Category Archives: Culture

22Mar/20

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

MADAM CJ WALKER

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

Visuals

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

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

*Spoilers Ahead*

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

Performances

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

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

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

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

Gender Roles

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

Unity Over Racism 

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

17Mar/20
coronavirus

Coronavirus: Providing Solutions, Not Panic, to Survive COVID-19

Let’s use social media to create solutions for the Coronavirus, not panic. [From Taji’s Editor]

• Introvert? Cool, we got this, just make sure you’re stocked.
• Extrovert? Is there someone you can stay with or who can stay with you? A staycation with the squad maybe?
• Are there elders, disabled folks, struggling families, etc in your neighborhood who you can grab extra groceries for?
• Any homeschoolers with lesson plans/activities/advice for parents at home with their children?
   – Kibibi Oyo will be giving free 15 min consultations to parents who want advice and a plan for their children to learn at home. She has both paid and free options that she can share. Just need to hit me up and schedule the FREE consultation. Schedule appointments here: https://professoroyo.as.me
 – Tamykah Anthony homeschools her children and has activities, printables, cool science experiments, etc. to complete with the little ones. She has also posted how to safely make your own cleaning products and hand sanitizer:
coronavirus    –
 Keisha Ragfitness provided this activity sheet:
coronavirus• Any child sitters willing to take on multiple children while some parents are still required to work (or who just need a break to prepare)?
* In light of the Gabriel Fernandez series and a status Will read to me, please keep an eye out for abused children whose only escape was school but are now forced to be home with their abusive guardian(s) all day.
• via MLN8NG: “As we are all aware, Coronavirus has been causing quite an impact on us economically, especially people of color who rely on 9-5 jobs as well as entrepreneurs; however, this does not have to be the case. We can start alleviating some of the felt pressures of the pandemic by very small steps.
In our research, we have learned that most people are having issues with child care services, hospice, online learning, and finding various tasks and activities to do while indoors. A potential solution lies within us. If you or someone you know, can provide childcare services or any other online learning services, take the time to set up a free or paid ticket event on MLN8NG so that we may be able to spread the information out and have a central location for Black and Brown faces to find options and alternatives in this growing online space. 
You can be of great impact to how we as a community both transition and expand within this new structuring. Take some time, gather your skillset(s) that you can offer and share them with us and spread the word. We would like to begin assisting with building a central location for people to gather information that can facilitate start and end dates, customers, as well as, and most importantly, those offering services. 
No skill is too big or too small. Do you stream classes? Do you stream gaming? Can you setup house visits and information teaching safety measures or stream them online? Are you a daycare provider? Anything you can do, place your information on the site so we can promote it and provide to our community. Simply click on the register button below and create an account on the site and then submit your event/stream/availability. Your friends, family, and those whose lives you will impact are already thanking you for it.”
• via Cory Ant: Buy stuff that will help your immune system and stuff that will last in case our country gets crazy and makes people stay in, instead of stocking up on cookies and meat products. Buy FRUITS like apples and oranges, VEGETABLES, GINGER, things that will be beneficial to your health and fighting off the coronavirus.
• Holistic Wellness advice from The Laya Center can be read at https://www.thelayacenter.com/blog/2020/3/16/elder.
Namaskar is also providing great products to boost your immune system fend off coronavirus, cancer, lupus, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.
• via Krystal: Check on new moms who may need breastmilk/formula due to people stockpiling who may not be able to produce on their own.
• If you work/shop at a grocery/convenience store and notice necessities are restocked, make a post so people know where to go.
• via Jocelyn Sewell: While water is essential, people may want to purchase filters or filtered water bottles. Water can be found anywhere and with a filter, it’s drinkable.
Feel free to add solutions for the coronavirus in the comments. 🖤

16Mar/20
hits the fan

Sometimes Sh*t Hits The Fan and That’s Okay

Yes, sometimes shit hits the fan and it IS okay. It could be something simple like someone bumps into you and readjusts your mood or something bigger like being short on bills for the month. Either way, we have to remember that we are allowed to feel how we need to at that moment as long we don’t cause harm to ourselves or anyone else. Sometimes we need to be sad, or angry, or depressed, or unmotivated to make the ride back to elated, or joyful, or inspired feel that much better.

hits the fanLife is full of rollercoasters. Highs and lows will be bountiful and, in some cases, day-to-day. Though our experiences are unique, especially when you add perspective into the equation, we are rarely the only ones experiencing something or who have experienced something. Self-love has become a catch-phrase but it rarely includes the achievement steps because they look different for everyone. It could be helpful to seek support. Support can come from family or strangers. It can be in-person or online. It can be through a book or a video. It can be therapy. Black people across the globe are raving about how therapy has improved their lives. Check with Therapy for Black Girls and Black Therapists Rock for leads. If you can afford it, take a few days off to self-reflect without bashing yourself. Analyze where you are, where you want to be, and at least one actionable step you can take.

