SYNOPSIS: When fifteen-year-old Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is expelled from school in Detroit, he is sent to North Philadelphia to live with Harp (Idris Elba), his estranged father. Harp finds solace in rehabilitating horses for inner-city cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables, a real-life black urban horsemanship community that has provided a safe haven for the neighborhood residents for more than 100 years. Torn between his growing respect for his father’s community and his reemerging friendship with troubled cousin Smush (Jharrel Jerome), Cole begins to reprioritize his life as the stables themselves are threatened by encroaching gentrification.
At first, I thought Concrete Cowboy was a western with Idris Elba taking out a bunch of bad guys with Caleb McLaughlin as his sidekick. Boy was I wrong… it was something better, unique, and necessary for Black viewership. A story about a Black boy reconnecting with his father and his father finding a way to be there for him, McLaughlin and Elba were moving in this father and son drama. During a Taji Mag invited Netflix interview, they explained their preparation, experiences on set, and characters.
How to be a Man and a Father
“Harp has been a cowboy all his life. The community of riders look to him as a leader. He’s also a dedicated father but doesn’t know how to be a father. When he sees his son for the first time in so many years, emotions start to bubble because he realizes what his absence has caused,” explained Idris Elba. This was evident as Cole felt Harp did not have the same love for him as he did the horses. There’s a particular scene where Cole says Harp is more than a father to the others in the community than he is to him. This scene was powerful and made me think back to when I learned my parents were not born parents.
Cole’s issues stem from his lack of having his father around and not having something of interest he could funnel interest into. When he forms a bond with his horse, it’s a thing of beauty and great symbolism. That very same horse would not let anyone tame him and at one point broke loose from the stable, only to be tamed by Cole. “Cole is a complex character, who has serious abandonment issues,” Elba remarked.
“He’s angry with Harp because he wasn’t around. So, he’s having a hard time being separated from his mom, being in a world he’s not used to, and then having to deal with a father that hasn’t been there for him” McLaughlin reflected about Cole. At first, we see a troubled Cole dropped off in Philadelphia and he is scared out of his mind because of the unfamiliar surroundings. He then becomes more comfortable hanging out with his cousin, Smush, and also getting to know the local cowboys.
Although Smush is a drug dealer, we later find out that he plans to flip ranches to escape the poverty and social strain of his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his means of raising capital is also a game of roulette as the drug game never brings money without consequences.
Love and Support
The death of his cousin, both a hurtful experience and a reality check, allows him to see what the future may hold for him if he remained on his current path. This family trauma allowed the opportunity for both Cole and Harp to be vulnerable, to be father and son. From there they both make amends continuing to do what they both love, raise and tend their horses. Even Cole’s mother has an opportunity to reconnect, or at least it’s implied.
In the end, Concrete Cowboy was a great film about the growth of a boy and his father while providing exposure for the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in Philadephia. It is a welcomed change from the normal Black suffering themes creatives use as a carbon copy. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you add it to your Netflix playlist.
“The greatest nation is imagination.” Everyone who goes there is the ruler. It’s not limited by borders and won’t disappear in history, but do you know what it is? How does it work? Can it be impaired like hearing or sight? How much thought have you given to what it actually does?
Physiologically, imagination is connected to the pineal gland. It’s also known as the third eye and depicted with its associated surrounding brain structures as the eye of Heru or Ra (depending on which hemisphere of the brain you’re looking at). It has photoreceptors, which means it knows when there’s light. The pineal gland produces melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythms, from serotonin, the day time hormone. It not only tells us what time of day it is, but also what time of year by how much light and darkness we experience in a day. That means it’s specifically there to interact with galactic vibrations. It influences the pituitary gland, which is the master gland of the endocrine system (emotions). The pineal contains piezoelectric crystals which create a spark when compressed (many lighters use this technology). It also has piezochromatic crystals that create all the colors in the spectrum of the rainbow. So, inside your brain is a gland that knows what’s happening in the cosmos, affects how you feel and when you sleep, and can create light and colors inside your head. It’s a spiritual/organic virtual reality kit! Using machinery to download info into your brain is just lazy!
