If Black Girl Magic was a person, Santia Deck would definitely be one of the women to use as the face of BGM. With her career goals redirected from Olympic hopeful to the highest-paid female football player, she is the embodiment of “When one door closes, another one will open.” I am pretty sure her football deal is a door she’s glad to have opened. In honor of women’s month, Taji Mag decided to catch up with the busy star athlete to get an update on her new success.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What were your thoughts when you signed that huge football deal?
Santia Deck (SD): I knew I would be a pioneer for women’s football. I am just more excited that I can be an influence to little girls who want to play sports and give those girls something to strive for.
It’s still a lot for me to take in, but as for not making the Olympic team and instead being given this huge opportunity, it really showed me the power of God. I am a very spiritual person and I was taught that God is doing great things for you, even when it doesn’t seem like it. To see this manifest was validation and testimony that he can do great things in your life.
DDF: What position are you looking to play? Any chance you become the Lamar Jackson of the league? Would you train with Lamar Jackson?
NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Santia Deck
SD: I can throw, but I don’t have an arm like Lamar Jackson. My position by nature is Running Back, so I won’t be playing Quarterback. I would love to train with Lamar Jackson, who wouldn’t? He could probably teach me a few things. He’s an amazing athlete.
(NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Santia Deck were both at NFL Pro Bowl weekend.)
DDF: What has been one of your newest challenges since your new success?
SD: I think it’s the same problem everyone has when they elevate in their career. Not knowing people’s intentions…random people saying “hey, I’m your family” or “I know you from back in elementary school”. These people don’t have good intentions and they can be crazy. Luckily I have a good team around me. My mom is my manager and she really looks out for me.
DDF: Describe 2019 in two words?
SA: I would say “New Beginnings” are the two words I would choose to describe my 2019.
DDF: In the Santia Deck biopic, who would you select to play you in the film? What actor would play your love interest in the film?
SA: That’s a good question. I would want Tianna Taylor to play me in a biopic because we have the same hair and body type. She has good abs, like me. As for my love interest, I would want Micheal B. Jordan to take on that role. He’s such a beautiful man.
DDF: How was it being on Kelly Clarkson?
SA: It was great! She made me feel really comfortable. I think it’s because we are both from Texas so that familiarity made the interview easy. She is a very nice person.
DDF: What are your goals for 2020?
SA: To have an amazing exhibition and show my talent this year. I would also like to take my brand to the next level, solidify generational wealth for my future kids, and travel to as many countries as I can this year.
Many young women everywhere now have another example of chasing the dream and getting positive results. From the field to television, Santia is working hard to become one premiere athlete and who knows, one day she may be mentioned in the same breath as Serena Williams. You can follow Santia on Instagram for upcoming events.
Santia Deck will play for the LA Flames in the Women’s Football League Association. The season starts 2021. Will you be watching?
The audience was quiet as their eyes were focused on a young Black man who narrated his family origins in South Carolina. His captivating voice segways into one of the most horrifying and inhuman events in recent years – the Emanuel Church shooting. It was emotional but the filmmaker/creative, Jon-Sesrie Goff, was able to orate the event passionately, beautifully and concluding with a peaceful ending. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the artist at the Pop-Up Magazine Winter Tour event in Washington, D.C. for an interview.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What was your inspiration behind After Sherman?
Jon-Sesrie Goff (JSG): It’s a feature-length documentary, that I started in 2014, that was supposed to be a visual survey of the Gullah Geechie corridor. This area existed from Southern North Carolina to Northern Florida. I was going for a very experimental, lyrical approach and it was not a personal film at all, but then I wanted to use it as an opportunity to talk to my family about our land and our Country, that was not used. I just wanted to use the camera to talk about the land.
DDF: The short film version of After Sherman is what you are showing and narrating during the Pop-Up Magazine Tour, correct?
JSG: Yes, the piece has evolved after the Charleston Church Shooting. I had a professor/filmmaker during grad school tell me that I didn’t have the luxury to make an experimental film about this subject matter because it required a strong narrative. For the following four years, I have been finding out through Pop-Up that I was able to hone my narrative voice without it feeling inauthentic. I worked with people who were like “Say this!” and “You deliver it so well!” but it wasn’t me speaking.
With the shooting, I immediately went back because I didn’t want to be apart of the press mob. All my footage from the immediate aftermath is horrible because I was so nervous. There are moments where I was next to my mom and I didn’t want to film her during the emotional moment; I also wanted to protect others as well. So I took more photographs than video footage. A few weeks later I went back, did an oral history with church members, politicians, and people in the community, which is very different from the film I was making. Then I went back to do the ending shots of me standing amongst the country scenery and other visual treatments.
