Release Sep 7 2020 | Vol24 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Curves & Serves! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @ruby_glam (Hair by @hairdoctor_locs, Photo by @PascalChikezie, Wardrobe and Accessories by @udiahgebi and @householdofjewellery1). Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, organic holistic health detoxes, teas, and supplements from Earth’s Cabinet LLC; our Community Spotlight on Budda by Yvee body butters; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: The Adult Gap Year with Stephanie Perry of Vaycarious.com” by dCarrie; “Resolution: Does the Earth Need Surgery?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “#BlackLoveConvo: Alexis Chikaeze Chats about her Character in Miss Juneteenth” by Dapper Dr. Feel; “Education in the New World Order” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 24 contributed photo story, “Curves & Serves;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Mac & Cheese; “Black Honey Toys for All of Your Erotic Needs”; “Forq You Up is Adding Some Flavor to the Spice Game;” Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation with “Okemus” by T.J. Sterling; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
Release Jun 7 2020 | Vol23 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Golden Wisdom! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Adele Dejak’s Kenyan Photo Series entitled “Benson”. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, designer and tailor, T-MICHAEL; our Community Spotlight on Lovely Leo Skincare; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: Dance As A Passport with @Jasmine.Noir_” by dCarrie; “Earthiopia” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “#BlackLoveConvo: New Comedy, Twenties, Aims To Stand Strong on the Shoulders of Living Single” by Dapper Dr. Feel; “Help the Children Move in a Time of Stillness” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 23 theme “Golden Wisdom;” Fitness Highlight, “Ernestine Shepherd is Still Bodybuilding at the Age of 83”; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Jerk Portabella Toast; “I Am Maathmatics” Book Series; “Nicholas Brooklyn is a Necessary Community Staple;” Featured Art Piece by Craig Carter; Comic Appreciation with “Monarchs” by Joshua Bullock; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
I am always rooting for black creatives and try my best to support them, but in this case, I would be doing a disservice if I did not give my honest review of #BlackAF. Famous producer/writer Kenya Barris delivered a series that lacks the lure and realism of his other successful projects. Don’t get me wrong, I like Black-ish and a few other of Barris’s projects but this series fits into the category of “Nah, I’ll pass.”
“The very definition of ‘blackness’ is as broad as that of ‘whiteness,’ yet we’re seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition.” – Issa Rae
Acting Be Like…
I understand the series is loosely based on the life of Kenya Barris, but I find it hard to believe that Black wealthy people act like this… Maybe my opinion is influenced by the fact that I only personally know a handful of wealthy Black people. Out of those Black people, none of them act like the family in #BlackAF. If there is a family that exists as the one portrayed, I am pretty sure they would not be as extreme.
I do like the moments where the family supports each other whenever an outsider tries to attack, like with the white couple in the first episode. Besides a few moments within the first few episodes, there are not many moments I find relatable or compelling to finish the first season.
As I have become introduced to the screenwriting world, the most daunting task as a screenwriter is writing dialogue. All the top screenwriters have agreed that mastering dialogue is very difficult, so I can imagine writing the dialogue of Black people can pose as an obstacle.
Still, I don’t know any Black people that talk the way the characters talk. I assume the approach is to be as authentic as possible but there needs to be a bit of adjustment. The way in which Kenya talks to his assistant is definitely not believable. If that is the case, that person is a terrible human being.
“ Contemporarily, we struggle with people worried about representation sometimes. It’s a burden, as artists, that we take on that limits the work. It limits the characters people play. It limits the roles they want to do.” – Dee Rees
The Barris Act or Lack There Of…
From the very beginning of episode one, I became annoyed with Barris’s acting and just found his performance to be too whiny. I understand the character is frustrated with stereotypes and wants to be seen for who he is, but there is a better way to portray this. Take Al Bundy for example, Ed O’Neil portrays him as whiny at times but not to the point where he becomes annoying.