Think about it like this. Chromosome means color (chroma) body (soma). We know that colors are fragments of light. If consciousness is light, then chromosomes are a library of filters that the light uses to project images of its parts into the world. The mind is the control console with access to all the filters, and the imagination is the real-time projection of which filters are being activated.
Consciousness is the “knowing” of existence. It’s the thing that says, “I am.” The mind is a tool of consciousness to interact with creation. Imagination is the result of consciousness using the mind to interpret the various vibrations it encounters. When something moves, our eyes process the changes in light vibrations and our mind interprets what we see (right or wrong). When a co-worker calls our name, ears process the sound vibrations and then we can act like we didn’t hear them. On a subtler level, when someone is attracted to us they secrete pheromones. We may not “know” what those smell like, but when the receptors in our nose are triggered by them, the mind processes it, and you might get a mental image of leaning in for a kiss. The imagination is the faculty that takes all of the vibrations you encounter and projects a “view” of the world.
Simply put, the imagination is the 6th sense. While our 5 external senses perceive the present world around us, the 6th sense is also able to perceive what came before (memories/ancestors) and what has not come yet (possibilities/inspiration). When we close our eyes and imagine, we’re doing more than just seeing an image. We “conjure” holographic representations of a thing, person, or place, in our mind. We can also “hear” things that aren’t in our vicinity through imagination. You can remember a song in your head or makeup one you’ve never heard. You can remember your favorite food and smell it for just a moment, even taste it, until your body starts to act like you’re about to eat. Imagination is not JUST seeing, it’s actually synthesizing that thing/experience in the inner realm known as consciousness. Whatever takes place in this internal plane of reality determines what we experience and how we interpret the world around us. It determines our physical body’s moment-to-moment biochemical balance.
You already know that something in our consciousness affects our physiology as if it is real. If you watch a horror movie from the complete safety of your home, your body will still react as if you were the dummy going in the basement. The thought of a sexual encounter (remembered or hoped for) can get the juices flowing, even if it’s not the right time! Remember that these thoughts have hormonal correspondences that enter the bloodstream. That’s why deep breathing helps to change moods, it helps flush out the rush of chemicals that occur from/as emotions.
When a child is scared of something and you tell them “it’s just your imagination” you are diminishing or denying their reality. Pretending and imagining are not the same. Pretending is one of many things you can do with imagination. But it is not appropriate or intelligent to always dismiss things that children say as pretending or unreal. They are often perceiving something, even if it’s inside of them. You would do best to investigate and communicate instead of telling them to ignore it. Give them art supplies to recreate what they experienced. Acknowledge that they may not have the vocabulary (because of inexperience and, well, English) to actually express themselves. Ask them open-ended questions and encourage creative answers like sounds, movements, dances, etc.
Like any of our senses, imagination can be controlled and honed. You can adjust your vision by squinting or changing focus. You can hold your breath and breathe deeper to control smells. Here are a few ways to strengthen and expand the imagination. It recognizes patterns and makes use of them, so study sacred geometry, starting with the properties of a circle, and how that creates the flower of life. Engage in abstract visualization, like staring at clouds and looking for recognizable images. Imagine the best possible outcome you can think of for your life. Do arts. Enjoy arts. Play with children. Create a lesson plan to teach something you’re good at.
Did you know that western culture leads to the calcification of the pineal gland?
“If Black people started getting million-dollar Life Insurance Policies, the policekillings would immediately stop.”
May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed at the hands (really knee) of former Minneapolis policeman-naow-convicted-murderer, Derek Chauvin. From May 26th to August 31st, the police killed another 288 people. The same day Chauvin was pronounced guilty, 15-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was fatally shot by police in Columbus, OH. She was one of six police shootings 24 hours post-verdict! A few weeks before, Andre Hill (age 47) was shot and killed by former cop Adam Coy. April 11th, Daunte Wright (age 20) was murdered by Brooklyn Center, MN officer, Kimberly Potter, who claimed she mistakenly pulled her gun despite tasers being known to be significantly lighter in weight and having bright neon colors to help tell the difference.