DDF: You had a very emotional moment during your narration, how do you get through it every night?
JSG: This night was emotional because my two cousins were here. They are also heirs to the properties that I mention in the film. My aunt, their mother, appears in the photographs in the film. This was the first time I had family members present at my show on this tour and that was really emotional. When I doing the piece, talking about it or working on it without family members around, I am able to desensitize myself.
DDF: You are a well-rounded artist. How does this project differ from other forms of media that you use?
JSG: Well, a personal documentary is one of the hardest things anyone can do. I apologize because I am a cinematographer and kept asking the cinematographers I was working with, why the film was not done yet because it takes a different type of care. I feel like, as a cinematographer and working in commercial spaces, I would be flown in the night before and out the next day, with that there’s no real attachment to the material. It’s just execution and less of myself present in it. When you put yourself out there like that, if you are a thoughtful person, you have to make careful decisions.
DDF: What were some of the reactions from some of your family and friends in Charleston after you showed them the film?
JSG: After the shooting, there was a Sunday School convention scheduled to be at the church and they still had the convention. Two days after the shooting, kids from Emmanuel church were there. Every year it’s around the same time, so it’s like this weird moment of memorial services and then the convention.
A year after the shooting, I went back and showed people my work in progress to the Sunday School convention. They were excited to see and pointing out people they know in the film and all the other stuff sort of fades away. I made this film so that people in the low country could appreciate how special and unique our culture is and how valuable our land is, that was it. People in the Emmanuel and Charleston Community have been very supportive of the project.
DDF: How much did the documentary “Sherman’s March” influence your project?
JSG: When I first started making it before the shooting. It was an inside joke because I love Sherman’s March, the first commercially successful documentary film. And it’s this guy going back to the south, tracing his family steps and there’s like one scene with black people. I was like “That’s really hard to do?” It’s hard to go down south and the only encounter you have the Black people are with some kids. I respect, Ross McElwee as a filmmaker immensely but I was thinking to myself, “I wanna do After Sherman and it’s going to be about all Black people.” I actually shot the opening sequences shot by shot but it may not make it into the film.
I was happy to see the show and honored to interview Jon, especially because of his previous work with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Pop-Up Magazine 2020 Winter Tour is wrapping on February 22, 2020, but be on the lookout for the full feature film After Sherman by Jon-Sesrie Goff. Website.
It was the late Toni Morrison who said “Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.” This quote sums up the new romance film, The Photograph. The Stella Maghie helmed project follows Mae, an art curator who learns about her estranged mother’s past through a letter she left behind. This letter leads Mae to a romance with rising journalist, Michael Block.
Issa Rae as Mae Morton in “The Photograph,” written and directed by Stella Meghie.
The beginning of the film starts off with a VHS interview of Mae’s mother saying she wishes she could love others like she loves her work. Her mom’s obsession with her work (and emotional abandonment of Mae) causes the adult version of Mae to live her adult years unbalanced and living day to day laden with her past. This aspect of the film is crucial because it shows how mental health plays a huge role in our relationships and lack thereof.
We see a poignant example of how mother-daughter relationships (and the way in which they treat each other) is, for sure, generational. Here, Mae’s mother was kicked out of her home because her mom was sick with cancer and didn’t want her daughter to see her waste away. Mae’s mother did the same in keeping her own cancer a secret from her daughter. These actions seem cruel in the moment, but they were only loving imperfectly.
Fast forward, we see two people romantically loving imperfectly, not knowing what to do. They’re walking on the tight ropes of dating, afraid of heights, and praying to God they make it to the other side where meaningful relationships reside without falling off. Let’s be real. Nobody wants to fall off that rope just to jump up and do it all over again with someone new and unfamiliar.
(from left) Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield) and Mae Morton (Issa Rae) in “The Photograph,” written and directed by Stella Meghie.
Taking a Chance
One aspect of the film I find undoubtedly relatable is Michael dealing with his emotions. After being dumped by an ex whom he planned to marry, finding vulnerability within himself again in a loving relationship was a difficult task, I’m sure. We see this in The Photograph as Michael falls for Mae and is entranced by her beauty. I know many have been in this situation. I know I have; building with a woman like Mae, a woman who fears heartbreak and is consistently ambivalent when things get serious.
