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“Dreaming Whilst Black”: A Dark Comedy Tackling Everyday Microaggressions

Dreaming Whilst Black is a thought-provoking, dark comedy that delves into the world of microaggressions people encounter both in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Let’s face it, when confronted with discrimination and racist comments, one coping mechanism is to respond with humor while thinking “are you serious?”. This is precisely what Dreaming Whilst Black accomplishes, and its international success (including a BAFTA win) is a testament to its hilarious approach.

Taji Mag had the opportunity to discuss the show’s achievements and its creative process with key figures such as director Koby Adom, producer Nicola A. Gregory, and executive producer Dhanny Joshi. Here’s what they had to share.

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): Can you provide insights into the initial pitch for this series and the subsequent reactions it received?

Dhanny Joshi (DJ): I could probably speak to the pitch. We pitched it to the BBC, and so this is something that you’ve not had on your screens before. This is a perspective that has never been shown on British television. And if you don’t have it on your screens, it’s a travesty if you don’t say yes. Fortunately, they listened. We were just, we were very persistent with it. The web series was incredible, so we didn’t have that much of a hard job to do. You put Adjani Salmon in the room with anyone, they will fall in love with him. We charmed and did the work, and then the two married up together, and we got the series. 

DDF: Nicola, did you want to add to that?  

Nicola A. Gregory (NG): Well, I wasn’t part of the pitch. But in terms of the response and kind of following the show, it has been incredible. The reception has been great.

It is definitely a story that hasn’t been seen on screen or what we cover, which is all completely relatable… from following your dreams to just the everyday life as a creative and the microaggressions that we encounter along the way.

DDF: Koby, can you describe the shooting process for this series? It appears each character’s action is important to advancement of the storyline. Can you give us a little detail about it? 

Koby Adom: I think, the writing did a lot of the work, which I really appreciate on any job. Do you know what I mean? Where the story’s really been figured out, because the story is king in what we do. I think it’s like knowing who the characters are, what their goals are, what their obstacles are, what the dilemma is, all of that stuff is already figured out. So then we just come on board and visualize that.

We work with the actors. We know what kind of ideas to give as far as goals in each scene, action verbs. Also allowing them to improv ’cause they’re such a stable foundation. Like this is so solid now, we can do takes where you could just throw certain things in there.

Let’s make this nice and authentic, which I attribute to the brilliant casting, by the way. Heather Basten leading that charge was just brilliant. The casting director just sort of gave us this pool of actors who understood the role already.

Adjani Salmon as Kwabena

So now we’re really just having fun. And as far as the camera work goes, it wasn’t about flamboyant camera work that takes all the attention. I think the script does that, and I think the camera work has to serve that. I think it’s something that I was meant to do, which is just to serve the story. I’m a big storyteller. That’s the thing about me. If you ever see a flipping camera, like back flipping and doing all kinds of stuff, it means something. It has to be earned. So, I think it was really, really interesting.

That’s just me and the rest of the directors. We are all aligned on really understanding what the message and the ethos and the depth of what this piece is and applying our craft to it.

DDF: Did you face any challenges while shooting the film?

There are challenges on every shoot, my friend. But this project was fun. Let’s just put it that way. Do you know what I mean?  I like getting my hands dirty and rolling my sleeves up anyway. Who wants smooth sailing? That shit is boring. 

I think you get so much more out of finding solutions to problems. You get so much more out of overcoming adversity in the final product. So I think for me it was a challenging shoot, definitely, but we made it work. We stuck together. We’re a great team. We had our ups and our downs, but that’s what you should be able to have in safe spaces. This is exactly what it was. You know, we just all feel very connected and we are all connected to the story.

I think that’s the beauty of this project. Everybody on it is saying amongst each other “Hey, guess what? We’ve been through this. So what’s the point of arguing?” You know, I mean, we get it done. 

DDF: I’ll bring up one scene where the lead character, Kwabena, is talking to his boss and pretty much every picture in the background means something or gives a description of the character. And I was just like, ”I hope Koby did that intentionally because it really does help interpret the situation”. 

KA: That’s in reference to episode one. That was Sebastian Thiel who directed that episode. So he should get his flowers. All of us had an eye on the whole script to make sure we pull out the necessary bits. You know, to add the nuggets.

NG: Yeah. I’d like to echo that as well. I’m glad that you noticed things in the background and that everything about this show is intentional from the artwork, to the background, to our costume design. Even the neck pendants and necklaces, there are some Easter eggs in there.

I don’t wanna give too much away, but Jody-Simone Howe, our costume designer, did a really good job. Even the slogans on shirts or on baseball caps, everywhere there is a message that kind of gives away what is going to happen in the scene or what our intention is. So from production design to costume, there are messages everywhere.

Left to right:Rachel Adedej as Funmi and Demmy Lapido as Maurice

DDF: Okay. This is a question for all three of you guys. Do you believe humor can be a powerful tool for discussing complex social themes and if so, how?

KA: I think it’s perfect. That’s when you get away with it because you’re just actually just having a laugh. But then guess what? The funny part is the truth. So it’s kind of like when you finish laughing and then the dust settles, you’re like “Ah, you got me there. I probably shouldn’t have laughed… Is that the way I come across?”. But even that’s accountability as well. Like how do we deal with these situations? Do you get what I mean? It’s not just about pointing fingers. This is an exploration of what to do in those situations.

Me personally, I brand myself as quite a bold person. So if I’m in half of those situations, I just walk off. The first bit would be what I’d actually do. But again, just sort of appreciate the situation. Again, it’s very universal. 

NG: I think it’s important that you sort of balance between the comedy and the drama. I guess it’s almost like a constant debate with the writers. There’s always the question of “Okay, this is what we wanna say?” “But how do we make it funny?” Because at times, in these matters, you can really lean into the drama, but we’re commissioned to make a comedy here. So there would be instances where we would try to undercut serious moments with unrelated jokes to lighten up the scene, but without minimizing the issues at hand and what we’re trying to discuss. And I think that’s what this show, Dreaming Whilst Black, does brilliantly in terms of balancing the serious matters.

NG: Have you watched the entire series? 

DDF: Yes, I watched up to episode six. 

NG: Yeah. There’s only six episodes. We wish we had more. Without giving too much away, in episode four (which is mainly about the couple, Maurice and Funmi), we’re touching on themes around fatherhood and Black maternity healthcare, which are quite universally serious.

