Category Archives: News

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.”

10Feb/20

For Love, For Faith, For Life

From creator Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace”) and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and inspired by the life of Isaac Wright Jr., “For Life” is a fictional serialized legal and family drama about an imprisoned man, Aaron Wallace, who becomes a lawyer fighting to reverse his own life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. His quest for freedom is driven by his desperate desire to get back to the family he loves—his estranged wife and daughter—and reclaim the life that was stolen from him. (ABC/Giovanni Rufino) NICHOLAS PINNOCK

Powerful is the one word I can use to describe the series For Life. Taji Mag was able to attend a DC advanced screening of the pilot and it did not disappoint!  The compelling series is influenced by Issac Wright Jr. who was falsely convicted under New Jew Jersey’s kingpin law. The series displays the strength of the human spirit and having unrelenting faith, how the justice system fails, and how all hope looks lost. Family dynamics, the corruption, and transition from the prison environment to life outside the prison walls are luring.  The series is so good, I only saw the pilot of the show and I’ve already downloaded the ABC streaming app to watch future episodes.  

 “ It was important for me for the audience to see what it’s like first hand, what the experience was like being imprisoned. That part where they had an innocent man, he goes to jail, he has to strip himself of clothing, he is talked to a certain way, he is mistreated and made to feel less than. That was really important to show.” – Nicholas Pinnock

For What?

The show follows as the lead character, Aaron (Nicholas Pinnock), is wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for many years. While serving time behind bars, he utilizes this time to become a lawyer. I questioned how this is possible but the pilot does a good job of explaining how Aaron was able to achieve this. 

One of the interesting moments in the series is Aaron’s representation of other prisoners that were wrongfully sentenced. I was intruged by how Aaron becomes a cerebral assassin when going againist the opposition, the same lawyer that placed him in jail.  The acting and writing is so well done, the audience in attendence for the screening cheered during Aaron’s small victories over his cases and filled the room with gasps whenever he dealt with unfair bias. 

“I really connected to it. I have family members who have been formerly incarcerated and I have two really good girlfriends that have partners who were formerly incarcerated and I know what it was like for them to stay connected to the person that they love. Having to travel states, planes, trains, and automobiles to stay connected. I understood their dynamic and that’s what I leaned into to create the role.” – Joy Bryant

For Love

(ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
TYLA HARRIS, NICHOLAS PINNOCK

Aaron is driven by the love for his family. His wife and daughter are who keep him motivated and in pursuit of his freedom. I felt there were many family dynamics explored within the show. From the relationship Aaron shares with his wife during his visits, to the distance placed between Aaron and his daughter. The show does well at displaying the chain reaction that occurs when a family member is placed in prison for a long sentence. “Do I give up on them?” “How much hope do I really have in their innocence?” These are some of the questions that plague the minds of the members involved during the incarceration of a loved one. I definitely felt an emotional tug when Aaron interacted with his wife during a prison visit. Their situation could not break the love they had for one another, even when life looks as if one of them is actively moving on, showing a bond with someone you love is impossible to break. 

“What happened to me and what I had to do started from somewhere. 9 times out of 10 it usually starts with the family. It starts off with your parenting and what’s instilled in you as a child. I would like to take the time out to recognize my parents.” – Issac Wright Jr. 

(ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
NICHOLAS PINNOCK, ERIK JENSEN

For Life

Throughout the pilot, there is an interesting transition as Aaron goes into the court bathroom dressed in an orange jumpsuit and coming out changed into a suit to represent his client. Only to return to the jail system where his life is threatened and his integrity challenged. 

Aaron is definitely a character you want to cheer for during the pilot, many in the theater did, as he attempts to take on the corrupt players in the judicial system, which include those that sent him to prison in the first place.

I really felt the cold, concrete walls that inclosed the inmates as the camera followed Aaron through his daily rituals.  