Police could’ve used tasers instead of guns in each encounter. Since 2005, 15,000 have died by police—that’s 1,000 annually. Only 104 officers have been charged with a mere 35 convicted of any crime.1
Unarmed Black people are four times more likely to be killed by police. This civil disparity is continually evident:
1) June 2015, after shooting nine Black people in a Charleston, SC church, Dylann Roof was taken by police to Burger King before being booked. 2) October 2020, Lithia, FL, Nicholas Furgason (age 21) stabbed a cop in the neck and then fled. Deputy Charles Williams’s bodycam showed him changing from his gun to tase Furgason without taking his life. 3) On March 16, 2021, eight people, including six Asian-American’s, were gunned down in Atlanta, Georgia. April 22nd—just 37 days later—the COVID-19 (Asian) Hate Crimes Act, passed 94-1.
Black people have been the victim of hate crimes since we were brought here to be enslaved, and still, there are no hate crime laws for us!
When will we realize chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands up. Don’t shoot” doesn’t work? What does work? Re-read the quote at the beginning of this piece…
The life/annuity insurance sector totaled $678.7 billion in 2019. If we made sure we’re properly insured, insurance companies would demand and getpolice reform because death benefit payouts are a major financial loss for them! Simple, we know what talks; not politricks, not marching, not voting… shmoney!
This strategy can lower police brutality AND simultaneously build Black wealth, empowering us for generations! Once we self-determine economically, congress may begin to take us seriously. Even if the killing of our people doesn’t decrease, properly insured, our families are able to create sustainable lives that enable living off annuities. This is the way of the rich!
Want to know how to use insurance as a wealth-building tool? I invite you to join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement. I’ll show you how to live off your savings and investments using insurance and other methods without needing a job.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook & Instagram: @cryptowoke
I’ve learned my share of things the hard way. I’ve also learned a thing or two from incredibly enjoyable first-hand experiences. One of my favorites of those lessons happens to be discovering how much I’ve grown. The greatest teacher of those lessons has to be travel.
One of my favorite sayings is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Before I started paying attention to my experience of myself while traveling, I only brought home memories, photos, souvenirs and a tan. The more times I told a travel story, the more I started to see how I was changing as much as my scenery. I found that I was less anxious (not to be confused with anxiety-free) about not knowing what was going to come next in uncertain situations back home because I’d figured out what to do when my first solo trip out of the country got canceled the morning of. I realized that I can speak up simply when I’m displeased with something and not just when there’s a major problem because I was successfully upgraded after expressing my dissatisfaction in Costa Rica. I realized the power of my words when the creative collaborations and warm connections I expressly declared I wanted manifested in Colombia.
Now, I can’t say that any of these lessons are exclusive to travel. I can absolutely see how similar scenarios could happen at home. However, these are lessons I was able to see more clearly because they were framed with the excitement of travel! I constantly had a reason to think about the environment and situations they were created in. We relive and reminisce about travel frequently, but how often do you reflect on who you were before said trip? When was the last time you asked yourself who you were while abroad?
I’ve made it a practice to consistently check in with myself while traveling. I take an audit of the major discomforts and concerns I’m dealing with at the time and do my best to look at them from the perspective of making some good of it all. Something about “vacation mode” has me willing to see the brighter side of so many dim corners. I invite you to travel intentionally and take inventory of ALL the gifts you bring home.
In the Age of the Challenge, our children deserve to be victorious.
Every day there is a new challenge popping up on the internet via social media and our children are rising to engage in them. I see melanated youth engaged in TikTok dances, making slime on YouTube, pranking one another.
Let’s observe these phenomena objectively. Children who have access to social media observe an image or video and the defined challenge associated with it. They proceed to record themselves engaged in the challenge for others to see and the cycle continues. Obviously, this phenomenon is not exclusive to the melanated child, but I aim to shed light on the possible effects and propose a new challenge. The desired outcome is fun and, sometimes to go viral, gain more followers, etc.