When Michael finds the love he’s been looking for and his emotional barriers shatter, all this is threatened when he’s hired by his dream job at The Associated Press… in the UK! Far from New York and from Mae, the internal struggle commences as he figures out how to break the news to Mae. I thought to myself, “What would I do?”
Interestingly, Maghie told Mae of a similar scenario that her parents experienced years ago. After she learns of Michael’s decision to relocate, she (as her own father did years ago) decides not to fight for the love of her life and just let things play out as they would.
(from left) Asia (Teyonah Parris) and Kyle Block (Lil Rel Howery) in “The Photograph,” written and directed by Stella Meghie.
From the positive imagery of a happy black family consisting of Lil’ Rel Rowery, Teyonah Parris, and two beautiful little girls to Mae’s father and stepfather, the family dynamics shown were awesome. It’s amazing how so many aspects of Black relationships are portrayed without crossing over into the comedic genre we’re so used to seeing in Black cinematography, i.e. Welcome Home Roscoe or Death At a Funeral.
One can really appreciate the directorial angles during dialogues, the lighting, and the colors used to add to the ambiance of scenes. Add to that the sheer talent of the cast. I’m very happy to have seen The Photograph and look forward to watching it again, just to see what else I can fall in love with about this film.
The Photograph is a necessary film for our culture and for our future. It is our Mo’Better Blues and, most importantly, it is a deep dive into what’s needed for Black people to have successful relationships – honesty, patience, therapy, and understanding. I am happy this film exists and I look forward to the many conversations it will stir up. This film is a must-watch I would personally like to thank Stella Maghie and the cast for giving this film life.
Starring : LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae
In theaters February 14, 2020
Writer/director Stella Meghie on the set of “The Photograph.”
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!!
Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.
“The new Star Wars is a piece of sh*t!” my friend yelled into the phone as we exchanged our reviews of the most recent highly anticipated hit film, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. “Yeah, but did you notice something? Lando didn’t die!” He’s one of the few remaining characters from the first trilogy of Star Wars films… and he’s Black! As I explained, his tone seemed to lighten right along with his mood. I could literally see my point sinking in. Well, he still thinks the film is shit, but at least Lando and Finn survived the events of “Rise of Skywalker”. Not to mention the survival of other Black characters in the film franchise and Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian, alike – an honorable mention to Moff Geidon exquisitely played by Giancarlo Esposito. In stark contrast to your typical sci-fi story, Black characters have and still are eluding death as if there were some direct relation to Marvel’s Deadpool himself. This may sound odd but in a way it is history if you think about it? A major franchise that doesn’t kill off its minorities in the first 5 minutes of their appearance.
Finn portrayed by John Bpyega and Jannah portrayed by Naomi Ackie in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Don’t get me wrong. I, and surely many others, were pissed about the wasted potential of the Finn character, but at least he and Jannah (another Black female character) survived the war just as their chances were beginning to look bleak. I must be honest, as I watched Finn’s sacrifice, it prompted a deeply dramatic “Nooooooo!” after seeing him destroy the satellite that would doom the Resistance. All that changed once he and Jannah were saved. I was really happy to see Finn make it to the end because, let’s face it, not too many Star Wars characters make it through myriad close calls but he did, and to that, I say “Celebration!” (in my Dave Chappelle voice).
We’ve for years witnessed Black people suffer early untimely deaths in horror movies and in action films while sparing their counterparts. It’s refreshing to see one of the most-loved sci-fi franchises of all time manage to keep minorities alive, especially the Black characters.
A Shout Out to Disney Plus and The Mandalorian Writing Team!
I was already excited about the Disney Plus series, The Mandalorian, because Bubba Fett is another favorite of mine. Yes, I love the fact that the series has some awesome creatives like Jon Favreau and I admit I’ve fallen in love with The Child aka Baby Yoda, but what I love most is that the Black people in this series haven’t been killed off!
While watching the series of events leading up to Greef Karga’s betrayal (in true Lando fashion), I was forced to relive deep feelings of disappointment but was also kind of relieved to see him survive what could’ve been a deadly gunshot wound. I recall at that moment yelling “Don’t die, Apollo!” (a reference to Carl Weathers’ portrayal of Apollo Creed in the beloved Rocky series). I was most definitely having a flashback to Rocky IV. There was another moment in which he escaped death after being ambushed by flying carnivorous creatures only to be saved by the cute little Baby Yoda and The Force… of course.