“A prison is broken down into three parts; administration (wardens, assistant warden), custody (the guards), and the inmate population. While the real stuff happens on the grounds with the inmate population, custody doesn’t want the administration to know because they want to continue to keep control of the prison. When this happens it is an environment of me against you with the inmates and custody. As an inmate, if it even looks like you are getting friendly with a guard somebody will be coming in your cell at 3 in the morning with a shank. It’s a very dangerous environment.” – Issac Wright Jr. 

If you love Power, you will definitely love For Life. With similar plot twists, scene breakdowns, and spectacular acting, the series will be undoubtedly one of the best series this year. 

Drama series “For Life” premieres TUESDAY, FEB. 11 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC.

Starring: Nicholas Pinnock, Joy Bryant

Executive Producer: 50 Cent

FOR LIFE – ABC’s “For Life” stars Timothy Busfield as Henry Roswell, Brandon J. Dirden as Darius, Joy Bryant as Marie Wallace, Tyla Harris as Jasmine Wallace, Nicholas Pinnock as Aaron Wallace, Indira Varma as Safiya Masry, Mary Stuart Masterson as Anya Harrison, Glenn Fleshler as Frank Foster, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Cassius, Dorian Missick as Jamal Bishop, and Boris McGiver as Glen Maskins. (ABC/Matthias Clamer)

01Feb/20
Taji Mag Vol 22 #SoGothIWasBornBlack

Taji Vol22: #SoGothIWasBornBlack

Release Mar 7 2020 | Vol22 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of #SoGothIWasBornBlack! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Bymsha Browne’s Photography team highlighting Herbalist, Toni Bernard. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, Take Each Moment Podcast; our Community Spotlight on JuJu The Web Series; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: A Simple Exercise in Broadening Your Views on Travel” by dCarrie; “Heart and Mind are a Power Couple” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “#BlackLoveConvo: Rhonda Mitchell M.D. Series Creator & Cast Member talk Love, Work, and Exes” by Dapper Dr. Feel; Earth’s Cabinet is Realigning the Boy with Holistic Teas, Steams, and Oils; Our Vol 22 theme “#SoGothIWasBornBlack;” Comic Appreciation with Sankofa Guard; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Musician, Gregory Wilson, is Your New Favorite Black Nerd with Glasses; Featured Art Piece by Craig Carter; Must-Have Graphic Novel: “Divine Mother” by Komikka Patton (Martian); Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 22 #SoGothIWasBornBlack

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 22

Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

29Jan/20

Star Wars: A Universe Where Black People Don’t Die… Except for Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu

The new Star Wars is a piece of sh*t!” my friend yelled into the phone as we exchanged our reviews of the most recent highly anticipated hit film, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. “Yeah, but did you notice something? Lando didn’t die!” He’s one of the few remaining characters from the first trilogy of Star Wars films… and he’s Black! As I explained, his tone seemed to lighten right along with his mood. I could literally see my point sinking in. Well, he still thinks the film is shit, but at least Lando and Finn survived the events of “Rise of Skywalker”. Not to mention the survival of other Black characters in the film franchise and Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian, alike – an honorable mention to Moff Geidon exquisitely played by Giancarlo Esposito. In stark contrast to your typical sci-fi story, Black characters have and still are eluding death as if there were some direct relation to Marvel’s Deadpool himself. This may sound odd but in a way it is history if you think about it? A major franchise that doesn’t kill off its minorities in the first 5 minutes of their appearance. 

Finn portrayed by John Bpyega and Jannah portrayed by Naomi Ackie in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Don’t get me wrong. I, and surely many others, were pissed about the wasted potential of the Finn character, but at least he and Jannah (another Black female character) survived the war just as their chances were beginning to look bleak. I must be honest, as I watched Finn’s sacrifice, it prompted a deeply dramatic “Nooooooo!” after seeing him destroy the satellite that would doom the Resistance. All that changed once he and Jannah were saved. I was really happy to see Finn make it to the end because, let’s face it, not too many Star Wars characters make it through myriad close calls but he did, and to that, I say “Celebration!” (in my Dave Chappelle voice). 

