07Jun/21

Building Confidence Through Travel

I’ve learned my share of things the hard way.  I’ve also learned a thing or two from incredibly enjoyable first-hand experiences. One of my favorites of those lessons happens to be discovering how much I’ve grown. The greatest teacher of those lessons has to be travel. 

One of my favorite sayings is “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Before I started paying attention to my experience of myself while traveling, I only brought home memories, photos, souvenirs and a tan. The more times I told a travel story, the more I started to see how I was changing as much as my scenery. I found that I was less anxious (not to be confused with anxiety-free) about not knowing what was going to come next in uncertain situations back home because I’d figured out what to do when my first solo trip out of the country got canceled the morning of. I realized that I can speak up simply when I’m displeased with something and not just when there’s a major problem because I was successfully upgraded after expressing my dissatisfaction in Costa Rica. I realized the power of my words when the creative collaborations and warm connections I expressly declared I wanted manifested in Colombia. 

Now, I can’t say that any of these lessons are exclusive to travel. I can absolutely see how similar scenarios could happen at home. However, these are lessons I was able to see more clearly because they were framed with the excitement of travel! I constantly had a reason to think about the environment and situations they were created in. We relive and reminisce about travel frequently, but how often do you reflect on who you were before said trip?  When was the last time you asked yourself who you were while abroad? 

I’ve made it a practice to consistently check in with myself while traveling.  I take an audit of the major discomforts and concerns I’m dealing with at the time and do my best to look at them from the perspective of making some good of it all.  Something about “vacation mode” has me willing to see the brighter side of so many dim corners. I invite you to travel intentionally and take inventory of ALL the gifts you bring home. 

For stories and resources on how you can travel more intentionally, visit travelnshitpodcast.com.

07Jun/21

The Childhood Challenge

In the Age of the Challenge, our children deserve to be victorious.

Every day there is a new challenge popping up on the internet via social media and our children are rising to engage in them. I see melanated youth engaged in TikTok dances, making slime on YouTube, pranking one another. 

Let’s observe these phenomena objectively. Children who have access to social media observe an image or video and the defined challenge associated with it. They proceed to record themselves engaged in the challenge for others to see and the cycle continues. Obviously, this phenomenon is not exclusive to the melanated child, but I aim to shed light on the possible effects and propose a new challenge. The desired outcome is fun and, sometimes to go viral, gain more followers, etc. 

Our children are ancestors returned and although they are not the only ones on these challenges, I wonder what they are winning if they rise to every challenge that is brought about through social media. As ancestors returned, they are here to do something, to teach someone, to lead, build, and grow in service of and in dedication to the collective. As engaged as I see young people with social media, I also talk to many parents who don’t know what their children are connected to… beyond social media, video games, etc. These outside influences are not encouraging our children to tap in, to be in tune with their individual purpose, the collective values and morals, and goals in service of liberation. 

I feel another challenge coming forward, for the adults rather than the children. I propose a #childhoodchallenge; a challenge to see what we have learned from a child today. Intentionally engaging with our children will affirm them in many ways, but it will also teach us as adults. All too often when engaging with children, I feel like I may be coming from an entirely different world. Metaphysically this is true, but our thread is common and if I am humbled to learn, listen, and engage in their world(s), I can make deep and meaningful connections with the children in my life.

13May/21
Chris Blue Taji Mag

Chris Blue Discusses How He Rose After the Calls Stopped

Chris Blue Taji Mag

Oftentimes, viewers of shows like The Voice and American Idol wonder what happened to the contestants after the show. The Voice has a solid Country following so a few of their artists are able to chart, but what about everyone else? I had a wonderfully candid conversation with The Voice season 12 winner, Chris Blue, where we discussed what he did after the phone calls stopped and the excitement for his current projects. If you haven’t yet, check out his recent release, Moon, on all major platforms. See the full Video interview below.

