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!!
Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.
Steven St. Pierre is a budding creative/actor I met at last year’s DC Black Film Festival. While interviewing him during my coverage of the film festival, he mentioned how he started film making just recently and that Ava Duvernay had been an inspiration to start on a desirable path towards acting. After the interview, we kept in contact and I watched his progression. Little did I know, he would be achieving a lot more than he could imagine. I had an opportunity to catch up with the rising creative.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): How does it feel to have so much success for your short film, Corey?
Steven St. Pierre (SSP): The success has been great! The way I have been perceived for making something great, for myself. Last time we spoke in person, I was halfway into my festival run and we went to places like Canada and DC and I had entered the film Corey in multiple film festivals in the New York area.”
Note: St. Pierre’s short film Corey has won multiple awards that include but are not limited to: Best Short film at the Validate Yourself Film Festival, Wavemaker Award at the Everybody Digital Film Festival Black History Month Edition, Audience Choice award at the Astoria film festival, Best Short Film winner and Grand Prize Winner at the Queens City Film Festival.
DDF: You won big at the Queens City Film Festival, what’s next?
SSP: After I won the grand prize award, I now have the opportunity to have my next short produced from the Queens City Film Festival. The prize is worth $50,000. Taking the passion I had into my own work turned into something I could have never imagined.
DDF: That’s truly a blessing! I remember you telling me about the trials and tribulations you had putting Corey together. Your co-star, Chantal Maurice, put on a great performance, how has her career been since the short film?
SSP: Chantal has since moved to Atlanta P-Valley (Starz), Queen Sugar, Dynasty, and other projects that are coming out later this year. She’s killing the game.
DDF: What women have influenced you?
SSP: My mother and grandmother, the women who raised me in my household. Just seeing their work ethic. My mom worked two jobs, to this day she still works two jobs to help support my grandmother because she is not doing well. Just really seeing all the sacrifices shes made, as an adult, I have developed a deeper appreciation and respect for her.
I have to give a shout to my work mom and my assistant director Catherine, she just retired. Always supported me, always had my back, she was amazing. When you are in the workplace, you always need an ally and she definitely was that for me.
Ava Duvernay has really been an influence on me. I don’t know how many people are aware that before she was a filmmaker, she was a publicist. She was pounding the pavement, making everyone else’s dream come true and she decided, at what some people would think as an older age, to pivot her whole career. I feel like that has been my journey as well.
“I was a film publicist, so I represented a lot of filmmakers and I was always around them. I [started thinking], ‘They’re just regular people, like me, with ideas. I’ve got ideas.’ That’s literally how it started. It was definitely a career change; I didn’t make my first little short until I was 32.” – Ava Duvernay
DDF: You had your biggest role as a co-star on High Maintenance, how was that experience?
SSP: I got that role not too long after I spoke with you in DC, it’s my first major network role. I felt like I finally cracked that code. Going out on auditions is tough, especially being new to the scene, but it’s going on four years now. It brought two passions together because I am playing a basketball player. I played ball growing up, so going into the audition I felt comfortable. I got offered the job via email and was excited! That was the most excited I have been in a long time.
DDF: What are your other goals?
SSP: My ultimate goals are to establish myself in the industry so I can have the visibility to reach people from places in my community. Letting them know they can do anything they are passionate about. Even today, I go to a lot of career days for my friends who are teachers or are a part of programs for children. I think it helps children see someone like me, who is making it, but not a huge celebrity, to let them know goals are attainable. Otherwise, if they see someone who is a huge celebrity they won’t think things are attainable. They can also see the grind I am going through, so when I make it further into my acting career, it will hopefully inspire them.
Steven St. Pierre looks to continue his success as a creative and achieve many of his entertainment goals during his career change. With Ava Duvernay serving as an inspiration, St. Pierre knows that, with hard work and persistence, the sky is the limit.
Follow Steven St. Pierre on social media or check out his web page here.
‘No More Wings does an absolutely wonderful job of taking a scenario that is extremely grounded and using the form to imbue it with an elevated sense of emotion and spirituality.’ – Barry Jenkins (Oscar-winning filmmaker)
Award-winning filmmaker, Abraham Adeyemi, adds another award for his short film “No More Wings.” The South London native won the award for Best Narrative at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. “No More Wings” is a short film about two friends at their favorite chicken restaurant who catch up on old times. The film is an exploration of their friendship, the difference in their life choices, and what the future may hold for each. What the audience discovers by the end of the film is shocking and in some cases relatable. Taji Mag was able to catch up with this promising filmmaker to discuss his prize-winning film.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What inspired you to make this project?