We’ve for years witnessed Black people suffer early untimely deaths in horror movies and in action films while sparing their counterparts. It’s refreshing to see one of the most-loved sci-fi franchises of all time manage to keep minorities alive, especially the Black characters. 

A Shout Out to Disney Plus and The Mandalorian Writing Team!

I was already excited about the Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian, because Bubba Fett is another favorite of mine. Yes, I love the fact that the series has some awesome creatives like Jon Favreau and I admit I’ve fallen in love with The Child aka Baby Yoda, but what I love most is that the Black people in this series haven’t been killed off! 

While watching the series of events leading up to Greef Karga’s betrayal (in true Lando fashion), I was forced to relive deep feelings of disappointment but was also kind of relieved to see him survive what could’ve been a deadly gunshot wound. I recall at that moment yelling “Don’t die, Apollo!” (a reference to Carl Weathers’ portrayal of Apollo Creed in the beloved Rocky series). I was most definitely having a flashback to Rocky IV. There was another moment in which he escaped death after being ambushed by flying carnivorous creatures only to be saved by the cute little Baby Yoda and The Force… of course. 

Next up, the villainous Moff Gideon: Leading a large group of StormTroopers, he tries to convince the Mandalorian and crew (Greef and Cara) to surround baby Yoda. 1st things 1st, hats off to Giancarlo Esposito as a great actor, especially as a villain (check out his notable performance in Breaking Bad as Gustav Fring). He definitely evokes a feeling of disdain. As an avid watcher of film and television, I should know to detach from characters because, after all, they’re not real. Giancarlo’s Breaking Bad character, Gustav, *spoiler alert* had already suffered a gruesome death and was also a dope villain, so to see it happen again would be downright wrong. Yet I knew a character like Moff would need to die. While watching the latest episode of the Mandalorian, something inside of me thought he wasn’t dead or at least didn’t want him to be dead after his Fighter ship crashed, and of course, I was right! Once again, I felt good that the Black person didn’t die and that they could make good use of a good character. 

What About Windu? 

For all you die-hard Star Wars fans, I haven’t forgotten Mace Windu, one of THE dopest saber-wielding Jedi the Star Wars universe has ever seen. His death was terrible but not surprising since Sam dies in pretty much all of his sci-fi films. To witness the Mace Windu die in Star Wars Episode III hurt my heart. I just knew Samuel L. Jackson was going to say “Yes, you deserve to die and I hope you burn in hell too!” whilst destroying Emperor Palpatine. And why does Palpatine’s face look like a Walking Dead zombie using an aging filter?  But I digress. Instead, he had his hand chopped off by the annoying Anakin Skywalker and fell to his death by the hand of evil Palpatine. All I could think was “at least we still have Lando Calrissian”. 

Jar Jar Binks Who? 

What about Jar Jar Binks you may ask? What about him and who cares?

As a true fan who’s privy to the ultimate turnout, I know the trend of POC (people of color) surviving in the Star Wars universe will likely come to an end in future seasons of the Mandalorian, but as we enter into 2020 I can say with pride that I really love Star Wars, a Universe where Black people don’t die. 

28Jan/20
bam futurelit

BAM and Graywolf Press present FutureLit: A Conversation & Celebration — Feb 6

BAM partners with Graywolf Press to present an evening of readings and conversation with authors from Graywolf. Donika Kelly, Danez Smith, and Malcolm Tariq will present their original work, prompting dialogue about what the future of art holds, written and otherwise. After the conversation, drinks, light snacks, spaces to mingle, and comfortable corners to read will be available to audience members. The event will also include a dance party where audience members are encouraged to continue the conversation through movement.

Books will be available for purchase through Greenlight Bookstore, BAM’s official bookseller, with selections by featured authors available at a special 15% discount for attendees of this event.

bam futurelit

Donika Kelly is the author of Bestiary, which won the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her second full-length collection, The Renunciations, from Graywolf Press, is forthcoming in May 2021.