Taji Mag (TM): What do you feel is the difference between this project and your previous projects?
Chris Blue (CB): I think for this one, it’s something people have been asking for. People have been asking for Moon, essentially, since I finished my time with NBC. It was a journey getting them here but now they’re like ‘thank you, finally, this what we’ve been wanting and we gon blow this thing up’… and that’s what they’ve been doing! So I think that’s what’s different. Back2TheFuture was a great song because I felt like I needed to say something, I needed to have my imprint on society, but as far as my musicality and my art and my VISION… Moon, to me, is it. It’s that cross between what’s new and the respect of what I have to what’s old. It’s old school/new school. You’ll hear influences of the Weeknd, Michael Jackson, and you get to the end of it and it’s like where’d this Afrobeat vibe come from? The reason I did that was because I’m still learning about my heritage, I’m a descendant of the Jamaican-Caribbean-African heritage. I’m really digging into my ancestry now. I was like maybe THAT’S why I love curry chicken…

(TM): Did you feel like you couldn’t produce the same type of artistry during your time at NBC?
(CB): Yea… I mean… Yea. I feel like I was somewhat restricted on what I could do. My first anything as a solo career happened on NBC. I wasn’t out here grinding grinding grinding before that show. So when I won and got the accolades, the money, and the deal, it was great, I get to do what I want to do. I’m telling people now, I won but at the same time I lost because for about 2 years, I think, I realized like I’m losing myself. I’m losing who I am. I’m losing Chris Blue…

(TM): Was there a lot of outside influence on who they wanted you to be as an artist.
(CB): There was. There was a lot of influence on what they wanted because, again, it’s a business. A lot of people have to remember it’s the music business. So that word business sometimes outshines the music in most cases, especially when you’re dealing with other people and other people’s money and they have to figure out how am I going to make my money back? So when you start to see this is trending and this is what most people will like and this is selling, let’s reshape and redefine you and make you fit this. The issue with that with me is and was I’m not that. I’m me. I can only do me well. I can’t do that well. So I lost. I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I lost a lot of belief. Because I’m not becoming that, the telephone stopped ringing as much, my emails weren’t blowing up, I wasn’t getting as many messages on Instagram, and everything just started to collapse. I was just like well maybe I wasn’t that good… It messed me up in a lot of ways, so much that my family started to feel the effects of it. My mom just sat me down one day and was like you’re changing. I was like dang, what you mean by that mama. That was one of the defining moments for me that brought me back. If I’m gonna do music, I gotta do it my way, I gotta do what I love and I can’t do it to spare feelings or to pacify anyone else.

You can’t sustain living a certain way that’s not conducive to what you want to live like. You can’t do it. It don’t work. You’ll wake up every day hating yourself. You’ll become the perfect example of the person who wakes up to the 9-to-5 job that you hate.

Chris Blue Taji Mag

(TM): Makes note of how I’ve watched contestants change from the beginning to the end of the show to fit cookie-cutter molds and that, by the end of it, I’m just skipping through each episode to see who they chose as the winner.
(CB): It’s funny you say that. I had to learn this as well. The American public ain’t stupid. Y’all are not dumb. You watch artists on them shows and you be like ok dope, they this, they that, but ya’ll know, nah, this is show. Some people have to be reminded it’s a show, right, so the expectation that as soon as you come off of a show like that you’re supposed to just blow up… I didn’t realize that going in. That’s a TV show. They have to do what’s best for them. It’s on me to get out here and actually work and grind and build. I tell people, I wish… If could do it all over again, with the same result (big smile), I would. I would go in thinking like an artist. I wasn’t thinking like an artist. I was some green, wet behind the ears, new-to-this-thing singer. I wasn’t an artist. I just want to sing. Put me on the stage, give me a microphone, let me SANG, let me do what I do. If I could go back and do it again, I’d have my team in place, I’d have everything ready to go so that by the time they said and the winner is I’m ready to use that launching pad to actually launch off.

(TM): What else are you working on now? I hear you’re doing a docuseries?
(CB): Yea so ya boy just got a leading role in a docuseries that we’re getting ready to shoot next month at a studio in Atlanta. So I’m excited about that. The role I’m playing is a guy who I feel like is me right now. Everything this bruh is going through, that’s ME. Everyone feels good about this docuseries, It’s real. It’s raw. It’s uncut. You’ll see a lot of truth a lot of reality. I believe highly in putting things into the atmosphere, when you put things into the atmosphere, God’s ear, he hears.

So happy that Chris Blue is stepping into his true artistry and exploring multiple avenues of his creative genius. Click here to stream Moon. Follow Chris Blue on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Stay tuned for more updates and real conversations.

Click below to watch the full video interview.