Even our exec said, “Okay, this is a very serious storyline and a very serious episode”. Yeah. We had to sit and figure out (mainly Johnny and Ali) where can we put funny in here? Which is where the family (over conversations and responses while waiting in the hospital room with Funmi) comes in and other elements sort of really break the tension as it were.

(Alexander Owen), Vicky (Meghan Treadway), Kwabena (Adjani Salmon), Director (Graeme Hughes), Jamie (Tom Stourton) Photographer: Anup Bhatt

DDF: The show won a BAFTA award! Congratulations. How do you think the US audience will react to the series?

KA: I think they’ll laugh it up. I think it’s a very original presentation and I think when you keep it real, it is hard to deny. It’s like you don’t know why, but this feels true.

I think that’s what makes people consume the content. And I think this would be one of those first British offerings that build a bridge where it’s like, “Hey guys, we’re actually going through the same thing. Let’s laugh together and figure out the solution together. This is not us against each other”. I think Dreaming Whilst Black is honestly one of the most crystal clear representations of Black British culture you’ll get to date. Don’t get me wrong, there’s Top Boy, Chewing Gum, and other representations that have been sort of authentic. But this series is very unapologetic and it is very much, “I’m not mincing my words, this is the issue, but we’re gonna laugh at it”. I think that it would be consumed around the whole world, to be honest with you. I think that’s probably why it’s been sold in so many territories.

DJ:  I think so as well. It’s the everyday man and woman. It’s just real people with real-life experiences that will travel. Other shows, which are all great, in some cases are not so relatable to the everyday person who’s got the nine-to-five mundane job.

Right. But, with this show, it’s just relatable. People, especially people of color, will relate to the microaggressions. They’ll relate to workspace experiences as a minority, for example. Some people may even relate to the microaggressions and be like, “Oh shit, I’ve done that. Oh, didn’t realize that could be perceived in a certain way”.

So I think there’s something there for everyone. Still, I think fundamentally it’s about someone pursuing this dream, whether that’s Kwebs or whether that’s Amy navigating her passion and how she navigates in the workspace as well. I think there’s something there for everyone.

So we are excited about how it’s gonna be received over there (in the U.S.).

KA: I was gonna say, I feel like there’s also the successful Black woman, Vanessa, which I think is another master stroke. It’s not some poor woman who’s trying to eat a lobster and flaming on and ordering champagne like that’s normal.

Those girls exist if you know what I mean. So showing their sort of flamboyance and their grandeur, I think, was brilliant. Do you know what I’m saying to you? There are very successful Black women in other industries who have the money to spend at high-end restaurants and buy designer clothes and stuff.

NG: So I think, honestly, this is everything in which I know is testament in America as well. So I think there’s just everything in there. So many points of connection. Yeah, I think it’s really about being able to highlight and embrace our shared experiences. I think sometimes, when you’re across the pond, you think that life in Britain is very different, but I think it’s very relatable, and it’s shared experiences across the board.

Dani Moseley as Amy, Adjani Salmon as Kwabena and Babirye Bukilwa as Vanessa

Dreaming Whilst Black in Conclusion

As this series is relatable not only to the Black experience but also to those who are in the minority, the beauty of it all lies in its ability to bring people together through laughter. Dreaming Whilst Black is more than just a comedy; it’s a social commentary piece that explores the challenges of navigating not only the workplace and career, but life in general.

The series excels at taking vulnerable and degrading moments in life and using humor to shed light on these trials and tribulations. Every character in the series is relatable, and the depiction of family and culture resonates with most of us. Throughout it all, we see themes of love, family, and caring. My favorite and most emotional episode, episode 4 titled “The Birth”, explores masculinity, concerns of Black maternity in the healthcare system, and unpacking childhood trauma that affects us as adults. 

My personal favorite character is Amy; her unwavering pursuit of her goals is admirable, and her morals are constantly put to the test, much like Kwebs. However, it’s her facial expressions and reactions to the absurdity happening around her that truly shine and her ability to bring joy out of Kwebs (which I have more thoughts about that I would love to discuss at a later date).

Dreaming Whilst Black is beautifully shot, and every aspect of the series contributes to its storyline. While I don’t like to make comparisons between series and movies too often, I can’t help but draw a parallel to the relatability that Insecure had with its audience. This is why I believe Dreaming Whilst Black will have a long hull in the world of entertainment worldwide.


“The Changeling”: A Haunting Exploration into Relationships and Trauma

LaKeith Stanfield as Apollo

Where to Watch: Streaming on Apple + 

Release Date: September 8th

Season: 1

Rated: R

Starring: LaKeith Stanfield and Clark Backo

Synopsis: A fairy tale for grown-ups. A horror story, a parenthood fable and a perilous odyssey through a New York City you didn’t know existed.

The Changeling is not your typical horror-sci-fi series. It’s a gripping narrative that explores the complexities of relationships, childhood trauma, and the blurred line between reality and the supernatural. Victor LaValle’s book has been adapted into a series that keeps you on the edge of your seat while also diving deep into the human psyche. At first glance, one might think this series is about the perils of modern dating and relationships, and it is, but it’s also so much more. It reflects the challenges we face in our personal lives and how our past traumas can shape our present and future. 

Apollo and Emmy

The characters in The Changeling are brilliantly portrayed, with LaKeith Stanfield leading the way as Apollo Kagwa. Apollo’s journey is one of resilience and determination as he seeks to provide for the loving family he never had growing up. His commitment to his family and the challenges he faces, both internally and externally, make him a relatable and compelling character. Stanfield’s performance is nothing short of charming, and he brings authenticity to the role, making Apollo a character that resonates with audiences; I know he resonated with me. So much so that I wanted him to win… especially being a Black man who was fighting for his child and wife! That is not a norm in modern television on a big platform. 

Clark Backo as Emmy

Clark Backo, who plays Emmy, Apollo’s pregnant wife, delivers a strong performance and shares palpable chemistry with Stanfield. Emmy’s character is introduced as both strong-willed and kind-hearted, which is why she initially hesitates to pursue a relationship with Apollo. However, as their love story unfolds, we witness the transformation of their relationship into one built on love and support. Emmy, like Apollo, carries her past trauma, and their shared experiences make their journey together all the more captivating. Emmy goes through a character transformation that may lead viewers to dislike her. She makes decisions that will leave you flabbergasted, but eventually, you learn what causes this change. Until then, you find yourself despising the character and trying to figure out why she is such a hot mess.