Danez Smith is the author of Homie and Don’t Call Us Dead, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and finalist for the National Book Award. They live in Minneapolis.

Savannah, Georgia-bred poet Malcolm Tariq is the author of Heed the Hollow the winner of the 2018 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and Extended Play winner of the 2017 Gertrude Press Poetry Chapbook Contest.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is recognized internationally for its innovative programming of dance, music, theater, opera, and film. Its mission is to be the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas. BAM presents leading national and international artists and companies yearly during the spring and highlights groundbreaking, contemporary work in the performing arts with its Next Wave each fall. Founded in 1983, the Next Wave is one of the world’s most important festivals of contemporary performing arts. BAM Film features new, independent film releases and a curated, daily repertory film program. In 2012, BAM added the Richard B. Fisher Building to its campus, providing an intimate and flexible 250-seat performance venue––the Fishman Space––as well as the Hillman Studio, a rehearsal and performance space. BAM serves New York City’s diverse population through community events, literary series, and a wide variety of educational and family programs.  BAM, America’s oldest performing arts center, has presented performances since 1861, and attracts an audience of more than 750,000 people each year. Visit BAM.org.

Graywolf Press is a leading independent publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of twenty-first century American and international literature. We champion outstanding writers at all stages of their careers to ensure that adventurous readers can find underrepresented and diverse voices in a crowded marketplace.

07Dec/19

Barber Shop Chronicles Puts a Magnified Lens on the Diasporic Experience of Black Men

Barber Shop Chronicles

Inua Ellams. Portrait by Franklyn Rodgers.

Barber Shop Chronicles is one of the most ingenious plays I have watched in a long time. Finally, the Black man is not the villain, overly sexualized, the slave, or the savior for damaged Black women. He’s just human and is trying to figure this sh*t out like the rest of us! Originating in London and making it’s New York debut at BAM’s Harvey Theatre, this play is a real life look at the interpersonal relationships between men in our diasporic community. The barbershop is historically known to be the only place where our men have received any type of therapy. It’s where they discover who they are and how to treat one another and their community. Playwright/poet, Inua Ellams, and his all-male, 12-person cast do a phenomenal job of expressing true emotion and giving the rest of the world insight into what it’s like to be a melanated man. It plays in the humourous pool of sports, relationships, and race but then deep-dives into identity, fatherhood, generational trauma, and politics. 

Taking place in six different barber shops in London, Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, and Harare, Barber Shop Chronicles weaves us through the connections and similar experiences of these men despite their location. Each episode is sewn together with cultural music and dance that adds to the personality of the play. Every man is relatable on some level to someone you personally know or have come across. I attended the play with my partner, Will Focus. At the end he was in tears, which is a rare sight, so I couldn’t wait to hear his thoughts.

NayMarie (NM): Soooooo, what were your thoughts?
Will Focus (WF): The comedy was spot on. I noticed that they mixed several dialects from all over the diaspora. The fact that they were able to do it so seamlessly and still show that people were able to communicate in their respective dialects was awesome. I love that they drew the importance of speaking in a common tongue and having a dictionary that translates to Twi.

NM: What else?
WF: What I liked, on the political side, is the comparison between Winnie and Nelson [Mandela]. The fact that Winnie was the true hero then Nelson was brought in like how I view the Black pastors in America.
NM: As a pacifist?
WF: Yea, a pacifist. Someone who’s looking to put out that flame because it’s getting a little too hot for the European massives to handle. Or it’s a little too effective. What better way than to use her husband? I also liked the comparison between nigger and kaffir. What better way, specifically for the white audience who may not understand how significant that word is but can feel the weight when paralleled with the word nigger, to compare the use towards Africans. I like how they spoke of reclaiming our land and the one guy noted about how many of the Europeans had to die and it was retorted that African people died too. How they look out for the European but ignore the African lives lost. I love how it was reiterated that we took it BACK. It was ours to begin with and taken from us. I also like that they pointed out that the African slave trade was the biggest massacre, bigger than the Holocaust. I thought those dynamics, from a political perspective, from a social perspective, were excellent.

