06Jun/20

You Mad or Nah?

#DearSistaGirl;
I had a conversation the other day and the subject of self-honesty came up. Being not so honest with ourselves in regards to the relationships we find ourselves struggling in, tends to be overlooked. So let’s unpack this, shall we?

Sis, are you really mad at him, or is he not living up to the fantasy you concocted in your mind about who he is and how he should behave? Can we discuss this fantasy building tendency we have? We need to unpack why we do it and the inevitable emotional fallout it causes. We need to discuss it in order for us to avoid the pitfalls that will always follow.

Oftentimes, we as women tend to tie our self-worth and identities to a relationship. We don’t see ourselves as complete unless we are in a relationship. Many times we see being in a said relationship as a way to validate our existence. Societal pressures play a big part in forming this mindset. Statements like: “What do you mean you don’t have a man yet?”; “Why are you still single”; “No one’s scooped you up yet?”; “Stop being so independent so you can settle down!” Sound familiar? From the time we are young, we begin to dream of the time when we walk down the aisle to get married. We dream up scenarios about the perfect boyfriend. We not only daydream about his looks but we also daydream about how he will treat us, the adventures we’d share, how much money he’d make, and how he will make sure we want for nothing. These teenaged-girl dreams subconsciously follow us into adulthood.

However, what awaits us as we become women are timelines and more intense societal pressures to achieve the perfect career, home, and relationship. We begin to actively seek out ways to accomplish each goal. We have an idea how we’d like our homes to look, so we diligently put our dollars aside and start to look for just the right spot. We decorate it much in the way we had dreamed of. We craft our resumes in such a way that we will land that perfect job so that we can easily finance our lifestyle. We plan everything, every detail of our lives. We even plan our relationships, and this is where we can get stuck if we aren’t careful. We are so accustomed to planning how we want things to be that we forget that we can’t plan how someone else will behave.

When we enter a relationship we have preconceived notions about how things will be. However, we are still influenced by societal pressures for perfection. We expect that our partners will live up to the ideals we’ve had since childhood. We expect that knight in shining armor who will sweep us off our feet. We expect to be showered with gifts and to be spoken to in dulcet tones. We expect that once in a relationship, your partner’s drive and ambition will match or exceed your own. You expect your dreams to come true. But sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes we enter into a relationship with someone based on sexual compatibility, yet we failed to date them long enough to discover if they are:

1. Emotionally available
2. Financially stable
3. Emotionally stable
4. Employed/Self-employed
5. Ready to be in a relationship
6. Intellectually compatible
7. Raised on love or survival

We are so excited to be in love that we fail to discover how they show love. They may profess love with their words but not know how to do so with their actions. So here you are arriving home from a stressful day at work expecting your partner to greet you with a hug, a kiss, and soothing words. But what you find is him sitting on the couch playing his game system where he’s been all day. He looks up for a split second and asks, “What are you going to cook, I’m hungry.” This isn’t the first time or even the second and now you’re mad. Sound familiar?

How about this: For his birthday you bought him a gift that he’d been eyeing for quite some time. He was so hyped that he called his boys to brag about you. Months later, your birthday (or any other gift-giving holiday) rolls around and all he gets you is a card. Now you’re mad, hurt, and feel unappreciated. What is the common denominator in each scenario? Lack of clear communication early in the relationship. It’s not him you’re mad at. You’re mad that he’s not living up to all of the preconceived notions you formed years ago? You’re angry because he didn’t abide by the non-existent conversation you should have had from the beginning. Did you fall in love with who he was or did you fall for who you hoped he’d be? Falling in love with an idea or with potential, as opposed to who he really is, can be disastrous.

Let’s be real, having various in-depth conversations during the dating phase is a crucial step that we often miss. We base an entire relationship on sexual compatibility without even once asking important questions. The answers to these questions could very well be deal-breakers, so skipping this step is a huge mistake. So, what can you do if this is the situation you are currently facing? You can rectify it by having a serious heart to heart/face to face conversation with your love interest. Discuss what’s upsetting you. Talk about what you need from them but also be willing to listen to what they need from you. Be patient when having this conversation. Allow it to flow naturally as opposed to you controlling the narrative so it can move in the direction you hope for. If you two can make compromises and work the kinks out of your relationship, then great. If not, respectfully part ways and chalk it up to a lesson learned. And PLEASE learn the lesson! It’s not good to move on to a new relationship holding the same hidden expectations that ended your previous one.

Take your time dating. Date him for several months until you’ve exhausted your list of questions. Date him for several months to observe how he handles stress, his money, and how he treats the women in his life, among others. Find out if he’s kind-hearted and note if he was raised on love rather than survival. If he was raised on survival, chances are he won’t know how to love you properly and his responses to everyday scenarios will be askew. Your love languages matter, Sis!! Go into a relationship fully informed about who he is and what he is about, as opposed to holding on to the fantasy you want him to fulfill. There’s no rush. Societal pressures will be there whether you jump into a relationship or whether you don’t. But which is better? Getting into a relationship that adds to your joy or one that disrupts your peace? I want you to choose joy. Why? Because you deserve it.

05Jun/20
Gabrielle Dennis

Gabrielle Dennis Talks Tribeca X Win, Black Lady Sketch Show, and Luke Cage

Gabrielle Dennis

Gabrielle Dennis (@gabrielle_dennis) has the comedic charm, beauty, and talent that has given her the opportunity to play many roles in some notable shows. Now the actress can add award-winning writer to her accolades with her win in the 2020 Tribeca X category. She wrote and starred in a comedic short about a character named Nyssa repeating her Pay Day, a-la Ground Hog Day. Although Hollywood has been halted due to COVID-19, Gabrielle has been able to pick up the award for her writing and acting chops — while realizing her culinary skills are actually on point. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the actress/writer to discuss her Tribeca win, writing future, and how she’s throwing down in the kitchen. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is the inspiration for Pay Day

Gabrielle Dennis (GD): A payday! Getting paid to be able to say that I am a writer because it’s actually what I went to school for. I went to school for tv production (Howard University…. HUUUUUUU). The acting was the thing that took off. I had been recently putting it out into the universe that I wanted to get back into a creative space and creating content. Then this opportunity fell in my lap when one of the producers from the Black Lady Sketch Show, who is actually one of the producers on Pay Day, Deniese Davis, said “I have an opportunity if you are willing to take a shot at it?”  From there, things felt so aligned. I felt motivated to follow this goal and follow through on this dream that I’ve had for years. The experience was really exciting and really fun. 

