the fiasco surrounding ‘Ugly Sonic’, Pratt’s voice acting fits the character. The film even pokes fun at the voice of Mario to let the audience know that the writers and directors heard the rumblings on social media. 

Charlie Day as Luigi was a great fit as well. Unfortunately, his screen time was not as long as Mario’s. After giving Mario the time needed to explore the new world in and outside of the Mushroom Kingdom, the movie could’ve run the risk of being too long had Luigi’s character been explored further. I’m a fan of Charlie Day, so I guess that’s why I wanted to hear more of his character, but it works here. Perhaps we’ll see a Luigi spinoff/sequel in the future.  

I liked how the film portrayed Mario’s and Luigi’s families; they were all funny and gave the audience an idea of the brothers’ upbringing. Their father’s criticism of their aspirations does help push them and give them a little more motivation. It allows the audience to sympathize with the characters who are striving to achieve their goals. I’m sure we can all relate to that somehow.

Now just in case you are worried you wouldn’t hear Mario’s “Yipppeee!”, rest assured you will! The film has excellent sound engineering as the sound effects you grew up listening to from the games are heavily featured in this film. 

Toad, Princess, and Donkey Kong

Keegan-Michael Key voiced Toad, the first to befriend Mario once he arrives in the magical world. His voice was altered in the film so it’s barely recognizable, but he had some funny scenes. I was hoping for a little more from the comedic genius, but given the character, it makes sense that he didn’t have too much screen time. 

Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach was well cast, but I felt that some of the mysteries about her origin could’ve been explored more. I have a few unanswered questions. 

I was not sure how Donkey Kong (voiced by Seth Rogen) would fit into this film, but he served as a frenemy for Mario. He is powerful and arrogant but good hearted…kind of reminds me of Johnny Bravo but as an ally for Mario and Princess Peach. Now that I have seen the film I think Rogen was the best pick for the character. The director even uses Rogen’s signature laugh to add to the character’s personality.

Khary Payton, Y’all!

Some of you know voice-over veteran Khary Payton, known for his work as Teen Titans‘ Cyborg and Young Justice’s Aqualad. His dialogue is minimal in the film, but just enough to satisfy his fans. In this project, he voiced the Penguin King. You can catch some of his dialogue in the current trailers on Youtube, but you’ll have to watch the film to get the full effect. If there is a sequel or spin-off, they should definitely bring his character back. Fingers crossed.  

Photos Courtsey of Universal Pictures

Bowser the Bad Ass

Jack Black as the voice of Boswer aka King Koopa was perfectly cast. He stood out as the menacing antagonist with a soft spot for Princess Peach. Of course, random singing solos by the shelled fire-breathing villain had me cracking up because, duh, it’s Jack Black! This version of Bowser is intentionally cartoony to balance out his sinister deeds, unlike the version played by Dennis Hopper in the 90s. Trust me when I say that I like Dennis Hopper as an actor, but the portrayal was awful and I credit that to the writing. 

Final Thoughts

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is SO worth watching, I may go back this weekend for a second viewing to see if I missed anything! It’s a hysterical, satisfying, and nostalgic good time. I am unsure if a sequel is necessary, but I am interested in a spin-off for Donkey Kong. See The Super Mario Bros. Movie in theaters on April 5th, 2023.


‘A Thousand and One’…The Beauty of Black Storytelling

Teyana Taylor as Inez da la Paz

Title: A Thousand and One

Release Date: 3/31/2023

Where to watch: In theaters

Directed by: A.V. Rockwell

Produced by: Lena Waithe

Starring: Teyana Taylor as Inez da la Paz, Aaron Kingsley Adetola as Terry (6 years old), Aven Courtney as Terry (13 years old), Josiah Cross as Terry (17 years old), and William Catlett as Lucky

Synopsis: A fiercely unapologetic and loyal Inez kidnaps her son, Terry, from the foster care system. Mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in a rapidly changing New York City.