The Story

The heart of the series lies in its storytelling. The Changeling does an excellent job of drawing viewers in and keeping them engaged. It skillfully blurs the line between reality and fiction, leaving audiences questioning whether the characters’ experiences are a result of childhood trauma or something more supernatural. This narrative technique adds depth to the story and invites viewers to invest in the characters’ struggles and revelations. 

While the series can be emotionally challenging at times (especially when exploring Apollo’s and Emmy’s backstories), it is these experiences that make the characters so relatable. Life is not always easy, and people often carry the weight of their traumas with them. The Changeling doesn’t shy away from this reality and, instead, uses it as a driving force for the characters’ development. 

The Changeling also looks into the histories of both Apollo and Emmy’s parents, a crucial aspect of the story’s development and the evolution of their character arcs. This exploration emphasizes the significance of confronting personal demons and unresolved issues comprehensively. As these characters begin to unearth the truths of their childhood, they are confronted with a new layer of complexity that can be even more emotionally challenging than their own existing struggles.

Clark Backo as Emmy and LaKeith Stanfield as Apollo

Visuals and Directing

In terms of visual storytelling, The Changeling masterfully crafts a dark and profound atmosphere that significantly elevates the viewing experience. The series employs remarkable use of flashbacks and haunting imagery, lending an unexpected yet highly effective eerie quality to the narrative. These elements work in tandem to enrich the overall engagement and immersion of the audience.

Attention to detail in lighting, set design, and costume design plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for each scene. Whether it’s the evocative flashbacks or the enigmatic dream sequences, these aspects contribute significantly to the series’ overall impact. They not only transport viewers into the world of the characters but also help establish the emotional resonance of the storytelling.

Production quality emerges as a standout element in the success of The Changeling. This becomes especially evident as the series ventures beyond the borders of the United States to explore international settings. The seamless production values enhance the authenticity of these external landscapes, making the series more immersive and believable.


In conclusion, The Changeling is a horror-sci-fi series that demands your attention. Its exploration of dating, relationships, and childhood trauma is both thought-provoking and chilling. LaKeith Stanfield’s exceptional performance, coupled with the series’ implied themes and references to books, makes it a must-watch. The Changeling is the kind of series that will have viewers talking for the rest of the year and may even prompt them to pick up a copy of Victor LaValle’s book.


Crafting Love, Truth, and Vulnerability: Nijla Mu’min’s Journey in Directing “Swagger”

Nijla Mu’min

In the realm of filmmaking and screenwriting, the journey from spectator to creator is often ignited by moments of cinematic magic. For Nijla Mu’min, the spark was ignited by the emotionally charged narrative of Malcolm X, viewed as a child at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater. This early encounter with storytelling’s transformative power left a mark, a prelude to Mu’min’s dedication to creating narratives that illuminate the complexity of the human experience. From those humble beginnings to her recent directorial venture into the compelling world of Swagger, Mu’min’s artistic trajectory is a testament to the enduring allure of love, truth, and vulnerability. Mu’min gives Taji Mag an exploration of her creative process for Swagger and her thoughts about the current writers’ and actors’ strike. 

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

Nijla Mu’min (NM): I fell in love with filmmaking, maybe more indirectly, when I saw Malcolm X as a kid. My father took me to this theater in Oakland called Grand Lake Theater, and I was just immersed in that story. I grew up Muslim also, so it had an importance to me and I saw how the audience was really responding to the movie emotionally. I just knew at that point “I wanna have that impact on people”. Then later in life, when I was at UC Berkeley, I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was immersed in poetry, film, and photography, I wanted to take it a step further. So I started making my own short films, short documentaries, and I wanted to highlight the interior lives of Black women and Black girls, giving us a space just to be ourselves. And that’s really what became my life mission when I was a college student. 

DDF: So how did you get involved with directing season two, episode six of Swagger

NM: So, Swagger came about after my feature film Jinn, which is a coming-of-age story about a Black Muslim teenage girl discovering life and love. The showrunner of Swagger, Reggie Rock Bythewood, saw my film, Jinn, and he really loved it and asked me to be a part of the show. And from there, I just grew to love the show. It was like a family. I learned so much, and I love basketball, but I’m not a basketball player. I was in the room with lots of former basketball players and athletes. I wrote and directed an episode for season one (episode 6, “All on the Line). For season two, I directed the “Jace +Crystal” episode, and it was such a beautiful experience.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Isaiah Hill in “Swagger.”Photos Courtesy of Apple TV+

DDF: What was your approach to the “Jace +Crystal” episode?

NM: I knew going in that this was the love episode, and I am a lover. I love directing love, romance, and relationships. That is, I think if I had a brand, a lot of my work would be about relationships and about falling in love or family members loving each other. So I really came in with that passion. When I got the script, it was so beautifully written by Steve DiUbaldo and Autumn Joy Jimerson. I studied the script, and I just found all of the moments where I could insert my voice. I also developed a relationship with the actors. 

This episode had a lot of intimacy and romance. So building trust between myself, Quvenzhané, and Isaiah was really important. We had an intimacy coordinator, and we really talked about the scenes. I was there for them throughout the process and building off their chemistry.

They have a very natural, exciting chemistry. So I said, “Okay, I want to work to really just build their chemistry and use everything that they have as actors to our advantage, which is what we did. I think it really came out beautifully. The shots we did were all about complimenting this relationship that had grown over the course of the two seasons.

DDF: How could you balance out the flashbacks and the current events in this episode? 

NM: I really looked at this episode with the theme of vulnerability. And I said what it means to be vulnerable and to stand in your truth. Those themes are carried out in every scene because when the main character, Jace, has his teammates stand in their truth and say, “I’m not going to apologize, and I’m gonna be vulnerable. No matter what happens to me, I’m standing in my truth.” And even the relationship between Jace and Crystal was about this theme of “This is my truth. I love you, and I will show a side of myself that I may not show.”

And I think that is what helped me gel together everything. The whole episode was about truth, vulnerability, and love. Even in the scene with Tanya and Emery going back and forth, she’s like, “I’m going to stand in my truth”. And he’s also coming from what he knows. I thought it was important to really keep reminding myself this is what we’re trying to do. It was about Black women and girls feeling seen. You see a young Black woman named V who feels invisible and needs to talk to someone, so she goes to Tanya. So it was just a lot of that, speaking your truth into power and being vulnerable to love.