DDF: How was it working with Cooper Morgan

GD: Cooper Morgan is so awesome! He is such a visionary! He is a great visionary and has so much energy. I could not get over how he could just be on top of it all day. His vision is very clear. I am very excited to see what he has in line for the future. Cooper just gets it! From the colors to the music, he kind of catches all of the senses which makes him a great storyteller and I hope to work with him again. 

DDF: What was the atmosphere like on the set of Pay Day? Was there a hard day? 

GD: The atmosphere was cool but things seemed very fast. We had a lot of content, even though it was a six-minute film. The final script that we shot was about 8 mins, we had to cut it down some more. I got to work with people that I knew. We were working so fast, we didn’t have enough time to develop a conversation to make these friends feel like real friends. We had just enough time to say “Hey girl, good to see you!” Then it was like boom! Back to work. I think it was smart of the producers to bring together people we were familiar with each other as peers. 

DDF: How did it feel being on set as the writer and actress of the film? 

GD: It was different for me to be on set as the writer and actress, I developed more respect for our writers for whatever work they put on the page. I’m always an actress that tries to respect and honor what’s on the page. As the writer on set, you are like “ Oh no! They are cutting out another piece (of the script).” Our director was so great at adjusting to what we needed to get. He reassured me, allowed me to breathe, and understand we had enough footage to tell the story. Shout out to the entire team, the whole team was just awesome!  

DDF: What has been your greatest investment after you started landing larger roles? 

GD: I would say investing in the stock market. I am by no means an expert in stock but to have the ability to see how far your money can go and have the excitement of knowing your money is working. It’s like “Money has a job and it’s to make more money!” 

I’ve had fun investments. I was able to buy my SUV. When I booked my role on Rosewood, I thought about my long commute and it was time to turn in my college car. I thought to myself “I am going to treat myself!” I had this long commute, I get to be comfortable, I get to drive fast and sit up high in my new vehicle. We all know that an automobile is a depreciating item, as soon as you drive it off the lot.

DDF: What would be your reaction to being stuck in a time loop like Nyssa? 

GD: I think I would learn my lesson a little sooner than Nyssa for sure. I feel like I would have been extremely extravagant, I am talking about trips around the world as far as I could get in that 48 hr period. Like the morning of I’m buying a plane, I would spend 200 of those days learning to fly the plane myself. I feel like I would have had a lot more adventure and be more of a risk-taker because I know I would be ok the next day. I would have spent way more money than Nyssa did. 

DDF: Pay Day has been compared to skits on A Black Lady Sketch Show (ABLSS). How do you feel about the comparison? 

GD: I take that as a compliment. I think the writers from A Black Lady Sketch Show are brilliant. I love the full-color wheel we get with the types of comedy we get to create. We all have different experiences. I love quirky, bizarre comedy. We get things that make you think, so I take it as a compliment. The scenario in Pay Day is not a normal thing that would happen to anybody and the whole idea for the project with Synchrony Bank was to make people think about their finances. I feel like it was an education in disguise.

*Hopefully the writers and producers from A Black Lady Sketch Show read this and give Gabrielle a seat at the table*

DDF: Will you get more writing duties for the next season of ABLSS

GD: I don’t think I could write on ABLSS because the writing team is already intact. I think I am going to need a little bit more than 6 and a half minutes of experience before I get confident enough to be a part of a writer’s room. If the team from the show would have that, I would love that. It is a goal of mine to write some more for sure. 

Gabrielle Dennis and Ashley Nicole Black in Angela Bassett Is the Baddest Bitch

DDF: If there was a Luke Cage season 3, what do you think would’ve happened to Tilda Johnson in your opinion? 

GD: She wants what’s owed to her. Her mother used to preach family first and she left paradise to Luke Cage, which is a slap in the face to Matilda. Which ruined her relationship with her mother but then again we see what Tilda did to her mom. I would just have Tilda growing into her villain role. I am cheating a little because I know the plans for season three and it was for her to be one of the main villains. I would love to see the complexity in the role of how can someone get to the other side of the tracks? Does she have guilt for killing her mother? Does she feel emboldened about what she did to Mariah? 

I feel like when she walked into the club with her afro puffs at the end of season two, at that moment she was a different person. To be able to see all the things she was willing to do at all cost, like really, really allowing herself to no longer fight, deny or be ashamed of the villainy in her DNA. I could see her being like Cotton Mouth and Mariah times 10! From what is known in the comic books, I just would love to have seen her character just take off. I think Tilda and Bushmaster would team up at some point. 

Alfre Woodard and Gabrielle Dennis in Luke Cage Season 2

DDF: Would you be open to appearing in the MCU films? 

GD: Oh yeah! Who’s turning that down?! I wish that would happen, I would accept it with open arms. 

DDF: You have to write a romantic comedy using two characters you’ve played on tv and film. Who would you choose and what would the film be about? 

GD: I would say the first one would have to be my character from The Game, Janay. I feel like she was misunderstood by some people. She’s deemed as tough, but I would like to see the more thoughtful side of her, the romantic side of her, and see her relationship grow. 

Another character I would like to see in a rom-com is from Rosewood. To see where the relationship went with TMI. How they grow and blossom. I would also love to see if they could make it throughout the engagement and marriage because of the challenges TMI brought to the table with her past. Pippy wore her heart on her sleeve and put everything out there, then seeing the tables turn at some point with the two lovers.