Next up, the villainous Moff Gideon: Leading a large group of StormTroopers, he tries to convince the Mandalorian and crew (Greef and Cara) to surround baby Yoda. 1st things 1st, hats off to Giancarlo Esposito as a great actor, especially as a villain (check out his notable performance in Breaking Bad as Gustav Fring). He definitely evokes a feeling of disdain. As an avid watcher of film and television, I should know to detach from characters because, after all, they’re not real. Giancarlo’s Breaking Bad character, Gustav, *spoiler alert* had already suffered a gruesome death and was also a dope villain, so to see it happen again would be downright wrong. Yet I knew a character like Moff would need to die. While watching the latest episode of the Mandalorian, something inside of me thought he wasn’t dead or at least didn’t want him to be dead after his Fighter ship crashed, and of course, I was right! Once again, I felt good that the Black person didn’t die and that they could make good use of a good character.
What About Windu?
For all you die-hard Star Wars fans, I haven’t forgotten Mace Windu, one of THE dopest saber-wielding Jedi the Star Wars universe has ever seen. His death was terrible but not surprising since Sam dies in pretty much all of his sci-fi films. To witness the Mace Windu die in Star Wars Episode III hurt my heart. I just knew Samuel L. Jackson was going to say “Yes, you deserve to die and I hope you burn in hell too!” whilst destroying Emperor Palpatine. And why does Palpatine’s face look like a Walking Dead zombie using an aging filter? But I digress. Instead, he had his hand chopped off by the annoying Anakin Skywalker and fell to his death by the hand of evil Palpatine. All I could think was “at least we still have Lando Calrissian”.
Jar Jar Binks Who?
What about Jar Jar Binks you may ask? What about him and who cares?
As a true fan who’s privy to the ultimate turnout, I know the trend of POC (people of color) surviving in the Star Wars universe will likely come to an end in future seasons of the Mandalorian, but as we enter into 2020 I can say with pride that I really love Star Wars, a Universe where Black people don’t die.
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!!
Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.
This year, director and writer, Kasi Lemmons, will bring one of the most heroic and inspiring Black woman figures to the screen, Harriet Tubman. The film, Harriet, stars Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr,. and Jonelle Monae. It is a biopic about the life of Harriet Tubman from her first escape to freedom to being the conductor of the Underground Railroad. The film premiere was held on Oct. 22, 2019 in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian African American Musem. Taji Mag was able to speak with the director, Kasi Lemmons, about her creative process and development of the film.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What was the importance of making this film and will this film impact the future of storytelling from the perspective of Black people?
Kasi Lemmons ( KL): As filmmakers, we always ask ourselves, what are the great characters? I write from the characters all the time. Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest figures who has lived. So for me, the fact that no feature film has ever been made about Harriet and she is just such an important person for Americans, especially African American women… This hero needs to be brought to the world, a hero to me on the level of Mother Teresa and Gandhi. She’s a real superhero.
In terms of our future as storytellers, the more we can tell compelling stories that people relate to, the better. There are so many women directors right now and there are so many stories to tell, it’s always been a matter of is the industry ready to accept these stories. Now we are in a period where we can have a Black person as the lead and hero in a movie and bring characters like Harriet to the screen.
(Photo courtesy of Focus Features)
(DDF): What makes this film different from the other films that are about Black slavery?
(KL): Harriet, to me, has always been a story about freedom. If I were to ask you to tell me the story of Harriet Tubman, you would say that she escaped from slavery and then she went back to liberate others. To me, those were like the verbs, that is the Harriet Tubman story.
(DDF): What was your reaction when you found out that you were doing this film?
(KL): My heart started racing, they just kind of sprung it on me and I didn’t have time to think about it, which was good in a way because I went to a meeting and the producer said it in the room. They surprised me because I thought I was just going to a general meeting. I was able to check my pulse to measure my own reaction and, as I am experiencing it, I am thinking, “your heart is really racing, I think you are very interested in this!”
(DDF): You have mentioned in one of your articles that this feeling of excitement is like falling in love. Can you explain?
(KL): Find a good film to work on is always like falling in love to me. There’s always a process of courtship; you’re getting to be friends and then all a sudden you fall in love. With this film, I was really intrigued by it from the very beginning. The love started in my research; she is an incredible presence in my life.
Lemmons with her husband Vondie Curtis Hall and son. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)
(DDF): What was your approach to creating the premonition scenes that Harriet experienced?
(KL): I went through a lot of stages with it, then boiled it down to its most simple form, because I felt like they were like flashes of inspiration. They took many different forms, she had dreams, trances, sometimes just flashes of premonitions, and seizures. So I started to think about what seizures felt like and tried to make a shocking type of image.