I think Barris could’ve easily picked someone else to play the character better and with a more compelling delivery. Similar to the way he chose Anthony Anderson to play the father on Black-ish. In all honesty, I think that is what makes Black-ish a more watchable show. The actors that portray the characters in Black-ish, combined with the writing, make Black-ish great.
In the end, #BlackAF is a rated R version of Barris’s hit show Black-ish, just not as engaging. I wish I could speak differently considering the amount of backlash #BlackAF got last year during one of its first showings. There’s wishful thinking that the series will improve and become the next big hit for the Black culture. I hope that the Black community continues to get opportunities to show diversity within the culture and share stories many people can relate to, vanishing the stereotypes place upon the Black community. Watch for yourself on Netflix.
Powerful is the one word I can use to describe the series For Life. Taji Mag was able to attend a DC advanced screening of the pilot and it did not disappoint! The compelling series is influenced by Issac Wright Jr. who was falsely convicted under New Jew Jersey’s kingpin law. The series displays the strength of the human spirit and having unrelenting faith, how the justice system fails, and how all hope looks lost. Family dynamics, the corruption, and transition from the prison environment to life outside the prison walls are luring. The series is so good, I only saw the pilot of the show and I’ve already downloaded the ABC streaming app to watch future episodes.
“ It was important for me for the audience to see what it’s like first hand, what the experience was like being imprisoned. That part where they had an innocent man, he goes to jail, he has to strip himself of clothing, he is talked to a certain way, he is mistreated and made to feel less than. That was really important to show.” – Nicholas Pinnock
The show follows as the lead character, Aaron (Nicholas Pinnock), is wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for many years. While serving time behind bars, he utilizes this time to become a lawyer. I questioned how this is possible but the pilot does a good job of explaining how Aaron was able to achieve this.
One of the interesting moments in the series is Aaron’s representation of other prisoners that were wrongfully sentenced. I was intruged by how Aaron becomes a cerebral assassin when going againist the opposition, the same lawyer that placed him in jail. The acting and writing is so well done, the audience in attendence for the screening cheered during Aaron’s small victories over his cases and filled the room with gasps whenever he dealt with unfair bias.
“I really connected to it. I have family members who have been formerly incarcerated and I have two really good girlfriends that have partners who were formerly incarcerated and I know what it was like for them to stay connected to the person that they love. Having to travel states, planes, trains, and automobiles to stay connected. I understood their dynamic and that’s what I leaned into to create the role.” – Joy Bryant
Aaron is driven by the love for his family. His wife and daughter are who keep him motivated and in pursuit of his freedom. I felt there were many family dynamics explored within the show. From the relationship Aaron shares with his wife during his visits, to the distance placed between Aaron and his daughter. The show does well at displaying the chain reaction that occurs when a family member is placed in prison for a long sentence. “Do I give up on them?” “How much hope do I really have in their innocence?” These are some of the questions that plague the minds of the members involved during the incarceration of a loved one. I definitely felt an emotional tug when Aaron interacted with his wife during a prison visit. Their situation could not break the love they had for one another, even when life looks as if one of them is actively moving on, showing a bond with someone you love is impossible to break.
“What happened to me and what I had to do started from somewhere. 9 times out of 10 it usually starts with the family. It starts off with your parenting and what’s instilled in you as a child. I would like to take the time out to recognize my parents.” – Issac Wright Jr.
Throughout the pilot, there is an interesting transition as Aaron goes into the court bathroom dressed in an orange jumpsuit and coming out changed into a suit to represent his client. Only to return to the jail system where his life is threatened and his integrity challenged.
Aaron is definitely a character you want to cheer for during the pilot, many in the theater did, as he attempts to take on the corrupt players in the judicial system, which include those that sent him to prison in the first place.
I really felt the cold, concrete walls that inclosed the inmates as the camera followed Aaron through his daily rituals.