13May/21

Taji Vol27: Utopia

Release Jun 7 2021 | Vol27 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Utopia! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @UniquelyWiredM and @JaymisonBeverly by @iamNayMarie. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Concrete Cowboy: Becoming a Man and Father” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature with Tajah Olson; “Solo Travel: Building Confidence Through Travel” by dCarrie; “Just My Imagination?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “The Childhood Challenge” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 27 contributed photo story, “Utopia;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Spicy Sushi Rolls; “How to Fight Racism…Financially” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 27 Utopia

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 27

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

28Apr/21

Black Luxury Brands to Frequent: Adele Dejak

Attention all accessorizing and glamorizing sistas!! The sistas who love a beautiful statement piece. The sistas who love good, quality accessories. Adele Dejak is the brand for you. Eponymously named after its Nigerian creator Adele Dejak in 2008, the brand creates the most beautiful afro-futuristic jewelry ranging from rings to chokers and they also carry an array of rustic calfskin clutches. 

Although I am not an avid accessorizer, the ÁMI I & II collections of chokers are truly a masterclass of metalwork and craftsmanship. The pendants are either hammered brass or aluminum and are paired with a smooth black leather cord or are attached to a large brass ring. I would not be a reliable fashion contributor if I did not tell you how wonderfully brass and gold hues compliment melanated skin. 

Adele Dejak Accessories Nigerian Afro-futurism
Models wearing the ÁMI II collection of neckpieces; Photo Credit | @adeledejak on Instagram

Aside from being wonderfully and carefully crafted by African artisans, Adele Dejak has been endorsed by the Queen Bee herself!! Flaunting the Afrika Comb in the Black Is King film and, on another occasion, wearing the Margret Aluminum Statement Bracelet in tandem with the Dhamani Kanini bracelet in the music video for My Power from the soundtrack of the 2019 remake of the Lion King. 

Adele Dejak Accessories Nigerian Afro-futurism Beyonce
Beyonce wearing the Afrika Comb necklace from Adele Dejak; Photo Credit | @beyonce on Instagram

AD is also big on sustainability, according to their website, only using recycled and upcycled brass and aluminum for their jewelry. They also have a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Australia to train people in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps to produce goods using upcycled materials to sell to provide for their families.

The pieces may be a little pricey for some (150$+), but the cost of supporting a black business is priceless. Besides, who doesn’t want to step into their next board meeting looking like they stepped off the first flight back from Wakanda? Go check out Adele Dejak and tell them I sent you ♥!

This is the second piece in a 5 part series about my favorite Black Luxury Brands, check out the first part here!

26Apr/21

Taji Mag at the Oscars: Entertaining with a Side of Snubs

Oscars, Danil Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya holding his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor

The 93rd Oscars was one of the most entertaining Oscars I’ve seen in a while. I kind of assumed it would be given the number of Black creatives listed in the programming and the nominees. Never mind that I had media credentials this year, even my friends were texting me saying the same thing. The night was filled with surprises and laughs… to be enjoyed in the comfort of my home and not in the hot sun trying to waive down people for interviews.  

The Winners Are…

Daniel Kaluuya started the night with his win in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category for Judas and the Black Messiah. He made sure to include his castmates and follow feature creatives in his speech stating, “I share this honor with the gift that is Lakeith Stanfield. The light that is [applause], yeah yeah, the light that is Dominique Fishback. [applause] The incredible cast, the incredible crew –you know what I mean– Lucas Brothers for starting the journey. Will Berson.” 

Kaluuya thanked Chairman Fred Junior and Mama Akua. “Thank you so much for allowing us into your life and into your story. Thank you, thank you for trusting us, you know, with your truth.” He added, “He (Fred Hampton) was on this earth for 21 years, 21 years, and he found a way to feed kids breakfast, educate kids, give free medical care, against all the odds. He showed, he showed me, he taught me him. Him, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party. They showed me how to love myself. And with that love, they overflowed into the black community and into other communities.”

Daniel surprised the crowd and his mother when he said “Like, it’s incredible, my mum, my dad. They had sex. It’s amazing. Like do you know what I’m saying, I’m here. You know what I mean?” I am pretty sure his mom was shocked and surely sent Daniel a text message or two about his speech.

Shortly after, in the interview room, he explained, “I’m going to wait on my phone for a bit, man. Trust me. I’m going to wait on my phone for a little bit. I think my mom is going to be very happy. But she’s going to be cool. She’s going to be cool, man. She’s going to be cool. She knows ‑‑ she’s got a sense of humor. So she’s glad ‑‑ we give it to each other. So it’s cool.”

