18Sep/20

Virtual 51st Annual Af-Am Day Parade Happening This Sunday

The African American Day Parade, Inc. (AADP), one of the largest and oldest parades of Black American culture, will virtually host the 51st Annual African American Day Parade on Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 12pm. It will be hosted live across Facebook, Youtube, our website homepage, and Scratchvision. The 51st annual parade will honor individuals and organizations that have made key contributions to the African American Community through Business as this year’s parade theme is “A Tribute to Black Business”.

Sponsors of this year’s parade include Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), WBLS, TWU Local 100, Scratchvision, the National Association of Black Accountants, and Mech Multimedia Agency. “We are excited to virtually celebrate Black culture,” exclaims AADP Chairman and Board Certified Chaplain at MSKCC, Yusuf Hasan. “For over 50 years, this parade has served as a vital platform for showcasing our heritage and history from our perspective. We feel it is extremely important to continue in this legacy as it uplifts our people.”

Details
The African American Day Parade, Inc. (AADP) will host the 51st Annual African American Day Parade Virtually
Sunday, September 20, 2020, at 12pm
Tune in via: AADP website, Scratchvision TV),
FaceBook Live, YouTube Live

18Sep/20

BAM partners with Rambert Dance Company to present the real-time, live-stream world premiere of Wim Vandekeybus’ Draw From Within, Sep 26

Photos by Camilla Greenwell

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) partners with Rambert Dance Company to present the forthcoming real-time, live-stream world premiere performances of Wim Vandekeybus’ Draw From Within. The show will be streamed direct from Rambert’s London studios and performed across time zones for international audiences. The newly commissioned production is currently underway and is being created while adhering to the latest UK health guidelines to ensure the company’s safety. Using all of the company’s spaces from the loading bay to the studios to the corridors and even the roof, Draw From Within will be performed live in the Rambert building and streamed in real-time to ticketed audiences around the world. The new work will be broadcast to NYC audiences via Rambert’s new cross-platform web application Rambert Home Studio at 8 pm EST on September 26, 2020. Live performances are also scheduled for audiences in Seoul, South Korea on September 24 and the UK on September 25.

World-renowned Belgian choreographer and filmmaker Wim Vandekeybus has brought the prestigious UK company back to life after lockdown and transformed its state-of-the-art studios on London’s Southbank into a fantastical world. Taking viewers on a surreal and exhilarating odyssey, the experience will be an assault on the senses akin to being within the piece itself. Set to a heady and eclectic soundtrack and featuring Rambert’s awe-inspiring company of dancers, Draw From Within promises to make an impactful mark on the fast-developing digitally-driven cultural landscape.

Photos by Camilla Greenwell

To support the performing arts economy at large, Rambert is encouraging audiences around the world to support their local partnering institution or theater through their ticket purchase for Draw From Within.

Tickets are $13 and go on sale Tuesday, September 15 on BAM.org.

BAM Members will have access to a special pre-show discussion and Q&A with Rambert’s Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer and BAM’s Charmaine Warren, included in the ticket price.

18Sep/20

Ancestral Lament – a Photo Story

A warrior goddess escaping to find peace in memories of her tribe in the midst of the present-day chaos.

Photographer: Chante Ramsey, VySyn Photography
Model: Toni Faith
Make-up: Jessica Wilson
Headwrap: Danielle Moore
Concept: Chante Ramsey, VySyn Photography
Location: Central Park (formerly Seneca Village)

14Sep/20

Lack of Love

Love is rooted deeply in the Black soul. Go back to history — Black enslaved mothers cut the throat of their own to spare them the pain and torture of the unknown journey. Most call that savage but eternal love for someone enough to protect their body from ugliness, hardship, and brutality sounds similar to Black culture.

The most intense display of modern love from a Black mother I’ve encountered was on Instagram. There was an imprisoned woman defending her case to a white judge about why she killed her child. The mother was retelling the horrendous and explicit story of molestation her youngest child endured. As this distressed mother spoke about the excruciating details to the unsympathetic judge, the woman was treated as a typical case in the Supreme Court. 

