Category Archives: Culture

07Sep/21
Ty Vaughn Travel N Shit

Audacious Adventure with Ty Vaughn

When was your last adventure? Did you read that and think of your last vacation? What was the last exciting thing you did close to home? I’d like to introduce you to a woman who has made it her business (quite literally!) to embark on memorable adventures close to home, Ty Vaughn.

On her 40th birthday, Ty decided to follow the lead of one of her favorite shows “The Amazing Race” and step off of her first zipline platform. Skydiving, paragliding, parasailing, kayaking, ATV off-roading, bungee jumping, rappelling and thirty ziplines later, Ty Vaughn is now Adventuress Ty. Once a month, she organizes group trips for other thrill-seekers to join her in embarking on what she may describe as “a mighty gush of freedom” at different adventurous locations around her home state of California. 

dCarrie: What obstacles have you overcome to authentically engage in adventure?

Ty Vaughn: To be honest with you, I personally have not thought about it like that. I just saw something I enjoyed watching on T.V. every week and decided, I want to do that. These activities have always been here, but sometimes cultural ignorance and lack of exposure prevent you from enjoying these life experiences. I will say, I wish this would have been part of my childhood. I’m quite sure having had more of an outdoor adventure lifestyle would have encouraged me to appreciate the complex yet simplicity of nature. I’m all in Now!

dCarrie: What does adventure do for your wholeness? 

Ty: Being an adventure junkie sets me apart! You cannot function like a normal human being willfully jumping off of bridges, ziplining across cables, paragliding over the ocean, or parasailing off of a boat! You’ve got to be pretty confident and assured in yourself! My adventures are not optional, they are a necessity. They give me clarity of thought and a peace that is not found anywhere else; they are surreal and serene. I love the clean crisp fresh air, the sound of nature, and the feel of nature. I love the multitude of colors that change with each season. My mind tries to comprehend but it cannot. The outdoors are my sanctuary, it’s the place where I decompress and recharge. It’s a space for me to appreciate the craftsmanship of God and how amazing He truly is.

Head over to travelnshitpodcast.com to check out more of Adventuress Ty and her story in episode 143, Audacious Adventure Near and Far of Travel N Sh!t Podcast.

07Sep/21
Finance

What Banks Don’t Want You to Know

“Banking is necessary. Banks are not.” ~ Wells Fargo 2004 Annual Report

Fact: The average American doesn’t have $400 in their savings account. This is linked to both poor financial habits and the way the banking system is set up. Banking is the most important business in the world! Without it, all business comes to a screeching halt. However, a little unknown fact is in order for banks to function, they rely heavily on us.

Unbeknownst to most, banks do not lend out their money, they lend out ours. What’s more, they cannot make a loan unless it has a deposit, and we are the source of where funds derive. These monies come from our deposits.

How were we convinced—better yet—lured to supply them with our hard-earned monies? With the help of consistent commercial advertisement, we are duped daily to believe they are the safest place to keep our monies.

Heard of the Fractional Reserve Lending System? Each time you deposit money in your bank, made consistently from our paychecks that create a guaranteed and indefinite supply of funds, banks 10x that deposit that can be then used to create loans that only banks profit from.

If you make a bi-weekly $1000 deposit acquired from your job to your checking account at your bank, they turn it into $10,000 by way of the Federal  Reserve. The bank must keep $1000 on their books BUT… they can lend out  90% (or $9,000) of the now suddenly made up $10,000, affixed with a high rate of interest ensuring profit on top of the gift we give them with each deposit. Now multiply that by the hundreds-of-millions of folks employed and the billions they send to banks!

This is called Arbitrage or the act of taking advantage of the money market with said strategies not shared with the public. While these banking families continue to create bloodline wealth with each deposit, we’re lucky to get 1.8% through a savings account—which often requires a sitting balance of $10,000 or more. 

The greatest fact is you don’t need banks to build sustainability because they were never designed for us to do so. You don’t need their loans nor to store your savings with them to create wealth. But there are a few strategies we can use to our benefit.

How would you like to become your own bank using similar strategies to create a coffer of resources so you’ll never have to apply for a loan, credit, or have to crowdfund?

In order to do so requires a will to forgo what you’ve been taught. I invite you to join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement where I show you ways to live off your savings and investments without falling victim to job loss or being taken advantage of in money markets rigged to fail.