(DDF): You did some very creative things to create the premonition scene with the various colors used. How did that come about?
(KL): When I looked up seizures and really tried to read people’s experiences of what seizures looked like to them, I would find the word monochromatic over and over again. I thought that is what I was trying to make it look like.
(DDF): “What is a man to with a woman touched by God” is a line in the script that stood out to me. How did you come up with it?
(KL): It’s interesting, that is a scene that I wrote the night before we shot it. The producers and executive producers at Focus Features, wanted me to try and describe what it felt like to Harriet after her husband re-married. So we imagined a scene with Marie where she would tell her what it felt like to her. I put off writing it because it was a hurdle to me – how do you write what God feels like? Then I started to explore what it would it feel like to Harriet, I wrote it the night before the shoot and they (Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monáe) did it in two takes.
Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)
(DDF): In the film, we see the evolution of the heroic woman icon, how did you go about the character development from Minty to Harriet?
(KS): There is a huge arc that we felt in her character, she almost becomes different people. From an ordinary woman into this almost mythic side of herself, she names herself and she is apart of that. So we named them, Minty, Harriet, and Moses. Everybody participated in the character development; Me, Cynthia, and costume designer, Paul Tazewell. We created her and it was a group effort to give you that arc. From Minty and her dress to when she becomes Harriet in her mission costume, it’s a big arc.
(DDF): What advice would you give to your younger self at the time you made Eve’s Bayou?
(KL): In some ways, I don’t know if I would give myself any advice. Now, where I am in life, I like the way that things unfolded. Take for instance, after I made Eve’s Bayou, I didn’t know if I was going to make another movie but that was a wonderful thing to think at that moment because I was going for broke. So I put everything into it. I’ve had ups and downs in my career. If I could talk myself through those, I would tell myself that you are going to have ups and downs but if you keep going, you get to travel the world, you’ll meet extraordinary people, you’ll work with some of the most talented people and you’ll have a great time.
(DDF): You are also doing a CJ Madam Walker series, what brought you to do that project?
(KL): I have been infatuated with Madam CJ Walker for 20 years. Literally 20 years ago, I was thinking, “You know, it would be dope if we did something about Madam CJ Walker!” So when that came about, I was super excited about being involved in it. Then, Octavia Spencer, she’s perfect for the role. It’s a story that has been interesting for a long time, she is the first self-made Black woman millionaire and you know hair is so special to us black women, we’ve got our own thing. I had a really good time working it.
Kasi Lemmons on set. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)
(DDF): Do you hope to bring more important black women figures to film or tv? Any ideas?
(KL): Oh, I am sure I will do more films about important Black women figures. Do I have any in mind…maybe? (laughs)
(DDF): You were in the horror films Candyman and Silence of the Lambs. Have you had any input or help in the development of the new Candyman film?
(KL): I have contributed to Candyman already in that I mentor the director for the film, Nia DaCosta, since her first Sundance film. She’s great!
(DDF): Will you make your own horror film?
(KL): There is something that I have in mind but I have to be careful because I am extremely sensitive. I have to protect my energy a lot and be careful of what I bring into my life. When I bring in truth, beauty, and righteousness, it’s a good feeling, so I am afraid and that’s the truth.
The film Harriet was a great film with a lot of exploration of the characters’ bravery, selflessness, spiritually, and intelligence. It stands out as a story about the perseverance of the human spirit against discrimination. Creatively, it is a departure from the usual ‘slave cry’ moments that have become rhetoric in most of the blockbuster slave themed movies and I am thankful for that. Go see Harriet November 1st.
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., and Janelle Monae.
It was as if a pine cone was lodged in my throat and my heart was sinking into my stomach when I watched the documentary Emanuel. Revisiting the story of the nine black people that were killed in a mass shooting by Dylan Roof in Charleston, SC was an emotional roller coaster that I was not ready for. The Steph Curry and Viola Davis executive produced the film was a chilling documentary that reminds its viewers about the power of faith, the destruction of hate, and the state of racial discrimination in America.
The intro featured a clip of the moving and memorable eulogy given by President Barrack Obama for the funeral of the Emanuel massacre. I remember this moment and the post devastation that many were in after the event and how the following events further perpetuated the bias that the criminal system had against people of color.
Nadine Lance Collier lost her mother Ethel Lance in the Emanuel shooting.