Out of all the characters I have played, those two get talked about a lot and people miss those shows the most. So I would love an opportunity to bring those characters back. 

Gabrielle Dennis in Rosewood

DDF: If you had to be quarantined in a house with three other actors or actresses who would it be and why?  It can’t be anyone you know…

GD: Howie Mandel would be the first person because everyone knows he is a germophobe. We would definitely be clean. 

Erykah Badu because she’s going to have the vocals on deck, she’s going to have the vibes, the incense you need to mellow out, and she’s going to be able to keep my chakras in check. 

For the last person, I need someone that is going to feed me…I’ll go with Bobby Flay. 

DDF: What have you learned about yourself during this COVID-19 crisis? 

GD: I discovered that I am a really, really good cook, even though I don’t like cooking. I love eating, I always have. I can handle meals I didn’t think I could cook on my own before. I also don’t like cooking because it comes with having to clean up. I would say I was a recovering germophobe and when all the shutdown stuff happened I went into a full relapse. I envisioned everything being germy like everything has COVID-19 on it. I watched this handwashing demo where the guy used the glitter on his hands to demonstrate and everywhere I went I saw green glitter. I can’t wait to see what happens on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. If people are going to be more OCD with clean hygiene or just have reckless abandon and not care. 

I learned you can get to a point that you hate washing your hands and I am a really good cook. 

DDF: What are some of the dishes you have been cooking and are most proud of? 

GD: I made red snapper for the first time and I could not decide if I wanted to fry it or bake it, I just ended up making both. 

I make really good Brussels sprouts. I made collard greens for the very first time that weren’t from a can. Lol! I cleaned them really well, seasoned them, just being a mad scientist in the kitchen with ingredients. I’m very proud of the greens. My mother drove 45-mins and sat outside in my yard share waiting for me to make her a plate of food. I gave her fried chicken and greens, she raved about them for days. 

DDF: Is your family going to ask you to cook for the holidays? 

GD: Now that’s the danger since I’ve been cooking. People will be expecting me to cook and I will be “No, no, no!” Hopefully, I won’t have to fall back on it and I have a career after this (COVID-19) is over.

DDF: What was your reaction to your win at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival online?

GD: I couldn’t celebrate too much but I was super excited about it. When I saw the text message that Pay Day had won, I got on the phone and I squealed with Denise about it. It was surprising because I didn’t even know they had submitted the film for the Tribeca Film Festival. As an artist, you hope to be involved in a project at a festival like Tribeca. I am pretty sure I had a glass of wine and danced 

With all of this talent manifesting in Gabrielle Dennis’s life, we may see her get her own comedy show. Hey, maybe even a Black Comedy Cooking Show… For now, you can catch Gabrielle on Black Ladies Sketch Show season one on HBO, and be on the lookout for season two of the show. Check out her award-winning short Pay Day below. 

Nyssa Rose dreams of starting her own business. But she spends like there’s no tomorrow. She finds herself stuck in a time loop, reliving the same Pay Day. Again. And again. And again. That is, until she learns to make better choices and save for her future with Synchrony Bank.

Pay Day

Director: Morgan Cooper

Brand: Synchrony Bank

Agency: Giant Spoon

Production Co.: ColorCreative

TRIBECA X AWARD WINNER

30May/20

They are not Supremacists, Masters, or even Oppressors

Words have power. What you think and speak, you start to believe, even on a subconscious level. Words tend to manifest in our lives. A form of magic is at work when you are “spell-ing.” Most successful people will tell you to write down your goals and read them out loud daily. Spell-ing. If this works for success, it must also work for the opposite and adverse results. As an American Descendant of Slavery (ADOS), I cannot refer to a European descendant as a supremacist, a slave master, or even an oppressor. I REFUSE to allow them that power.

African descendants are supreme beings. The oldest known human on the planet is an African woman. We call the continent Mother Africa for a reason. Thus, it would be blasphemous for me to refer to the hatred sweeping through European Americans as supreme.

They are white inferiorists.

* Added to Spell Check Dictionary *

Fully functional, rational thinking adults do not hate someone based on their skin color. They do not participate in the unjust beatings, lynchings, and shootings of people just because their skin color differs. That’s childish, egotistical, jealously. The ‘I want what you have so I’m going to take it’ complex is deep-rooted in their DNA.

They hate our skin. Our noses. Our lips. Our a** and d***. Our creativity. Our divine connection to the Universe. All too bold and too large for them to ever achieve so they do everything in their power to make sure we hate ourselves and prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. They hate us because, despite our lack of resources, we still shine bright and turn coal into diamonds. Instead of congratulating, they shoot us in the back, raid our homes, choke us with whatever body part is available, and threaten to do the same to anyone to attempts to assist us. Inferior.

They cannot be my master.

They may have mastered pillaging, raping, looting, and deceiving, but they are not my master. Owning another human makes you trash, not a master. An enslaved-owner, because my ancestors were not slaves but enslaved, is a despicable title some wear as a badge of honor. That is inferior.

They may have worked their hardest to keep my people down and actually be oppressors, but I still will not call them by such – they’re just bullies and bullies can be dealt with. I will not allow them to think that they hold any power over my life or my community or that I need to beg to be seen as a whole human (because three-fifths *eye roll). I will not plead with them to get their foot off of my neck, I will instead break their ankles.

Period.
Stateless

Stateless: The Systematic Denaturalization of Dark-Skin Haitians Born in the Dominican Republic

SYNOPSIS: In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, based on anti-Black hatred fomented by the Dominican government. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929. The ruling rendered more than 200,000 people stateless, without nationality, identity, or a homeland. In this dangerous climate, a young attorney named Rosa Iris mounts a grassroots campaign, challenging electoral corruption and advocating for social justice. Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary, Stateless, traces the complex tributaries of history and present-day politics, as state-sanctioned racism seeps into mundane offices, living room meetings, and street protests.