Join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement 

M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder and Author 
A Pot to Piss In: Intergenerational Wealth Planning for Black People 
Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement 
cryptowokemovement.com 
cryptowokemovement@gmail.com 
Facebook & Instagram: @cryptowoke

07Sep/21

Magical Curation

I have come to know that magic, energy, and people never die and always have a purpose. Schools have the power to curate all three if done with great intention. Yet, when our young people share what their purpose is, all too often their energy and magic (or passion) are destroyed or not nurtured. It can look like a child who doodles in the corner of their work or draws on the walls in your home, a child who sings constantly and memorizes many songs with ease or just talks a lot. These are gifts, passions, and, dare, I say magic. But how is this expanded and nurtured?

In this new reality, any energy that is poured in can be seen almost immediately. Young people have access to and connection to more ways to develop, expand, and share their gifts. Find ways to cultivate this as often as you can as deeply as you can. For the child that draws on walls, find some chalkboard paint and let them make a different image daily. For the child who sings constantly, ask them to record their songs and make jingles. For the child who talks a lot, allow them to conduct interviews with people and share the knowledge of what they learn. Find creative ways to encourage the flourish. Children will bloom where they are planted, but they do need life energy breathed into their magic, their passion, and their purpose.

Photo by Iiona Virgin

06Sep/21

Beckett is a Horror Movie That Ended Like A WWE Match

Synopsis: While vacationing in Greece, American tourist Beckett (John David Washington) becomes the target of a manhunt after a devastating accident. Forced to run for his life and desperate to get across the country to the American embassy to clear his name, tensions escalate as the authorities close in, political unrest mounts, and Beckett falls even deeper into a dangerous web of conspiracy.

My Impression

My reaction to the Beckett trailer was, “Okay, so…this film has to be produced by Jordan Peele because it looks like a version of Get Out overseas.” I mean, the protagonist Beckett, a Black American, crashes a car his car into a house in Greece, and his white girlfriend ends up dying instantly. Yeah, I can see this story going in an interesting direction. A horror movie indeed. 

Does the writer give an exciting and compelling reason for Beckett to be on the run? Not in my opinion. The film had an unexpected twist, but my guess was the local authorities were trying to kill Becket because he unintentionally killed his wife, who we discover was a spy of some sort, but that wasn’t the case. By the end of the film, I was disappointed.

It was crazy that Beckett uncovered that the local authorities were trying to kill him to keep a politically driven kidnapping under wraps. Beckett saw the kidnapped child of an important political figure right after his crash. 

The chase and tension in the film were great. I felt like Beckett couldn’t catch a break though; the locals were surprisingly friendly and even knew how brutal the police were. Multiple tried to help him, despite facing terrible interrogations or maybe even death for their assistance. 

Beckett Beatings

Now for the many ass-whoopings Beckett took in this film. John David Washington made it believable that the character was a regular non-fighting citizen. I’ve known Washington to play some badasses and to see this character get destroyed the whole movie was a change. During the movie, I was like damn I hope he has some good health insurance.

One of the worst beatings he took was in the subway tunnel, where he was punched and stabbed multiple times. Becket was basically knife practice, but he kept fighting and escaped severely injured. During the film, I can say Becket was a survivor because he would run every time, but of course not before getting hurt in some way. 

Becket redeemed himself by not getting caught and killed by the U.S. embassy staff member, Tynan, and escaping the attempts on his life. Beckett’s fights with Tynan and the female antagonist were hilarious to me. I guess he had a “Karen” trigger moment because he smashed the hell out of her head into the concrete. 

But the ending, the ending had me like…

I couldn’t believe it? Beckett jumped off the parking garage and landed on top of the car like Macho Man Randy Savage doing a high-flying elbow in a WWE match. He landed on the car like a sack of potatoes and saved the day. I am sure he had some internal bleeding and probably needed medical treatment for the rest of his life. Of course, the audience is lead to believe Becket sacrificed his life for the child since he was the cause of death for his wife. Although it was an attempt to pay off the heart on Becket’s hand-drawn tattoo given by his wife, there could’ve been a better way to end the movie. 

The film has entertaining moments but I was not happy about the ending or the plot involving the mafia and politics. Maybe if Becket or his wife had direct involvement in the kidnapping it would’ve made for a better story. I am always going to cheer on John David Washington as an actor but I have to be honest, this film missed the mark for me.