Worth noting: A Thousand and One is a Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner.

Filmmaker A.V. Rockwell


A.V. Rockwell created colorful and flawed characters who I found myself rooting for as they lived their truths while trying to achieve an ideal life the best way they knew how in an unforgiving city, NYC. Storytelling like this only makes me desire more stories about well-rounded Black characters who flourish despite being a product of their harsh environments.  

Outside of the writing and acting in this film, I appreciated how Rockwell incorporated scenic shots of New York, giving the audience an idea of what the characters were truly up against. The tall buildings, busy neighborhoods, and various personalities inhabit the area highlighted in this film.

Aaron Kingsley Adetola as Terry and Will Catlett as Lucky

Teyana Taylor and the Cast

The last time I saw Taylor in a film was Coming 2 America where her role was limited albeit entertaining. Before then, I saw her in Madea’s Big Happy Family where she played the annoying ex-girlfriend of Bow Wow’s character, Byron. During the screening of A Thousand and One, I thought to myself, “wait, is this the same Teyana Taylor?”. I was so impressed with her performance that I couldn’t help but focus solely on her character, Inez, and the barrage of obstacles thrown her way. 

Although well-intentioned, Inez’s approach is sometimes questionable and at times illegal. It was interesting to watch Taylor bring this character to life and make her compelling but also believable. When Inez provides life lessons to her son Terry, you can feel her love for him and her desire to give him a better life than she had growing up. It’s certainly not smooth sailing for this troubled mom; at times, you see the character get in the way of her own success. Taylor recently shared with Elle magazine “She (Inez) is so strong, and sometimes she gets in her own way. So you’ll see her almost go there and then hold it in. So I had to dial it back. There were a lot of different techniques that I taught myself to get into this space. It felt like I was on my own pursuit of happiness”. 

Taylor’s chemistry on screen with the young actors (Aaron Kingsley Adetola as 6-year-old Terry, Aven Courtney as 13-year-old Terry, and Josiah Cross as 17-year-old Terry) genuinely resembles a mother-and-son relationship. In my opinion, Cross had the best Terry performance because the film’s final act called for a more emotional display, given the big reveal at the end (don’t worry, no spoilers here). It was not only the performance for me, the writing was incredibly impactful. 

Actor William Catlett plays Lucky, Inez’s boyfriend. He serves as a father figure to her son and provides guidance on how to manage daily as a young Black man in a world that is bound to stereotype him. Although his methods and delivery are not considered ideal, the messages are clear and understood by young Terry. I loved how the Lucky character tried his best to change his life after incarceration. Catlett, as Lucky, knocked this portrayal out of the park and is honestly one of the most underrated actors I’ve seen in a while. I hope to see his career continue to flourish. 

Final Thoughts

Taylor deserves genuine applause for her role in this film. I think it should serve as proof that she CAN pull off the role of Dionne Warwick in an upcoming project. The verdict on Black Twitter is that she surely can! Even the icon herself has mentioned she would love the artist to portray her. The direction and writing of Rockwell gives film lovers a taste of the future of storytelling that Black people and POC can be proud of. A Thousand and One shows the complicated dynamics of a mother’s love which is 100% worth watching.


Rye Lane: A 2023 Must-See Rom-Com

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah)shown. (Photo by: Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Directed by: Raine Allen-Miller

Starring: David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah

Run time: 1hr and 22mins

Where to watch: Hulu

Release date: March 31st, 2023

Synopsis: Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) bond over an eventful day in South London after discovering they are both recovering from bad breakups. 

Would I recommend it? 

Yes! This 2023 Sundance Film Festival selection checks all the boxes for a good rom-com movie, especially with the acting chops showcased by David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. The tone and pacing of the film felt appropriate, I was at no point thrown off. Although their experience together took place in one day, it did feel like they had this journey over the course of at least a few days. 