Orlando Jones and Christina Jackson in “Swagger.” Photos Courtesy of Apple TV+

DDF: What parallels can you make between what’s going on with the strike and the episode “Jace +Crystal” that you directed?

NM: I think we could, as people, see the love, truth, and vulnerability of humanity more instead of trying to see people as commodities, which I think is an issue with the strike right now.

It’s like seeing writers in their craft as just some content you can quickly buy and not fairly compensate as a human being. I just think we need more humanity in this industry. We need to love and understand that these are people with lives and families that really are trying to survive here. It’s not a game. So I think that’s what this episode also encourages people to do. Like the relationship between Jace and Crystal, it’s a lifelong bond. Even the scene with them at the end, that’s a life journey they’ve been on. I didn’t want to cheapen it in any way.

Like I wanted to really show the power of love, so I think if we get more of that in our industry where we care about the well-being of others, our lives would be better.

In a world where industry dynamics can sometimes overshadow the human element, Mu’min’s episode serves as a poignant reminder of the humanity that underscores every creation. Just as Jace and Crystal embark on a lifelong bond, Mu’min invites us all to forge a deeper connection with the stories, struggles, and triumphs that shape our world. 

Watch Swagger on AppleTV+ and Jinn on Tubi.


Taji Vol36: Joy

Taji Mag Vol 36

Release Sep 7 2023 | Vol36 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Joy! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol36 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @ghettofalsetto by photographers @theonewillfocus and @adornedintaji. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Ali Siddiq Bares It All in  ‘Domino Effect 2: Loss’… His Most Personal Comedy Special Yet” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Dejha B Coloring; our highlighted Hair Feature, Intl I Love Braids Day 2023; “How to Set Your Expectations When Traveling” by dCarrie; the Universe Lounge’s “The Value of Elders” by Jashua Sa’Ra; Nicholas Ryan Gant, a heavenly voice and angelic spirit; Our Vol 36 contributed photo story, “Joy;” “How To Find Joy In Your Work As A Black American Recovering From Burnout” by Nantale Muwonge; Fit Body By Ashley. Making fitness fun!; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Spicy Red Curry Noodle Bowl; “Sex Down South Conference Is An Invitation To Explore Unbridled Joy” by Nantale Muwonge; “Tre Hale Talks About the Series “Platonic” by Dapper Dr. Feel; Featured Art Piece “Time Goddess” by @CraigCTheArtist; Comic Book Appreciation with “Sweaty Minds #12 – Exposure” by Hab Oh; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 36

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 36

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 OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.


Ali Siddiq Bares It All in  ‘Domino Effect 2: Loss’… His Most Personal Comedy Special Yet

Photo by David Wright

When Ali Siddiq took the stage for his latest comedy special, Domino Effect 2: Loss, he was prepared to not only slay audiences with his unique comedy style, the Houston-based comedian wanted to open up to his audience in a way he never had before. Domino Effect 2 takes on intimate and personal tales from Siddiq’s past, presenting a side of the comedian whom audiences most likely have never seen. In an exclusive interview with Taji Mag, Siddiq sat down to discuss the creation of Domino Effect 2, the personal significance it holds for him, and how he hopes the special will help viewers deal with a topic he dives into for 90 minutes…loss. Read on to discover more about one of the most candid comedy specials of the year.

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What inspired you to make this special, Domino Effect 2?

Ali Siddiq (AS): So many people were hitting me up, saying that they needed to hear the rest of the story from my previous set. So I decided to go back in and do from 16 yrs old to 19 yrs old. To give people a more vivid picture of how things were going in my life at that time.

DDF: How did you prepare fot this special? I’m interested to know because, in my opinion, you are a good storyteller who happens to be funny. 

AS: Yeah, that’s what I say. I’m just a guy that just happens to be funny. What I do in my process is pick a particular period in my life, whatever year that may be, and start to go through the stories and events that happened to me within that year, then start crafting it together. What happened significantly at 16, and what happened significantly at 17? And I just keep going down through the years. I choose what’s the most significant, pertinent information that I could share with an audience of people. This is Domino Effect 2, [called Lost]. And we spelled it two different ways because of what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the effects of losing things and then losing yourself in the course of losing those things.

DDF: Is there a joke or jokes that you cut from this special that you wish weren’t cut? 

AS: A joke I wish I would’ve done but didn’t? I know a lot of people gonna think that I worked on this [special] a long time, but that wasn’t the case. I did it in two takes and I only ran the show maybe twice prior to doing it. I wrote it down first without actually performing it. It’s one thing that I continue to keep doing because once I do a special, I don’t do the material on stage. Because the stage show and a special are two different things. The only story that I wish I would’ve done (if I would’ve ran the special later) was the story about my father and meeting 42 women in the first year of living with him. That story is way more vivid than I had in this special. It’s a lot more. So that’s something that I still do or that I will do in the clubs. That story is maybe an hour and 45 minutes more, which would’ve added to the special due to more context to the story. That was my only regret. 

Photo by David Wright

DDF: You are able to talk about your experiences being locked up. How are you able to openly talk to people about this sensitive topic in your comedy sets?

AS: I do mostly true stories that are connected to me. So it’s easy for some people to talk about themselves, you know, and that’s what makes it  easy for me… I’m just telling my stories. I haven’t really got into the in-depth stories. Now I’m gonna be a little more transparent in Domino Effect 3 and 4 than I did in Domino Effect 2… which I’ve already started crafting because it’s the stories of being actually inside and going through the first three years of what happened while I was incarcerated.

My friends and my family, are always like “hey man, you gotta tell this story”. Once they say that, I usually wait a couple of years before I even do the story because I have to be comfortable with what I’m saying and giving that part of myself. There is always somebody in the wings waiting to say something that’s contrary to what you saying that don’t even know the situation. 

One of the most irritating questions I get is  “Well, did you use comedy while you were in prison to protect yourself?” In my mind that sounds crazy because they got that off the movie House Party and, not to mention, that wouldn’t work. Then lastly, what makes you think that I’m not a formidable opponent? I think in my mind, most people wouldn’t ask me that if I was six foot anything. I’m only 5’7 and a hundred and fifty, a hundred fifty-five/ fifty-eight pounds. People don’t realize the small, low-man win. Most of the time, just like in boxing, the low man wins.