31Aug/21

Candyman: A Horror Classic Filled With Social Commentary

Candyman
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy/Candyman

I remember when the original Candyman first came out, I was scared out of my mind. Granted, I was only eight years old. To even think about saying his name five times in the mirror was a no-no because in my mind the Candyman was real. When news broke that Nia Da Costa and Jordan Peele would be working on the project, I knew horror fans would be in for a treat! This film (unsurprisingly true to its predecessor) provides horror, social commentary, storytelling, and lots of great camera work!

The Candyman Victims

In the first two candyman films, the victims were plenty and there was no discrimination. Candyman was carving up more people than a butcher on meat special Sunday. The 2021 film’s victims were all white and represented some of the stereotypical racists the Twitterverse has made famous of late, starting off with the arrogant art dealer and his girlfriend. This scene was artfully done as they could not see Candyman firsthand, but could only see his reflection (this visual occurs throughout the film). As Candyman is about to murder the art dealer, he slices through a projection screen showing Black people being violently attacked in the 50s during a protest; clearly, he is done with the historical injustice and ready for blood. Not only that, but the different parts of the art space flash red, white, and blue which could represent the American flag or police lights as the victims are being slain.

The rude and arrogant art critic was the next one to go after. She had me pissed after telling Anthony, a budding artist portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, about “his kind” ruining neighborhoods, an insult not only to him but also to his work. She said “artist” but the audience knows she meant “Black artist”. Before the art critic’s demise, Da Costa visually deceives the audience with the usage of reflections, mirrors, and camera angles. As Anthony walks the hall of the art critic’s home, he sees the reflection of Candyman and even sees Candyman mimicking his movement. This is preparing the artist to follow his destiny to become Candyman and it also shows that he, too, could be a victim. 

The teenage girls getting slaughtered in the bathroom scene was very reminiscent of today’s social media culture. Those girls did not give a damn what was going on and wanted to play the Candyman game. Their Asian friend fleeing the bathroom before saying Candyman for the fifth time had the audience cracking up because she obviously knew what was up and did not want that smoke. This murder scene in the bathroom was interesting. Seeing the girls pulled, cut, and lifted by Candyman’s hook without anyone actually seeing him was crazy. Great camera-work and editing made the invisible antagonist even scarier.

Side Note: Why didn’t anyone acknowledge that Anothony’s hand looked like a prop from a zombie apocalypse movie? Eventually, Brianna said something, but damn his hand looked disgusting after the bee stung him. Could he get some Neosporin or something? 

Candyman
Teyonah Parris as Breanna Cartwright

Candymen 

I am not sure if the Brianna character’s name was inspired by Breonna Taylor, but I am going to assume that it was. To see her character go through so much and to witness the police bust into the row house and kill Anthony was definitely triggering. Nia De Costa did an awesome job hiding Anthony’s body from the camera’s view, creating a moment where the audience is not sure if the police shot Anthony or if they shot Brianna. That moment reminded me of the tragic story of Breonna Taylor and how her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, felt while holding her. 

The sequel tie-ins and legend of Candyman were also well written and showed that there were others who carried on the Candyman spirit. The way each was killed was much like how many innocent Black men and women have been killed. As Anthony, the final Candyman, walks around the police car showing the faces of the various Candymen, I could see the victims Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Atatianna Jefferson, Philando Castile, Saundra Bland, etc. 

The stories told via shadow puppets were a great idea. It gave creepy vibes but played on the idea of how many of us used to tell campfire stories and use shadow puppets for effect. It made me think of the television show “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. 

Candyman
Colman Domingo as William Burke reading Clive Barker’s Weaveworld.
Clive Barker wrote ” The Forbidden” the story in which Candyman is based.

Was Will Right? 

As crazy as Will Burke, the Laundromat owner in Cabrini Green, was I would have to say he had a compelling reason for bringing the Candyman to life. The gentrification of the neighborhood as well as the police ignoring and killing people would drive a person to take extreme actions. It’s akin to when people ask, “Why are the neighborhood folk destroying their own neighborhood” after the wrongful death of a Black person by a police officer. It’s for the same reason. People get tired of feeling powerless, oppressed, and ignored. In this case, Will had seen enough injustice and wanted to give the Candyman all the blood he could possibly want in the form of justice for his people. Although, I must say he was crazy for kidnapping Brianna and for sawing off Anthony’s hand. Jesus, that was gruesome! Made me cringe! 

“Say His Name!” 