The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection, Stateless, is an extremely compelling film that touches on a discrimination narrative I find to be all too familiar. Watching the film, I could not help but feel emotionally drained by the actions of the Dominican Supreme Court’s decision to strip people of their nationality, rights, and life altogether. Given the state the United States has been in concerning immigration politics, I can not help but see a possible future where people in our country will meet the same demise.  

“As a child, growing up in a Haitian and Latinx household and diasporic communities in North America, I continued to overhear stories about the history of my birthplace relating to race, color, class, colonialism, and human rights. Those observations formed the basis of how I made sense of the world that surrounded me, especially as those notions collided with the racism, segregation, and discrimination that we faced in our adopted countries. Those experiences fueled my passion to dig deeper into the consequences of our deeply painful common history of slavery and colonialism and how we continue to internalize such self-hatred.” – Michele Stephenson 

I was really impressed by the work of young attorney Rosa Iris and her pursuit of justice for those wronged by the system. Her effort to free her people of oppression and discrimination so admirably left me rooting for her the whole documentary. I could see the drive in her eyes and the passion for her work pouring from her heart so badly and her wanting only the best for her people. Stephenson was very fond of Rosa’s efforts stating “I fell in love with Rosa and her vulnerability. She was an all-in collaborator, which you could not ask better for a project. She told me that when you get into a relationship of trust with your collaborator, they end up helping you find the story. They know what you are looking for and it’s that kind of exchange.”

It was heartbreaking to watch the system reject Rosa’s cousin, Teofilo Murat, who was one of the unfortunate stateless people displayed in the film. 

“She (Rosa) is the one that told me her cousin, Teofilo Murant, he’s stateless and he’s leaving for Haiti. He was a working-class guy, able to pay his rent, and one day to the next he lost his papers, he lost everything. So, we reached out to him and spent time with him before he moved to Haiti. He said I’m outta here because I’m suffering too much,  it’s too dangerous, it’s too precarious and he left for the mountains of Haiti. For me, there’s this flipping the narrative of what Haiti means to folks, there’s this idea that refugees have no place and they are in destitute situations. But for me, Teofilo represents a modern maroon. He’s escaping this oppression to what he perceives as freedom in the mountains of Haiti. You can see in the film that Rosa still has faith in the system when Teofilo does not believe the country has his best interest,” explained Stephenson about the origin of Teofilo’s involvement in the film. 

Rosa Iris with Juan Teofilo Murat

“The question of what citizenship means is shaken up in this beautiful documentary. Also, watching anti-immigration bias alongside garden variety racism spread globally, you realize how timely this film is. I’m proud to work with Michèle and bring this story to the world.” – Jennifer Holness, Producer (Hispaniola Productions)

Gladys, another featured person in the film, is a right-winged Dominican of Haitian descent who has a strong dislike for Haitians. When asked about Gladys, Stephen stated, “A couple of years into the project, I felt very strongly about Gladys. The whole right-wing nationalist in the country was so profound and I felt that being there I couldn’t ignore that narrative, that presence, but also I had to challenge myself as a light-skinned person that could have potential access to that narrative in a more intimate way that others may not be able to. I never really confront Gladys with my own ideology because I wanted to get what I could get. I challenged myself to be uncomfortable to get to the point where I can grab the story that Gladys had to tell because she really wanted to tell her story. I barely had to ask questions because she really wanted to make her point.”

Stephenson said she and producers did a casting and they approached a couple of people, who in her opinion were way too aggressive. She didn’t know if she could spend half a day with them. They were men, they were very aggressive when they talked about Haitians with great disdain. She said “their hatred was virulent, it was like spitting out of their mouths. It’s like here in the U.S., do you want the stereotypical hater to be the one to represent the other side and lose the complexity and the depths of the hatred?”

Gladys and the national mouvement group

Stephenson also said that when she met Gladys, she thought to herself, “here is this woman that presents a paradox. She presents a certain way, she presents as Black, and yet the hatred she has is hatred for Haitians.” She went on to explain how her friends and colleagues who watched the film in New York immediately recognized Gladys as an archetype. 

Filmmaker Michele Stephenson put together a powerful and enlightening piece, that will challenge you to think about the state the U.S. is in when it comes to immigration laws and the awful conditions that some of the Haitians and Dominicans with Haitians parents are in. The imagery and art used to display the sugar canes are visually pleasing and serve as short intermissions from the harsh realities within the film. 

My objective is to connect the film to a network of committed partners in the Caribbean region, Latin America, the U.S., and internationally, to utilize the film as a platform for their work on protecting the rights of migrants, and citizens, and to deepen people’s understanding of the intersection between anti-black racism, migration, and citizenship rights.” – Michele Stephenson

Hopefully, Stateless will be widespread and will inform people about the injustices some of the people in the Dominican Republic are facing. I also hope Michele achieves her goal to involve more people and organizations that can help give these people their rightful lives. This film encourages people to work together in this fight against oppression and discrimination worldwide. May this film tap into the viewers’ cores and enlighten their minds.  

Stateless Trailer

Hispaniola Productions and the National Film Board of Canada present

A Rada Film Group and Hungry Eyes Media film

Director: Michèle Stephenson

Producers: Michèle Stephenson, Jennifer Holness, Lea Marin

Screenwriter: Michèle Stephenson

Cinematographers: Alfredo Alcántara, Tito Rodriguez, Naiti Gámez, Nadia Hallgren, Pedro Arnau Bros Santana, Jaime Guerra

Editor: Sophie Farkas-Bolla 

Executive Producers: Joe Brewster, Anita Lee, Sudz Sutherland

Cast: Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez, Teofilo Murat, Gladys Feliz

21May/20
Kenneth Walker Jr.

Protecting Black Women is a Crime – Free Kenneth Walker Jr.

Justice for Breonna Taylor means justice for Kenneth Walker Jr. 

My son’s favorite ancestor is Harriet Tubman. In his school report, he said “she helped get a lot of Black people away from where racist people controlled them to a different place where racist people were not allowed to control them as much. I would protect her if she was alive today because she is important.” I hope I’ve taught my son that Black women are important and worthy of protection. These schools and police departments and jobs don’t value us, but we have Black men who cherish us.