Barber Shop Chronicles

Tom Moutchi and David Webber. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

NM: And the tears?
WF: As it suits me personally, what brought me to tears was the Father/Son relationship dynamic. How the family is expressed through their lens in London and Africa also happens to Black boys and men in America. It shows that this is a consistent issue among us. It was funny how the drunk/disheveled one who most people would judge, had the most information. Early on, he told of how he allowed European children to call him kaffir for a pound, or twice for two pounds and it upset all of the men in the shop. Later, we discover he did it because he lived with his grandparents, after being abandoned by his father, and they were poor. It’s how he made money to survive. When he was confronted with reconciling with his father, the emotional overflow led to the truth of the situation and that brought me to tears in terms of the reality behind that. Then it was the phrase of “boys growing up to be their fathers” and me having two sons. In one scene, they said, “a child will show you how to raise them.”
NM: Word, that spoke to me.
WF: That hit a chord for me because the difference in the dynamics I have to take with my two sons is VAST, even with my daughter. They have ALL shown me that I have to approach them differently. Then it showed the older generation of men who are kind of detached from emotion with their children and don’t realize the damage they have done.
NM: That beating them is the solution…
WF: And leaving it at that without ever reconciling for the damage that they’ve done. And that’s broad and sweeping.

We chatted for a solid hour, but we want you to see the play for yourself! I would love for it to be made into a film and played on kweliTV to reach a wider audience. In the meantime, follow Inua Ellams and Barber Shop Chronicles to see where they’re playing next. It is worth all of the awards it has already received and then some. You feel it in your soul and are elated to see these conversations given priority. 

Website | Instagram

28Nov/19

Queen and Slim is Art Interpreting Life

Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith

Queen and Slim is a moving film that dives into the racial injustice of the judicial system that frequents the media and social platforms. It’s not just another film that explores this topic, it’s a film that pays attention to perspectives. Much like the 2000 film Traffic, Queen and Slim gives a look at various perspectives from different characters when dealing with racism, police harassment, and brutality while following an innocent Black woman and Black man just trying to survive. Along the way, the audience gets to follow the growth of the characters the and challenges (both mental and physical) they must face. 

Social Media Discussions and Disagreements

It’s as if the subject matter of police brutality was brought up at a family gathering during the holidays or posted on a social media thread – everyone has a different perspective that they are entitled to. Not all agree on the actions of the subjects but each has different thoughts because of their experience or career, especially those family and friends in law enforcement. Each person that Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) encounter are easily personified as those very same people. From the police officers who are in pursuit of them to their family members to a young man they meet at a body shop to a paranoid man in a trailer park who help them.  

Of course, as the protagonists of the film, they are heralded as heroes for fighting racism and murdering a cop but they didn’t do it to be heroes, they did it to survive. Their reactions to the police officer are on different spectrums – Slim being the more passive type while Queen, who is a lawyer, is more vocal.

The interesting thing is how many Black people support them and don’t blow their cover while they are on the run. Like most Black folk, they are tired of police killing innocent people such as Philando Castile. 

The film also shows the perspective of good police officers who know their job well and pose no harm to innocent people but still get categorized as a threat. This was an interesting perspective because at times people forget that there are police officers who do their job. In some cases, they become villainized and sometimes assaulted because of the negative connotation of the badge caused by bad cops. 

During the course of the film, there are characters who resemble some Black folk who don’t care about the fate of innocent Black people and only care about themselves. They are the very same people in the world who show indifference for selfish reasons or only care about making their money.  I have definitely encountered various types of people in my life and have been a little irritated at times when people cannot think objectively about the topic of police brutality, so the film did a great job of delivering the message that I try to relay when I talk to others about the subject matter. 