The film ends with a cameo of the original Candyman, Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), asking Brianna to “Tell Everyone”. This resembles the “Say Their Names” culture in which we live where we consciously recognize all the victims of hate crimes, police brutality, etc. Candyman exacting his revenge by killing the cops who took his life along with the one who tried to intimidate Brianna into telling a false story is seen as a sort of redemption for Black people, a story of vengeance I’m sure many people of color could appreciate. The idea of turning a horror icon into a spirit of vengeance was a great idea and I am not surprised the three writers came up with the idea to do so. Is Candyman worth watching? I’d say yes! Saying Candyman five times in the mirror? Hell no!

07Aug/21
Taji Mag Vol28 Fire

Taji Vol28: Fire

Release Sept 7 2021 | Vol28 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Fire! This volume’s cover features features the #SlayBells of @Queen__Reinvented. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James is a Music Love Story” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Lady M Mannequins; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Audacious Adventure” with Ty Vaughn by dCarrie; “The Value of Values” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “The Childhood Challenge” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 28 contributed photo story, “Fire;” Fitness Highlight, Dorian DuBois of EFitBrand; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Savory Veggie Flatbread; “What Banks Don’t Want You to Know” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece by @TheOneWillFocus; Comic Appreciation with INFINITUM by Tim Fields; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol28 Fire

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 28

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

07Aug/21

Pandemic Inspired Film, I’M FINE (Thanks For Asking), Encourages Empathy for the Homeless

I'm Fine
Actress/director/producer Kelley Kali

I’M FINE (Thanks for Asking) Synopsis: Danny, a recently widowed hairdresser, and her 8-year-old daughter, Wes, are houseless. Shielding Wes from the truth, Danny pitches a tent and convinces Wes that it’s a fun camping trip. As Danny works to find permanent housing, Wes grows increasingly tired of weeks in the heat, so Danny promises her that they will go home by the end of the day. With clients lined up, Danny is confident that she will have the final cash she needs to secure an apartment, but a series of mishaps threaten to derail her plans. Under mounting pressure, and with roller skates as her only means of transportation, she has to somehow manage to get the money she needs in order to keep her promise to her daughter. 

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” is a quote by Sun-Tzu that sums up the development of Kelley Kali’s award-winning film I’M FINE (Thanks for Asking) during the COVID pandemic and a heatwave. Kali, like many, was not working and almost houseless when she decided to make the film. Not only is it about overcoming obstacles while raising a child, but it’s also about having empathy for the homeless.

Kali explained she needed to do this project stating, “I woke up one day with a pressing sense of urgency that I needed to create something NOW. I started to think about what resources I had access to and, being from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County, I realized that I had many resources. I thought about what friends would be crazy enough to do this with me and I immediately called my two good friends from USC Film School, Angelique Molina and Roma Kong.” The group of creatives pondered over concepts. Kali stated she had noticed a lot more women on the streets in Los Angeles. Kali said Los Angeles already had a fairly large homeless population, but she specifically noticed a lot more women and children recently. 

“We went through the many issues facing us today, but one issue that hit us all was the threat of  not being able to pay rent and the lingering danger of becoming houseless.” – Kellie Kali 

When it comes to the trials and tribulations of Danny, I can’t tell you how many times I kept saying to myself, “It can’t get any worse than this?”, but as the film continued, Danny’s situation continued to worsen. To top it off, she was also continually sexually objectified by pretty much every male encountered; all but the Asian property manager who clearly was taking social distancing seriously. Chad, played by Deon Cole, was one of the worst of the male characters. He taunted and insulted Danny as he dropped hundred-dollar bills from his luxury car. “The Chad character was just another dynamic added to Danny’s decision-making so far as what she needed to do. Chad is who we, as the creatives, thought needed to be piled on to the drama of Danny’s decision making,” stated Deon Cole. 

This is something we were able to control and make without someone telling us what to do. Doing television, it’s a collective group of people that have a vision. You are hired to portray that vision and bring it to life. – Deon Cole

The beautiful scenery, great camera angles, and natural character interactions were wonderful. Interestingly enough, the actors were the crew. “I decided the crew would be the actors. At first, everyone laughed until they realized I was serious,” Kali explained. I especially loved the scene where after getting high with her friend, Danny falls over into a pool of her troubles. Drowning, while her money and desirables elude her, was a great visual for the film. “As artists, we always want to keep what the audience is watching interesting, especially when it has a social message because we, as the artists, don’t want to be hammering the message on the audience’s head. So we find creative ways to keep you entertained and captivated using metaphors. At that point of the story, she was drowning in her troubles, the grief of her dead husband, not being able to keep the secret of houselessness from her daughter, and not knowing what to do.” 