I will spare the details of sodomy, dishonesty, and betrayal but I will discuss the love this mother felt for her defenseless youngest. As the judge demanded reasons for her crimes, she stated over and over that she was simply “showing the boy how it felt.” This woman was referring to inflicting the same torment her youngest felt on her oldest son. Every evil driven deed the mother found out she foisted, her personal karma. 

White patriarchal standards of living in the United States has bred a group of overworked, stressed, money starved, and often unfocused single mothers. When a mother as such is put in a predicament to choose between providing or giving up rights to her family, the answer is evident. As the epigram in the Black community goes “you make do”, which is exactly how the older child, in this case, took advantage. 

Entrusting the responsibility of the youngest to older siblings is usually a struggling parents’ only option. When a mother’s faith does not protect her youngest she feels incompetent. This mother passionately talked about how she wanted her son to feel her baby’s pain and how she wished she knew. The more dark corners this story took the more this mother talked about the disdain and hatred for her eldest children. As one performed the unthinkable crimes the other sat back with the knowledge and heedless attitude. The lack of vigilance and literal deadly actions of her kids drove her to hate, to murder. 

I speak of this mother because she is a representation of another communal vernacular – “working to the bone.” The long hours spent at a low wage job to provide for her children when she should have been raising and nurturing or had the financial means to have an adult watch over them caused her the opportunity to raise them indefinitely. This mother now joins other Black women who have been thrown into the prison pipeline system that is funds focused as opposed to rehabilitation focused. The way the Black woman loves is through action. When that mother lost her competency and her youngest baby to one of her own, she snapped. Patriarchal burden trounces Black love, again.

09Sep/20

New Series, Woke, Reminds Me of That One Friend Everybody Has

Woke — “Rhymes with Broke” – Episode 101 — When up-and-coming cartoonist Keef Knight has a traumatic run-in with the police, he begins to see the world in an entirely new way. Keef (Lamorne Morris), shown. (Photo by: Joe Lederer/Hulu)

SYNOPSIS: Inspired by the life and work of artist Keith Knight, comedy series, Woke, takes an absurdly irreverent look at identity and culture as it follows Keef, an African-American cartoonist finally on the verge of mainstream success when an unexpected incident changes everything. With a fresh outlook on the world around him, Keef must now navigate the new voices and ideas that confront and challenge him, all without setting aflame everything he’s already built.

Funny, relatable, timely, and entertaining are the words I use to describe the new comedy Woke from Hulu. I had an interest in the concept once I saw the trailer, but after watching a few episodes I can easily say Woke is worth viewing. The series is fitting for people who understand what it means to be woke and for those people who haven’t had their third eye open. Do you ever wonder why some Black people you know don’t understand why Black Lives Matter until they are racially profiled? The series Woke gives perspective on what it may look like and I am glad it exists! Here are a few reasons why!

Acting A Fool

From Lamorne Morris (BLOODSHOT, New Girl, who portrays the blissfully ignorant protagonist, Keef) to the voice-over talents of J.B. Smoove, the series has likable characters. I’m not going to lie, Keef made me call him an asshole like 5 times in my head. Of course, that is until he gets a dose of reality after the police basically assault him. I really like the way Keef is taken from an “it’s not my fight mentality” to “I have a talent and a voice I can use to fight racial injustice”. We’ve seen this narrative too many times with successful Black people. You know… the same Black people that distance themselves from Black culture but want back up when they have been discriminated against. 

The topics and concepts within the series are definitely relatable – like people advocating for animal rights more than human rights or white people asking you about Kanye or reparations at a social mixer. All of it made me shake my head but really connected me with Keef. There are some good examples the show uses about securing the bag and remaining true to yourself. The John Legend reference was particularly intriguing and it really made me think, “You know, John Legend might’ve done that!”