I have not been to South London, but from the looks of it, it is an excellent place to visit. This is all based on the amount of scenic exposure the director gives the audience. The environment looked spectacular. He did a good job of sucking the viewer into the locale. You almost feel like you’re there yourself.

The film pays tribute to the music of the ’70s, ’80s, and ‘90s with songs from each of these eras. I personally commend this because I love music from those periods. The nostalgia rushed over me when I heard back-to-back hit tracks during a backyard bbq scene.

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah), shown. (Photo: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

The Characters

I loved the chemistry between Jonsson and Oparah in this film. The dialogue between the two (including non-verbal cues) had me rooting for them to end up an item. Each brought the best out of the other, from the shy and broken Dom to the free-spirited yet delicate Yas. I haven’t felt this since Dwayne and Whitley from A Different World. I also enjoyed the lead characters’ interaction with the other personas in the film. For example, to me, the funniest moment was when Yas’ ex’s family appeared. They didn’t have much screen time but quickly had me laughing since they reminded me of my family hangouts. There was a sense of relatability that made this flick feel nostalgic. 

Jonsson is already ascending in stardom, but I can for sure see Oparah as another rising star whom I wouldn’t mind watching in more projects. Oparah undoubtedly wins over the audience with her charming and fun personality.


What stands out in this film is how Allen-Miller uses color palettes and visuals to set the scene’s tones. For example, during flashbacks, the director uses darker purples and blues when a character reveals a heartbreaking story. The director cleverly sets up these flashbacks like stage plays where the characters are in the audience along with the movie’s viewers watching these memories play out. It’s one of my favorite things about the film; if I had to compare it to a style, I would say it resembles Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You”. I look forward to seeing more work from Allen-Miller and witnessing her career flourish as she becomes a household name.

Initially, I did not understand why the art gallery at the end featured portraits of naked butts, but as I thought about it further, I realized that the beginning of the film featured pictures of people’s mouths in the art gallery. I wonder if this is supposed to be symbolic of moving from start to finish as the viewer is introduced to the mouth in the film’s opening and then as we exit the film, we are shown bare naked bums. Clever. 

Director Raine Allen-Miller, shown. (Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Final Thoughts

This is one of the best rom-com I’ve seen in a while! If you loved Brown Sugar, Love and Basketball, or Love Jones, Rye Lane is a film definitely worth your time. I can just about guarantee it’ll be added to your list of top Black rom-coms. With loveable characters, creative cinematography, and a heart-warming love story, Rye Lane is one of my favorite films of 2023 thus far.


Grand Crew’s Grasie Mercedes’ Fay and Aaron Jennings’ Anthony… Lovers or Friends?

Grasie Mercedes as Fay and Aaron Jennings as Anthony

Grand Crew” season two is here, and it is funnier than season one within just the first few episodes! As anticipated, the first episode continues to explore Noah’s (Echo Kellum) relationship with Simone (Ashleigh Morghan) while the others continue to navigate love and life. Grand Crew is something we all can connect with, responsible(?) adulting while having friends to help us along the way.  

One of the cliffhangers from last season that all the viewers have been discussing over Twitter was the relationship status of Fay (played by Grasie Mercedes) and Anthony (played by Aaron Jennings). Will they be lovers or remain friends? Queue up Usher’s “Lovers and Friends.” We won’t know until it’s revealed. While we wait for the story to unfold, Taji Mag interviewed Mercedes and Jennings about their characters, the best relationship advice they’ve gotten, and more. 

Auria (for Taji Mag): What was your reaction to the show getting greenlit?

Grasie Mercedes: I was ecstatic! To be able to do it again, I mean, as an actor, it’s a miracle to even get on a show in the 1st place. And then to get the show picked up from pilot to 1st season, from 1st season to 2nd season, you’re just grateful for each time that you get to do the job.

Aaron Jennings: Yeah, I’m just so happy we got to run it back. I love all of my castmates and all the crew as well; so to get to go to work and have fun with people that you love on a SHOW that you love feels very important for the world to have right now. I was definitely just ecstatic and felt very blessed. 