“A prison is broken down into three parts; administration (wardens, assistant warden), custody (the guards), and the inmate population. While the real stuff happens on the grounds with the inmate population, custody doesn’t want the administration to know because they want to continue to keep control of the prison. When this happens it is an environment of me against you with the inmates and custody. As an inmate, if it even looks like you are getting friendly with a guard somebody will be coming in your cell at 3 in the morning with a shank. It’s a very dangerous environment.” – Issac Wright Jr.
If you love Power, you will definitely love For Life. With similar plot twists, scene breakdowns, and spectacular acting, the series will be undoubtedly one of the best series this year.
Drama series “For Life” premieres TUESDAY, FEB. 11 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC.
Starring: Nicholas Pinnock, Joy Bryant
Executive Producer: 50 Cent
Release Mar 7 2020 | Vol22 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of #SoGothIWasBornBlack! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Bymsha Browne’s Photography team highlighting Herbalist, Toni Bernard. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, Take Each Moment Podcast; our Community Spotlight on JuJu The Web Series; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: A Simple Exercise in Broadening Your Views on Travel” by dCarrie; “Heart and Mind are a Power Couple” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “#BlackLoveConvo: Rhonda Mitchell M.D. Series Creator & Cast Member talk Love, Work, and Exes” by Dapper Dr. Feel; Earth’s Cabinet is Realigning the Boy with Holistic Teas, Steams, and Oils; Our Vol 22 theme “#SoGothIWasBornBlack;” Comic Appreciation with Sankofa Guard; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Musician, Gregory Wilson, is Your New Favorite Black Nerd with Glasses; Featured Art Piece by Craig Carter; Must-Have Graphic Novel: “Divine Mother” by Komikka Patton (Martian); Black Business Highlights; and more!!
Release Dec 7 2019 | Vol21 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Black Love! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of M’Shari Whaley of Uniquelywiredm and artist/music producer Jaymison Beverly. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, Paine Artistry is Powering Up Black Artists; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature; “Solo Travel: Holiday Travel & Mindful Spending” by dCarrie; “Separation > Domestication” by Jashua Sa’Ra; Wealth feature “Credit vs Cash”; “For the Love of Children” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 21 theme “Black Love;” our Fitness Feature, Michael Jai White, Receives “The Mantle of the Black Dragon” at Urban Action Showcase & Expo 2019; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef – Falafel with Israeli Rice Salad; Rufus & Jenny Triplett Give Us a Look at 30 Years of Marriage; “#BlackLoveConvo: “Waves Explores the Dynamics and Effects of Black Love” by Dapper Dr. Feel; A Look into The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion; Featured Art Piece by Will Focus; Must-Have Comic Series: “The Outlaws” from Concept Moon Magazine; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
Martin Luther King once said “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.” Which is true, all of us can be great by giving back and being the best version of ourselves.
Ashley McDonough is one of many examples of this as a Howard University grad, producer, journalist, media professional, and modern-day renaissance woman. She has utilized all of her talents to inform, celebrate and entertain. Taji Mag was able to talk to her about self-love in the many aspects of life.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is self-love to you and how can people better practice it?
Ashley McDonough (AM): Self-love is an appreciation of yourself, you have to know who you are and what you deserve. Self-love is appreciating the promise you made to yourself. Living your life accordingly to the promise that you made.
DDF: How do you practice self-love?
AM: It is a day-to-day basis of being kind to yourself. I, myself, am a very busy person and I have a lot on my plate. I can be hard on myself with completing things in a timely manner. To me, it’s truly about being patient with yourself. Just take time out to talk to yourself in a positive, uplifting way.
Relationships & Self Love
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.”- Nina Simone
DDF: You have some great articles about dating. Advocates say you should love yourself first before entering a relationship but when do you know you are ready?
AM: It’s just a matter of self-healing. When you are healed enough and your mental health is in order, then I think that is the right time to date. A lot of times I think that relationships don’t work because everyone’s walking around with these traumas and insecurities that they haven’t healed from.