Clovis (T. Murph) and Gunther (Blake Anderson). (Photo by: Joe Lederer/Hulu)

We All Have That One Friend

The friends of Keef, Clovis (T.Murph) and Gunther (Blake Anderson), both remind me of the friends that pretty much every Black person has. Clovis is the friend who always has your back, keeps you in check, and does what he can for one night stands. I found the character’s social awareness and psychology of people almost academic yet he is unable to use it to fix his own personal issues. 

Gunther is the white friend who is down to support Black people. He had me rolling at the time Keef was being arrested by the police. I like the fact that the writers didn’t have him appropriating Black culture and just made him a cool human being.  

Ayana, played by Sasheer Zamata, is the Black editor for the local magazine. She is a good associate and, hopefully, a friend in the series that won’t allow Keef to escape this reality for his own good. 

All of these characters are compelling and have very interesting character flaws that I can’t wait to see how they deal with.

Woke, Not For Cartoon Network

Ok, I know shows that consist of animation and live-action can sometimes be a little corny – ok some are corny as hell – but Woke is straight-up hilarious and for adults only. Much kudos to the casting director for choosing Black comedians to voice the animated characters, especially J.B. Smoove voicing the Marker character, who serves as Keef’s conscious. No matter how big the voice-over role, Smoove is always a standout and always funny. Comedy legend Cedric the Entertainer, Sam Richardson, David Keith, Nicole Byer, and veteran Eddie Griffith all made voice-over appearances that had me dying laughing. I am curious to see what other celebrities will appear as guest voiceovers. My hope is Samuel Jackson makes a guest voice cameo.

Given the emotional/mental stress many of us may have during this time of the pandemic and racial injustice, Woke is the perfect series to escape with laughter. I recommend adding Woke to your list of series to watch on Hulu

Woke — Inspired by the life and work of artist Keith Knight, comedy series Woke takes an absurdly irreverent look at identity and culture as it follows Keef, an African-American cartoonist finally on the verge of mainstream success when an unexpected incident changes everything. With a fresh outlook on the world around him, Keef must now navigate the new voices and ideas that confront and challenge him, all without setting aflame everything he’s already built. (Key Art Courtesy of Hulu)
01Sep/20
Potty Break

Potty Break Speaks to the Soul of Women Restroom Convos

SYNOPSIS: Everyone wants to know why women go to the bathroom together. Welcome to Potty Break where we show you why. This is a wild/raw/comedic journey of two aging party girls who tackle serious situations while looking for love and/or meaning in a shallow and NYC party scene. Starring Toni Thai Sterrett and Donna Augustin-Quinn.

Potty Break is a hilarious series from Toni Thai Sterrett who wore multiple hats to see it to come to fruition – writer, director, producer, songwriter, lead actress. Toni gave us some insight into Potty Break’s core.

Taji Mag (TM): What spawned the concept for Potty Break?

Toni Thai Sterrett

Toni Thai Sterrett (TTS): A few things spawned the concept. One was the idea of the bathroom being a sacred space for women. When you want to have a private cry in a professional setting, bathroom. You want to take a bath to soak a hard day away, bathroom. And for some of us who have wacky periods, we can spend a lot of time in the bathroom just sitting there, enjoying the comfort of just sitting there. LOL. Even moms sometimes use the bathroom to escape their children. But last but not least, the bathroom is where women congregate. In clubs, bars, restaurants, etc. People always want to know why we go to the bathroom together so I used this as an opportunity to show them.  

TM: There are so many important discussions addressed in the series. What are some that are most important to you?