The most hilarious part of the night for me in the press area was when a reporter asked Kaluuya “what it meant to be directed by Regina King?” My reaction was like “Huh?” and I am sure it threw off Daniel because he had to ask them to repeat the question. Judas and the Black Messiah was NOT directed by Regina King. * facepalm *

Tyler Perry was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He told a story about a homeless woman asking him for shoes. Perry explained how he took her into his studio and helped her find shoes. He said she stayed looking down after he waited for her to look up and all this time she’s looking down. She finally looks up. She’s got tears in her eyes. She says “Thank you, Jesus, my feet are off the ground.” He explains at that moment he can recall her saying to him, “I thought you would hate me for asking.” “I’m like how can I hate you when I used to be you?” 

When asked what made him tell the story he said, “Where we are a country and world, where everybody is grabbing a corner and a color, and they are all ‑‑ nobody wants to come to the middle to have a conversation.  Everybody is polarized, and it’s in the middle where things change.  So I’m hoping that that inspires people to meet us in the middle so that we can get back to some semblance of normal.  As this pandemic is over, we can get to a place where we are showing love and kindness to each other again.”

Fresh off her Grammy win for “I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R picked up an Oscar for Original Song for “Fight for You” for the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” She collaborated with Dernst Emille and Tiara Thomas for the uprising song. H.E.R started by saying “Thank you to the Academy. I’ve always wanted to say that. And of course, my collaborators, D’Mile and Tiara Thomas, the song wouldn’t be what it was without them.” She then continued to thank her family and musical inspirations stating, “Of course I have to thank God for giving us these gifts and my parents, my beautiful mother who’s here with me today and my father at home. All those days of listening to Sly and the Family Stone, and Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, they really paid off.” 

With H.E.R winning an Oscar and a Granny, placing her at the halfway mark of receiving EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner) status, the question is what is next? She replied “Oh, there’s absolutely going to be an EGOT in my future hopefully. But, yeah, you know, I’m also super compassionate about acting as well. So you may see me up here as an actress also.  And I love musicals. Me and Brandy have been talking a lot, and she inspired me since she did a musical.  But, yeah, honestly, I cannot believe that we are here.  I’m so thankful to be standing next to these two.  I’m still speechless.  I feel like the Oscars are happening tomorrow, and I’m dreaming right now. I’m still pinching myself. So I have no words.”

What does the song “ Fight for You” mean? H.E.R describes, “We are literally saying, you know, as long as I’m standing, I’m going to fight for you.  And I have been given this platform and now an Oscars stage to share a message, you know, and to really speak my own truth and to continue to spread the word of our history, what is happening today.”

Oscars
Jamika Wilson (Center), Sergio Lopez-Rivera, and Mia Neal pose backstage with the Oscar® for Makeup and Hairstyling during the live ABC Telecast of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, along with Sergio Lopez‑Rivera, become of the few Black women to win in Hair and Makeup Styling for the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Mia Neal accepted the award with her family background. “I was raised by my grandfather, James Holland. He was an original Tuskegee Airman. He represented the U.S. in the first Pan Am Games. He went to Argentina. He met Evita. He graduated from Northwestern University at the time that they did not allow Blacks to stay on campus, so he stayed at the YMCA. And after all of his accomplishments, he went back to his hometown in hopes of becoming a teacher. But they did not hire Blacks in the school system. So I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, were denied but never gave up.” She then continued to praise her colleagues and stated her hopes for future winners. “I stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future. Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters and our Latino sisters and indigenous women. And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking; it will just be normal.” 

Notable jazz musician Jon Baptiste was amongst the trio (with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to win Best Original Score. After winning the award he had this to say about his work. “I think I re‑affirm the fact that your collaborators, the people around you, the people who you have the pleasure of trading information as we all accumulate information on the journey of life and music is life.  So I look at them as one and the same. And just kind of seeing how that transpires in the next project you take on and transpires in the next moments in your life.  And this will definitely be something that will resonate until the day I die, this collaboration.” 

Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free pose backstage with the Oscar® for Live Action Short during the live ABC Telecast of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021.


Travon Free won Best Live Action Short for “Two Different Strangers” with Martin Desmond Roe. Travon relayed to the audience his reasoning for making the film stating “Today the police will kill three people. And tomorrow the police will kill three people and the day after that, the police will kill three people because on average, the police in America every day kill three people. Which amounts to about 1,000 people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be Black people. And, you know, James Baldwin once said the most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain. And so I just ask that you please not be indifferent. Please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.” Earlier that day another Black life, Isaiah Brown, was taken by a police officer who gave him a ride earlier that day. Similar to the storyline of the award-winning short film.