DDF: Unless you slap them. (Ali Siddiq tells a story about slapping a fellow inmate, Rich Cat, during a fight)

AS: Hey man, you don’t slap any man when he is down. This is the pitfall of me watching my father sell cocaine and then getting busted for selling cocaine. Then having my father coming up to the county jail asking what got into me. I’m like, “Oh, really? That’s where we at with this?“. Remember that commercial that came out when that kid was smoking weed. His father asked him, “Where did you get this from?” and he responds, “ I got it from you, dad”.

DDF: Yeah, you definitely had to bring those stories back, stories like the one with Rich Cat.

AS: Yeah, man. You know, and that’s my signature. If people actually pay attention in every special, I always bring back one story that I elaborate on. So it’ll be, it’ll be something that’ll, that’ll turn back up from one of the other specials. 

DDF: You bring up one of your high school girlfriends, Tee. Have you heard from her since you released the special?

AS: Yeah. Patrice sent me a picture of me and Tee together and then she hit me on Instagram. Even though she has my phone number, she hits me on Instagram and told me her cousin, Maude, called to tell her that the special was out. She told me she didn’t wanna see it because she thought that I’m going to do the material when I come to Oklahoma in the first week of July (that’s where she lives). I’m gonna put a picture out there because she’s a very pretty woman. When people see the picture, they’ll understand. 

DDF: Domino Effect seems to be one of your most vulnerable specials. It had to be difficult to deliver the jokes, especially the ending of the special. Can you further explain the difficulty? 

AS: Yeah. Every story was leading towards that. That is why I didn’t run it. We didn’t even edit that part at the end, because I couldn’t watch it to edit it. So I had to nail it the first time, because it took so long to make certain parts of this special… because of the emotional attachment.

Photo by David Wright

When my older sister pops in on the special, that scene that she does, people will never know. It backed us up 25 minutes because of all the crying and all the tears that happened. If they listened to it, my sister and I never had a discussion about what happened with my little sister. We never have, it wasn’t a comforting moment because we was both going through the same pain at the same time. So my mom and I never discussed it. That’s the thing, at that point we never discuss losses. So I, I want people to understand this. This is not a play, this is not something that I crafted. We shot it in the moment because there’s no other way to shoot something like this. You can’t go down that emotional turmoil every show. We literally ran it just like this.

The people who know will know that this is a hundred percent true. I did the show one night on a Friday night. Everybody knows the second Friday night show is the hardest show because people getting off work, they are tired, they just kind of come to the show to be entertained.

I wanted to run the show in a space where people were tired. We were 45 minutes behind. The show started and then the feature went up and did 30. Then, the host went up and did 15 mins, so it’s another 45 minutes [before] I go on and I’m out there doing my actual club show.

So then I notice that people in Philly want me to be as rugged as possible. So I said to myself  “I see what this is. Y’all want the real stuff?”. I said it a little more colorful than that, but I said, “Y’all want the real stuff?”. And they were like, “yeah”. So I did that. I did that hour and a half that way, just like I did this special. But we didn’t record it, we didn’t do anything because it was spur the moment.

I remember this lady coming up to me, she said, “I don’t know what just happened, but this is my mother, this is my father, this is my brother. We lost a sibling and we never talked about it, and you just healed my whole family”. And this other lady came from behind and said, “If this is special that you are about to record, I’m glad I saw it now because I will never watch this again”. “Why is that?” I replied.  She said “This is too much pain for me because it was healing, but the pain that came in my heart, even though I laughed, that took me to a place I never knew I’d go”. And I said “I’m glad because you may never release that pain if I don’t ever say anything”. 

When we shot it on the second show, on Saturday, I kept telling them, I’m not going to be able to do a second show about this. It’s no way, and my oldest sister told me “Yeah you can, just do what you just did”. It took me about an hour and a half to get myself together to do it again. It’s too much sometimes for me to go that deep into emotion, then have to come out of it and still deliver.

Photo by David Wright

Four times, one time in Philly, months went by. The level of commitment and emotional turmoil, I can’t even explain it. I’m happy that it’s done. I’ve never watched that part afterwards. I watch up to a certain point, and then I’m done. Once it gets to a certain part, I know what’s going to happen next, it’s about my little sister and it’s still a painful thing for our family.

DDF: In my opinion, you took us through the perspective of a young man or young woman who would be counted out by society or seen as a menace while maturing and growing. It gave me a different perspective. Was that your intention? 

AS: You hit the nail on the head. The special is about not getting lost in your losses. Cause sometimes people don’t come back from a loss or families separate.

You look at the great Aaliyah, are we just now getting her music because, [for] her family, it may have been too hard to hear her voice all the time? Sometimes her family doesn’t have the same strength as Biggie’s mom and Tupac’s mom to celebrate the death with the world.

It’s my responsibility as an artist to give people things that they can grow from. Whatever these losses are that occur in people’s lives, you have to be able to bounce back because it’s not over. Even though you lost something, you didn’t lose your life. You still have more life to live. I don’t want people to be walking around emotionally dead versus living.

DDF: You’ve talked to a bunch of great comedians, from Chris Rock to D.L. Hughley. What has been the best advice you have received? 

AS: This is going to be in my new book. I have two books coming out,The Domino Effect book will be out June 27th. I’m writing this in the process of writing another book called The Jewels.

I’ll just give you one of “the jewels” from Billy D. Washington. One of the best things I ever was privileged to be told by Billy D. Washington was “Man, a lot of people won’t be able to do this, but you can. I would like you to understand this.” I said “What’s that, Billy?” He said, “Man, when you’re on stage and you’re not being funny, be interesting. Be interesting. Whatever you’re talking about, make it interesting when you’re not being funny”. And at that point in my life as a comic, people had only been telling me to be funny. Stay on stage, be funny, keep writing, but nobody ever told me to be interesting, and I think that was the best lane for me.

Photo by David Wright

DDF: My last question that I have been pondering in my head is, have you forgiven Quincy from your stories? 

AS:  No (lol). I’m gonna be honest about this question. I haven’t seen him since the Walmart thing. In order to say that, I have say to myself “Okay, yeah I’m over X, Y, Z”. Then when I see him, it’s going take me back to my eye because I still see double out of that eye. To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not gonna say I have, I’m not gonna say I haven’t. We’ll have to see.