TTS: For me, the most important discussions addressed in the series are 1. Men’s mistreatment of women. In the “To Dump A Predator” episode, I compare men who take advantage of vulnerable women to child molesters. It’s the same thing. Misusing your power over someone who is trusting and vulnerable. 2. Colorism. I know for a fact that my complexion has opened (fake) doors for me and gotten me in certain rooms. I also know that it tends to attract certain types of men and I’m not going to sit up here and gaslight Darker-skinned black women by saying the thing is not a thing. I want to air this shit out and help my chocolate sisters heal from the bullshit. 3. We talk about dating outside of your race. It’s important to me that Black women open their minds up. Yes, most of us want a Black man but we can’t cry racism then turn our noses up to a man from another culture who wants to get to know and love us. Not fetishize you, but love you. They are out there. I mean have your preference but be open to what God has for you. He just might be from Korea. IJS. 🙂

TM: Centering Black women is obviously important in the series but it appears that so was flipping stereotypes. What were your thoughts behind Kandi Kream Kane as well as Adrienne and Taylor’s characters?

Santana Caress as “Kandi Kream Kane” with Toni & Donna in Potty Break

TTS: Kandi Kream Kane is important because she is a sex worker. A porn star. So we judge and look down on pornstars but the porn industry is booming. So the same people talking shit, are secretly indulging. That’s crazy to me. I believe Pornstars serve an important function in society. It’s stress relief, acne prevention (you have to watch), educational, and probably even Rape prevention. I hate to say that but I feel it’s true. As far as Adrienne (Black) and Taylor (White), I wanted to show that there can be a sisterhood between Black and white women. Also, I wanted to show that the Black girl isn’t always the hanger-on and plus one. She was the one from money that exposed the white girl to the club culture and excess. I love those episodes. They are so fun and the ladies are amazing. 

TM: Who would you love to make a cameo on Potty Break?

TTS: Dave Chapelle for sure. I just think he’s one of the most brilliant minds we have in our culture. He’s funny, smart, honest and he challenges his audience which I love and I set out to do in my own work. He also curates an amazing, positive, kind group of people in real life around him which I think says a lot about him. I know he’d probably be smoking a cigarette in the scene, which I hate, but I’d let it slide, I’d even write that in!

TM: I loved everything about the series except the concept of you all sitting on a bare toilet in a public restroom lol, would you consider including an episode that addresses those of us with OCD and how we maneuver through these same girl chats “without touching anything”?

TTS: Thank you. and OK, so full disclosure, that was a fuck up. The first time we shot it, I was doing the squat thing my mom taught me as a little girl but let me tell you, I was so overwhelmed with all the hats I wore on set that I honestly just forgot. That’s why it’s important that you have someone covering your blind spots when you are writing and directing. In Santana’s episode, She actually lined that seat with toilet paper first but our editor cut it out for timing. Looking back, we should’ve left that in. I love that you bring that up and we need to address that in future eps because that would never happen. 

TM: I enjoyed how every episode zones in on the conversations and builds character development without ever having to leave the restroom. Would you consider expanding the Potty Break episodes to other 1 location stories?

TTS: Oh absolutely. And thank you for that. You know, the possibilities are endless and when you have limited resources and time/budget, you have to be really creative. I love that. We are working on different ways to flip it so stay tuned. 

TM: Are you planning on future seasons?

TTS: Yes, because of the current climate, we are working on new ways to tell our stories. Obviously, clubs are closed so we have to flip it and are working on that now. 

TM: What else do you have in the works?

TTS: So we actually have a theme song for Potty Break that I wrote and performed called “Queen Of The Club” so we will be promoting that soon. We are also in talks to do an entire mixtape. In addition to that, we are in talks to do a podcast to dig in deeper on the serious themes that we tackle in Potty Break

Watch Potty Break on YouTube now and get in on the conversation!

29Aug/20

Tenet is a Time Traveling, Thought Provoking, Espionage Thriller

Four months… it’s been four months since I have been to a movie theater because of COVID-19. I used hella bleach wipes on my seat before I sat down but it was worth seeing Tenet at a press screening, especially because it was in IMAX® and there were like 6 people in the theater. The director used utilized a mixture of IMAX® and 70mm film to bring the story to life so it only made sense to watch the film in its intended form. After viewing Tenet, I understand why the studio pushed to show Tenet in its truest form.