Emanuel gives an in-depth perspective of the event and things following it. Those featured include the families of the victims, Dot Scott (Charleston NAACP Branch President), Muhiyida D’bhana (Black Lives Matters Founder), Phillip Pickney (Activist), media that covered the event, historians, South Carolina’s political figures, and survivor, Polly Shepard.
History of Charleston
The film starts off explaining some of the historical roots of Charleston, SC and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Going back to the time of the 1800s during slavery, a section of the film I found to be very interesting showed the connection between religion and racism in South Carolina. I really found the short history lesson about Denmark Vessy to be very enlightening and conducted more research about him after I watched the film. He is a former slave that bought his freedom through a lottery and, later, became one of the founders of the AME church. Charged and executed for an uprising of the slaves, Vessey was a very important figure in the AME community.
Pastor Anthony Thompson remembering his loving wife, Myra, killed in the Emanuel church massacre.
Pastor Anthony Thompson told a beautiful story about the ritual he had with his wife. They would see each other at the door with a kiss. He expressed how blessed she felt on that day, how much more full of life she was. Stories like this one were refreshing and gave me a break from the wave of negative emotion I felt during the course of the film.
Another moving story was told by Nadine Lance Collier. Her welcoming and charismatic persona held my attention as she shared stories about her mom, Ethel Lance, one of the nine people killed in the shooting. She expressed how optimistic her mother was and, from her description, I could tell that her mom had a pure soul that the world lost.
It was entriguing how the film summarized an origin for Dylann Roof and his life before he committed his crime. The fact that his actions/ideas were sparked by the Trayvon Martin case was surprising. Society speaks about how rap music and violent video games are the cause for destructive behavior, yet here we have the racist acts of others influencing people to think maliciously.
Survivor of the Emanuel shooting Polly Shepard.
The most disturbing recollection and description of the massacre was from the survivor, Polly Shepard. She fought through tears as she recalled the events of the shooting, her conversation with Roof, and witnessing him shoot her already wounded son. I felt angered when I heard her speak, I wanted to hug her through the screen, and I couldn’t understand how a “mentally disturbed” individual killed innocent people in cold blood, especially after they welcomed Roof in their church with open arms.
“Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.” – President Obama, the eulogy at the Emanuel funeral.
When the film spoke about and showed the footage of how Roof was apprehended, it reaffirmed that America has a racial bias in the law enforcement system that cannot be ignored. I couldn’t help but think about the many innocent Black people that have had police officers draw guns on them and, in some cases, were killed, while Dylann Roof was calmly taken in without force after murdering nine innocent Black people.
Live and Let Love
The documentary revisited the verdict of the trial, some of the victim’s family members expressed their forgiveness to Dylann Roof. There are many curious about their forgiveness, including myself, but this documentary allowed the family members to explain their reason.
The film ended telling the stories of the victims’ family members, how they are dealing with the loss, how they are moving on, how their faith has helped them, and their real struggles with the battle.
Emanuel was a well structured and touching film that I think many should watch. Especially after hearing the verdict and following events of the Amber Guyger case. If you can’t understand the power of faith and forgiveness, the documentary Emanuel will definitely show you how.
With the loss of literary great Toni Morrison, the world looks to many great authors who can create inspiring works as she has – talented authors like Ardre Orie. She is an author, playwright, ghostwriter, and Black creative who has worked with many high profile clients and told many moving stories. Taji Mag got to speak with her about her career and her inspiration for writing.
“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” – Zora Neale Hurston
Dapper Dr Feel ( DDF): When did you write your first book?
Ardre Orie (AO): I wrote my first book at the age of 10 when I was in elementary school. At this age, I was one of those students that talked a lot and my teachers were thinking maybe we need to give her something else to do. My teachers gave me a special assignment, the opportunity to create something, anything from drawing, painting, etc.
DDF: What was your book about?
AO: I decided to write a book about women in my neighborhood and how they were examples of excellence. I thought they would be great role models to the young women in my community.
I completed the book and then got it published. Next, I hosted a book signing, I invited the press/media, and I had a big article in the newspaper. It was pretty amazing because I had no idea that is what I would be doing as a career 30 years later in life.
DDF: What was the next book you wrote? How did you develop it?
AO: The second time I wrote a book, I resigned from my job as an assistant principal at an elementary school in Florida. After that I relocated to Atlanta with my family. I made the decision to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurship.
As I pursued this goal, I had not gone to school for entrepreneurship and it was a learning curve for me. I started a non-profit organization where we taught entrepreneurship and leadership skills to young ladies. We were servicing 500 families of women and children.