Ali’s humor is as sharp and personal as ever in his new special. Here’s to more laughs with Ali Siddiq and his hilarious Domino Effect series. Make sure to catch the special on YouTube and be ready to share some stories with your friends about it. You can also check out his tour listings to watch him live. After watching him on stage myself, I can attest that there is nothing like it. Watch it here.


How This Black & Indigenous Curator is Putting Louisville on the Map

Huddled over a canvas or gazing thoughtfully at a sculpture, Shauntrice Martin is in her element. She has honed her craft for years, working with various media and exploring race, culture, and identity themes. Her art has captivated audiences in Louisville, KY and beyond, earning her a well-deserved reputation as a rising star in the city’s flourishing arts scene.

But for Martin, art is more than just a vocation. It’s a passion that extends beyond the studio into the community where she lives and works. As a Louisville Visual Art Association board member, she has actively engaged in the city’s cultural landscape, partnering with other artists and curators to bring new perspectives and fresh voices to the forefront.

For Martin, building awareness and understanding around issues of race and identity is always at the forefront of her work. “The stories of my ancestors inspire me,” she says, “those who were taken from their homes, families, and cultures and brought here against their will, their stories are our stories, and we must remember them”.

Martin’s work reflects a deep sense of connection to the past and a commitment to telling forgotten stories. Her mixed media pieces (including sculpture, photography, and textiles) are often layered and complex, inviting the viewer to engage with them on a deeper level. Using different textures and materials, Martin creates a sense of tension and depth that mirrors the complexity of her themes.

Throughout her career, Martin has been inspired by various curators, artists, and creatives who have challenged her to think more deeply about her work. Among her influencers are Kelli Morgan (Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Speed Art Museum), Poet and Activist, Hannah Drake, and Aurora James (a fashion designer committed to sustainability and ethical production).

Martin is also guided by the legacies of the artists who came before her, particularly those from her hometown of Louisville. “We are at the epicenter of creativity,” she says. “There is something incredibly innovative and culturally significant about the West End of Louisville in particular”.

For Martin, the West End is a place of deep historical significance, one that the experiences of African Americans and other marginalized communities have shaped. She points to the Ohio River (which played a key role in the slave trade) as a reminder of the city’s heritage and the need to keep telling these stories.

But despite the weight of this history, Martin remains optimistic about the future of the arts in Louisville. She is particularly excited about the work of artists like Hannah Drake, who push the boundaries of what is possible and create new conversations around race and identity.

For Martin, the importance of these conversations cannot be overstated. “We must continue to have these discussions, to push ourselves and others to think more deeply about the issues that affect us all,” she says. “It’s through art and creativity that we can begin to build bridges and find common ground”.

Martin is deeply committed to highlighting and promoting the work of other Black artists. She created Chahta Noir as a resource for artists to network and develop their skills. Some of the artists she has worked with include Lance G. Newman II, Tomisha Lovely-Allen, Sandra Charles, Ashlee Phillips, and Jon P. Cherry. For Martin, showcasing the work of Black artists is not just a passion but a mission. She believes that Black artists are often overlooked and undervalued in the art world and that it is her responsibility to help change that.

As Martin continues to make her mark on the Louisville art scene, her work serves as a reminder of art’s power to heal, inspire, and challenge. Through her captivating and thought-provoking pieces, she invites us to consider our histories, identities, and place in the world. In doing so, she reminds us that art is not just a product but a process that requires us to engage with each other and the world around us in new and meaningful ways.

Martin has had her work featured in some of the top art spots in Louisville. Places like the Speed Art Museum, Roots 101 African American Museum, Kennedy Center, and Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture & History have housed her works.


Behind the Scenes: A Conversation with Director Bomani J. Story and Chad L. Coleman About An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

“An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” is making waves in the independent film world with its 94% Rotten Tomatoes score. In this exclusive interview, Taji Mag sat down with director Bomani J. Story and veteran actor Chad L. Coleman to discuss the inspiration for the film, the creative process, and their aspirations for the future of Black Cinema in the horror genre. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): This is a fascinating film. I think of it as a horror concept film. Bomani, how did you come up with the idea? 

Bomani J. Story (BJS): It started with the literature. I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and was just floored by it. It gave me an anxiety attack. I loved it. After that, I knew I needed to do something with it because so much was left on the floor. I wanted to do something with it mixed with the muse of my two older sisters. It’s like I wanted to capture them and have them be an homage to it. That’s what spurred this story. 

DDF: Chad, how did you become involved with this project? 

Chad L. Coleman (CLC): Oh, I got a call about it from my agent. Then I found out that Denzel Whitaker would be a part of it. So I called him to vet out the director because I wasn’t familiar with Bomani J. Story. Mm-hmm. Once I found that information out and got more details, I knew it was going to be dope. To hear it from somebody I respect, like Denzel, it was a no-brainer. 

DDF: What was the process of creating and casting the Vicaria character played by Laya DeLeon Hayes?

BJS: As I mentioned before, it started with my older sisters. They were both my first contact with intelligence, you know? It’s like you don’t want to listen to your fucking parents say anything. The older sisters are old enough for you to respect and young enough for you to admire. So they took me under their wing. So it was just capturing my thoughts on them, how they move, and things of that nature. As for the casting, I mean, as soon as you see her (Laya DeLeon Hayes) audition, you just immediately [know]… it couldn’t be anyone else. I didn’t want to see anybody else after that. She was just fantastic. 

DDF: In the film, Vicaria mentions the women who inspire her. This includes Valerie Thomas (Data Scientist), Alice H. Parker (Inventor), and Marie Maynard Daly (Biochemist). How did you decide which historical figures to choose? 

BJS: To me, it was more of an exploration of how people are like, “I look up to certain people to do amazing things”; like notable inventors who created something incredible, started a movement, or did something unprecedented. There are many people one can place in this category, but for me, these were names that spoke to me.

DDF: Tell me about the development of Donald (Vicaria’s father), played by Chad L. Coleman. 

BJS: People can relate to that character. Wanting to protect your daughter and holding onto [personal] demons is something everyone faces on their own. I’m looking at my dad and how he raised us, things like that are what I could pull from.

DDF: Chris (the monster) has a unique relationship with his daughter Jada. Can you explain their relationship? After all, Chris is now an undead monster. 