Visually stunning and action-packed is how I describe the first act Tenet and, given its director, I expected nothing less. It was cool following the Protagonist (yep, that’s the lead character’s name!), played by John David Washington, as he stealthily took out the opposition to reach his target. Angles in which these are shot are done artfully and the perspectives felt very immersive.  It was like experiencing virtual reality without the glasses.

“The movie challenges our traditional ways of interpreting time, interpreting what we perceive is real, our learned behaviors.”

John David Washington

The second act provided some great action scenes, especially when the Protagonist and his partner use a contraption to scale up a wall. It was a bit exciting, something I would not do and I am sure Jonathan David Washington didn’t do either. If he did, no doubt he’s a badass. I feel at this point in the film the audience starts to grow with the Protagonist as he leans into this new role as a spy, using his military training. It’s funny because there is a part of the film where the Protagonist meets an informant and he mentions that to pull off his portrayal of a wealthy client he would have to wear better clothing than the Brooks Brothers brand.

“We’re all a little bit obsessed with time, aren’t we? It’s something that, whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever your life experience is, you know you can’t do anything about it. It rules you. I can’t really speak for Chris, but that’s my perspective on it. It’s interesting because, given the fact that time is universal, it’s also something that you feel very subjectively: you know, kids feel time very differently from adults. I feel like it’s speeding up immeasurably. And then, during this pandemic, our perception of time has been a whole other thing…days have felt like weeks and months have felt like minutes. It’s been very weird.”

– John David Washington

I have to be honest, the third and fourth act had me at the edge of my seat. Seeing the Protagonist have to make timely choices to save the world and save a life was exciting. The film became trippy once I got to see how the inversion world works. I finally understand why the characters were heavily featured on the movie posters and trailers wearing masks. The inversion world deprives you of oxygen and causes crazy reactions like being caught on fire causes you to then suffer from hyperthermia. 

It was also interesting how Johnathan’s character tried to change the timeline but had to understand the grandfather paradox before he did anything. The explanation of it and inversion can make you get lost in your thoughts. I found myself getting lost in the information abyss trying to understand the concept after I watched the film. Per the dictionary, the grandfather paradox is defined as a causality paradox speculated about in theories of time-travel in which traveling back in time would allow one to alter the conditions at the earlier time in such a way as to make current conditions impossible, as by causing the death of one’s grandfather, making one’s very existence impossible.

The climax war scene was intense! I was rooting for Jonathan and his team to stop the antagonist from killing himself and the world. That scene reminded me of the Co-op missions on Halo 4 – I know, I haven’t played video games in a minute. The visual effects were on point during this war scene, people and things going backward as our heroes try to thwart the plans of the villain. 

I enjoyed the film, the storyline had a dope plot twist that made me want to see more of this world and I wondered what the other timelines looked like. There were also some intense moments where I could hear and see that John was Denzel Washington’s son. Some of the film’s viewers will also have to google words like inversion and grandfather paradox to understand more of how the science of the film worked… or maybe it was just me. Anyway, Tenet is the action, espionage, sci-fi film I’ve been looking for. It was refreshing to see a film that was more entertaining than cliche.

26Aug/20

Mr. SOUL!’s Premiere Virtual Kickback Will Be Hosted By Actress/Comedian Amanda Seales

From left to right: Actress Amanda Seales, filmmaker Melissa Haizlip; actor and Executive Producer Blair Underwood; legendary director/producer Stan Lathan (who also appears in the film); Grammy® winner and the film’s composer Robert Glasper; award-winning writer, poet, and activist Nikki Giovanni; award-winning poets/musicians The Last Poets and Felipe Luciano; the R&B group Black Ivory;  and the iconic author, poet, and professor Sonia Sanchez. 