In the end, I’M FINE (Thanks For Asking) is an inspirational film and a reminder of how the human spirit can persevere. Given the time the film was shot (during COVID and with limited resources), precautions needed to be put in place to keep the staff safe. Production had many obstacles to overcome, but the finished product was well worth it. Star/Producer of the film, Deon Cole, stated the film is “necessary for today” and after watching it, I would have to agree. Check out I’M FINE (Thanks For Asking) when it makes its network debut on Saturday, August 7th at 7 PM ET/PT on BET Her.

I’M FINE (Thanks For Asking): Directed by Kelley Kali & Angelique Molina; Written by Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, & Roma Kong; Executive Produced by Kelley Kali, Deon Cole, & Capella Fahoome; Produced by Roma Kong, Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali, Capella Fahoome, & Deon Cole.

06Aug/21

Jeffrey Wright Talks What If…?, MCU Future, The Watcher, and Chadwick Boseman

Jeffrey Wright
Jeffrey Wright voices the Watcher

Synopsis: “What If…?” flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways. Marvel Studios’ first animated series focuses on different heroes from the MCU, featuring a voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their roles—directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, “What If…?” launches exclusively on Disney+ on August 11th, 2021.

Growing up, I was a fan of the What If…? comics when they were released back in the 90s. What If…the Punisher Killed Daredevil was the first comic of that series I bought with my own money. Other times, I begged my parents for a few bucks in order to get my What If…? fix. So you can imagine the excitement I felt when I was invited to the Marvel What If…? press conference. The presser (short for press conference) featured Director Bryan Andrews, Showrunner A.C.Bradley, Executive Producer Brad WinderBaum, and Jeffrey Wright (the voice of The Watcher). They discussed the anthology’s tie-in with the MCU, The Watcher, and Chadwick Boseman. 

Jeffrey Wright

What If..? in the MCU

When asked about the future of the What If..? series in the MCU, nothing was confirmed, but AC Bradley said that there’s a reason the show airs after Loki. If you haven’t seen Loki, it is focused on time travel and variants considered to be timeline outlaws. “The series is just as important as any story in the MCU. It’s woven into that same tapestry”, added Winderbaum. MCU fans, like myself, are already speculating if some of the characters or stories in the series will show up in the MCU. For example, the Marvel zombies, Shuma-Gorath, Star-Lord, T’Challa, etc. It’s also been mentioned that there is a season two of What If…? in development, and Captain Carter is a character whom the writers look to revisit.

“The Watcher deals with the temptation to involve himself in these alternate universes but at the same time living vicariously through these characters/stories and taking it all in.” – Jeffrey Wright on The Watcher

Jeffrey Wright discussed his excitement to be on the project and talked about how The Watcher is a surveyor of the alternate timeline. He said he made the development of The Watcher as personal as possible. “The Watcher is described as the most dramatic being in all the known [Marvel] universe. He’s a fairly dramatic guy, fairly powerful guy that overseas the multiverses,” Wright explained. “The Watcher is a Rod Sterling character…in some ways narrating, in some ways, not the biggest Marvel fan there is,” Wright added. Wright stated he wants the audience to feel like they’re watching the stories unfold just as if The Watcher is in real-time. Will The Watcher be in the MCU? Bradley and Wright left the answer open but did mention there is a chance. 

Jeffrey Wright
Chadwick Boseman voices T’Challa

Chadwick Boseman Remembered

Bryan Andrews talked about how Chadwick Boseman was one of the first to sign onto the project and was happy to portray this more humorous version of T’Challa. Bradley added when developing the episode featuring T’Challa, they were inspired by a Marvel poster where the Black Panther and Star-Lord were positioned side-by-side. They realized the two characters were close in age, and this information sparked the idea of T’challa being abducted instead of Star-Lord. Winderbaum, Andrews, and Bradley talked about the pressure they felt to perfect episode 2 because it was the last performance by Boseman. Bradley said they wanted to honor not only T’Challa but Boseman as well. 

Wright talked about the first time he met Boseman. It was in a bathroom at Comic-Con. He said Boseman was introducing Black Panther and he himself was at the event advertising West World. Wright talked about how great of an actor and overall person Chadwick was. He also mentioned he was supposed to star in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with Boseman but his schedule wouldn’t allow it. 