BJS: I want to leave it up to the audience to interpret. You know what I mean? But I think Jada (Chris’ daughter) will look at things differently than an older person. As a child, the world is still so new to you. You’ll be more interested in things and look at life from a very innocent viewpoint.

DDF: Chad, what approach did you take to bring to life the Donald character? 

CLC: My life being a father and having a brother who faced many challenges in terms of substance abuse, but mainly being a father. Grieving for my Black sisters and brothers in marginalized places resonated deeply. The level of hurt, pain, and violence… the magnitude it has on the family. I think I was just excited that this dude’s exploration of it would not be candy-coated, that he went deep, and it had the resonance of The Wire for me, you know? I was excited that he could play on a classic like Frankenstein. When you think of Frankenstein, you don’t think of people of color. You don’t see the story’s relevance to us, and Bomani put that thing together amazingly. This will be an instant classic.

DDF: In the film, Donald struggles with drug addiction. Can you dive into this aspect of the character a bit?

CLC: He’s dealing with pain, feeling paralyzed, and feeling as if he isn’t completely able to protect his children. He’s unable to change his community and be that leader, the leader of his family in the way he wishes he could. So he had to inevitably self-medicate after losing the love of his wife and son. The family’s decimation carried a huge effect on this man, and it was essential to show that vulnerability.

DDF: This film resembles some of the obstacles Black men face today. Can you give your thoughts on this topic? 

BJS: Particularly for our situation, systematic pressure is multifaceted; it rears itself in different ways. Sometimes I like to think of it as a three-headed hydra. Whether it’s prejudice, classism, or sexism, they’re always just jumping and playing off each other. It’s like once you get rid of being impoverished, now we’re dealing with fucking prejudice, then sexism. When we get out of one, now you’ve got to deal with the other, you know? They’re constantly all just picking at you. That’s the type of shit we deal with. 

DDF: Chris’ physical character is akin to that of Frankenstein. How were you able to create the look for this monster? 

BJS: Yeah. With the book, one of the things that spoke to me was its themes of prejudice, how the monster is treated before he even opens his mouth. Today, that’s something, unfortunately, that we still have to face. People may not do it outright, and it’s slightly more subtle. It’s like another microaggression, they don’t humanize you or recognize you as human. The story was evolved around that.

DDF: Is there a film out there right now that you love, specifically a horror movie?

BJS: Yeah, I mean there’s been a lot of, like, this new, I don’t want to call it new age, but this wave of horror that’s been happening right now. I’ve been a big fan of films like Hereditary and The Wig. Then, you know, even further back to films like Black Swan, which I think is a horror film but not recognized. I feel like it introduced a new era of horror. I’m obsessed with the movie Pearl. Oh my gosh! That film is underrated, man. It’s a beautiful film! Yeah, it should have been nominated. Mia Goth’s performance is just insane. She’s fantastic! 

CLC: I’m an old-school guy. I like Carrie, The Thing, Aliens, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shining.

DDF: Chad, is there a horror film you would like to reimagine? 

CLC: I know it’s not considered a horror film, but I would recreate The Elephant Man. I would also like to play The Elephant Man because he doesn’t have to be a particular age. I think there’s so much in that story; just like An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster deals with so many social and political issues, so could The Elephant Man

DDF: What advice would you give to Black men?

CLC: We’ve got to be able to love ourselves, and we’ve got to take personal responsibility for the vulnerability. And it’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to go to therapy, and it’s okay to show love to one another. It does not make us weak. We’re going to be more robust when we stand up and bond with each other and understand that we are not each other’s enemy. It’s time for us to come together and support one another. It’s not just because I can rap or play basketball or I’m the most muscular guy. It’s because we got true love for each other. Stop judging each other, and stop bullying each other. Don’t be mad at me because I’m as smart as you. You know, I’m not judging you because you have challenges. Brothers of color need to come together. I tell my friends, we gotta stop worrying about somebody perceiving us a certain way. We need to look out for each other. It isn’t going to stop if we don’t stop it. 

DDF: Could you compare Tyreese, your character from The Walking Dead, and Donald in how they survive their environments? 

CLC: I think the similarities in the characters are the love of family and vulnerability. I believe [the concept of] a man who’s unable to be vulnerable is problematic for me, even though it may appear to be a sense of strength to society. How do you relate to your family? If you’re like a dictator, everybody’s scared of you. That’s not the most influential leader. So, I appreciate Donald doing his best and Tyreese doing the same with his sister. If you can’t model any level of vulnerability to the women in your life, that would be a problem.

DDF: What do you think people will get out of this film? 

BJS: I hope they get a little bit of intensity. You know, I hope they’re able to think a little bit. My greatest hope would be that people walk out of the theater with more than they thought they would get.

Catch An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster in theaters on June 9th.


Taji Vol35: AfroTravel

Vol 35 Afrotravel

Release June 7 2023 | Vol35 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of AfroTravel! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol35 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @_sirenn, @anoobisrising, and @avlonilerose by photographer @theonewillfocus with team @__brushqueen, @ikaika_dboneslark, @adornedintaji, and @egyptbuck. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Chevalier’s Ronke Adekoluejo Explains What Women Helped Inspired Her Role” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, HËS is Making Music that Inspires; our highlighted Hair Feature, Hair Architect Arlene Martin; “How To Travel When Your Budget Says “Chill” by dCarrie; “Nikki Porcher Believes Black Women Deserve to Tell Their Stories” by Nantale Muwonge; Our Vol 35 contributed photo story, “AfroTravel;” Fitness Highlight, Calais Campbell gives his best on and off the NFL field; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Rolled Oyster Mushroom Tacos; Featured Art Piece by Will Focus; Comic Book Appreciation with REFUGE by Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing; “Durand Bernarr is Giving Us Real R&B w/ New Song Leveled” by Clair Daniels; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Vol 35 Afrotravel

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 35

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 OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.


‘A Thousand and One’…The Beauty of Black Storytelling

Teyana Taylor as Inez da la Paz

Title: A Thousand and One

Release Date: 3/31/2023

Where to watch: In theaters

Directed by: A.V. Rockwell

Produced by: Lena Waithe

Starring: Teyana Taylor as Inez da la Paz, Aaron Kingsley Adetola as Terry (6 years old), Aven Courtney as Terry (13 years old), Josiah Cross as Terry (17 years old), and William Catlett as Lucky

Synopsis: A fiercely unapologetic and loyal Inez kidnaps her son, Terry, from the foster care system. Mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in a rapidly changing New York City.