Our children are ancestors returned and although they are not the only ones on these challenges, I wonder what they are winning if they rise to every challenge that is brought about through social media. As ancestors returned, they are here to do something, to teach someone, to lead, build, and grow in service of and in dedication to the collective. As engaged as I see young people with social media, I also talk to many parents who don’t know what their children are connected to… beyond social media, video games, etc. These outside influences are not encouraging our children to tap in, to be in tune with their individual purpose, the collective values and morals, and goals in service of liberation.
I feel another challenge coming forward, for the adults rather than the children. I propose a #childhoodchallenge; a challenge to see what we have learned from a child today. Intentionally engaging with our children will affirm them in many ways, but it will also teach us as adults. All too often when engaging with children, I feel like I may be coming from an entirely different world. Metaphysically this is true, but our thread is common and if I am humbled to learn, listen, and engage in their world(s), I can make deep and meaningful connections with the children in my life.
Oftentimes, viewers of shows like The Voice and American Idol wonder what happened to the contestants after the show. The Voice has a solid Country following so a few of their artists are able to chart, but what about everyone else? I had a wonderfully candid conversation with The Voice season 12 winner, Chris Blue, where we discussed what he did after the phone calls stopped and the excitement for his current projects. If you haven’t yet, check out his recent release, Moon, on all major platforms. See the full Video interview below.
Taji Mag (TM): What do you feel is the difference between this project and your previous projects? Chris Blue (CB): I think for this one, it’s something people have been asking for. People have been asking for Moon, essentially, since I finished my time with NBC. It was a journey getting them here but now they’re like ‘thank you, finally, this what we’ve been wanting and we gon blow this thing up’… and that’s what they’ve been doing! So I think that’s what’s different. Back2TheFuture was a great song because I felt like I needed to say something, I needed to have my imprint on society, but as far as my musicality and my art and my VISION… Moon, to me, is it. It’s that cross between what’s new and the respect of what I have to what’s old. It’s old school/new school. You’ll hear influences of the Weeknd, Michael Jackson, and you get to the end of it and it’s like where’d this Afrobeat vibe come from? The reason I did that was because I’m still learning about my heritage, I’m a descendant of the Jamaican-Caribbean-African heritage. I’m really digging into my ancestry now. I was like maybe THAT’S why I love curry chicken…
(TM): Did you feel like you couldn’t produce the same type of artistry during your time at NBC? (CB): Yea… I mean… Yea. I feel like I was somewhat restricted on what I could do. My first anything as a solo career happened on NBC. I wasn’t out here grinding grinding grinding before that show. So when I won and got the accolades, the money, and the deal, it was great, I get to do what I want to do. I’m telling people now, I won but at the same time I lost because for about 2 years, I think, I realized like I’m losing myself. I’m losing who I am. I’m losing Chris Blue…
(TM): Was there a lot of outside influence on who they wanted you to be as an artist. (CB): There was. There was a lot of influence on what they wanted because, again, it’s a business. A lot of people have to remember it’s the music business. So that word business sometimes outshines the music in most cases, especially when you’re dealing with other people and other people’s money and they have to figure out how am I going to make my money back? So when you start to see this is trending and this is what most people will like and this is selling, let’s reshape and redefine you and make you fit this. The issue with that with me is and was I’m not that. I’m me. I can only do me well. I can’t do that well. So I lost. I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I lost a lot of belief. Because I’m not becoming that, the telephone stopped ringing as much, my emails weren’t blowing up, I wasn’t getting as many messages on Instagram, and everything just started to collapse. I was just like well maybe I wasn’t that good… It messed me up in a lot of ways, so much that my family started to feel the effects of it. My mom just sat me down one day and was like you’re changing. I was like dang, what you mean by that mama. That was one of the defining moments for me that brought me back. If I’m gonna do music, I gotta do it my way, I gotta do what I love and I can’t do it to spare feelings or to pacify anyone else.