“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” – Lorraine Hansberry
DDF: When did your non-profit start and what was your next move?
AO: 2009 is when the non-profit started, the economy was not doing well as this was during the recession. I thought to myself, I really need to be selling something, to really make a profit. I had all these women and girls and, with that, I decided to create a cosmetic line. It consisted of lip gloss and lipstick. I knew I had an audience that loved that, so I started to make the products. This placed me in the makeup, beauty, film, and entertainment industry in Atlanta. At this time, Black Hollywood was forming in the area.
DDF: What made you come up with a cosmetic line?
AO: I started to notice that there were a lot of women that were concerned with self-esteem and I wanted to be able to get this message out about these products. The name of my products were called I Love Me, but I didn’t have the budget to advertise the company traditionally, so that had me look at what I had in my hand and what I had available to me, and that was the ability to write. So I decided to write a book that only showcased women and their different stories, but it would also serve as a marketing tool for this cosmetic line to promote it. That is how the book evolved, it was out of a need to market a product, to market a message, to market a brand that I was creating.
DDF: You had a unique way of advertising the book, tell me about that?
AO: While developing the book, I enlisted 21 women and teens. I hosted a casting call. I got the women to come to Atlanta to have a makeover, particpate in a photoshoot, then I interviewed them and I turned around and wrote the book and their stories as if I was them. This was my introduction to ghostwriting. I remember what I did for my book when I was 10. I studied the industry after that book; it was successful. I had a signing at Barnes and Noble and then I started to receive calls for writing.
DDF: When did you start seeing yourself as a ghost writer?
AO: One of the first clients was from VH1. They had a show coming out and they wanted to know if a book could be made in a short amount of time. The book did well and so did the show. I started to receive more calls after that via word of mouth from VH1, MTV, We TV, Centric, etc. This is when I started to understand that I had found my niche as a ghostwriter.
DDF: How do you approach your work as a ghostwriter?
AO: As my career as a ghostwriter progressed along the way, I developed my processes and how I approach situations. The most important thing is that I grew up in a home with a counselor – my mother was a counselor for 35 years. It was through her, I learned how to listen very well. I learned to not only listen to the words but to also the delivery, the emotion attached to those words, and the yearning of their souls.
DDF: How are the working relationships with you and your clients during a project?
AO: The reason why my clients say “That’s what I was trying to say but I didn’t know how to verbalize it!” is because I try to listen deeply within them. Like what motivates them, what drives them, I am trying to understand their pain, trying to understand the things that make them truly happy, how they find true joy, the things that cause them pain along their journey. I try to pay attention to things that just deal with words. I approach all projects like that no matter if my client is a man, woman, child, etc. There is no difference in the process, but each person’s story is different.
DDF: How did you get your second book published?
AO: When I went to publish my second book, I was doing research and I looking up companies to help me get published. The first quote I got was for $10,000 and this included me doing the writing myself. I was like oh my gosh, I just walked away from a career that took me ten years to build. I am married and have children and that amount of money is nothing just sitting around for me to spend for that kind of project. In that moment, I thought that I would never become an author even though I know that I can write, I have a story to tell, and I know that this project can help other people. That was very disheartening to me, it caused me to do a lot of research about the industry. In doing that, I found a second company that cost $6,000, which was still a stretch, but I made the decision to make an investment in myself because if I don’t make an investment in myself, then how can I expect anyone else to do the same?
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston
DDF: What is the origin of your publication company 13th and Joan?
AO: After I started to learn more about the industry, I soon started writing theatrical productions and screenplays because my creative juices were starting to flow. All this content flowing from me and I realized that I could create this content and it wouldn’t cost me a dime to create. It was the same thing in elementary school. It was then that I decided I needed a company that is about the promotion media, especially for stories of color.
We publish everybody, 13th and Joan does not discriminate when it comes to the content we produce, but I just realized there is no home for people of color to tell it with some sauce on it. We believe that our books use correct grammar, sentence structure, and that our projects are in alignment with the industry standard for well-edited books, but we want to be able to add flavor to our books. We provide stories that mainstream told us that there is no market for.
My research is what lead me to understand that there was not a black-owned publishing company. Some of these companies that do exist, have been in existence for over 95 years. If you trace back 95 years, you can clearly explain why we weren’t having our own publishing companies.
“A thing is mighty big when time and distance cannot shrink it.” –Zora Neale Hurston,
DDF: Out of all the books you have written, which is your favorite?