My First Reactions 

I will say the episodes are exciting, engaging, and well-executed. Episode 2 was the best of the three episodes I got to see. Not only because it featured Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, but because of how the story and characters were developed. Showrunner AC Bradley talked about how even though T’Challa was not the king of Wakanda in this timeline, he still influenced the environment around him, and the writers were intentional about it. Like the other episodes, the alternate versions of Marvel characters in this episode were shocking. Marvel’s What If…? gets two thumbs up and an “I am Groot!” from me! This series will go over well with fans of the comics and MCU in general. Be sure to catch the series premiere on August 11th on Disney+

31Jul/21

Ailey, the Documentary, Is Proof There’s Power in Following One’s Passion

Ailey

SYNOPSIS: Alvin Ailey was a trailblazing pioneer who found salvation through dance. AILEY traces the full contours of this brilliant and enigmatic man whose search for the truth in movement resulted in enduring choreography that centers on the Black American experience with grace, strength, and unparalleled beauty. Told through Ailey’s own words and featuring evocative archival footage and interviews with those who intimately knew him, director Jamila Wignot weaves together a resonant biography of an elusive visionary.

Ailey Director Jamila Wignot
Director Jamila Wignot

A working-class, gay, Black man, he rose to prominence in a society that made every effort to exclude him. He transformed the world of dance and made space for those of us on the margins—space for black artists like Rennie Harris and me. – Jamila Wignot

I moved to DC over ten years ago, and one of the first advertisements I saw was for the Ailey Dance Company at the Kennedy Center. I googled the name of the dance company because I was interested in its origin. After all, it featured Black dancers. To my surprise, I found out the company was well known; its visionary, Alvin Ailey, was even more significant. Ailey, the documentary by Jamila Wignot, gave me a more introspective look at the famous creative. There is so much I learned about Ailey. His passion, hard work, and his resilience as a dance creative were unparalleled. I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best documentaries I have seen at Sundance 2021.

Ailey

As the film starts, voiceovers commence as photos of Alex Ailey are shown on screen. Jamila Wignot does a great job of adding in archived recordings of Ailey. This made me feel as if Ailey was talking to me directly or as if I was watching him chat live at the Actor’s Theater. You can tell the Ailey Dance company is still rich with the passion Ailey provided. When I saw the Artistic Director, Robert Battle, and Choreographer, Rennie Harris, instruct students, I could immediately see Alvin Ailey’s influence. 

I found it interesting that at age 14, Ailey fell in love with dancing, but his gym teacher wanted him to play football. After all, back in that time, the understanding of masculinity was not as broad as it is today. Ailey would be teased if he were to skip men’s athletics to participate in dance. 

The dance performance of Carmen at the Lester Horton School was one of the inspirations that prompted Ailey to immerse himself into the art. Ailey would go to the arrangements with his friend, Don Martin. He described the performances as “beautifully executed by incredible creatures that took the audience into another world”. After noticing Ailey in the audience at multiple concerts, Horton encouraged Ailey to come out and try dance. 

Not Easily Broken

I learned from the film how brave Ailey was to pick dancers who were considered atypical at the time. They traveled around the world sharing their dance art when Black performers were not widely accepted. During one of their first tours, they performed for twenty-five people in Australia and were so good that the show sold out the next night. Director Jamila Wignot’s interpretation of this moment was so spectacular, I felt as though I was actually in attendance of this historical event. 

I appreciated the interviews with former Ailey dancers (Sylvie Winters, Sanita Miller, Masazumi Chaya, and Bill T.Jones). They painted a clear picture of what it was like to be a part of the Ailey dancing family. The stories of the terrible hotels, their crowded small bus, and the long rides made the performers’ tours that much more commendable. It was clear that no matter the conditions, they could still perform to the best of their ability and wow the audience.

His Love, His Creation 

The documentary featured his mom, lover, teacher, and the greatest love of his life, dance. They all were essential to his existence and life force, but his mother, in particular, was highlighted for how much she meant to him. Ailey did not have many relationships or close friends; all he had was dance. It was not until later he realized that outside of his biological family, his dance company was his family, and dance was the glue that held it all together. 

One of the relationships explored in the film was with his short-term lover, Abdullah, a young man he met in France who traveled to New York to be with him. Abdullah disappeared one night via fire escape during a party thrown by Ailey and never returned. The death of his excellent friend, Joyce Trisler, caused him tremendous grief. The repeated loss in his life led to several months of him dealing with depression, leading him to eventually enter a rehabilitation center. 