Waithe and Matsoukas Are A Dope Combo

Lena Waithe did a tremendous job with the characters to ensure that this wasn’t another Bonnie and Clyde or Set It Off film wild chase that the film may seem like from the trailers. It’s moreso storytelling about real people, with real problems, who face a world that is full of imperfections while dealing with their personal issues and growing together. 

The beauty of the film was the vulnerability and connection that the two characters develop during the course of the film. I really saw the two characters exchange energy as each started to take on personality traits (i.e  Slim becoming less uptight and Queen becoming more open to spirituality), from the beginning to end, its something I felt was well represented.

I was really impressed with the way the film was directed by Melina Matsoukas, the different hues and angles played to the emotions of the scenes. Especially when Queen and Slim had moments of reflection or action. I really felt apart of the scenes and felt the acting that made the characters compelling. Matsoukas directorial efforts proves that she knows how to really capture important moments. 

There were many scenes where I saw Queen and Slim as enslaved escapees back in the day, especially when they hid under floorboards when the police came looking for then in an all-white neighborhood. It also reminded me of the enslaved stacked together under a ship. 

Queen and Slim is a must-watch film that will be immortalized as a film that audiences will enjoy now and future generations will fully appreciate. My hopes are that it will reach a wide demographic who they can see the perspective of the Black people.

Queen and Slim 

Directed by: Melina Matsoukas 

Written by: Lena Waithe 

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith 

27Nov/19

Smithsonian Af-Am Museum Brings Classic Movie Posters and Augmented Reality in New Exhibit

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has added a new temporary exhibit entitled, Now Showing: African American Movie Posters. The exhibit is a collection of posters that were recovered from Larry Richards collection that will run from November 22, 2019 until November 2020. The exhibit consists of four sections – Film Pioneers, the Problem of the Color Lines, A Star is Born, and Black Power and “Blaxploitation.”

When asked about the origin of the event, the exhibit’s curator and curator for the Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA) gallery, Rhea Combs, explained, “This exhibition introduces visitors to films featuring African Americans they may be less familiar with and, at the same time, it recognizes some of the most historically and culturally relevant films made over a 70-year period. The significant artistry and design work that goes into creating not only the films but the posters that promote the films are not to be underestimated.”

Who is Larry Richards? 

Many of the posters on display come from the Larry Richards Collection that the museum acquired in 2013. There are thousands that exist in the collection of Larry Richards, but the museum only acquired 700 objects. 

Who is Larry Richards? He was a librarian at the Philadelphia Free Library who’s collection of movie items was sparked by one of his first film posters collected, The Bull Dogger, which can be seen at the entrance of the museum, that he acquired from a film festival that occurred during Black History Month. His original collections are about 2,000 items that include posters, lobby cards, photos, and more.  

Larry Richards also published a book titled African American Films Through 1959. The book includes pictures, credits, and details of Black films that were directed by Black directors or featured a predominately Black cast. Some of the very pieces of movie art can be seen in person at the museum during this exhibit. 

A visitor using the augmented reality to view videos about the film.

Augmented Reality 

This is the first time that the museum will feature this technology. It allows visitors to receive more details about the movie posters that include film snippets, interviews with museum curator, Rhea combs, set photos and more information about the film. To access this information, all visitors have to do is go online to the site http://hi.si.edu/, follow the directions, scan one of the select movie posters, and enjoy the pop-ups. 

I personally enjoyed the new feature as it allowed me to learn a lot about the films without having to wait around a huge crowd to see or hear about the films and it allowed to me easily replay videos within pop-ups! It is a new interactive way that will fully engage all visitors.

“Film can serve as a peek into ideals about culture and society.” – Rhea L. Combs, curator and head of CAAMA

Short Film Feature

Towards the back of the exhibit, there is a small viewing room, with red curtains drawn at its entry, that has a 9-minute video consisting of clips of 10 important Black directed films that span history from 1937-1974. The films include; The Exile, Dark Manhattan, Go Down, Death!, The Bronze Buckaroo, Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger, Right On!, and Claudine. I was excited to hear some of the amazing dialogue written by screenwriting couple Lester and Tine Pine in the film Claudine, that I will definitely watch again. 