Lil Rel is Hilarious 

Oscars
Lil Rel providing comedy relief

Lil Rel had the Oscars program feeling like a block party on Sunday. He had Daniel Kallayk talking to him like he was his spades partner and had Angela Basset grooving like her favorite jam just dropped. The most shocking and most hilarious part of the night was when Lil Rel quizzed Glenn Close on EU’s “Da Butt” song. She answered correctly and gave a little history about the Backyard Band, a popular go-go band in the ’80s, and proceeded to do ‘the butt.’ With Lil Rel engaging the crowd and Quest Love providing the evening’s tunes, the Oscars was a thing even Black people could enjoy. No matter if you only know two of the many nominees. 

Black Behind the Scenes of the Oscars

Why did the Oscars have a little more flavor this year? The Academy Awards had some more Black influence behind the scenes. Starting with Dionne Harmon, she is the Executive Vice President of Content & Strategy at Jesse Collins Entertainment, where she oversees the development and production of unscripted and scripted content. She has done some work on BET’s “Bobby Brown Series” and “American Soul.”

Amberia Allen returned as a writer for the second year in a row. Her notable credits include “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and “The Last O.G.,” and she has written for numerous live awards shows and variety specials, including the “Golden Globe Awards,” “Primetime Emmy Awards” and “The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.” 

One of the writers of the Boondocks, Rodney Barnes, returned to the Oscars production team as a writer. He serves as showrunner, writer, and creator of “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable” for HBO Max. Barnes also penned Marvel Comics’ “The Falcon,” Marvel/Lucasfilm’s “Lando: Double or Nothing” and “Quincredible” for the Lion Forge imprint.  

Mitchell Marchand returned to the Oscars show as a writer. His credits as a comedy writer include such awards shows as the “BET Awards,” “Hip Hop Awards,” “UNCF Evening of Stars,” MTV Video Music Awards,” “NAACP Image Awards” and “Primetime Emmy Awards.” 

The founding member of the Roots, Questlove, joined the production team as the musical director of the Oscars. The five-time Grammy award-winning creative is fresh off the directorial debut of his award-winning “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Although some most of us are bummed that Chadwick Boseman did not win Best Actor for his amazing performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the Academy Awards was thoroughly entertaining and worth the watch this year. With Lil’ Rel hosting the event like that funny uncle at a family gathering and the music masterfully selected by DJ Quest Love, I’m sure you will not be bored. I know I wasn’t…

19Apr/21

“Them” Is a Nod to Classic Horror With Lots of Gore

THEM

SPOILER ALERT

“Another series requiring me to sleep with my Black Panther nightlight on.” That is all I could think to myself. I’m kidding, I don’t have a nightlight, BUT Them definitely is a series with some really scary moments and shocking – almost unbearable – scenes. I am happy to see a horror series helmed by Black creatives that is receiving a major push on Amazon Prime. Not exactly satisfied with the finished product after watching the whole season, though. 

The acting in the series was great. Shahadi Wright Joseph as Ruby Emory, Deborah Ayorinde as Lucky Emory, Ashley Thomas as Henry Emory, and Melody Hurd as Gracie Henry all play their characters well as the Emory family. I just wish the series could’ve continued to be more compelling instead of shocking. Deborah and Ashley’s chemistry as the lead Black couple was substantial. I could really feel the love they had for each other throughout the series and how they were supportive of each other during each of their mental breakdowns. I’m not going to lie, whenever Lucky got pissed, slapped, or chased someone I was cheering for her because she brought that energy. 

Shahadi in “Us” was scary as hell as she played the doppelganger, this time around she is a teenager haunted by a teenage white ghost and the acceptance of her skin color. I found this to be interesting and made me see her as a household name in the industry. The acting she does with her eyes is a thing of pure talent. The scene where cutting her face out of possession/self-hate had me cringing the whole time.

THEM

Melody as Gracie Emory had some of the scariest scenes. The possession scene had me saying, “Oh hell no!,” mainly because evil-possessed children in horror films are horrifying. Her acting was impressive and helped the fright continue throughout the series. 

Them has great usage of music to enhance the horror. For instance, “Come on Get Happy” by Judy Garland playing as they ride into Compton California is all so peaceful until, on the other side on the loop, it starts to slow down chopped and screwed style as the white neighbors look at the Black family entering their new neighborhood. Their expressions are priceless like someone bringing potato salad with raisins in it to a Black barbeque.

There is a great scene where Betty Wendell’s character is fidgeting with a torn small piece of wallpaper of her perfectly placed and patterned wall. The camera angles were well-timed as the scene reflects Betty’s discomfort of having a Black family in her ideal, perfect, all-white neighborhood. Betty is for sure an annoying character and deserves to be called “dumb ass b*tch!” Trust me you’ll hate her too. Then the series shows her disturbing family upbringing, her jealousy of other women who can have children (because of her sterility), and reveals the truth behind her unhappy marriage.