I loved the film because it showed Ailey’s work was inspired by what he was feeling. For instance, when Fred Hampton died, he developed the play Masekela Langage, and after Joyce Tisler died, he created his tribute, Memoria.  

Last Days

Ailey’s battle with AIDS was a struggle; not only was the disease taking a toll on his physical health, but it was also taking a toll on him mentally. What kept him sane and at peace with this mortality? Dance and his dance family. Although he could barely stand, let alone dance, Ailey would watch his dancers rehearse from a couch his team put in the studio. 

After watching this film, I’ve gained whole new respect for Alvin Ailey, and I now see why advertisements for his dance company can be found everywhere. Ailey’s concerts have received standing ovations and encores because audience members love to see a passion-filled project. It’s apparent that Alvin Ailey’s essence was present during the development of Wignot’s project. If you want to see the beauty of Ailey’s growth as a man and his contribution to dance, I would recommend watching Ailey. The documentary is set to be released in theaters nationwide on August 6th, 2021. 

14Jul/21

Spike Lee’s New Book SPIKE Is a Visual Celebration of His Career

SPIKE

As Spike Lee serves as the director for the Cannes Film Festival, he also has something else major his fans can look forward to…his new book, SPIKE. The hardcover book covers Lee’s 30-year film career and includes never seen before photos from the set of his films. Some photos will come from the archives of Lee’s brother, David Lee, and will also feature photos from onset photographers from his films over the years.  

The book is also designed by creative and founder of Vocal Type, Tré Seals. Seals created the custom typography for the book based on Radio Raheem’s iconic LOVE/HATE brass knuckles from Do the Right Thing. The same brass knuckles Lee wore during his win at the Academy Awards for BlacKkKlansman. 

What I Look Forward To? 

I look forward to seeing extra photos from some of the sets of my favorite films like Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Mo’ Better Blues, and School Daze. These are the films I grew up appreciating because the characters look like me and some of the soundtracks were dope! Seriously, Mo’ Better Blues soundtrack was my gateway into my love for jazz and the He Got Game soundtrack re-introduced me to legendary hip hop group Public Enemy. 

I hope to see more information about films like She Hate Me and Bamboozled because these films were released during a time when I started to pay more attention to social commentary in art and understanding how art imitates life. Lee’s films always prompt audiences to think but never forces the message intended for the viewers. 

The book will also feature some stills and quotes from Spike Lee’s “Is it the shoes?” Nike campaign with Michael Jordan. I really want to see his commentary on that experience, especially when Jordan used to put on a show against his beloved Knicks. I mean Jordan used to embarrass everybody, but he used to obliterate the Knicks! 

“As I Head Full Steam Ahead Into My 5th Decade As A Filmmaker I Was Elated When Steve Crist And Chronicle Chroma Approached Me About Doing A Visual Book Of All My Joints. We Would Revisit All Da Werk I’ve Put In To Build My Body Of Work. Film Is A Visual Art Form And That Sense Of My Storytelling Has Been Somewhat Overlooked. Why Now, After All These Years? FOLKS BE FORGETTING.” – Spike Lee

For the last few years, Spike Lee has received his long-awaited and deserved roses. Of course, many of us have supported and shown appreciation for the quality entertainment he has created but I feel now he is getting worldwide acknowledgment. So if you are a Spike Lee fan like I am, you will enjoy this book published by Chronicle Chroma and can embrace the nostalgia. The book will be released on November 17th and can pre-ordered here.

SPIKE

Spike Lee has been a celebrated filmmaker, a cultural icon, and one of America’s most prominent voices on race and racism for more than three decades. His dynamic storytelling and unique visual style have made an indelible mark on filmmaking and television. This comprehensive monograph will be a sumptuous visual showcase of Spike Lee’s life and work, a must‐have for cinephiles and fans of one of the most influential filmmakers in history.  His career spans over 30 years and includes: She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Clockers, Get on the Bus, He Got Game, Summer of Sam, Bamboozled 25th Hour, Inside Man, and more. Lee’s outstanding feature documentary work includes the double Emmy® Award-winning If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, a follow-up to his HBO documentary film When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, and the Peabody Award-winning A Huey P. Newton Story. In the television arena, he launched his Netflix original series She’s Gotta Have It, which ran two seasons on the platform. The series is a contemporary update of his classic film.

SPIKE