Worth noting: A Thousand and One is a Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner.

Filmmaker A.V. Rockwell


A.V. Rockwell created colorful and flawed characters who I found myself rooting for as they lived their truths while trying to achieve an ideal life the best way they knew how in an unforgiving city, NYC. Storytelling like this only makes me desire more stories about well-rounded Black characters who flourish despite being a product of their harsh environments.  

Outside of the writing and acting in this film, I appreciated how Rockwell incorporated scenic shots of New York, giving the audience an idea of what the characters were truly up against. The tall buildings, busy neighborhoods, and various personalities inhabit the area highlighted in this film.

Aaron Kingsley Adetola as Terry and Will Catlett as Lucky

Teyana Taylor and the Cast

The last time I saw Taylor in a film was Coming 2 America where her role was limited albeit entertaining. Before then, I saw her in Madea’s Big Happy Family where she played the annoying ex-girlfriend of Bow Wow’s character, Byron. During the screening of A Thousand and One, I thought to myself, “wait, is this the same Teyana Taylor?”. I was so impressed with her performance that I couldn’t help but focus solely on her character, Inez, and the barrage of obstacles thrown her way. 

Although well-intentioned, Inez’s approach is sometimes questionable and at times illegal. It was interesting to watch Taylor bring this character to life and make her compelling but also believable. When Inez provides life lessons to her son Terry, you can feel her love for him and her desire to give him a better life than she had growing up. It’s certainly not smooth sailing for this troubled mom; at times, you see the character get in the way of her own success. Taylor recently shared with Elle magazine “She (Inez) is so strong, and sometimes she gets in her own way. So you’ll see her almost go there and then hold it in. So I had to dial it back. There were a lot of different techniques that I taught myself to get into this space. It felt like I was on my own pursuit of happiness”. 

Taylor’s chemistry on screen with the young actors (Aaron Kingsley Adetola as 6-year-old Terry, Aven Courtney as 13-year-old Terry, and Josiah Cross as 17-year-old Terry) genuinely resembles a mother-and-son relationship. In my opinion, Cross had the best Terry performance because the film’s final act called for a more emotional display, given the big reveal at the end (don’t worry, no spoilers here). It was not only the performance for me, the writing was incredibly impactful. 

Actor William Catlett plays Lucky, Inez’s boyfriend. He serves as a father figure to her son and provides guidance on how to manage daily as a young Black man in a world that is bound to stereotype him. Although his methods and delivery are not considered ideal, the messages are clear and understood by young Terry. I loved how the Lucky character tried his best to change his life after incarceration. Catlett, as Lucky, knocked this portrayal out of the park and is honestly one of the most underrated actors I’ve seen in a while. I hope to see his career continue to flourish. 

Final Thoughts

Taylor deserves genuine applause for her role in this film. I think it should serve as proof that she CAN pull off the role of Dionne Warwick in an upcoming project. The verdict on Black Twitter is that she surely can! Even the icon herself has mentioned she would love the artist to portray her. The direction and writing of Rockwell gives film lovers a taste of the future of storytelling that Black people and POC can be proud of. A Thousand and One shows the complicated dynamics of a mother’s love which is 100% worth watching.


Rye Lane: A 2023 Must-See Rom-Com

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah)shown. (Photo by: Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Directed by: Raine Allen-Miller

Starring: David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah

Run time: 1hr and 22mins

Where to watch: Hulu

Release date: March 31st, 2023

Synopsis: Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) bond over an eventful day in South London after discovering they are both recovering from bad breakups. 

Would I recommend it? 

Yes! This 2023 Sundance Film Festival selection checks all the boxes for a good rom-com movie, especially with the acting chops showcased by David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. The tone and pacing of the film felt appropriate, I was at no point thrown off. Although their experience together took place in one day, it did feel like they had this journey over the course of at least a few days. 

I have not been to South London, but from the looks of it, it is an excellent place to visit. This is all based on the amount of scenic exposure the director gives the audience. The environment looked spectacular. He did a good job of sucking the viewer into the locale. You almost feel like you’re there yourself.

The film pays tribute to the music of the ’70s, ’80s, and ‘90s with songs from each of these eras. I personally commend this because I love music from those periods. The nostalgia rushed over me when I heard back-to-back hit tracks during a backyard bbq scene.

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah), shown. (Photo: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

The Characters

I loved the chemistry between Jonsson and Oparah in this film. The dialogue between the two (including non-verbal cues) had me rooting for them to end up an item. Each brought the best out of the other, from the shy and broken Dom to the free-spirited yet delicate Yas. I haven’t felt this since Dwayne and Whitley from A Different World. I also enjoyed the lead characters’ interaction with the other personas in the film. For example, to me, the funniest moment was when Yas’ ex’s family appeared. They didn’t have much screen time but quickly had me laughing since they reminded me of my family hangouts. There was a sense of relatability that made this flick feel nostalgic. 

Jonsson is already ascending in stardom, but I can for sure see Oparah as another rising star whom I wouldn’t mind watching in more projects. Oparah undoubtedly wins over the audience with her charming and fun personality.


What stands out in this film is how Allen-Miller uses color palettes and visuals to set the scene’s tones. For example, during flashbacks, the director uses darker purples and blues when a character reveals a heartbreaking story. The director cleverly sets up these flashbacks like stage plays where the characters are in the audience along with the movie’s viewers watching these memories play out. It’s one of my favorite things about the film; if I had to compare it to a style, I would say it resembles Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You”. I look forward to seeing more work from Allen-Miller and witnessing her career flourish as she becomes a household name.

Initially, I did not understand why the art gallery at the end featured portraits of naked butts, but as I thought about it further, I realized that the beginning of the film featured pictures of people’s mouths in the art gallery. I wonder if this is supposed to be symbolic of moving from start to finish as the viewer is introduced to the mouth in the film’s opening and then as we exit the film, we are shown bare naked bums. Clever. 

Director Raine Allen-Miller, shown. (Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Final Thoughts

This is one of the best rom-com I’ve seen in a while! If you loved Brown Sugar, Love and Basketball, or Love Jones, Rye Lane is a film definitely worth your time. I can just about guarantee it’ll be added to your list of top Black rom-coms. With loveable characters, creative cinematography, and a heart-warming love story, Rye Lane is one of my favorite films of 2023 thus far.