Overall

The new Now Showing Movie Poster exhibit is worth checking out before it leaves the museum. I had fun looking at how Black culture in cinema has grown and survived over the years, even when the entertainment industry lacked diversity. It is here where you can see some of the foundations of  Black film making that have given us the likes of Kasi Lemmons, Ava Duverney, Spike Lee, and Ryan Coogler.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Location: 1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560

Click here for ticket info 

21Nov/19
Cassia Herron

Cassia Herron is Leading Policy on Climate Change and Food Deserts

Climate change is not a new concept. Neither is environmental racism. Unfortunately, the lack of intersectionality and prevalence of anti-Black microaggressions are barriers to progress. Mainstream activist communities often silence the voices of Black leaders within the Climate Change movement. As with many feminist movements, Black bodies are used to gain traction, but Black organizers are largely missing from many of the conversations. Shout out to our Native brothers and sisters who are also ignored, despite this being their land.

Isra Hirsi, (daughter of Rep. Ihan Omar and climate change activist) is an excellent representation of the power behind Black youth leaders. Jerome Foster, (author, National Geographic explorer, and Climate Justice leader) gives us hope about the future of the planet. While there are far too many Black climate change activists to name, there is one Black woman in the climate change fight who you definitely need to know.

That sister is the outspoken Cassia Herron.

Cassia HerronCassia Herron is one bad sister. As the board president for the Louisville Association for Community Economics (LACE) she has worked diligently to bring sustainability to marginalized communities. Whether it involves confronting hardcore Trump supporter Gov. Matt Bevin about his racist practices or holding white community organizers accountable for their lack of Black representation, she is a force to be reckoned with. This sister is on a mission to offer healthy, locally sourced food to low-income communities that suffer from food insecurity. In a recent panel conversation with NPR, Cassia discussed the urgency of addressing climate change at every stage–particularly the state and federal levels. Her organization, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, has been at the forefront of the fight in Eastern Kentucky to support the well being of coal miners. 

She points out that “trillions of dollars are spent on fossil fuels, and there are not many funds that are being invested in renewables. It’s time for us to dial it back and figure out new paths.”

While Cassia helps lead a number of climate change initiatives, the food insecurity solution is probably the most vital. There is a huge difference between the health of the predominantly Black West End of Louisville, Kentucky and the more affluent East End. In Metro Louisville, Black males have the lowest life expectancy (about 71) compared to the city’s average (around 77) and white males (81). The challenging reality of health is exacerbated by climate change. Poor air quality, doctors who don’t believe Black patients can be in as much pain as white patients, and the high levels of lead poisoning for Black families are worsened by climate change. Black families are disproportionately impacted by the lack of concern for our environment. 

Cassia Herron does the work that most of us forget about. 

Cassia HerronClimate change isn’t an issue that can be resolved overnight. For years, she has been fighting to keep the Black community at the forefront of the conversation. She went toe to toe with Walmart when they attempted to violate urban planning codes to further disenfranchise Black residents by blocking their access to public transportation. She is a rider when it comes to sustainability–especially for marginalized folks like when West Louisville was subjected to heavy environmental impacts. Rubbertown is a predominantly Black community in the West End. It is called Rubbertown because of one particular company that has polluted the surrounding neighborhood for decades. They are the number one violator of air pollution regulations in the city. A few years ago, The American Synthetic Rubber Company applied to have their production capacity increased above the recommended levels. Long story short, they were approved and they currently pollute Black communities even more. Similarly, when Louisville Gas & Electric started their tirade against protected natural land in Kentucky, Cassia was there to fight for sustainability. Despite the massive corporate/legal budget of LG&E, she has stood up to help protect Bernheim Forest from a deadly pipeline.