Do Black people get to claim self defense?

When Harriet Tubman had her rifle out ready to shoot any slave catcher that threatened the lives of enslaved Black folks, she would have been acting in self defense if she shot one of them. But apparently, self defense is only reserved for white folks. Remember when Marissa Alexander spent years in prison for protecting herself? As a Black woman who stood her ground, she was treated much more harshly than Trayvon’s Martin’s killer–a racist man who didn’t even get arrested the night he murdered an unarmed child. When white people shoot someone to protect themselves, it’s self defense. When Black folks do the same thing, it’s attempted murder.

We can argue all day about the problems between Black men and women, (as well as our gender nonconforming folks). In this instance, however, it is imperative that we celebrate Black men who stand up for Black women. Kenneth Walker protected a Black woman, but in a world where her killers’ comfort is more valuable than her Black life, Kenneth is seen as a criminal.

A few years ago when actor and philanthropist Kobi Siriboe celebrated his mother and the beauty on Black women on twitter, he was immediately criticized by white followers. Rather than backing down, Kofi doubled down on his love for us. 

Kenneth Walker Jr. went even further to protect a Black woman. 

I couldn’t save Breonna Taylor, but maybe we can save Kenneth Walker.

When I first wrote about Breonna Taylor, I went through it. Like a lot of other people here in Louisville, we are tired of gentrification and empty promises by government officials. We are sick of (and from) the environmental racism and pollution and food deserts. We are out here working one, two, sometimes three jobs to live despite the fact that, in the majority Black West End of this city, Black life expectancy is 12 years shorter than white folks in the more affluent parts of town.

The charges should be dropped immediately and he deserves reparations for all that he endured. #FreeKenny

Look, Kenneth Walker risked his life to defend himself AND Breonna Taylor. Despite the fact that three white men murdered an unarmed Black woman and have served ZERO time in jail, Kenneth Walker Jr. was arrested by the criminals who murdered his girlfriend.

If you haven’t read up on the situation, here is what happened.

  • Plainclothes officers burst into the home of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY with a battering ram
  • Since they did not announce themselves, Kenneth thought they were breaking in and tried to defend himself along with Breonna
  • #BrettMylesandJon responded by firing 20 rounds into the apartment, 8 of which hit and killed Breonna Taylor.
  • They found no drugs and no evidence of a crime
  • They were not wearing body cameras

Thankfully, one of Taji’s heroes Judge Olu Stevens advocated for home incarceration instead of jail time. Of course, the police are big mad.

Since Kenneth’s release home, the case has received national attention. Because of local Black activists like Chanelle Helm of Black Lives Matter Louisville and others, there have been protests and demands. The family and their supporters are asking that all charges get dropped.

After receiving hundreds of calls, emails, and inquiries Commonwealth attorney Thomas Wine recused himself. The case was handed over to Daniel Cameron, the first Black state’s attorney in Kentucky’s history.

Known racist police chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement (not resignation or termination unfortunately) following similar protests and demands. While I am happy that he will no longer be the police chief, I am left with questions. Does he get a severance package? If so, how much of my tax dollars will pay for that? Will Breonna’s murder be anywhere on his record? How much is his pension? Is it worth the effort to hold him accountable after he retires?

The central theme in all this is about our ability (and willingness) to protect Black folks. We have made strides in the original demands. Getting those charges dropped for Kenneth Walker is the next step.

How do we protect these Black men?

Judge Olu Stevens is almost always under attack by the FOP and other #BlueLivesMatter racists. Brother Kenneth’s next court date is June 25th. I pray that we can keep them both safe until then.

“The killing of Breonna Taylor, the filing of criminal charges against her partner Kenneth Walker, and the attacks by the Fraternal Order of Police on Judge Olu Stevens for calling out police misconduct, all reflect a criminal justice system that targets communities of color and the poor,” said Stephen Bartlett of Louisville SURJ. “We cannot sit by and allow this state of affairs to continue.” 

A Message From Black Lives Matter Louisville

#FreeKenny #DropAllCharges #FreeKenny #JusticeForKennethWalker #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName #BrettMylesandJon are murderers. #BrettMylesandJon killed an unarmed Black woman. #BrettMylesandJon should be in prison. #BreonnaShouldBeAlive. #DropTheCharges against Kennth Walker Jr.

Kenneth Walker Jr.
20May/20

I Thought The Lovebirds would be Issa Rae’s Fall Off, I Was Wrong

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

I have to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for The Lovebirds I thought, “Oh no, will this be Issa Rae’s fall-off movie, her ‘Will Smith Bomb’ she mentioned in her 2018 GQ article?” That negativity was dissolved by a friend pointing out the hilarious bacon grease scene that did make me chuckle. After watching the film, I found out he was right – the combination gave me a night of favorite scenes and a few scenes that will be re-created on Tik-Tok. I recommend people watch this film and here are the reasons why. 

In order to eventually succeed, you have to bomb. That’s what every comedian says—that’s when the fear goes away. And I feel like I’m still fearful because I haven’t publicly bombed yet, in terms of my career. Yeah, Insecure is successful now, but where’s my bomb coming? Where are my Will Smith bombs coming? Where, where is that happening?”
Issa Rae (GQ  May, 22nd 2018)

Guilt Free Entertainment 

At no time did I feel uncomfortable while watching his film. (You know that feeling where you hear or see  racist jokes/stereotypes in a film so offensive you can’t ignore it?) The scenes in the film were so well written and performed I was able to enjoy myself and laugh freely. It was a good feeling and that’s the way it should be. A great example of this was a scene where Issa Rae’s character, Leilani, was explaining to Kumail Nanjiani’s character, Jibran, as they were looking at some f*ck boys (frat boys whom they were sneaking up on), and Kumail’s character had no clue what that was and was very curious to know. He wasn’t making fun of the word, he was making fun of how oblivious a person can be to terminology.