Mr. SOUL! is a documentary chronicling the development and eventual end of the Black variety show SOUL! featuring Black artists and entertainers alike. Ellis Hazlip, the brainchild of SOUL!, is shown to be a visionary ahead of his time. SOUL! was celebrated and considered to be America’s first “Black Tonight Show”. Before Oprah, before Arsenio Hall, there was Ellis Hazlip aka Mr. SOUL! Coincidentally, the show did feature a teenage Arsenio Hall as a guest. 

To celebrate the documentary’s premiere, Amanda Seales will host a virtual kickback Sunday, August 30th at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET online with a bevy of known creatives, artists, and entertainers. The following guests are scheduled to appear: Filmmaker Melissa Haizlip; actor and Executive Producer Blair Underwood; legendary director/producer Stan Lathan (who also appears in the film); Grammy® winner and the film’s composer Robert Glasper; award-winning writer, poet, and activist Nikki Giovanni; award-winning poets/musicians The Last Poets and Felipe Luciano; the R&B group Black Ivory;  and the iconic author, poet, and professor Sonia Sanchez.

“Our Mr. SOUL! PREMIERE KICKBACK will be just like a re-creation of the SOUL! show for a new audience, with these amazing guests in conversation with Amanda Seales. Amanda will moderate a conversation with both artists from the film and the original series, to talk about the cultural impact of SOUL! and its special guests, like James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, and the legacy of Ellis Haizlip and SOUL! for a millennial audience,” says the film’s director Melissa Haizlip.

Mr. Soul will premiere this Friday, August 28th at over 60 theaters across the country in the virtual cinema space. The film premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival where it was gained much support and has won 17 awards, including; the International Documentary Association (IDA) Best Music Documentary, AFI Docs Audience Award, and Woodstock Best Documentary. 

The tickets to the star-studded virtual kickback are part of the MR.SOUL! ticket package which can be be purchased here. The event promises to be a recreated experience from the SOUL! television experience show with tons of entertainment. 

Mr. SOUL! is directed, written, and produced by Melissa Haizlip, featuring music composed and performed by Grammy® winning musician/composer Robert Glasper, with the voice of Ellis Haizlip by Grammy® / Emmy® winner Blair Underwood – one of the film’s Executive Producers. The virtual cinema release run is presented together by Shoes In The Bed Productions and Open Your Eyes & Think MF.

16Aug/20

Lovecraft Country: Is Racism Scarier Than Ghosts, Monsters, and Witches?

SYNOPSIS: HBO’s new drama series, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia “Leti” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.

If you love 80’s movie nostalgia and horror-themed shows like Tales From the Crypt and Underground, this is the series for you. Showrunner and creator of Underground, Misha Green, brings all of these elements together in the new HBO MAX series Lovecraft Country. Me being a horror buff and a supporter of the various creatives involved (i.e. Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Jonathan Major, Jordan Peele, etc.), I had to check it out and satisfy my pallet for a Black horror series. Added bonus, the series showrunner is a Black woman, something not common in Hollywood. 

Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollet-Bell
Photo courtesy of Warner Media

The Horror of Lovecraft Country

While watching the characters interact with the world around them, I wondered if racism in the 1950s was scarier than the ghosts and monsters? I saw the terrifying look Black characters had when they were being questioned by white police officers and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between those moments and the moments when they encountered a monster.

I asked actress, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, which was scarier, racism in the 1950s or monsters, ghosts, and witches? She replied, “With the Monsters, what you see is what you get. You kind of know what to expect? It’s pure danger. You do whatever you can to escape, otherwise you’re screwed. With systemic racism, which is what this country has been built upon and has yet to dismantle, it’s more horrifying because it’s more nuanced. You have to fight it at every single step of your life. In the pursuit of your happiness, whether it’s purchasing a home and fight against the redlining and housing discrimination in the 1950s, not being able to get a loan from a bank if you wanted to purchase in a certain neighborhood, driving while Black, trying to apply for a job at a local store. It’s actually more oppressive and terrifying to me because you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know when it’s coming.”   