You can’t sustain living a certain way that’s not conducive to what you want to live like. You can’t do it. It don’t work. You’ll wake up every day hating yourself. You’ll become the perfect example of the person who wakes up to the 9-to-5 job that you hate.
(TM): Makes note of how I’ve watched contestants change from the beginning to the end of the show to fit cookie-cutter molds and that, by the end of it, I’m just skipping through each episode to see who they chose as the winner. (CB): It’s funny you say that. I had to learn this as well. The American public ain’t stupid. Y’all are not dumb. You watch artists on them shows and you be like ok dope, they this, they that, but ya’ll know, nah, this is show. Some people have to be reminded it’s a show, right, so the expectation that as soon as you come off of a show like that you’re supposed to just blow up… I didn’t realize that going in. That’s a TV show. They have to do what’s best for them. It’s on me to get out here and actually work and grind and build. I tell people, I wish… If could do it all over again, with the same result (big smile), I would. I would go in thinking like an artist. I wasn’t thinking like an artist. I was some green, wet behind the ears, new-to-this-thing singer. I wasn’t an artist. I just want to sing. Put me on the stage, give me a microphone, let me SANG, let me do what I do. If I could go back and do it again, I’d have my team in place, I’d have everything ready to go so that by the time they said and the winner is I’m ready to use that launching pad to actually launch off.
(TM): What else are you working on now? I hear you’re doing a docuseries? (CB): Yea so ya boy just got a leading role in a docuseries that we’re getting ready to shoot next month at a studio in Atlanta. So I’m excited about that. The role I’m playing is a guy who I feel like is me right now. Everything this bruh is going through, that’s ME. Everyone feels good about this docuseries, It’s real. It’s raw. It’s uncut. You’ll see a lot of truth a lot of reality. I believe highly in putting things into the atmosphere, when you put things into the atmosphere, God’s ear, he hears.
Release Jun 7 2021 | Vol27 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Utopia! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @UniquelyWiredM and @JaymisonBeverly by @iamNayMarie. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Concrete Cowboy: Becoming a Man and Father” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature with Tajah Olson; “Solo Travel: Building Confidence Through Travel” by dCarrie; “Just My Imagination?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “The Childhood Challenge” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 27 contributed photo story, “Utopia;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Spicy Sushi Rolls; “How to Fight Racism…Financially” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
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.
Attention all accessorizing and glamorizing sistas!! The sistas who love a beautiful statement piece. The sistas who love good, quality accessories. Adele Dejak is the brand for you. Eponymously named after its Nigerian creator Adele Dejak in 2008, the brand creates the most beautiful afro-futuristic jewelry ranging from rings to chokers and they also carry an array of rustic calfskin clutches.
Although I am not an avid accessorizer, the ÁMI I & II collections of chokers are truly a masterclass of metalwork and craftsmanship. The pendants are either hammered brass or aluminum and are paired with a smooth black leather cord or are attached to a large brass ring. I would not be a reliable fashion contributor if I did not tell you how wonderfully brass and gold hues compliment melanated skin.
Aside from being wonderfully and carefully crafted by African artisans, Adele Dejak has been endorsed by the Queen Bee herself!! Flaunting the Afrika Comb in the Black Is King film and, on another occasion, wearing the Margret Aluminum Statement Bracelet in tandem with the Dhamani Kanini bracelet in the music video for My Power from the soundtrack of the 2019 remake of the Lion King.
AD is also big on sustainability, according to their website, only using recycled and upcycled brass and aluminum for their jewelry. They also have a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Australia to train people in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps to produce goods using upcycled materials to sell to provide for their families.
The pieces may be a little pricey for some (150$+), but the cost of supporting a black business is priceless. Besides, who doesn’t want to step into their next board meeting looking like they stepped off the first flight back from Wakanda? Go check out Adele Dejak and tell them I sent you ♥!
This is the second piece in a 5 part series about my favorite Black Luxury Brands, check out the first part here!