More Than Trailer Clips

Plenty comedies present hilarious trailers before the films are released just for the audience to discover that those were the only funny parts of the film. Then you think to yourself, they wasted all this money on a mess of a movie and wasted your time. Love Birds was hilarious! I found myself Steve Urkel snorting a few times, the level of funny was totally unexpected. 

I felt like Issa and Kumail fed off of each other’s performances like the Splash Brothers, Clay Thompson, and Steph Curry when they both get hot in a game. 

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

The Lovebirds Chemistry 

Yeah, I didn’t know if the chemistry between Issa and Kumail would be good in The Lovebirds. Don’t ask me why, I just didn’t. They were able to play off of each other very well during both the serious scenes and the funny scenes. They definitely showed that they both have range and adaptability. 

One of the funniest scenes is the interrogation. They interrogate one of the frat boys and it kind of reminds me of a buddy cop interrogation scene akin to Bad Boys (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith). When I tell you Kumail ain’t got no sense, y’all I mean it! 

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

Imitating life (Spoiler Alert)

From the beginning of the film, where the couple transitions from the honeymoon stage to the ‘here’s your part of the deposit ‘cause we not going to make it’ stage, I really felt. Unfortunately, my ex and I didn’t make it after being almost killed by a crooked cop, but those moments did spark some memories.

There was also a moment when Leilani was fooled by the happy couple photos another character posted on social media, making her evaluate her own struggling relationship. This is understandable because some of us have been through social media jealously, hell, some are going through it right now. 

The film releases this Friday, May 22nd, on Netflix. Make sure to add The Lovebirds to your list of films to stream. I commend Issa Rae for being on this project and making a quality rom-com about an interracial couple. I really hope that The Lovebirds has created an example (not a formula to be consistently repeated) of how diversity in film should look. 

A couple (Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme – and hilarious – circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.

19May/20
Graduate Together

Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020

The LeBron James Family Foundation, XQ Institute, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation paid tribute to high school seniors nationwide in a one-hour multimedia special event, Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, on Saturday, May 16. President Barack Obama delivered a commencement message during the historic special that also featured an impressive lineup of prominent leaders, educators, and entertainers, including LeBron James, Kevin Hart, H.E.R., Alicia Keys, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Zendaya, Liza Koshy and more. More than 40 broadcast and cable networks and online streaming channels throughout the U.S. and across the world carried the commercial-free program. The commencement special honored the more than 3 million high school seniors across the nation whose final weeks of high school, including graduation ceremonies, were postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.

President Obama said, “With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you ‘no, you’re too young to understand’ or ‘this is how it’s always been done.’ Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.”

He was also joined by several high school students who are part of the Obama Foundation’s work to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world, including seniors from Chicago Public Schools and members of the Obama Youth Jobs Corps, a program created in partnership with Urban Alliance. As part of its mission, the Obama Foundation is focused on engaging, training, and supporting the next generation of leaders to create positive change in their communities.

graduate together
LeBron James speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.0. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ)

LeBron James said, “Pursue every ambition, go as far as you possibly can dream, and be the first generation to embrace the new responsibility—a responsibility to rebuild your community. Class of 2020, the world has changed. You will determine how we rebuild, and I ask that you make your community your priority. Congratulations, Class of 2020. I love all of you. And remember one thing: you’re all kings and queens.”

Malala Yousafzai said, “The Class of 2020 won’t be defined by what we lost to this virus, but by how we responded to it. The world is yours now, and I can’t wait to see what you make of it.”

The program also highlighted some of the nation’s exceptional high schoolers working tirelessly to affect change both in their communities and on a larger scale as well as some of the country’s most influential teachers including National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, who teaches social studies and history at Virgie Binford Education Center in Richmond, Virginia.

Graduate Together
In this screengrab, Alicia Keys performs during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ)

The celebration featured specially curated performances from Grammy and Tony Award-winning artists to Billboard chart-toppers. Following a touching performance by a nationwide high school student choir singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Dua Lipa opened the show with her song “Break My Heart.” Highlights included Alicia Keys’ rendition of her song “Underdog” and “Sometimes” by H.E.R.

Additional talent who participated included Yara Shahidi, Kane Brown, Lana Condor, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, David Dobrik, Dolan Twins, Loren Gray, Chris Harrison, and Maren Morris, all of whom shared messages celebrating the Class of 2020 and their accomplishments, with hope and excitement for their collective future.

As part of the celebration, high school seniors from across the country submitted portraits to the largest-ever high school yearbook. Created by renowned artist JR and his participatory art project Inside Out, the project offers graduates a place to share their portraits and stories while making a collective statement. 

Immediately following the broadcast, TikTok hosted the official #GraduateTogether After Party, featuring DJs Kitty Cash, Brittany Sky, and Victoria Monet.

Corporate and philanthropic giving associated with #GraduateTogether will benefit DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund to help meet student needs in some of our nation’s most underserved and under-resourced communities.

18May/20
Lenny Thomas

“Ruthless” Co-Star, Lenny Thomas, Talks Tyler Perry Studios and Life during COVID-19

Actor Lenny Thomas

Lenny Thomas portrays Dikhan on Tyler Perry’s new series Ruthless. Dikhan is one of the ruthless and intimidating antagonists in the series but, as for Lenny himself, he is far from it. The New Yorker has a heart of gold and an optimistic attitude. Taji Mag was able to find out how unlike Dikhan Lenny really is in an exclusive interview during this COVID-19 crisis. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What brought you to this role? 

Lenny Thomas (LT): Thankfully my agent has a great relationship with the casting director of most of Tyler Perry’s projects. I was thrown in the mix through a self take. Mind you, during the auditing process of tv and movies, there are multiple rounds. Lucky me, I got this role off of one self-tape which still, ’til this day, blows my mind. While putting together my self-tape, my agent coached me and I sent it in. A week later, I’m on set with Tyler Perry. I’ve had some success, so I was not a stranger to hard work and diving right in and getting the job done. 