Once you have healed fully, know what you want out of a partner and you know what you deserve out of that partner and know what you are willing to give that partner in return, I think it’s a healthy ground to go out there and see what the dating world has to offer you.
DDF: Let’s say you are in a relationship, how do you maintain that self-love?
AM: I’ve definitely been in that situation before. You can really get caught up in the idea of love but you have to understand that you can’t love someone if don’t love yourself.
Understanding that you deserve a certain type of love, your partner should understand and be respectful of that. Also, you have to understand what you want out of life, its a beautiful gift from God. You are whole by yourself, I don’t believe in that whole “you complete me” thing. I really think you need to be complete before you get into relationships.
DDF: Can situation-ships be included in self-love?
AM: If that works for you then ok. I think every person is different, I’m not going to say that this is the ideal relationship because sometimes that freedom is a form of self-love. It depends on the person, some people are looking for long term commitment and other people just want to have fun, be free, have options. Society can put these ideas/beliefs on people and that can cause relationships not to work a lot of times.
Work to Live, Not Live to Work
“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” – Janelle Monae
DDF: You have an article about the importance of setting boundaries, how important is that to self-love?
AM: You can get caught up in everyday life sometimes and you need to set boundaries in order to keep your sanity. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, sometimes we treat ourselves like superheroes… we are not. Setting boundaries in every aspect of your life is important for your sanity and overall mental health.
DDF: Pursuing your passion or desired career is also a version of self-love, agreed? Why do so many struggle with it and what did you do to keep moving forward?
AM Definitely because it’s safe. It’s scary to follow your dreams. It’s not something for everyone. Everyone can’t do it and everyone is not in that space to do it. You have to have a strong sense of faith, you have to believe in yourself.
I was born and raised in New York but I took a leap of faith and moved to L.A. because I felt it in my heart to do it. You really have to believe in yourself, work hard and know that God is going to take care of you.
Articles of Self Love and Media
“You are your best thing.” – Toni Morrison
DDF: You have written some great pieces about people embracing the beauty in themselves, what inspires you to write pieces like these?
AM: What inspires my writing? Well, even before I went to college, I knew I wanted to produce and create content that I thought the world needed to hear. I really like doing the backstories of the people that are seen as the overnight successes because I feel like those stories are important and need to be heard by everyone.
Social media has changed the mind state of success and the hustle and the grind. To hear those stories change perspectives.
DDF: Out of the articles you have written, which is your favorite?
AM: One of my favorite stories was about Jessie Woo, she is a comedian and singer. She’s amazing! Her story is so inspiring because of her journey to success. Everyone on social media was seeing her as an overnight success but in reality, it took her some time to get in her position.
She told the story about her start in New York, becoming unemployed within the first two months and not having enough funds to buy a plane ticket home but through it all she made it. Jessie’s story encourages people to follow their own dreams, whatever path may be for them.
DDF: How much of an influence do you think the media has on self-love?
AM: Howard gives you a sense of self, I don’t think many of the students have. It’s the overall experience because you are surrounded by such Black excellence and you are being taught by the most amazing professors with extensive careers.
They are teaching you to love yourself and appreciate your history. A lot this stuff you don’t get see growing up. I grew up in Queens, NY so I grew up in a very diverse area and went to public school my whole life, we learned the basics of Black history.
That changed when I went to Howard University because we learned everything, the good and the bad. The experience taught me how amazing my people are!
See more from Ashley via her website!
If Beale Street Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that explores the dynamics of Black love. The foundation of love in the film is women who are shown supporting their male counterparts which prompts the question, how can Black men show more love and support to Black women? Taji Mag spoke with the cast at the film premiere in DC about some successful ways they can go about it.
Ki Ki Layne discussed the importance of Black men being more vulnerable stating, “I think it starts with really allowing themselves to give and receive love. I think with Black men there is a cutoff, the need to do so much on their own and to have everything together to take care of the household. I think the support will come when Black men make more room to give love and to be loved by Black women.”