The 93rd Oscars was one of the most entertaining Oscars I’ve seen in a while. I kind of assumed it would be given the number of Black creatives listed in the programming and the nominees. Never mind that I had media credentials this year, even my friends were texting me saying the same thing. The night was filled with surprises and laughs… to be enjoyed in the comfort of my home and not in the hot sun trying to waive down people for interviews.
The Winners Are…
Daniel Kaluuya started the night with his win in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category for Judas and the Black Messiah. He made sure to include his castmates and follow feature creatives in his speech stating, “I share this honor with the gift that is Lakeith Stanfield. The light that is [applause], yeah yeah, the light that is Dominique Fishback. [applause] The incredible cast, the incredible crew –you know what I mean– Lucas Brothers for starting the journey. Will Berson.”
Kaluuya thanked Chairman Fred Junior and Mama Akua. “Thank you so much for allowing us into your life and into your story. Thank you, thank you for trusting us, you know, with your truth.” He added, “He (Fred Hampton) was on this earth for 21 years, 21 years, and he found a way to feed kids breakfast, educate kids, give free medical care, against all the odds. He showed, he showed me, he taught me him. Him, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party. They showed me how to love myself. And with that love, they overflowed into the black community and into other communities.”
Daniel surprised the crowd and his mother when he said “Like, it’s incredible, my mum, my dad. They had sex. It’s amazing. Like do you know what I’m saying, I’m here. You know what I mean?” I am pretty sure his mom was shocked and surely sent Daniel a text message or two about his speech.
Shortly after, in the interview room, he explained, “I’m going to wait on my phone for a bit, man. Trust me. I’m going to wait on my phone for a little bit. I think my mom is going to be very happy. But she’s going to be cool. She’s going to be cool, man. She’s going to be cool. She knows ‑‑ she’s got a sense of humor. So she’s glad ‑‑ we give it to each other. So it’s cool.”
The most hilarious part of the night for me in the press area was when a reporter asked Kaluuya “what it meant to be directed by Regina King?” My reaction was like “Huh?” and I am sure it threw off Daniel because he had to ask them to repeat the question. Judas and the Black Messiah was NOT directed by Regina King. * facepalm *
Tyler Perry was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He told a story about a homeless woman asking him for shoes. Perry explained how he took her into his studio and helped her find shoes. He said she stayed looking down after he waited for her to look up and all this time she’s looking down. She finally looks up. She’s got tears in her eyes. She says “Thank you, Jesus, my feet are off the ground.” He explains at that moment he can recall her saying to him, “I thought you would hate me for asking.” “I’m like how can I hate you when I used to be you?”
When asked what made him tell the story he said, “Where we are a country and world, where everybody is grabbing a corner and a color, and they are all ‑‑ nobody wants to come to the middle to have a conversation. Everybody is polarized, and it’s in the middle where things change. So I’m hoping that that inspires people to meet us in the middle so that we can get back to some semblance of normal. As this pandemic is over, we can get to a place where we are showing love and kindness to each other again.”
Fresh off her Grammy win for “I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R picked up an Oscar for Original Song for “Fight for You” for the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” She collaborated with Dernst Emille and Tiara Thomas for the uprising song. H.E.R started by saying “Thank you to the Academy. I’ve always wanted to say that. And of course, my collaborators, D’Mile and Tiara Thomas, the song wouldn’t be what it was without them.” She then continued to thank her family and musical inspirations stating, “Of course I have to thank God for giving us these gifts and my parents, my beautiful mother who’s here with me today and my father at home. All those days of listening to Sly and the Family Stone, and Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, they really paid off.”
With H.E.R winning an Oscar and a Granny, placing her at the halfway mark of receiving EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner) status, the question is what is next? She replied “Oh, there’s absolutely going to be an EGOT in my future hopefully. But, yeah, you know, I’m also super compassionate about acting as well. So you may see me up here as an actress also. And I love musicals. Me and Brandy have been talking a lot, and she inspired me since she did a musical. But, yeah, honestly, I cannot believe that we are here. I’m so thankful to be standing next to these two. I’m still speechless. I feel like the Oscars are happening tomorrow, and I’m dreaming right now. I’m still pinching myself. So I have no words.”