GRAND CREW — Season: 2 — Pictured: Grasie Mercedes as Fay — (Photo by: Jabari Jacobs/NBC)

Auria: Let’s dive a bit into the story of the show. Why do you think it’s so hard for your characters (Fay & Anthony) to be honest about their feelings? (They briefly argue over who will answer 1st to which Gracie says, “this is part of the problem lol”)

GM: I think it’s just real life, ya know? Sometimes it’s hard to be vulnerable, say how you feel, and admit how you feel. And then I think there’s an extra layer of, like, when you have a friend that you have feelings for, if you go for that, what happens if it doesn’t work out. Then you’re risking that friendship. And so, I think they’re both kind of in their heads about what this is, what this could be, and I think for Fay, she’s a little nervous [about] even getting involved, especially after the last episode where Anthony tells her that he and Talia broke up because of her. She doesn’t want that, she doesn’t want that life.

Auria: I’m glad that you mentioned the friendship aspect because that leads me to my next question. In your opinion, can two people return to being friends after dating?

AJ: I mean, I think they can. It just presents its own problems, right? I’ll say in the past I’ve dated one friend in particular and afterward we were still the best of friends. That’s not always the case, it takes two very mature people to be able to navigate that, but it’s possible. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s possible. Grasie, what sat you?

GM: I meeeean, I don’t know, I think it’s possible to stay friendly. I don’t know if it’s possible to stay friends like you were beforehand because I do think things can get complicated. But maybe I can be proven wrong, I don’t know. I think it depends on the people. 

Auria: Thank you for that. Season 2 I was even funnier than season 1! What do you think is the key to the show’s success?

GM: We have an incredible writer’s room led by Phil Augusta Jackson (that’s the creator), and there’s just really really funny people who are great story tellers. I think THAT on top of the cast (we have really funny people in our cast), it’s all kind of gelled together to be even better this season.

AJ: I think the more time you have together within a show, you hope that over time the synergy just starts to really form. And I think that’s what’s happened with our show in particular. You just get more stabs at it, more times at bat. And it really helps you start to find your groove. I think we’re in a nice rhythm right now and have hit a nice stride.

Auria: How was shooting season 2 different from the first?

AJ: It went by so quickly. It went by so fast. It was still a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, even more laughs if you could believe it, but it just shot by. I feel like the 1st season…it felt a lot longer, and not that we weren’t having fun, it just felt longer…this season just blew by. I blinked and it was gone. I wish we had more opportunity to work together, so hopefully, we get a season 3 and we’ll [be able to] do that.

GRAND CREW — “Pilot” — Pictured: Aaron Jennings as Anthony — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Auria: I also hope you get a season 3! We’re going to get just a little bit personal right now. There are a lot of relationship things happening in this series. What is the best dating advice you’ve ever received? I’d love for both of you to answer this, so whoever wants to go first, jump in.

GM: I’m dating right now, and I will say I’ve gotten good advice from Aaron who is in a nice long-term committed relationship. But specifically, to me, he’s like “relax”. He’s always telling me to relax. And I think part of me wants to be like “f*ck you, Aaron” and then part of me is like “no, you’re right”. I think I was in a relationship for so long (I was in a relationship for 14 years and I’ve only been single for the last two years), that dating sometimes feels very anxiety ridden. You don’t know what people are thinking, and “how does this work”, and I think it really is kind of important to sit back, take a breather, and relax, take it day by day, don’t take everything so damn personally. We all have our lives, we all have a lot going on. But it’s definitely tricky dating, especially in this age when everyone’s on their phone 24/7 and people are on apps and social media. So yeah, that’s good advice I got recently.