Lenny Thomas as Dikhan in Ruthless

DFF: What was your inspiration for the role?

LT: Honestly, if I didn’t have the proper guidance that I did growing up, I could have been Dikhan. Exercising the demons in my life allowed me to tap into this character. Being in the New York area, the undercurrent is kind of negative, so I pulled from dealing with that and seeing the negative characters in my life while growing up.

DDF: Dikhan is the second in command and seems ruthless, how do you think he got to this point? 

LT: Apparently, he spent some time in jail and used to be involved with numerous gangs. Decade or so time he spent in jail, something broke him. In this broken state, he met The Highest and they decided they were no longer going to be the victims of their circumstances by taking matters into their own hands, thus creating the life they currently live.  

DDF: What is it like working with Tyler Perry? 

LT: It was tough, everyone was trying to keep up with him. I have not seen a person work as hard as that man works. We barely passed a 12-hour day somehow. That is unheard of in television, usually, it’s between 12 to 16 hours in my experience. It was all inspiring too because of the people he surrounds himself with. There’s so much love in Tyler Perry Studios, I have never been on a set that had so much love and care. Everyone was taking care of each other. Also, to be unapologetically Black, I have never been around so many Black people on set in my life. It was overwhelming, so many times it was overwhelming. I was thinking to myself, “Is this my life right now, is this really happening?” 

DDF: Who have you developed a relationship with on set? 

LT: That’s a hard question because I love my castmates. There are 11 leads on the show and the people I grew closest to are Blue Kimble who plays Andrew on the show and Melissa Williams who plays Ruth Truesdale. Melissa, in particular, set the stage, she is perfect to lead the show because her heart is big. I did not notice she was the lead of the show because it was like I was shot out of a cannon into shooting the series, once I got the role. I was still working before I flew out to set, so I was playing catch up the whole time.  When I met her I was like, you are unusually nice to me. I’m not used to this, I mean I’m from New York, we don’t treat each other like this.

 

DDF: What is the best acting advice you have received and who gave it to you?

LT: Best acting advice was from Risa Garcia. She has an acting podcast and is also an acting teacher/casting director. Her advice just blew my mind, it makes life worth living honestly. She says to her students, “When you get these jobs that you’ve been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is after you have some power, then you should empower somebody else. This is not just a grab bag candy game.” That wisdom really speaks to the person I am going to be for the rest of my life. 

DDF: What director would you like to work with next? 

LT: Steve McQueen! I would love to work with him. He got on my radar with his movie starring Micheal Fassbender called Shame. He just seems like an actors director. 

DDF: How has life been during COVID-19?

LT: I turned myself into an introvert years before this happened so staying inside, has not been a problem. The beautiful thing is, before I booked Ruthless, I was going through a breakup and my life was seemingly falling apart. Then, all of a sudden, the Ruthless opportunity comes along and it was like a defibrillator was used on my life. My lady and I started to reconcile and said we would start to build this life together. We unsuccessfully tried to reconcile before but I didn’t have the tools for it. Now I do. 

Social distancing has been cool, we have spent several weeks in the apartment and we have been more connected than before. I’m not missing outside. I’m not missing a thing. I want to do my part and make sure no one gets infected by my doing. I’m curious to see how life is going to change but I am hopeful for the future. 

As I was watching the first part of the show Ruthless, I developed a disdain for the Dihkan character and was ready to fight him myself. Luckily he is only a character on the show, so I guess you can say Lenny has done a great job at portraying this role. Check it out for yourself! 

Tyler Perry’s Ruthless,” a spin-off of the hit television series “Tyler Perry’s The Oval,” tells the riveting story of a woman named Ruth who kidnaps her young daughter to join her in the dark underworld of a fanatical religious cult. “Tyler Perry’s Ruthless stars Melissa L. WilliamsMatt CedeñoLenny D. Thomas, Yvonne Senat JonesBaadja-Lyne Odums, Jaime Callica, Nirine S. BrownBlue Kimble, Stephanie CharlesHervé Clermont, Anthony Bless, and Bobbi Baker.

Watch Ruthless on BET and Amazon Prime.

17May/20

Inconvenienced, not Oppressed

Years ago, there was a hashtag called #FirstWorldProblems. It showed the entitlement of mostly Americans. For example, there would be a picture of a person in agony as if they were experiencing severe grief or pain. The caption above the picture would read, “When you can’t get WI-FI throughout the house and want to game.” It shouted privilege and entitlement.

Now, entitlement has risen again in the midst of this pandemic, but sadly it’s not online. It is in real-life. Entitlement shines like a raggedy lace front. Others are watching baffled while the person wearing it doesn’t realize they look a hot mess. What really burns my grits with this display of collective whining is the use of the words “oppression” and “freedom.”

They aren’t oppressed. Their freedoms haven’t been removed. They are inconvenienced!

via the Milwaukee Independent

As a Black Southern woman, when I hear oppression I imagine the life of my ancestors. I don’t have to go too far back in time because my mom grew up during the Civil Rights Era. My grandparents grew up in the Jim Crow era. Seeing as I did an ancestry test and have a small percentage of European DNA in my veins, it’s suggested that one of my great-grandmothers was given no other choice but to lie down with a man that had power over her. Have you seen some of the things that enslaved Africans around the world had to endure? Does your paper thin mask bring you as much pain as an iron bit, pronged collar, and shackles?

They aren’t oppressed. Their freedoms haven’t been removed. They are inconvenienced!

As a Marine veteran, I think about my last deployment. While deployed to Iraq, I would see Muslim women with their faces fully covered. Their faces were fully covered and it was over 110 degrees in the desert! Some Muslim women in the Middle East make a choice to cover and some obey the wishes of their husband to avoid torture. This extreme display of patriarchy exists in other countries resulting in the policing and managing of women’s body. Have you seen some of the issues trending in the Middle East and Africa? Does your inability to not get a haircut bring you as much pain as genital mutilation?