What does the song “ Fight for You” mean? H.E.R describes, “We are literally saying, you know, as long as I’m standing, I’m going to fight for you. And I have been given this platform and now an Oscars stage to share a message, you know, and to really speak my own truth and to continue to spread the word of our history, what is happening today.”
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, along with Sergio Lopez‑Rivera, become of the few Black women to win in Hair and Makeup Styling for the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Mia Neal accepted the award with her family background. “I was raised by my grandfather, James Holland. He was an original Tuskegee Airman. He represented the U.S. in the first Pan Am Games. He went to Argentina. He met Evita. He graduated from Northwestern University at the time that they did not allow Blacks to stay on campus, so he stayed at the YMCA. And after all of his accomplishments, he went back to his hometown in hopes of becoming a teacher. But they did not hire Blacks in the school system. So I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, were denied but never gave up.” She then continued to praise her colleagues and stated her hopes for future winners. “I stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future. Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters and our Latino sisters and indigenous women. And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking; it will just be normal.”
Notable jazz musician Jon Baptiste was amongst the trio (with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to win Best Original Score. After winning the award he had this to say about his work. “I think I re‑affirm the fact that your collaborators, the people around you, the people who you have the pleasure of trading information as we all accumulate information on the journey of life and music is life. So I look at them as one and the same. And just kind of seeing how that transpires in the next project you take on and transpires in the next moments in your life. And this will definitely be something that will resonate until the day I die, this collaboration.”
Travon Free won Best Live Action Short for “Two Different Strangers” with Martin Desmond Roe. Travon relayed to the audience his reasoning for making the film stating “Today the police will kill three people. And tomorrow the police will kill three people and the day after that, the police will kill three people because on average, the police in America every day kill three people. Which amounts to about 1,000 people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be Black people. And, you know, James Baldwin once said the most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain. And so I just ask that you please not be indifferent. Please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.” Earlier that day another Black life, Isaiah Brown, was taken by a police officer who gave him a ride earlier that day. Similar to the storyline of the award-winning short film.
Lil Rel is Hilarious
Lil Rel had the Oscars program feeling like a block party on Sunday. He had Daniel Kallayk talking to him like he was his spades partner and had Angela Basset grooving like her favorite jam just dropped. The most shocking and most hilarious part of the night was when Lil Rel quizzed Glenn Close on EU’s “Da Butt” song. She answered correctly and gave a little history about the Backyard Band, a popular go-go band in the ’80s, and proceeded to do ‘the butt.’ With Lil Rel engaging the crowd and Quest Love providing the evening’s tunes, the Oscars was a thing even Black people could enjoy. No matter if you only know two of the many nominees.
Black Behind the Scenes of the Oscars
Why did the Oscars have a little more flavor this year? The Academy Awards had some more Black influence behind the scenes. Starting with Dionne Harmon, she is the Executive Vice President of Content & Strategy at Jesse Collins Entertainment, where she oversees the development and production of unscripted and scripted content. She has done some work on BET’s “Bobby Brown Series” and “American Soul.”
Amberia Allen returned as a writer for the second year in a row. Her notable credits include “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and “The Last O.G.,” and she has written for numerous live awards shows and variety specials, including the “Golden Globe Awards,” “Primetime Emmy Awards” and “The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.”
One of the writers of the Boondocks, Rodney Barnes, returned to the Oscars production team as a writer. He serves as showrunner, writer, and creator of “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable” for HBO Max. Barnes also penned Marvel Comics’ “The Falcon,” Marvel/Lucasfilm’s “Lando: Double or Nothing” and “Quincredible” for the Lion Forge imprint.
Mitchell Marchand returned to the Oscars show as a writer. His credits as a comedy writer include such awards shows as the “BET Awards,” “Hip Hop Awards,” “UNCF Evening of Stars,” MTV Video Music Awards,” “NAACP Image Awards” and “Primetime Emmy Awards.”