AJ: You’re welcome, Grasie lol. I think communication is key. It’s important to just really let the other party know where you’re coming from at all times. I think when I was dating, as a man, it’s like you hear from a lot of women that they just wish that guys would be more transparent as opposed to leading them on, so to speak. I always try to be as transparent as I possibly could. With that being said though, I think grace is important, too. I think that’s important in all relationships. That sort of lends to what I was saying to Grasie. It’s like we sometimes jump to conclusions about things and maybe you should just try to give that person a little bit of grace because it may not be what you think it is. So, patience and grace, I think, will get you far.

Auria: Alright, patience and grace, I like that very much. I Want to thank you guys again for your time and, just like you said, I’m looking forward to a season 3.

AJ: From your words to God’s ears, thank you. 

With the talent of Phil August Jackson, his team, and the stars of the show, it seems Grand Crew has found its footing as a standout sitcom. My hope is that this show will become one of this generation’s best Black sitcoms. So far it’s on the right track! From the improved dialogue to the flourishing chemistry of the cast, Grand Crew looks to have the potential to be greenlit for a season 3 and beyond. As Anthony said, from our words to God’s ears!

Watch Grand Crew season 2 on NBC Fridays at 8:30 pm. Stream past episodes on Peacock.


John Wick: Chapter 4… A Satisfying Swan Song

Keanu Reeves as John Wick. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Cast: Keanu Reeves as John Wick, Donnie Yen as Caine, Bill Skarsgård as Marquis Vincent de Gramont, Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King, Hiroyuki Sanada as Shimazu Koji, Shamier Anderson as Mr. Nobody, Lance Reddick as Charon, Rina Sawayama as Akira, Scott Adkins as Killa, and Ian McShane as Winston Scott.

Synopsis: John Wick uncovers a path to defeating The High Table. But before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and forces that turn old friends into foes.

The Best John Wick?

Chapter 4 has a 95% Rotten Tomato score, making it the highest-rated John Wick film in the franchise that premiered back in 2014. Not bad for an almost 10 year-old series. This installment wowed me with just about every aspect of its composition. I was not expecting this sequel to have such an unbelievably action-packed compelling story that would be better than the previous films. This film is star-studded and everyone played their role well, no wonder critics and audiences are talking about this blockbuster.

Shamier Anderson as Mr. Nobody photo courtesy of Lionsgate


First things first, rest in peace to the amazing Lance Reddick (June 7, 1962 – March 17, 2023), who has been a part of the franchise since its 2014 debut. We thank you for contributing to John Wick and hits such as Oz, The Wire, and numerous voice-over characters. You will be missed.

The characters in this movie were completely badass and, in my opinion, the best set of assassins in the franchise. Let’s start with the Tracker (aka Mr. Nobody), played by Shamier Anderson. His sniper skills and weapons set made him one of the best long-distance snipers in film history. His backpack was akin to Batman’s utility belt. It had everything in it! You’d think it would limit his performance, but it didn’t. His fierce, charismatic dog was his best weapon (and the show-stealer). Providing laughs that came out of nowhere, this dog was one of the most memorable characters in the movie.

Unsurprisingly, Hiroyuki Sanada (as Shimazu Koji) was a tough, deadly character. His sword skills could only be described as superhuman. As the owner of the Osaka Continental, this man had everything from bulletproof sumo bodyguards to a cavalry of archers onsite. They all held up pretty well against a bunch of bulletproof suit-wearing soldiers. But aside from all the badassery, he still displayed his acting chops with a few well-done emotional scenes. This man can act! 

Rina Sawayama (as Akira, the daughter of Shimazu) was also a skilled fighter with her bow. Her melee attacks were impressive and smooth. Although her screen time was short, her portrayal was so compelling that I’d love to see her return in the upcoming spin-off.

Donnie Yen (as Caine, the blind assassin) brought his cunning tenacity to a role we’ve somewhat seen before. I’m reminded of Rogue One where he played the blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe. Caine was clearly one of the most feared characters in the film since the mere mention of his name had the same effect as saying “John Wick”. In fact, in this film, they’re old friends. His skill set was vast… brutal but swift. The most impressive of his weapons were the alarming motion sensors he used to take out a few enemies in the dark. He also gave Wick a good match-up in the film, even while blind. I wonder what he would be like if he wasn’t blind. Call me crazy, but I would not mind seeing a film starring this character… maybe a prequel featuring his history with John Wick. 