The storyline in Them is compelling and shows promise within the first few episodes but then becomes a little more disturbing and confusing. There is the rape of the lead character and the murder of her infant son that has made its way onto Twitter but there is also the flashback origin of the man in The Man in the Black Hat that is also gruesome. 

THEM

I was a bit thrown off by the milk man’s character, I understand people can have some creepy characters but I would’ve rather seen more of Wendell’s (Betty’s husband) story. I understand most of his story is implied but there could’ve been a moment where you show the reason for resistance to harm the Black neighbors was because he was also an outsider for being gay.

Da Tap Dance Man was creepy as hell and had to rub all that paint off his face. His character was a good addition and served his role in Henry Emory’s story but I think I’ve grown tired of seeing these minstrel show-style demons/ghosts in Black entertainment. 

The camera work and editing for Them was also impressive. The usage of colors, cuts, and angles really helped to create the feeling for each scene. For example, Henry Emory struggles to eat pie because the sweet smell and taste remind him of the mustard gas tested on him in the military. 

Them is definitely a series you should watch if you like Jordan Peele and the classic horror creatives before. You’ll definitely be reminded of the Topsy and Bopsy episode of Lovecraft Country. You may become disinterested if you like a series with a solid storyline. You can watch now Them on Amazon Prime.

13Apr/21

Newcomer Kyra Jones is Ready to Evolve Like Issa Rae

Unapologetic, blunt, and intersectional are the words to describe the rising filmmaker, Kyra Jones. She has recently won multiple screenwriting competitions (Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition 2020, ScreenCraft Virtual Pitch 2020), is working on a feature (Got to the Body), writing other projects, modeling, and participating in activist work all while working a full-time job… during a pandemic. I could tell after meeting her at the 2020 DC Black Film Festival that she would be someone to keep an eye on and was I right. The day before our scheduled interview she was staffed on season two of the hit Hulu series, Woke. Luckily for me Kyra still had time to tell Taji Mag what life is like as an up-and-coming artist. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with filmmaking? 

Kyra Jones (KJ): I always really loved film and television. I started off as an actor in high school. The only reason I got into acting was because my mom wanted me to have an extracurricular activity. My friend told me she was trying out for the school play and told me I should try out too. So she dragged me to the audition and I ended up getting the lead. 

I didn’t become a screenwriter/filmmaker until I was about to graduate from college. I was studying theater at Northwestern with the intention of acting. I was one of four Black students in my class of 100 theater majors. The theater department isn’t diverse at all. Needless to say, I did not have a great time with my experience. Within the material we were reading, there were no real roles for Black women. The roles were the usual stereotypical roles like maids, nurses, etc. I was like, “ We (Black people) do more than this.” 

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

I know I want to tell stories and I know I want to be involved in art and media. I always liked writing and I was the type of person that could type a good 8-page paper in a few hours. So I was a strong writer in that regard but I never tried to do anything like creative writing or screenwriting. 

In my senior year I realized I should have been a filmmaker, it was too late at that point but I tried to take as many classes as I could. So, you can say I fell in love with screenwriting/ filmmaking my senior year in college. 

*After Kyra graduated her career was sort of in limbo. Her fellow classmates were doing internships, working for production companies, and making the connections needed to succeed after college. She struggled to get an internship because she had made the decision to become a filmmaker her senior year. Since she wasn’t having much success, she went back to acting. 

It wasn’t until the Right Swipe came along. My writing partner and I did not intend on writing a web series we just serendipitously came up with an idea. From there we decided you know what, this is a web-series. This would be the first time I stepped on set for something that I wrote and it was the first time I said to myself ‘this is for me.’

DDF: What do you think you bring to the writer’s room of Woke? 

KJ: I was definitely not expecting to make the writers room for Woke. I was so excited but, when I officially become staffed, I had so much shit to do in order to get ready. I had a full-time job and had to take leave, I had to try and get my ducks in a row in such a short amount of time. I’m just grateful and still shocked. I may have to turn off my camera to cry once the first meeting is over. 

The Woke team is really excited to have me and thinks I will be a great addition to the team. I think my social justice background will be useful, especially for a show called Woke. I think bringing a more nuanced, intersectional perspective to the show, the Woke team will be interested to see what I will bring to one of the queer characters, Ayana (Sasher Zamata).  Plus I’m funny. The Woke team had to read one of my pilots before they approved me and they thought it was funny. I can throw in a few jokes here and there, I think I am funny.