AO: I have so many favorite books that I have written but there is one that touched me. The author was so in love with the finished product that he wanted to add my name as a co-author of the book. The author’s name is Thomas McClary (Rock and Soul: Thomas McClary Founder of The Commodores). Lionel Richie, also one of the founders of the Commodores, was discovered by McClary. Richie was playing an instrument and not singing, McClary is the one who encouraged Richie to sing. They founded this group at Tuskegee University and they were Motown royalty. He also was the first person to integrate schools in Lake County Florida. We had to do over 60 years of research for the book. Through that, I learned a lot about history.
DDF: Why is this book so special?
AO: It is very special to me because we were able to tell his life story, achievements, and all he had to overcome as a Black man during a difficult time. I am proud to give the story to any Black boy or man to show them what they are capable of.
High schooler, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), overcame a nightmarish past as a child soldier in Eritrea to become the definition of the All-American teenager. As a valedictorian, track star, and all-around popular kid, his life seems set until he suddenly finds himself at odds with an overbearing teacher, Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer). When his loving adoptive parents, played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, become entangled in the suspicions of this teacher, complex questions of prejudice suddenly bubble to the surface, threatening to expose the ugly truths about all involved. (Tribeca Film Festival)
Luce is a captivating thriller that challenges views on parenting and prejudice surrounding adoptive interracial families. The film really kept me ambivalent as to what the motives of each character really was. The talented cast peeled back the layers of their respective characters, especially rising star, Kelvin Harris Jr., who portrays Luce as a cunning, charming, and an innocent teenager. The parents did well at convincing us of juggling raising Luce and keeping their marriage together. Octavia Spencer, once again, portrayed a phemonal role as the teacher that has concerns about Luce that may derail his path to a successful college career.
Luce at Tribeca
At the Tribeca Film Festival, I was able to talk to the writer, director, and producer, Julius Ohna, on the red carpet who explained, “ I want people to ask real questions about the way they perceive things like privilege. We live in these multicultural societies, where the ways that we look at each other can have a real impact on the way people’s lives are led and if we are asking questions that are beyond our blind spots and not looking past them, I think there’s a real change that can come.”
The red carpet interviews and the showing were followed by a Q&A with the director and cast. I felt there was going to be tension in the room as the film depicted issues that society as a whole tends to leave unanswered.
The host of the Q&A – writer, director, and radio producer, Rebecca Carroll –asked thought-provoking questions. Those very same questions caused a lot of the audience members to leave the building due to the sensitive topic. One of the more difficult questions asked was about how does the white couple feel raising a young black teenager? A question that only Onley could answer since he wrote the film.
Tim Roth and other castmates could only approach the question as concerned parents, nothing more. Boasting a revelatory central performance by Harrison (who also appears this year in Gully) and nuanced work from an electrifying ensemble, director and co-writer Julius Onah twists this tale (adapted with JC Lee from his own play) into unexpected shapes, forcing the audience to examine the characters from every imaginable angle. Tension pulls at the screen, allegiances shift, and the viewer’s own biases are used to deepen the storytelling in masterful ways. —Loren Hammonds
Takaways from the film?
Mental health is still a significant issue that needs to be addressed for people of color, especially the child soldiers, like Luce, who suffer from a tremendous amount of stress and mental manipulation.
Caring for family with extreme mental health conditions is a difficult job. The Wilson sisters in the film, portrayed by Octavia Spencer and Marsha Stephanie Blake, gave an in-depth look at how this situation requires patience and a lot of energy.
People still don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation when it comes to racism. While watching this film and attending the Q&A after the Tribeca premiere, I noticed how the characters in the film and people in the audience avoided the issue of racism.
Immigrants are not evil and they are not novelties. In the film, it is shown that Luce is sort of a token character and he plays the role to a tee to fit his needs. Although it is just a film, it can show how, in some cases, children in this situation can be championed in comparison to another teens who come from a background with non-adoptive parents who happen to be Black.
Trials and tribulations have no bias. The film does a great job of displaying the temptations and issues that the teenagers in the suburbs deal with that are similar to teens living in the inner city. The teens come from different backgrounds but still face life challenges.
Nonetheless, Luce is a great, thrilling film that properly addresses mental health, social and racial issues. If you’re looking for a film that is thought provoking and filled with many plot twists, you should definitely check it out.
Luce is in theaters now. It stars Kelvin Harris Jr., Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Andrea Bang, and Marsha Stephanie Blake.