Bill Skarsgård (as the Marquis Vincent de Gramont) was a ridiculous villain and my favorite because although he seemed civilized, wealthy, and a mastermind, he was completely nuts! There were moments in this film when I thought, “he has to fear this person,” then he would go off the rails and even shock the other members of the High Table. I loved how the director had these huge elegant background shots to help reflect the character’s ego. It makes me wonder where this guy has been the whole time because, clearly, he is powerful and could’ve posed a threat early on in the franchise. 

In a fat suit, Scott Adkins (as Killa, the head of the German Table) was hilarious! I’m a fan of his movies, so seeing him in this role with the suit and german accent was different. He looked hideous and was a bit cartoonish, but it worked in this film. His character also delivered some of the most vicious blows to John Wick. 

Finally, as we’d expect of John Wick, Keanu Reeves was tough, vengeful, and compelling. Although we have seen Reeves in this role three times before, his character has become more human. He realizes how much his actions have affected everyone else, and he cares! Wick is no longer the seemingly emotionless hitman bent on killing everyone. With the acting of Reeves and the rest of the cast, I walked away feeling I had watched an action movie with substance. Not only that, but I cared about the characters. 

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 4. Photo Credit: Murray Close


John Wick 4 had some beautiful cinematography, especially with light usage. One of the best scenes in the film is when Wick is on the rooftop talking with Shimazu. The scene was set at night. There was a reflection of red lighting coming from structures around him, reflecting the danger Wick had brought into the lives of the people he’d encountered. There was also a fantastic scene with him and Akira talking on the subway. It was dark, with red and green lights reflecting throughout the subway, representing the anger and envy that Akira must’ve felt after evading a barrage of enemies. 

Another great shot I loved was the overhead shot of Wick taking out enemies in different rooms. He took them out creatively, as this sequence of shots featured the dragon’s breath shotgun. This was one of my favorite weapons in the film because it completely engulfed its victims in flames. I thought I was watching a live-action Soldiers of Fortune video game.

What would a John Wick film be without travel and beautiful scenic environments? The film travels from the deserts of Egypt to New York and then to Paris. All the places visited were filled with some supped-up technology, but this film never had a dull scene or location.


John Wick had to have died 20 thousand times in this film from falling off buildings, getting hit by cars, and falling down steps; he should be wormfood by now! But for the film’s sake, he survived with little bruises. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly entertained by the fight choreography in this film and enjoyed the weapons. 

Final Thoughts

Besides a few corny one-liners, some misplaced dialogue, and the fact that other civilians didn’t react to a large amount of violence surrounding them while Wick is being attacked in the street, John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of the best films in the franchise. It also serves as a swan song for the John Wick character as we know him. If you are looking for an action-packed, beautifully shot film, I’d say catch this movie in theaters this Friday, March 24th. You will get all the bang for your buck and then some!


“Causeway” is Brian Tyree Hill’s Best Performance

Brian Tyree Hill as James (Photo courtsey of Apple TV)

Where to Find: Apple TV Plus

Rating: R

Release: November 4th, 2022

Run time: 94 minutes


A young soldier (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to adjust to life back in New Orleans after a traumatic war injury. Her life changes when she meets a local mechanic (Brian Tyree Henry), and they form an unlikely bond. 

What is the film about?

Whenever I hear that Brian Tyree Henry is attached to a film, I expect the film to do well and that he will put on a powerful performance. In Causeway, he does just that; this time, his performance is complemented by co-star Jennifer Lawrence. The film hardly wavers from its sad and uneasy tone, making the joyful moments more impactful. The director uses the environment of a Louisiana neighborhood (a sort of character in itself) to serve as the foundation from which Lynsey,played by Jennifer Lawrence,is trying to escape, the worn-down houses and cluttered areas. In contrast, James (played by Henry) tries to get her to see the beauty in the area, the beauty in the people, and the beauty in the little things that bring her happiness instead of re-enlisting. 