“Progressive art can assist people to learn what’s at work in the society in which they live.”- Angela Davis

DDF: Issa Rae had “Awkward Black Girl” and then later had Insecure, is there a possibility we could see a version of “The Right Swipe” in the future? 

KJ: There will not be another version of the Right Swipe. I do intend on having my own TV show one day. There is already interest in a pilot that I wrote and I am really excited about it. It has some similarities to the Right Swipe. 

DDF: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers? 

KJ: Barry Jenkins, Ava Duverna, Donald Glover, and Beyonce. Lemonade and Black is King are both so good. I know she had a huge team on those projects but the fact there were so many directors and they were one cohesive vision, means Beyonce had to have communicated the vision to the creatives. 

Kyra stated Go to the Body is in the process of getting named talent, developing the budget, and looking to shoot next year with an expected release date to be 2023.

DDF: What women inspire you? 

KJ: Inspired by my grandmother, she is not a filmmaker but she really inspired me. She is very unapologetic and unafraid. I love Issa Rae, she is pretty much inspiration to everyone. And Michaela Coel. Black women everywhere inspire me.

“The discussion of representation is one that has been repeated over and over again, and the solution has always been that it’s up to us to support, promote, and create the images that we want to see.” – Issa Rae

Make sure to check out the current work of Kyra. Also, be sure to be on the lookout for her work on season two of Woke and her feature film, Got to the Body. I look forward to seeing more Black artists like Kyra provide the perspectives and voices needed for everyone to enjoy entertainment.

07Mar/21

Jingle Jangle: The Film All Children Need While Growing Up

Editor’s Pick: Growing up there were a handful of films I watched every year during the holidays. Peanuts Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Story were good but none of these films featured characters that looked like me. This past holiday season, the Black community was given a film that we will be able to share and enjoy for many years to come, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.

Taji Mag was able to speak with Jingle Jangle filmmaker/playwright, David E. Talbert, and his wife, producer/author, Lyn Talbert, about the amazing film. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): Lyn, what made you convince David to turn Jingle Jangle into a film? 

Lyn Talbert (LT): David’s scope was so broad on what he wanted to do and I felt he could capture everything in a film. I knew the project could be immortalized in film and he could also do the play. I thought David could have fun with Jingle Jangle in film form and bring together everything he’s ever done. 

DDF: David do you still plan on turning Jingle Jangle into a play? 

David E. Talbert (DET): Absolutely! The project’s first incarnation was to be a Broadway play but it will live on the stage. 

DDF: What was the first holiday cartoon or film that you fell in love with growing up? 

DET: One of my favorites growing up was Santa Clause is Coming to Town with Keith Meiser, The Abominable Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Peanuts Christmas – those were my favorite. 

LT: I love those films as well. I also liked the claymation cartoons like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Those were really stories! I also love Home Alone and Coming to America, even though it’s not usually considered a holiday film. 

DDF: In one of your interviews you talked about what a great impression Black Panther made on you and how you like what it did for the Black community. Was your intention to make Jingle Jangle leave that same impression on people? 

DET: My intention was to create the most evolved version of this story possible and we tried to put almost everything we could into it. What has happened and feels overwhelming to me, is the significance of what it means not only to the world but the Black community. The Black community has taken ownership of this film like I wouldn’t have expected. A friend of mine just texted me, a pastor in Oakland, that one of his members had a daughter and they named her Journey.

LT: It’s funny David mentioned his friend’s church member naming their daughter Journey, I was on a virtual book reading and a little girl said “It’s because of you guys (David and Lyn) my little sister’s name is Journey and she was just born a few weeks ago.”

Jingle Jangle
JINGLE JANGLE (2020) Writer/Director David Talbert and Producer Lyn Sisson-Talbert on the set of Jingle Jangle. Cr. Gareth Gatrell/NETFLIX

DDF: What was the writing process like for Jingle Jangle?

DET: You have to learn how to open up your mind and just write whatever version of that idea is. There have been many projects over the years that Lyn and I had to work with a very finite budget, so we had to retrain our brains to utilize our imagination. We both are not short on imagination, so it helps. I have to really give so much thanks to Netflix, Scott Stuber, and Nick Nesbit. 

DDF: Lyn, what was your reaction when you read the script? 