Award-winning actress, Regina King, expressed the importance of supporting Black women saying “First of all, start with the love you feel with your mother. That energy and love you feel for your mother, some of that should be present. Obviously, you love your mother differently than you love your woman, but that is where the genesis exist.”
When asked what Black men could do to better show support she explained, “I would suggest they see this film If Beale Street Could Talk if they don’t have a clue. And tell Black women they are beautiful and really mean it.” When asked if Regina raised her 22-year-old son with those values she explained, “My son is taking off his hat, opening doors, and calls his mom every day and tells me he loves me every day.”
The leading actor of the film, Stephan James (Race), also expressed the importance of his mother and the support of Black women, explaining, “My mother has had a great impact on my life. The best woman in my life, that’s a no-brainer because she raised my two brothers and me. She was definitely a great influence on us.”
Black women have been the backbone for many families, especially in a world of male dominance in the workplace, unequal pay, etc. We as Black men have to continue to step up and show our support. If you need help figuring out how to do so, follow the advice of Regina King and go see If Beale Street Could Talk in theaters everywhere November 30th.
It may be difficult for some men to be vulnerable, to openly express heartfelt words of appreciation, but I have no shame in doing so. In fact, in this case, it is needed. The appreciation and love I have for my mother far exceed words. She has been the salvation for me since birth and more of a protector of my dreams than I have been myself.
My mother, Amanda Smith, is something of a beautiful phenomenon. Enduring years of racial prejudice as a teenager, putting her life at risk to give birth to my brother, displaying great work ethic, beating breast cancer, and taking care of multiple people while holding a job. The time she spent juggling a hectic work schedule while taking care of my little brother and my niece was inhuman. My brother and niece were in a terrible car crash, they both were in and out of the hospital from injuries yet she put on her cape and pressed on. She showed even more strength becoming the guardian of my niece after my brother passed. The strength she has is comparable to Superman and Samson (from the Bible) combined.
Even when she siphons her strength to others when they need, her endurance seems infinite. I am guilty of this at times because most times she is my salvation. There are times when I try to reciprocate but it never seems to be enough, yet still, she smiles.
When it comes to my goals and dreams, she has been a great supporter, no matter how big they may be. Just recently I have explored the world of writing and had some success. This had prompted me to take a break from medicine and go after a bigger goal – becoming a screenwriter/producer. Some have questioned my decision because the medical field is a more stable job market, but my mother has encouraged me to go forth in my pursuit with no hesitation. I have done so and have been blessed with opportunity after opportunity because of her support.
I value her, she is truly an amazing human being. Any given opportunity, I speak and display genuine love. I thank God every day for the angel my mom has been to me while I have been on this earth. She is royalty, strength, and savior. She is… a queen.
These are my roses in words to my mother.
Black Panther. The Hollywood version of when America got a Black president. It’s a movie that has captured the lion’s share of Black Americans attention for the past month at least. Since opening night, Black people have been at movie theaters dressed in their finest African garb, faces painted, sometimes playing drums, dancing, even conducting rituals, and otherwise culturally celebrating right in the lobby! We are excited about seeing a high budget film with a dominantly Black cast, Black writers, and Black director (even if not from a Black film company). No, it’s not the first time a Black comic character has been brought to the big screen, but this time the title character is a rich powerful king, not a demon (Spawn) or half vampire (Blade). In addition, and likely more importantly, Black women are integral heroes as well. I have noticed some make shaming comparisons between the support for the fictional hero Black Panther’s movie vs. the historic hero of freedom Nat Turner’s recent movie, Birth of a Nation. That’s an important comparison. It is too rich to completely discuss here, but let us look at the smear campaign launched against its writer and producer, Nate Parker, right before its release. Two things were brought up. First, an accusation of rape from his past that had already been resolved, and, second, the fact that he has a white wife. Amongst Black people, those two things would be more of a trigger to the women than to the men. Black women are also the most likely to go support a historical Black film. Which if you are astute enough, you will see that Black Panther is very much directed more at Black women than any other superhero film to date. Aside from that, I have heard many Black people say they are wary of slave movies, even if it is one of revolution.