It’s evident Lynsey is emotionally (and permanently) troubled by a terrible army accident. Lawrence’s performance is compelling and draws out compassion from the audience. There are moments where we see Lynsey desperately trying to adjust to life outside of war, but she can’t shake what she is programmed to do. You can’t help but want to hug her and let her know everything will be okay. Although she struggles deeply with herself, it’s apparent she has a kind heart and doesn’t hesitate to show compassion to others. We sadly watch her struggle with severe anxiety. Water keeps her calm, which is why she gets a job as a pool cleaner because, outside of war, that is all she knows. Water is known to have a calming effect on the body. Still, its usage in Causeway appropriately represents vulnerability, as this is the only time Lynsey isn’t consumed with anxiety. The onscreen chemistry between Lawrence and Henry is powerful, as their relationship feels very organic and authentic. The relationship between Lynsey and James is less romantic and more about companionship, but there is a longing sense of love just below the surface. 

This is one of Henry’s most powerful performances. He makes the James character likable and compelling but also flawed. He tries to get Lynsey to embrace her insecurities and shortcomings, which makes James even more endearing. From his walk to his facial expressions, James can show Lynsey he is a big guy with an even bigger heart. Henry’s performance is applaud-worthy, and it’s no surprise he is nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. 

Director Lila Neugebauer and the screenwriters accomplish the goal of highlighting mental health. After watching this film, you will understand some of the struggles soldiers face both off and on the battlefield. 

Brian Tyree Hill and Jennifer Lawrence (Photos Courtsey of Apple TV)

Final Thoughts

Causeway is an emotional film highlighting the negative effects of PTSD and how people around those who suffer from it are also affected. Not since The Hurt Locker (2008) have I seen such a memorable film displaying a veteran’s struggles to readjust to society and everyday life. The emotional performance by Brian Tyree Hill has earned him several nominations and wins, including the African American Film Critics Association award for Best Supporting Actor,Causeway is worth watching on Apple TV Plus.


Actress Lacretta Talks Night Court and Her Love For Gaming

NIGHT COURT — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: Lacretta as Gurgs — (Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC/Warner Bros. Television)

Back in the 90s, I remember this show and especially its distinctive theme song with its upbeat tempo and saxophone-laced tune, it was Night Court. It usually meant it was almost bedtime for me. It featured a cast of colorful characters: a judge who performed magic tricks (Judge Harry, played by Harry Anderson); a bald, physically imposing but friendly bailiff (Bull, played by Richard Moll); and a no-nonsense, quick-witted bailiff named Roz (played by Marsha Warfield). Now the 2023 Night Court features a host of new characters besides prosecutor Dan Fielding (played by John Larroquette). The show has a new bailiff, Donna “Gurgs” Gurganous (played by actress Lacretta). The actress took time from her busy schedule to talk with Taji Mag about her role on the show, her castmates, and even her love for gaming.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF):  I wanted to start by asking, how in the heck did you fall out of your hammock on New Year’s Eve? 

Lacretta: So, I’m still kind of in shock with everything happening, right? Even though I’d been part of the Night Court project this whole time, I was trying to talk to my viewers about it. So I was like, “You know, let me just go upstairs to the roof and just kind of chill out for the night.” I got a little bit ahead of myself and instead of putting one leg into the hammock first and then the other leg, I decided to put both legs into the hammock and promptly tipped myself out of it. I scraped my toe on the wall, which was not a pretty picture. After I got myself all cleaned up, I went back up to the roof with a cocktail, and then I sat in a chair like a proper lady. 

DDF: Bet you won’t make that mistake again. Tell me, what was your reaction when you got the role and how did you prepare for it? 