LT: I loved it. I could visualize everything he was writing. This project has been incubating for many years. I’ve seen the evolution of it which has been phenomenal. While reading it, I tried looking at it as the viewer and it touched the little girl in me and I know our community took ownership of it because of what it meant. Dave is a phenomenal writer and he taps into the emotion of his words. He is so good at finding balance and you don’t feel like you are being preached to or like there is no escaping this dark place. This is important because we do want the lesson but we don’t want to be hit over the head with it. We just need a little reminder of the things that are important. 

DDF: Lyn, what was the process like writing the Jingle Jangle book? 

LT: For me, the song “Square Root of Possible” is my song throughout this process because it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I need to find my square root of possible at every turn and solve it at every turn. That was my mantra throughout the film and the process of putting together the book. I always love picture books and have 7-year-old son that I read to all the time. I feel like picture books are simple ways to teach lessons and tell stories in a fun way. I want this film to be a classic piece that’s around forever. I think about how other films are immortalized through books, toys, socks, bedding, and animation. I want to do the same with Jingle Jangle. 

DDF: You both have worked on many projects together, how was your experience working on this project? 

LT: Jingle Jangle was a big deal and there was a lot of pressure. It was equally important to us as the people who were behind it and if we didn’t get this project right, it may take another 20 years for someone to have an opportunity like this. We had our moments but what kept us centered was that we wanted the same thing. We did have our thing where we would ride separately, so we could allow each other to think about what we had to do that day. 

Whether it be married or on set, you are actually married to the people on set because you have to be with them several hours a day. If it’s a good relationship, you will always get back to where you need to. 

DET: Advice from a married man, you just have to say Ahman. 

Jingle Jangle
JINGLE JANGLE (2020) Madalen Mills and Writer/Director David Talbert on the set of Jingle Jangle. Cr. Gareth Gatrell/NETFLIX

DDF: What advice do you have for all the aspiring filmmakers out there? 

DET: Trust your own instinct. Be open to people evolving your idea. 

LT: I second that. I would also add that you should continue to work on your idea. You guys have so much access to so many things we didn’t have growing up in the business and you have so many outlets like Instagram. You see many artists like Issa Rae who have success from those outlets. Just continue to work on it and do the research on those who came before you.

It was an honor to sit with the couple and chat about this historic film. I made sure to let them know that Jingle Jangle is a film I needed as a child and that every child needs while growing up. I am so happy to share the experience of the film with my nieces. Make sure to check out Jingle Jangle on Netflix and purchase the book sold on various outlets. 

07Mar/21
Finance

Are You Financially Prepared For This “New Normal”?

“If you allow someone to feed you, they can also starve you.” 

Heard the saying, “feed a man a fish, feed him for a day”? Fact: it’s not really hard to fish… once you know how to. When it comes to finances, it has been purposely kept a mystery. Why?  Because this system would rather you let them feed you ‘fish’ instead of you ‘learning to fish’ on your own—and they’ve been successful at it! 

To no fault of their own, our parents told us we need a job to provide – which really means to survive. It was never suggested by them to master money, which enables you to own your time and earn your own income. In today’s world, the latter has become most apparent. With automated jobs on the rise, employment will be different, leaving many jobs we train for obsolete within the next five years. Artificial Intelligence will see to that as we embark on a new Industrial Revolution that will cause millions of unemployed citizens as a result. Since Trump took and left office, a total of 3 million jobs were lost and they’re not all because of a virus. 

Fact is, no job equals no money. Little-to-no finances lead to the inability to sustain yourself as well as compound debt. At this point, the topic of retirement can’t even be a thought, much less wealth transfer! As we witness the instability of this country, realize we don’t have to go down with it. Now, more than ever, is the time to be proactive in planning and then executing a sustainable plan that will cut your dependency on a possibly soon-to-be automated job to sustain yourself. 

There can only be but so many stimulus checks given out. Eventually, we will have to have a way to earn money to live in today’s world. None of our  “leaders” are speaking about this, nor our financial advisors—and they won’t! If we continue to wait for some miracle to “make it the way it was”, this awakening will be ruthless with no remorse.

PLAN IT THEN PLANT IT! 

2020 was either your best or worst financial year. Quarantine made us eat out less, travel and commute less, some got moratoriums on rent/mortgage, car insurance, and other t-bills. And let’s not mention two stimulus checks! But what did you do with it? Did you spend it on the holiday season or invest it? We cannot afford to use the same plan in this new normal. 

I invite you to join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement where I  show you ways to live off your savings and investments without falling victim to job loss nor being taken advantage of in money markets rigged to fail.  

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