They aren’t oppressed. Their freedoms haven’t been removed. They are inconvenienced!

The irony of these whiners is they often tell other people to get over it and pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Yet, they are angrily protesting keeping six feet of distance, having less than 10 in a group, cancelled concerts, and no haircuts – THIS oppresses them. I’m convinced that many of these people are toxic, damaged, and/or hateful on the inside. They are forced to spend time with themselves and now are realizing how harmful they truly are. Their own nefarious energy is eating away at them but, rather than look inward, they point a finger at a person or group of people, not acknowledging the true definition of oppression or freedom stricken. Not realizing the irony that they are oppressing others and removing their freedoms. Only because of an inconvenience…

Featured Photograph: Seth Herald/Reuters

Breonna

I Couldn’t Save Breonna

How do I even start an article like this? I want to write something that gives us hope and makes me think I can raise my seven-year-old safely, but that doesn’t feel genuine. My mind frantically darts back and forth between advice I’ve gotten over the years about surviving and staying safe as a Black woman.

Be quiet. Go to school. Don’t get pregnant. Get a good job. Keep your hands in plain sight. Don’t talk back. Be polite. Hands up. Try not to upset them.

But has any of that ever kept us safe? Is there something different I can do to be less of a target? Could Breonna have done anything differently? 

A couple of years ago, before I moved back to Louisville, I was living in Oakland. A young Black girl named Nia Wilson was brutally murdered by an apparent white supremacist in broad daylight. She and her sisters were at the MacArthur BART train station when a white man named John Lee Cowell stabbed her and her sister. Of course, they said he was mentally unstable because white men are never guilty in the eyes of the law. Just like the three white officers who gunned down Breonna have been living their best lives over the last two months. 

It doesn’t matter how many accolades and awards and assets we acquire. At the end of the day, the mayor and the governor and the president and your good white friend at work will still take pride in doing the bare minimum. Police will continue to act with impunity because the destruction of Black life is incentivized. I keep seeing people post about the system being broken, but it seems to be functioning effectively. We cannot acknowledge the inception of international chattel slavery, while in the same breath express our disappointment in the system seeming to be broken. White supremacy is operating exactly as it was designed to operate. It is a tempered genocide that kills just enough of us to keep us subservient while not exterminating too many so that the means of free and cheap and easily exploitable labor can keep on pushing.

Am I wrong?

Am I next?

While Mayor Fischer approved a budget that would make him look good and while Attorney General Daniel Camron strategized about how to sue the governor for keeping the state closed for safety during a pandemic, Breonna’s killers were getting paid. 

Breonna Taylor’s job was to save lives. She was an EMT. She was just at home. Most of us are just at home. Police–without cause or a warrant or any concern for a Black life–forced themselves into her home to take her life. Think of how many times you have crossed through the frame of your door, relieved to at least be temporarily shielded from little side comments about your hair or nails. I know I feel safer when I walk in the front door and don’t have to worry about flashing lights. My house is BBQ-Becky and Permit Patty free. Our homes are supposed to offer some reprieve from the constant assault on our minds, bodies, and spirit.

I tense up when I see the police. I feel disgusting inside when they smile at me and try to high five my son. There is an eerily pervasive unspoken truth. They know we can’t do anything in those moments. Our own people may speak out against us in the hopes that it will bring them closer to the safe negro archetype. Without big college words, I just have to say point-blank-period that I am tired of this shit. And I can’t even save myself, so how could I save anyone else?

My expression of joy in the midst of this ongoing war feels like a betrayal to women like Breonna who have been slain for the sake of white supremacy. Free financial coaching classes didn’t do shit to save Breonna. Showing up to work on time with a smile on my face despite my pain ain’t stop bullets from ripping through her body in her own home.

I can’t save Breonna because she is already gone.

And I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault. The police pulled the trigger, but I was focused, with my head down, trying not to be a target. What does any of my success mean if I can’t keep my people safe? I keep seeing her face in front of a Louisville Metro sign. My timeline oscillates between stories of her death and quarantine games. No shade to any of my friends because that was me too. I don’t fault anyone for posting about birthdays and graduation, no I am not mad at my people for finding cause for celebration.

Instead, I am ashamed of the white folks who exist in ignorant bliss, adjacent to our suffering. The ones who continue zoom meetings without any notion of what it means to have to live in fear and still file your paperwork on time. I continue to be disappointed by our government officials who have not put the full force of their dollars behind the efforts to get justice for Breonna’s family. 

She died in her home.

Breonna should be alive.

Now, I am left to wonder what I should do. Hell, what can I do? I will end this with the family’s demands as guidance for how we should respond.

1. Demand the Mayor and City Council address the use of force by LMPD.

2. Fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna. Arrest, charge, and convict them for this crime.

3. Provide all necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council #CPAC.

4. Create policies for transparent investigation processes due to law enforcement misconduct. 

5. Drop all charges for Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, who attempted to defend them and their home.

6. Release the 911 call to the public for accountability.

By request of the family and local organizers, please do not add additional demands that have not been confirmed by the family.

  • POST about Breonna, using the hashtags #BreonnaTaylor and #JusticeForBre. Her story has yet to receive the national attention it must to cause local systems to respond. Share her story, images of her smiling face, and tag the responsible parties. On Twitter, use @LMPD, @LouisvilleMayor, and @GovAndyBeshear. On Instagram, use @LMPD.ky, @MayorGregFischer, and @GovAndyBeshear. We can not stop until she receives a response.
  • MAKE CALLS  & SEND EMAILS for Breonna to the investigative agencies, institutions and individuals in charge and make the demands known!
Mayor Greg Fischer(502) 574-2003[email protected]
Commonwealth’s Atty Thomas Wine[email protected]
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad(502) 574-7660
Kentucky Gov. Andy Breshear(502) 564-2611
Atty General Daniel Cameron(502) 696-5300[email protected]

Featured Image Artwork by shirien.