Lacretta: I gravitated to and responded to the weirdest moments in cinema because I wanted to capture a little bit of Richard Mall. I felt I had to pay homage to him and the other bailiffs on the show.

I know altogether there were four different bailiffs. The first two, unfortunately, passed away at the end of their season. The other two were the most iconic for me (Richard Mall as “Bull” and Marsha Warfield as “Roz”). I had to pay homage to both of them.

Um, so as I was saying, for certain parts in the script, weird moments in cinema like from Orient Express and from Are You Being Served and Keeping Up Appearances (both British comedies) just kind of popped into my head and I just allowed myself to release. And then when I got the call that I had booked it, I was actually laying on the floor with my feet up because my ankle was a little puffy and I was trying to recirculate that blood. I got a text message…”oh my God, congratulations on Night Court being picked up” and I was like “What do you mean?” And my friend said “You guys got picked up!”  I sat up so fast that I saw stars and got a little dizzy. I just had to text all my friends the good news.

I continued with the person that gave me the good news and said, “Well, did you check the date on the article?” He was like “yeah, it came out in Hollywood Reporter 10 minutes ago. Y’all got picked up by NBC!” Tears started rolling down my face and snot was coming out of my nose, I started hyperventilating. It was really bad. But I love that the person who called me and let me know was actually one of the writers/creators for Disaster, which is where I made my Broadway debut.

DDF: “Gurgs” seem to have the best chemistry with “Olivia” (India de Beaufort). Who do you think your character has the best chemistry with? 

Lacretta: Yeah, I think it’s all different, but I spend a lot more time with India de Beaufort and Kapil Talwalkar who play “Olivia” and “Neil” [respectively] in the series. 

Outside of work, I definitely spend a lot more time with Kapil because we’re both gamers. So we call each other and check on each other more often, but it just kind of trickles down. What I love about it is that we’re very much a family. And with family, you don’t always talk to your cousins, you don’t always talk to your aunties, but when you do get together, you know that this is blood…this is family. 

DDF: When I first heard about you getting this role as the new bailiff, automatically the character “Roz” popped into my head. How would you say “Roz” and “Gurgs” are similar and how are they different? 

Lacretta: We’re both very grounded. We both have our moments, she more so than I. Where we differ: my character is a lot more playful than “Roz”, but she did have her moments. I was telling someone before that there’s a beautiful episode that I just kind of stumbled upon of “Roz” teaching “Dan” how to ballroom dance. There’s a moment where they’re sitting at a table in the cafeteria. They’re just kind of chatting when he says something along the lines of “You know, I came to your apartment and I stood outside your door” and she replied “Yeah, I know. But you know, there could never be anything between us right?” It was just a lovely episode and I loved to see that interaction between the two of them because they are such polar opposites. It’s just such smart writing on this show from then until now that I’m just…I can’t wait to see what happens with it. 

DDF: Now, since you are a gamer, if you can make “Gurgs” a downloadable content character, what game would you put her on? 

Lacretta: Oh, Saints Row! What!? Especially in this new incarnation which I still haven’t finished. But in the new incarnation of Saints Row, my character very much looks like her except for the piercings. That’s the only difference. What else would I put her in? I would put her in High On Life, which is a new game with a lot of the voices from Rick and Morty. That would be kinda interesting. That game’s crazy and so funny. That was a good one. And then I mean everybody wants to be a Fortnite avatar. I wanna be on Fortnite.

DDF: What do you think people will get from this revamped version of the 80s/90s classic?

Lacretta: I hope that they get a sense of nostalgia. I hope that they find joy while watching this new Night Court and find a moment to escape from the stress that’s going on in the world right now. In a world of uncertainty, what’s for sure is that for at least 20 minutes out of our half-hour slot, you’re going to be laughing and you’re gonna be able to step away from what you’re dealing with. 
Watch Lucretta as the charismatic bailiff “Gurgs” and her castmates on Night Court on NBC. The sitcom has just been renewed for a second season.