These fights are exhausting. Black women are already expected to work ourselves to the bone regardless of factors like racism, sexism, and health disparities. We are not allowed to be depressed or angry or too assertive. Still, Cassia Herron persists. There are so many other women in Kentucky doing work just like this. In the fight for environmental justice in Louisville, there are dozens of Black women putting their reputations, bodies, and mental health on the line to uplift our community. We want to recognize that Cassia is not the only one. 

From the global Taji Mag community all the way to Kentucky, we are sending you love, appreciation, and self-care, Sis.

20Nov/19
Barber Shop Chronicles

Internationally Acclaimed Production, Barber Shop Chronicles, Makes its New York Debut at BAM

Following two sold-out runs at the National Theatre in London, a successful run at London’s Roundhouse, and a world tour, Nigerian-born playwright Inua Ellams’ acclaimed Barber Shop Chronicles makes its New York and BAM debut December 3—8. The sold-out sensation explores the diversity of Black male identity via the intimate community of the barbershop, where men across the African diaspora have gathered for generations to discuss the world and their lives. Filled with passion, humor, and honesty, the celebrated work is inspired by Ellams’ own experiences as an immigrant.

Directed by Bijan Sheibani, Barber Shop Chronicles follows the conversations and concerns of a group of African men as they interact in six different barbershops in London, Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, and Harare. The all-male, 12-person cast riffs on topics both personal and political—from sports to race relations to views about fatherhood, identity, immigration, and masculinity. Music and dance knit together the individual episodes in this fast-paced production. A mastery of humor, pace, and wit, the story takes place over a single day as characters, jokes, and plotlines traverse continents and cultures.

Barber Shop ChroniclesBarber Shop Chronicles is presented in its New York premiere at Next Wave 2019—the first season under Artistic Director David Binder, in which all artists are making BAM debuts. The season runs through December 2019 and includes theater, dance, music, film, site-specific, and multi-genre work across BAM’s venues and off-site, as well as Holiday programming.

Harvey Theater at BAM Strong (651 Fulton St)
Dec 3—7 at 7:30pm; Dec 7 at 2pm; Dec 8 at 3pm
Tickets start at $35

About the Artists
Born in Nigeria in 1984, Inua Ellams is an internationally touring poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist, and designer. He is an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories and has published four books of poetry: Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All StarsThirteen Fairy Negro TalesThe Wire-Headed Heathen, and #Afterhours. His first play, The 14th Tale, was awarded a Fringe First at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival and his fourth, Barber Shop Chronicles, sold out its run at England’s National Theatre. He is currently touring An Evening with an Immigrant and recently premiered The Half God of Rainfall, a new play in verse at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Kiln Theatre, London. In graphic art and design, online, and in print, he tries to mix the old with the new, juxtaposing texture and pigment with flat shades of color and vector images. Ellams lives and works from London, where he founded the Midnight Run, a nocturnal urban excursion. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Bijan Sheibani was artistic director of the Actors Touring Company (2007—10) and associate director of the National Theatre (2010–15), where he directed A Taste of HoneyEmil and the DetectivesRomeo and JulietDamned by DespairThe KitchenWar Horse (US tour), Greenland, and Our Class. His other theater credits include Dance Nation (Almeida); Circle Mirror Transformation (Home, Manchester); The Brothers Size and Eurydice (Young Vic/Actors Touring Company); Barber Shop Chronicles (National Theatre/Fuel/West Yorkshire Playhouse); and Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre). Opera credits include Nothing (Glyndebourne) and Tell Me the Truth About Love (Streetwise Opera).

Watch the Barber Shop Chronicles trailer here.

Barber Shop Chronicles                                                  
Fuel/National Theatre/Leeds Playhouse                     
By Inua Ellams
Directed by Bijan Sheibani

Design by Rae Smith
Lighting design by Jack Knowles
Movement direction by Aline David
Sound design by Gareth Fry
Casting direction by Louis Hammond CDG