Abraham Adeyemi (AA): I grew up in South London and I was thinking about two of my friends from the area, I just thought to myself what would the experience be like if we met up today? The film was the opportunity to explore a place I call home and to see how people can have the same upbringing but turn out differently.
Abraham Adeyemi was mentored by Oscar-winning Sam Mendes and he shadowed him during the production of 1917.
DDF: The cut scenes to flashbacks were dope, is that meant to be reflective of how most people are when catching up with an old friend?
AA: That was something I had on my mind. Everything in the moment, including their facial expression, explains what the moment means to them. There is definitely history happening within it. I definitely aim to get a sense of reminiscing.
DDF: How does it feel to be the only narrative short from the UK?
AA: I thought that it was crazy! Tribeca was the very first film festival we submitted the film to, we missed the deadline for the Sundance and some other film festivals. Just to know we got in blew me away. One day, I so happen to look through the catalog and thought to myself, “Wait a minute, there are no other Brit films. It’s funny because in advance I had been in contact with the British Film institution, they are responsible for being in contact with creatives going to the film festival. It was from there I discovered, “Oh my God, I am the only one on the list [from the UK]”. It really hit home how big an achievement it was to be at Tribeca.
DDF: I loved how relatable this film is. Many Black people all over the world can relate. What has the response been to the film from people outside of the UK?
AA: Besides Tribeca, not too many people from outside the UK have seen the film. I can only think of two who are Black who have seen the film. My friend and filmmaker Dream Hampton, who attended the Soho House premiere of the film in London in October, and Barry Jenkins, who was on the Soho House Script Judging panel, both at script stage and finished film.
Jury Comments: “It checked every box in terms of authenticity and heart and it was funny!” “It’s such an elegant piece of filmmaking.”
DDF: How did you react to your win for Best Narrative Short”?
AA: I never thought this would happen in my wildest dreams. In fact, I quite deliberately made sure I didn’t think about it. Quite a few of my friends had asked me “What do you get if you win? What happens if you win?” and things like that but I’m quite competitive. So I knew it was for the best too – rather than think about “if” I would win, to focus on just being grateful for the incredible achievement that was simply getting selected for Tribeca. It was, of course, the hope and ambition, I always strive for the top, but I was still very much shocked to have won, especially being my debut. In fact, I still am.
DDF: How did you celebrate your win?
AA: Well, I found out a few days before it went public so I was sworn to secrecy. So on the day, I found out, I actually just celebrated alone in my room. Like, full-on, celebrated. Loud music, popped a bottle of prosecco… And then – just before it got announced to the world – I set up a surprise zoom call with a group of my closest friends with an elusive message “Zoom in an hour. Don’t ask questions. you won’t want to miss this. Bring a drink.” I don’t know who I thought I was… But it worked! It was really important to me that those people didn’t find out through social media. They’ve been massively important in my journey and I wanted to be able to enjoy this moment with them, before the chaos that would ensue once the world knew I had won. It has been non-stop calls, emails, and zoom meetings! I couldn’t be happier.
DDF: Given the film takes place in a restaurant, what are a few food spots a tourist should hit up in London?
AA: I would definitely recommend Morley’s because the chicken is good and it’s where I shot my film. It’s a well-know chicken spot like KFC. I would also recommend the Chicken Shop, the chicken is good but they have the best apple pie. I could go there to grab only an apple pie and go about my day. The last restaurant I’d recommend would be Chuku’s, a Nigerian Tapas Restaurant (the first of its kind in the world!) where the sibling-duo that own it have their own original take on a number of familiar Nigerian dishes. I might be a little biased – because it’s owned by my friends – but I’ve been going since they started out with pop-ups and it’s been amazing to see them finally open their first permanent site earlier this year. Also, objectively, prior to COVID-19 enforcing a temporary close, every single night their reservations were fully booked! So they must be doing something right.”
Amid this COVID pandemic, Abraham Adeyemi is busy working on commissioned tv projects and an upcoming feature film project. Can he reach Barry Jenkins’s status? We’ll just have to keep a lookout for this award-winning creative. Keep up with him on Instagram at @abeislegend.
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!!
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.
“People are not looking for [our] articles, they are looking for me and Damon Young when they read Very Smart Brothas,” explained Panama Jackson, co-founder of Very Smart Brothas, about people who ask to be in the publication in order to gain some notoriety. I have been an avid reader of the blog and The Root column (also partnered with Very Smart Brothas) for a while now. After meeting Jackson at a few events, I knew it was time to feature him in Taji Mag.