Whatever you do, don’t fully give up on yourself. Take a mental break. Be kind to yourself. Do what you can with what you have. Make small achievable goals that lead to larger goals, always giving yourself room to adjust and reset if need be. When shit hits the fan, whether in our control or not, we always control how we respond to it. We can make it okay.

12Mar/20
travel n shit

A Simple Exercise in Broadening Your Views on Travel

When you think of travel, what do you see? Beaches, mountains, hiking, sunbathing and all the things we tell ourselves we’re too busy to do regularly at home? We’ve entered a new year and a new decade folks! Consider that it may be time to welcome in a new mindset on what is considered travel.

Let me start by making the task easy on you; don’t consider what isn’t travel. Broaden your idea of what is travel and I guarantee you can go further. The amount of time it takes you to get from one place to the next is indeed called “travel time” is it not? For me, the difference in traveling to the city for work and traveling to a foreign country is my level of familiarity with the destination. I could happily do without riding the train or sitting on an airplane – in both instances the commute is simply the necessary evil. Consider someplace closer than a country 8+ hours away may provide you a similar or even greater level of unfamiliarity and excitement as a city across an ocean and a sea. Either way, you’re traveling! Give yourself the credit!  The only difference is the distance. Don’t let the distance of a location blind you to the benefits of experiencing every new destination as robustly as possible.

I offer you the opportunity to be mindful in and of the experiences you’re having away from home. On my podcast Travel N Sh!t, I, along with my guests, discuss what we experience while we’re abroad and how often mundane and routine experiences may be enriched or experienced differently when viewed through the lens of travel. Through these conversations, I’ve developed a distinct appreciation for what I gain from my time spent in new environments. I loooove wandering around cities I at one time never considered on my radar of places I’d be able to see before I got BIG RICH. Little did I know, I’d become “BIG RICH” from opening my mind to the incredible experiences I’m able to have in ANY destination, near or far. You don’t have to travel far to go far.

Be sure to check out the conversations my guests and I have on Travel N Sh!t every Thursday wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Visiting a new state, or even a new destination in a state you’ve already been to can be very similar to visiting a different city in a country that’s new to you.

travel n shit

10Mar/20

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

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

Love, T

________________

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

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

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

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

10Mar/20

Santia Deck: The Face of the Women’s Football League Associaton

If Black Girl Magic was a person, Santia Deck would definitely be one of the women to use as the face of BGM. With her career goals redirected from Olympic hopeful to the highest-paid female football player, she is the embodiment of “When one door closes, another one will open.” I am pretty sure her football deal is a door she’s glad to have opened. In honor of women’s month, Taji Mag decided to catch up with the busy star athlete to get an update on her new success. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What were your thoughts when you signed that huge football deal?

Santia Deck (SD): I knew I would be a pioneer for women’s football. I am just more excited that I can be an influence to little girls who want to play sports and give those girls something to strive for. 

It’s still a lot for me to take in, but as for not making the Olympic team and instead being given this huge opportunity, it really showed me the power of God. I am a very spiritual person and I was taught that God is doing great things for you, even when it doesn’t seem like it. To see this manifest was validation and testimony that he can do great things in your life. 

DDF: What position are you looking to play? Any chance you become the Lamar Jackson of the league? Would you train with Lamar Jackson?

NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Santia Deck

SD: I can throw, but I don’t have an arm like Lamar Jackson. My position by nature is Running Back, so I won’t be playing Quarterback. I would love to train with Lamar Jackson, who wouldn’t? He could probably teach me a few things. He’s an amazing athlete.

(NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Santia Deck were both at NFL Pro Bowl weekend.)

DDF: What has been one of your newest challenges since your new success?

SD: I think it’s the same problem everyone has when they elevate in their career. Not knowing people’s intentions…random people saying “hey, I’m your family” or “I know you from back in elementary school”. These people don’t have good intentions and they can be crazy. Luckily I have a good team around me. My mom is my manager and she really looks out for me.

DDF: Describe 2019 in two words?

SA: I would say “New Beginnings” are the two words I would choose to describe my 2019. 

DDF: In the Santia Deck biopic, who would you select to play you in the film? What actor would play your love interest in the film? 

SA: That’s a good question. I would want Tianna Taylor to play me in a biopic because we have the same hair and body type. She has good abs, like me. As for my love interest, I would want Micheal B. Jordan to take on that role. He’s such a beautiful man.  