Understandably, Black Panther answers an innate desire in Black people to enjoy stories of themselves as brilliant, resourceful heroes with superior qualities and deserving of respect. Therefore I can give props to Marvel and Disney because of acquisition, for being the first to take advantage of the “natural movement” and create a product that accurately targets the Black media consumer without cultural blowback or accusations of insensitivity. However, Disney has a history of including the occult and subliminal messaging in their products, so I had to watch carefully. I have been concerned that, beneath all the beauty that causes us to celebrate this film accomplishment, there will be subtly inserted elements to cause emotional/mental dissonance of some sort. I found some of course. For this article, I will discuss only one.
The main antagonist, Killmonger, seems to have garnered as much affection from the audience as any of the protagonists, if not more. The character has great lines that are delivered with ample charisma. Michael B. Jordan is a very capable actor (and eye candy). Apparently, there is a general empathy for his character, because we can identify with his passionate anger at oppression and injustice, and because he sounds and moves like a Pan-Afrofuturist revolutionary. All of that being backed up by the tragic plot twist of his father dying at the hands of his uncle, the previous king of Wakanda, triggers our sense of Ma’at (karma). He’s the only main character who gets to drop slang in our Black American voice. He’s the king’s cousin, but he reminds us of our cousin! All of these things have given him full access passes to our hearts. That is why he is probably the most psychologically damaging aspect of this film.
For the appropriate tone, consider the thoughtfulness put into featuring strong Black women at all levels of power. At every crucial point in the movie, a Black woman was vital to success. So it goes without saying at this point that a large part of why this movie is so beloved is because of how prominent the image of the powerful Black woman is throughout this film, on and off screen. Therefore it should have been the most vile offense that the first person Killmonger personally killed on-screen was his own [assumed] girlfriend, who was also his accomplice! We never even learned her name. Goodbye down ass Black woman with a nice twist out. Once he became king, he also choked out an elder Black woman for not wanting to burn her garden of sacred super herbs. We love how fierce and proud the all-female Dora Milaje are, and yet we quickly forgot how he cut one of their throats while she was defenseless. He wounded Nakia and was a millisecond away from killing Shuri. See the pattern I’m pointing out?? He was the ONLY main character to hurt and kill women in the movie. How does this slip past us to the point that I’ve heard, “he wasn’t really even a villain,” even from women who are usually vigilant against misogyny. Remember how we enjoyed his movie entrance by talking that talk to a woman, right until she succumbs to the drug he put in her drink.
Even with me pointing out all that, I still say he is a worthy character and had excellent potential for redemption, or even further villain development. In the comic book, he didn’t give a damn about the diaspora, he was just a crazy killer. Why was he killed at the end of the movie then? The very nature of comic books is that villains are defeated but don’t always die. In the Thor series, Loki’s treacherous ass has escaped death in multiple movies. Why did Killmonger have to die then, when it was clear that he was portrayed as motivated by deep hurt but admirable? We are to accept his death at the end as inevitable, because of the already legendary and beloved line he dropped about being like his ancestors who jumped into the ocean rather than accept bondage. But why did he even have to go to prison forever? We can heal Bucky from being the Winter Soldier but can’t get N’Jadaka out of Killmonger? Or was there no one in Wakabi’s tribe who still sympathized and could have saved him at the end? No, I think the obvious answer is “death to any Black revolutionary who fights back against oppression (without western backing).” So we are set up to love this “Black freedom fighter” only to lose him at the end, echoing the psychological terrorism of assassinating so many historical figures.
So yes, I root for the benefits that can come from this kind of film. However, I always invite my ancestors to watch Hollywood films with me and help with discernment. I’m willing to enjoy a movie and still call it out if it has unhealthy elements too. We grown.