Although some most of us are bummed that Chadwick Boseman did not win Best Actor for his amazing performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the Academy Awards was thoroughly entertaining and worth the watch this year. With Lil’ Rel hosting the event like that funny uncle at a family gathering and the music masterfully selected by DJ Quest Love, I’m sure you will not be bored. I know I wasn’t…
“Another series requiring me to sleep with my Black Panther nightlight on.” That is all I could think to myself. I’m kidding, I don’t have a nightlight, BUT Them definitely is a series with some really scary moments and shocking – almost unbearable – scenes. I am happy to see a horror series helmed by Black creatives that is receiving a major push on Amazon Prime. Not exactly satisfied with the finished product after watching the whole season, though.
The acting in the series was great. Shahadi Wright Joseph as Ruby Emory, Deborah Ayorinde as Lucky Emory, Ashley Thomas as Henry Emory, and Melody Hurd as Gracie Henry all play their characters well as the Emory family. I just wish the series could’ve continued to be more compelling instead of shocking. Deborah and Ashley’s chemistry as the lead Black couple was substantial. I could really feel the love they had for each other throughout the series and how they were supportive of each other during each of their mental breakdowns. I’m not going to lie, whenever Lucky got pissed, slapped, or chased someone I was cheering for her because she brought that energy.
Shahadi in “Us” was scary as hell as she played the doppelganger, this time around she is a teenager haunted by a teenage white ghost and the acceptance of her skin color. I found this to be interesting and made me see her as a household name in the industry. The acting she does with her eyes is a thing of pure talent. The scene where cutting her face out of possession/self-hate had me cringing the whole time.
Melody as Gracie Emory had some of the scariest scenes. The possession scene had me saying, “Oh hell no!,” mainly because evil-possessed children in horror films are horrifying. Her acting was impressive and helped the fright continue throughout the series.
Them has great usage of music to enhance the horror. For instance, “Come on Get Happy” by Judy Garland playing as they ride into Compton California is all so peaceful until, on the other side on the loop, it starts to slow down chopped and screwed style as the white neighbors look at the Black family entering their new neighborhood. Their expressions are priceless like someone bringing potato salad with raisins in it to a Black barbeque.
There is a great scene where Betty Wendell’s character is fidgeting with a torn small piece of wallpaper of her perfectly placed and patterned wall. The camera angles were well-timed as the scene reflects Betty’s discomfort of having a Black family in her ideal, perfect, all-white neighborhood. Betty is for sure an annoying character and deserves to be called “dumb ass b*tch!” Trust me you’ll hate her too. Then the series shows her disturbing family upbringing, her jealousy of other women who can have children (because of her sterility), and reveals the truth behind her unhappy marriage.
The storyline in Them is compelling and shows promise within the first few episodes but then becomes a little more disturbing and confusing. There is the rape of the lead character and the murder of her infant son that has made its way onto Twitter but there is also the flashback origin of the man in The Man in the Black Hat that is also gruesome.
I was a bit thrown off by the milk man’s character, I understand people can have some creepy characters but I would’ve rather seen more of Wendell’s (Betty’s husband) story. I understand most of his story is implied but there could’ve been a moment where you show the reason for resistance to harm the Black neighbors was because he was also an outsider for being gay.
Da Tap Dance Man was creepy as hell and had to rub all that paint off his face. His character was a good addition and served his role in Henry Emory’s story but I think I’ve grown tired of seeing these minstrel show-style demons/ghosts in Black entertainment.
The camera work and editing for Them was also impressive. The usage of colors, cuts, and angles really helped to create the feeling for each scene. For example, Henry Emory struggles to eat pie because the sweet smell and taste remind him of the mustard gas tested on him in the military.
Them is definitely a series you should watch if you like Jordan Peele and the classic horror creatives before. You’ll definitely be reminded of the Topsy and Bopsy episode of Lovecraft Country. You may become disinterested if you like a series with a solid storyline. You can watch now Them on Amazon Prime.