The first time I heard about Very Smart Brothas, I was talking to another freelance writer at the 2018 African American Black Film Festival in Miami. She suggested I read their published works and I found myself pre-occupied with doing so on my flight back to DC. The first article I read was Panama’s “So It Turns Out ‘Electric Boogie,’ the Song Your Mama ’nem Electric Slide To, Is About a Vibrator. Life Is Different Now.” It was then I knew I had a couple of writers I could look forward to reading and, hopefully one-day, meeting. My list now included the Very Smart Brothas and Jemele Hill, but that’s a feature for another day. Stay tuned! Wink wink.
Me and You, Your Mama and Panama’s Book Too!
Panama Jackson is known for his hilarious blogs that cover everything from family political debates to film and book reviews. He is also known to post his monthly book list which is typically composed of some of his favorite women writers, including the following:
Zora Neale Hurston. Well-known Black writer and essayest, some of her work has been released posthumously like Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo and Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance.
Nafissa Thompson Spires. Known for her multiple award-winning book, Heads of the Colored People: Stories.
Toni Morrison. Jackson mentions he has a love-hate relationship with her stating “Some of her work is brilliant, her work is not an easy lift, but I am a person that appreciates an easy lift in reading. It’s not that I can’t understand what’s happening but sometimes it’s just difficult to weigh through it.”
Samantha Urby. He stated, “She is a great essayist and I cannot do what she does. I could try, but I just can’t.”
Bassey Ikpi. Jackson stated, “Her newest book I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying: Essays is one of the best books I have read in my life. Off the strength of one album (book), she makes my list!”
Jackson’s colleague, Damon Young, has published a book titled, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker. When asked about his personal book deal, Jackson responded, “I am looking to have my own book out one day, it will be titled Elevators because the book will be about me and you, your mama and your cousin too!” (If you don’t know, the title is a nod to the legendary Hip-Hop group, OutKast, and their early chart topper entitled Elevators). Jackson talked about his ideal book which would include things like parenting, how Hip-Hop is tied to his masculinity, and a few other areas of his life. His goal is to explain how music and entertainment have shaped him as a man and as a human being.
In the Words of Nas, “Keep Integrity at Every Cost.”
Very Smart Brothers Founders Panama Jackson and Damon Young at The Root Gala
Being asked to review films for other popular platforms, Panama speaks on the importance of maintaining integrity when taking on commissioned pieces. One instance he recalls was when a notable publication asked him to write a review of Cardi B’s song Bodak Yellow and the cultural significance of the song. Jackson wrote the piece and turned it in, but the publication did not like his review. They wanted something more “culturally sound.” He recalls, “I had to leave the money on the table, I just thought Bodak Yellow was a great song. Cardi B killed it and that was it. I wasn’t going to force-feed this idea to their white audience that there was cultural significance in the song. It’s just good music and Black people make good stuff.”
He went on to talk about how he felt Black culture gets short-changed in the most popular publications. He used last year’s Jidenna album, 85 to Africa, as an example. “I read a lot of reviews on that album because I loved it so much. I really didn’t see anyone do the album real justice, so I told myself that I had to. Most reviews I saw were 200 words or less. I wrote 1500 words because I felt it needed context and as much effort as possible since I didn’t see it happening anywhere else.”
“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” – Zora Neale Hurston
Panama Jackson: From Black Bloggin to Very Smart Brothers
Panama explained the process it took to get to where he is now as a writer and even talked about his improvement along the way. “If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell myself to be more thoughtful and not be so hell-bent on a hot take. Back ten years ago, if I had an idea, I was willing to defend it to the ends of the earth and that’s not the way to be. This definitely took longer for me to learn than it should have.”
Jackson went on to explain his most significant growth as a writer stating, “I have also become Blacker in my writing. Very rarely you will see me write about white people. I have not done that for years and it’s something you would not notice unless you are actively paying attention. I write about Black people, Black experiences, and that’s it. My writing has become intentionally unapologetically Black.”
Panama Jackson talked about how lucky he and Damon were to make Very Smart Brothas as big as it is now. “It was timing. We started during the Black blogger’s scene and were lucky to build from there. It’s kind of like Jay-Z’s albums presently. If he comes out now, I don’t think he matters. But because he’s been around for so long, when he does put out an album now, people pay attention.” Jackson said he and Damon wrote everyday about their thoughts and opinions. From there they were able to build a fan base.
As we practice social distancing and quarantine ourselves during this Coronavirus pandemic, I recommend you head over to Very Smart Brothas to find some entertaining articles and videos to help pass the time. Jackson has also done a podcast called “What If Tyler Perry Had a Writer’s Room” which can be heard on SoundCloud and Spotify. The first episode features one of his favorite female writers, Bassey Ikpi, as they discuss Perry’s Netflix feature A Fall From Grace. Check it out and don’t forget to stay safe during these rough times.
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.