DDF: How was it being on Kelly Clarkson? 

SA: It was great! She made me feel really comfortable. I think it’s because we are both from Texas so that familiarity made the interview easy.  She is a very nice person.

DDF: What are your goals for 2020? 

SA: To have an amazing exhibition and show my talent this year. I would also like to take my brand to the next level, solidify generational wealth for my future kids, and travel to as many countries as I can this year. 

Many young women everywhere now have another example of chasing the dream and getting positive results. From the field to television, Santia is working hard to become one premiere athlete and who knows, one day she may be mentioned in the same breath as Serena Williams. You can follow Santia on Instagram for upcoming events. 

Santia Deck will play for the LA Flames in the Women’s Football League Association. The season starts 2021. Will you be watching?

06Mar/20

Why MCU Fans Should Watch Altered Carbon Season 2

Being a fan of Altered Carbon season one, I had to see what the next season of adventures had to offer. To add to the excitement, Anthony Mackie is the lead character and the one-man wrecking crew known as Takeshi Kovacs. In case you are new to Altered Carbon, it is a place 300 years into the future where society is transformed by new technology: consciousness called “stacks” can be digitized; human bodies called “sleeves” are interchangeable; and death is no longer permanent.

Black Panther 2.0

Simmon Missick as Trepp

Like Black Panther, the black women in the series kick the most butt! Especially QuellCrist Falconer played by Renee Elise Goldsberry. She goes into complete berzerker mode through the whole series destroying everything that gets in her way. During the series, I could see this version of QuellCrist was not only souped-up with the ability to erase “stacks”, she is also able to overpower almost any opponent, even the enhanced Kovacs…but does she??

Another badass is played by Simone Missick, she’s a bounty hunter named Trepp with the ability to track down her reward and take out multiple enemies. After watching her in this series and on Netflix’s Marvel shows, I am beginning to think that Simone Missick is truly a badass in real life and could really mess someone up. 

Technology and Socioeconomic Status

The “Sleeves” provide a sense of immortality, but this season people are actually threatened with mortality. As we watch QuellCrist hunt down her targets during the series, we also see her destroy the stack that withholds the consciousness of the person doing the killing with no possibility of resurrection. This puts fear in the hearts of the wealthy who feel untouchable and immortal.

Like season one, the more money you have, the better of a body in which you can house your consciousness. One would assume that the ability to change bodies would decrease discrimination, but it doesn’t and those who lack finances suffer most. Interesting how much more diverse this version of the future looks, and how women seem to be the most powerful in combat and in government.

Anthony Mackie Assemble!

ALTERED CARBON

 At the end of Avengers: Endgame, *SPOILER ALERT* we saw the Avengers make their exit from MCU action. Tony Stark died and Cap finally aged, passing on his mantle to Sam Makie’s Falcon. There has been some talk about how he will take on the role moving forward, beginning with the Falcon and Winter Soldier series. They should have the Falcon character souped-up like Kovac’s character. He is equipped with a new body that includes enhanced healing, superhuman strength, bio tracking, personalized weapons augment, and much more. Did I mention he can summon his guns with his hands like Thor summons his hammer? His abilities are like Captain America, Iron Man, and other Avengers combined. If only he could have these upgrades in the MCU, I’d be a happy guy. 

 The Kovacs character has his virtual assistant from season one, Poe, which is akin to Iron Man’s assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. Poe provides Kovacs with information and data from the web. The best part of this character is its struggle with glitches and how it’s faced with the decision to reboot, risking the possibility of losing all of its memories. There’s so much humility in this machine, I’ve genuinely grown to appreciate the virtual sidekick. 

 I love the season two cast with Mackie and Missick, but I don’t think it’s worthy of binge-watching status. If you are a Marvel fan or a Blade Runner fan, you will enjoy season two of Altered Carbon, otherwise you may find yourself less invested. 

 Altered Carbon Season Two stars Anthony Mackie, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Lela Loren, Simone Missick, Chris Conner, Dina Shihabi, and Torben Liebrecht. Will Yun Lee and James Saito guest star.

Avatar
19Feb/20

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

Jon Sesrie Goff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17Feb/20

The Man Behind the Music, Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

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

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

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

 DDF:  What was your creative process for the film?

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

Robert Glasper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actor Denzel Washington and director Spike Lee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Photograph Score Featurette

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

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

12Feb/20

The Photograph is About Loving Imperfectly

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

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

Loving Imperfectly 

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

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

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

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

Taking a Chance 

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

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

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

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

Family Dynamics 

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

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

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

The Photograph

Starring : LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae

In theaters February 14, 2020

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