I can definitely see the Jordan Peele influence – using racism as a horror element. Showrunner, Misha Green, mentions in her Warner Media interview how much influence Jordan Peele had stating, “When we were working on Lovecraft – he was doing the film Us at the time – we talked a lot about our shared belief regarding horror, which is: You need the metaphor. I’d played with that on ‘Underground’; that it was a heist movie but set in slavery times.” 

Actor Jonathan Majors also noted Jordan Peele’s influence. “This series shows we as Black people contain multitudes. We have all these things inside of us. We know that horror is a part of our life, we know Afrofuturism is just our imagination. It gives us permission to move into any genre we want. I was surprised that Jordan Peele took Black bodies and put them into a horror genre and expanded the scope.”

Jurnee Smollet-Bell
photo courtesy of Warner Media

Tic and Leti

The series lead protagonist, Atticus Aka Tic, is played by actor Jonathan Majors. The character has a love for books and a protector mentality – an extremely compelling character. Starting off as a nerdy kid with glasses who transformed into a courageous young man, I wanted to see more background of his transition into manhood. I discovered Majors had researched his role by reading various authors, some of whom are mentioned in the series. When Atticus is introduced, he’s seen reading a book and even mentions his love for books. I ask Majors if he had to survive in a mansion filled with ghosts and monsters what historical black figure would he choose to be with him? He responded, “Fredrick Douglas and Nat Turner because, in this type of scenario, we have to do a trio. Like Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. It would be me, Frederick Douglas, because he has the brains and Nat Turner because he’s a fighter! Go homeboy Nat!”  

Leti is a very amiable character. Her confidence, charisma, and charm had my attention every time she was on screen. She embodies the strength of strong female Black lead actresses from that time period. Smollet-Bell explained the inspiration for the character came from her grandmother, whom she never got to meet. “My grandmother’s nickname was Showtime! I grew up hearing the stories about her being a single mother, raising four kids, and being so mistreated by white folks whom she cleaned the house for. Yet they could not rob her of her dignity!” Smollet-Bell also read prominent writers like James Baldwin and Gwendalyn Brooks to research for the role. She mentioned her search to find the fire inside Eartha Kitt to bring life to her character Letitia and it shows. 

Misha and the Music

One of the elements that set the tone of each scene was the amazing soundtrack. I found myself lured in the various songs and speeches that really give the series life. In my head, I thought, “Yeah we needed to have a Black showrunner in charge of this show because this soundtrack is dope and engaging.” Being a music, tv, and film lover, I was definitely satisfied having all those boxes checked off in one project. Especially when artists like Moses Sumney, Leon Bridges, and Black opera singer, Marian Anderson, play throughout the course of the series. 

When asked about the soundtrack selection, Misha Green explained, “Joe Pokaski and I used to talk about how do we pull the slavery portrait off the museum wall and evolve the story beyond, ‘Look at how bad slavery was’? One way was by using more vibrant camera movements; the other was through using modern music. I wanted to build on that in Lovecraft and also integrate ‘found audio’ into the score. For example, in the opening, we use voiceover from [the 1950 film] ‘The Jackie Robinson Story.’ Later we have [Ntozake Shange’s 1975 poem] For Colored Girls and [poet, Gil Scott-Heron’s] Whitey on the Moon. I love the idea of taking our show ‘out of time.’ It’s the past, present, and future. How do we wrap all of that into a unique soundscape? We want the show to be full-sensory, engaging, and have people learn from it without having to learn from it. My favorite learning experiences are immersive; those that make me re-think what I know as opposed to ‘here’s some bad history.’ How can we immerse the viewer even further? I love when I have revelations two weeks after the fact where I’m like, ‘Oh wow, ok.’”

The horror-themed time period piece, Lovecraft Country, it is in a league of its own – providing a world where fear is a theme defined in many ways and in some cases relatable. Is racism scarier than monsters, witches, and ghosts? Check out the series Lovecraft Country August 16th on HBO Max at 9pm and you can decide…

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is executive produced by Misha Green, who also serves as showrunner, Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams.