Tag Archives: love

14Apr/22

Omar Epps Discusses His New Film, The Devil You Know, and How He Defines Love

From Love and Basketball to House, Omar Epps has entertained us for years with characters that have been nothing short of memorable. With his new film, The Devil You Know, he serves as actor and executive producer. It’s a crime-thriller drama about a recovering alcoholic trying to piece his life together after being incarcerated. He is faced with a difficult decision to either tip off a detective (Michael Ealy) or keep quiet after discovering his brother, Drew (Will Catlett), was part of a horrific robbery. Omar Epps was able to sit down with Taji Mag to talk about his new project. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you want to be a part of this film? 

Omar Epps (OE): Charles and I were having lunch eight years ago. He just pitches me what I thought was a great idea. I’m like, ”Yeah, let me read the script!” and he’s like, “I haven’t started writing yet.” I’m pissed off thinking “Why did you get me all riled up with ideas?” But you know, it’s been living with me and him for years. It took us eight years to actually get it made, which is a whole other conversation.

DDF: What else did you love about this film?

OE: I also loved the idea selfishly, as far as just the artists, to try to unpack this fractured human. The character I play in this film, Marcus, always looked like, if you can visualize it, a picture on the wall that’s ripped up, but then it has a bunch of tape on it.

So it’s still on the wall to me… Here’s a guy the audience meets and he’s newly sober, he’s just gotten a new job after a few years. He’s just growing and having enough confidence to maybe open himself up… He’s in a very emotionally precarious position, then you throw a grenade on top of that and let’s see what happens. That’s just really what drew me to it. 

DDF: What makes this film stand out? 

OE: You know, we (as a Black community) don’t get the chance to make films similar to like a Mystic River or The Town. You know, films that just have certain pacing to them. And that’s what really got me excited.

DDF: I noticed in the film that Drew and Marcus both struggled with adversities in life and dealt with periods of hardship. Where do you think that came from? It seemed like the other two brothers in the family were doing fairly well.

OE: I think it’s a true depiction of a real family, right? The more people there are in a family, the better chance that everybody ain’t gonna be able to stay on the straight and narrow. That’s just the nature of things, but we support the ones who may struggle more than others because it’s a struggle either way. It’s like King Richard [who] looked out for his girls who went on to become legends. With all due respect (and God bless them), the Williams sisters also have other sisters who are not sports icons. Do you know what I’m saying? No telling how things would be if they went a different way. To me, it’s a true depiction of life. 

Sometimes you’ve got to love hard and sometimes you’ve got to love soft. It’s a push and pull in that way. It’s really a film for everyone because everyone comes from a family that is similar to the one in this film. Everyone knows what it’s like to sit around a table, the food’s being cooked, and your cousins are playing cards over here. Uncle such and such just cracked open a bottle of you know what and talks about social stuff [for] about a half an hour. We all know that feeling. We wanted to try to capture that feeling so that people could examine themselves in a sense, I guess, and live vicariously through Marcus.

DDF: Speaking of which, did you learn anything about yourself while doing this film that made you look at things differently? Perhaps anything you could turn into a book seeing as you’ve published books before? 

OE: Well, that’s an interesting question. From a creative standpoint, I think if I do the job right, it’s up to the audience to try to learn about themselves in some way, shape, or form, you know?

DDF: Your wife is making her acting debut in this film, how did that happen?

OE: Well, you know, that’s really all Charles. We would talk about funny things about my wife. She’s been under the tutelage of the great Tasha Smith for a few years now… Art is art is art. You know, it’s just the different formats, but she took it seriously. So, we threw around different names and one day he calls and says “You know who would be great to play this role?” And I’m like, “ Who?” He says “Your wife!”  And I was like, “I should have thought of that. Well, I can’t be the one to tell her (lol).”

DDF: If you could describe The Devil You Know using music, what song would you pick?

OE: No one’s asked me that question, so my mind just went blank. That is a great question. Let me go seventies, “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye.

DDF: You are widely known for your role in Love and Basketball. The film was about love. My question to you is how do you define love? 

OE: Love itself? Honestly, I think that it is a verb. We can say it all day. You could have whatever [written] on tank tops, t-shirts, or whatever, but it has to be an action for it to actually be real, you know?  I’m from Brooklyn, New York and I grew up around a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life. I’ve seen various forms of love. If love is sort of the roots of a tree, you have compassion, empathy, and all of these other things that come along with that type of feeling that forms the trunk and branches of the tree.  

I’ve been fortunate enough to see both sides of love and see the effects that it has on people. I choose the side of light. I choose the side of love because you just never know what someone’s going through. 

DDF: Are there any moments in life where you learned about love? 

OE: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned so far on this life journey is from my mother. She was an educator [with] the Board of Education for 30 something years. She basically taught half of New York City. When Juice first came out, I was about 17 years old. I didn’t know enough. People would come up to me on the street and I’m like “They might recognize me from the movie” and they would say “You are Bonnie Epps’ son? She used to teach me in eighth grade”. You know, it didn’t matter if they become a doctor or a bus driver. They would tell me to thank her for the conversations she had with them when they were young. The crazy part is, I would always go back to my mom and tell her these things and she would remember exactly who I was talking about. She would say “Oh, big head Craig? Oh, yeah. He used to give me trouble”. What that taught me was the power of giving and if we’re not giving, we ain’t doing enough. And you don’t give to receive, you give simply for the act of giving. Whether that’s if someone is homeless and you give whatever you got in your pocket or whatever you can spend. You see a homeless person outside a restaurant and you go in. If you can afford it, don’t just give them the scraps. Maybe get them a small little plate of something. Whatever you can do, you know? 

I’m just saying that to say, going back to my definition of love, it was instilled in me at a very early age. A big part of this cycle is all about giving because when you are giving for the sake of giving, the universe gives it back to you in some way, shape, or form. You just don’t know what that may be. And I’m not talking about material, I’m just talking about happenings, you know. So I know that was a long-winded answer, but it all kind of comes back to that.

Epps made a valid comparison when he mentioned movies like The Town and Mystic River because The Devil You Know is in par with the pacing of those movies. The film explores the dynamics of a blue-collar family and the lead character, Marcus, has to make choices that may jeopardize his relationships but also provide him an avenue for forgiveness and peace.  

The Devil You Know will serve as a great conversational piece in regards to what we would do in Marcus’ or Drew’s shoes, how the actions of one person in the family can affect others, and how we should deal with the sins of our past. The film’s finale is filled with surprises and twists that I am personally not ready for but could see how these things could happen in real life. As Omar Epps mentioned in the interview, we all have that family member who suffers and struggles with temptation, but how do we deal with those individuals? 

See how things turn out for Marcus and his family in The Devil You Know

Synopsis: Boundaries and bonds are tested in this gritty crime-thriller drama about family, morality, and redemption. Once incarcerated Marcus Cowans (Omar Epps) is trying to turn over a new leaf with the support of his loving family. Upon discovering that one of his brothers (Will Catlett) may have been involved in a horrific crime, Marcus grapples with the limits of brotherhood and loyalty. He and his family, increasingly weary of the justice system’s failings, end up in the crosshairs of a seasoned but jaded detective (Michael Ealy). Written and directed by Charles Murray, The Devil You Know evokes the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? And at what cost?

Starring: Omar Epps, Will Catlett, Glynn Turman, Curtiss Cook, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Erica Tazel, Vaughn W. Hebron, Michael Beach, Keisha Epps, Ashley A. Williams, with Theo Rossi, and Michael Ealy. 

Written and Directed by: Charles Murray 

Run Time: 116 minutes

Where to watch: AMC Theaters

17Dec/21

Swan Song Review: Mahershala Ali’s Touching Performance Explores an Ethical Dilemma

Mahershala Ali as Cameron (Left) and his clone Jack (Right)

*Spoiler Alert*

When I saw the trailer for Swan Song, an Amazon series called Solos (starring Anthony Mackie) came to mind, specifically an episode entitled Tom. A 2 minute and 35 seconds-long glimpse at Mahershala Ali’s performance coupled with actress Naomie Harris‘ charisma led me to believe this sci-fi film would be nothing short of exceptional. Can I tell you I was not disappointed?! Performances by Ali and Harris kept me fully interested in this slow-paced film. I like Anthony Mackie (Falcon and all), but Mahershala Ali did a helluva job. 

Saying So Much Without Saying Anything 

I was impressed early on with a scene between Ali (Cameron) and Harris (Poppy) when their characters first met on the train. It’s actually my favorite part of the film! As Poppy sits in front of Cameron, while on the phone and snaps off a piece of chocolate on the table between the two, Cameron assumes it’s the chocolate he ordered moments before Poppy came onto the train. He slides the chocolate towards himself, breaks off a piece, and eats it, all the while smirking at Poppy. The two take turns eating the chocolate while Poppy is still on the phone. They’re clearly intrigued by each other. The chemistry here was uncanny, and so much was said without even an exchange of words between the two. After Poppy gets off at her stop, Cameron realizes he was eating her chocolate as he discovers his own chocolate bar was still in his jacket pocket.  

Mahershala Ali (Cameron) and Naomie Harris (Poppy)

Ali and Harris’ Performances 

Ali does a fantastic job portraying both Cameron and his clone, Jack. His reaction to first seeing the clone was completely expressed through his eyes. His reaction to seeing his clone for the first time was incredbly believable, and his clone’s reaction to its initial awakening seems as accurate as could be. Ali’s eyes alone provide all the emotion needed to perfectly portray what is required in certain scenes. 

Naomie Harris is charismatic, as usual. Her love as a mother is believable and feels genuinely organic. The scenes where she is heartbroken after her twin brother’s death creates a need for Cameron to be ambivalent about deciding to be a clone or not. I couldn’t blame Cameron; watching Poppy shut down and become distant was so concerning. In addition to Poppy being pregnant, Cameron is also concerned about his son not having a father while growing up and how that would affect him. 

Cameron meets Kate (Awkwafina), a woman on her deathbed who decides to undergo the transition of a clone taking over her life. At times, it seems Kate is ok with the decision and even displays a bit of humor as her lifeforce slowly deminishes, but I could tell from her conversations with Cameron (after he met her clone and daughter) that she misses her life. Although the island where the transition ensues seems fitted with the appropriate resources and comfortability, it is still somewhat isolated. No one knows you are there besides Dr. Scott and her two colleagues. 

What would be my concern if I was in Cameron’s shoes? Well, that scenario comes up when Cameron witnesses his clone interact with Poppy via facetime right in front of him. It was so eerie to see the connection and love with his wife replicated without Poppy even noticing a difference.

I like how the writer gives Cameron another variable: if Cameron decides to abort the program and tell his wife he is dying, the clone would be terminated. The clone, Jack, made a compelling case to live, which threw me off. But hey, Ali was playing this role, so why wouldn’t there be depth to the clone?

The film ends with Cameron escaping the island after passing out from a seizure as he went to spend his last hours with his family before the clone takes over. The clone allows Cameron to see (through his eyes) Poppy tell him she’ll love him always, an emotionally challenging but meaningful way to end the film. At this point I had a little eye sweat, then again, it may have been allergies. 

Mahershala Ali and Awkwafina (Kate)

Presentation

One of the first things I learned in filmmaking is to show the audience and not tell; this film does just that. It shows the audience that the movie is set in the future with the use of advanced technology. From the coffee-serving A.I. to the self-driving cars, this film has some pretty cool technology that I wish I had access to. The solid colors used in different scenes creates significant effects and mood. Swan Song uses a non-linear structure to explore Cameron’s history and transmit his memories and thoughts into his clone, which is kind of cool and not too overwhelming. I didn’t find myself getting lost as I have with similar movies in the past. 

Who Looked at My Playlist? 

The soundtrack of the film was on point! It uses songs from artists I am a fan of, Frank Ocean and Moses Sumney. The pieces used were well placed throughout the film and added to the scenes’ moods. For example, when Frank Ocean’s reimagining of Moon River played during Cameron’s flashbacks of his life with his wife. It pulled on my heartstrings, so I took a break and watched a couple of Tony Baker videos. Shoutout to the music supervisor of this film. It felt like they hacked into one of my playlists! 

In another cool scene, Cameron goes through his routine and watches his son sleep while Moses Sumney plays in the background. As he takes out his earbuds, the music lowers from the soundtrack to real-time, making me feel like I was a part of the scene. 

Overall, Swan Song is a great film that challenges the audience to think about what they would do in the lead character’s position. This actually would be a great film to watch with a group of friends or family, because it would serve as a fascinating conversation piece. This film is worth watching and I recommend putting it on your watchlist. 

Swan Song will be released and streamed on Apple plus on December 17th.

17Feb/20

The Man Behind the Music, Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

The Photograph was a phenomenal film, no doubt. Much is to be said about the collaboration of artists on the project as one of the most impressive elements of this film is the music composition. The film composer is none other than Robert Glasper. Knowing he was responsible for the soundtrack immediately gave me confirmation that The Photograph would be an overall great production. Right after watching, I immediately sought out an interview with the man behind the music, Robert Glasper. I had the chance to ask the multi Grammy Award-winning and Emmy winning artist about his work on the film. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF):  What brought you work on this film? 

Robert Glasper (RG): Luckily, Stella being a fan is what really brought us together. She liked my trio albums so a lot of the music in the film was based on that earlier work.

 DDF:  What was your creative process for the film?

RG:I liked making things up in front of the director. We’d put up a cue and they’d tell me what they wanted to accomplish emotionally and I liked writing there right on the spot. Sometimes it takes ten different tries or sometimes it’s magic on the first try, but that’s just the process that works for me. If the director is there, I can include them in the process and get the best result.

Robert Glasper

DDF: The music definitely matched the tones and colors of the film. How did these aspects of the film influence your work? 

RG: Each scene had a purpose and some kind of emotion behind it that Stella wanted to portray, whether it’s anger, confusion, sadness, happiness, sexiness… Whatever it is, it’s my job to try to match the emotion with music, or musically support the emotion. The great thing about it was that she was very free with letting me be who I am musically to try to get these points across.

DDF: How does music composition for film differ from composition for albums? 

RG: For albums, there’s nothing you have to match it with. When you’re composing music for a film, you’re trying to help tell a story that people are already seeing visually. There’s something already there and you’re trying to attach something to it that emotionally reflects and assists the storyline.  

When you do an album, there’s no visual, so you’re creating whatever you want. The visual is in each person’s head. There’s no director steering you towards what to see or feel, but that happens when you’re watching a film. The director is steering you towards a particular emotion. 

DDF: What movie music composers are you inspired by and why? 

RG: I’m not really inspired by movie composers, I’m more inspired by artists and musicians who do music. If it just so happens that they do a movie great, but there are no film composers I pattern myself after or study, per se. 

DDF: What are some of your favorite film scores and why? 

RG: I like Love Jones film score. This score kind of reminds me of Love Jones because it’s the story of two young black adults that are really artsy. Both films kind of parallel each other and both use music of their generation to tell their story. The Love Jones soundtrack was full of people of the generation and it was really cool. The Photograph is also full of music of the generation. At the same time, it had some throwback stuff that inspired this generation and used jazz as well. The difference is that Love Jones used Charlie Parker and John Coltrane — jazz from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. This one was more modern. It has music from me and Christian Scott; it used jazz of today.

Mo’Better Blues is one of my favorite Spike Lee films and one of my favorite soundtracks. It featured not only Terrence Blanchard but also Branford Marsalis.

Actor Denzel Washington and director Spike Lee.

DDF: I actually thought of Mo’ Better Blues while I watched the film. Was it your inspiration?

RG: Mo’ Better Blues is definitely one of my favorite soundtracks like I said earlier. When most films use jazz, they use jazz from the 20s-60s; they rarely use jazz of this time period. Mo’ Better Blues was made in the 90s and used music and musicians of that era, and that’s what made it really dope to me, so this feels like the same thing for sure.

DDF: What would it mean for you to win an Oscar? Is that the goal? 

Robert Glasper and actor/rap artist Common celebrate their win at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards

RG: I’ve already won an Emmy for my work on Ava Duvernay’s documentary The 13th on Netflix. I wrote the ending song featuring Common and Bilal. So it would be amazing to win an Oscar. Most musicians aim for a Grammy. I’ve been blessed to have a few Grammy’s and an Emmy so to get an Oscar would really be icing on the cake. 

DDF:  If you can choose one song from your catalog to describe The Photograph, what would it be? 

RG: I’d probably say a song I did on my Black Radio album called “It’s Gonna be Alright” featuring Ledisi. It’s saying no matter what the ups and downs of life or a relationship, there’s always sunshine, there’s always a bright side. These particular movie characters had their ups and downs in their relationships and they found a way to make it work, so I’d probably say that song.

DDF: How have you grown as a score composer since your first movie project?

RG: I’ve grown a lot. I’ve just learned how to read and understand directors better. My musical palette is bigger. Understanding how to bring in different vibes from all across the global palette of the world. I’ve had to mix all kinds of styles of music, some I’ve never had to tackle before to bring across one scene. It helps you grow, the more knowledge you have, the better. For instance, in this film, I had to compose some New Orleans music and I’ve never had to do that before. Having to compose styles outside of what you’d be personally oriented to create has just made me a better musician. 

Robert Glasper was a perfect choice for the Photograph soundtrack. His musical talents paired with Issa Rae’s and LaKeith Stanfield’s acting skills plus Stella Meghie at the helm, audiences everywhere are in for a treat. It’s artistic range, both directorial and musical, feels similar to the Spike Lee classic Mo’Better Blues. Anyone familiar with the 90s classic would find this a testament to The Photograph’s contribution to cinema today.

The soundtrack by Robert Glasper also features music by artists Lucky Daye and H.E.R and can be found on platforms like Google Play, Apple, Spotify, etc. Watch The Photograph in theaters now then run and buy the soundtrack. You’ll be thankful you did.

28Nov/19

Queen and Slim is Art Interpreting Life

Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith

Queen and Slim is a moving film that dives into the racial injustice of the judicial system that frequents the media and social platforms. It’s not just another film that explores this topic, it’s a film that pays attention to perspectives. Much like the 2000 film Traffic, Queen and Slim gives a look at various perspectives from different characters when dealing with racism, police harassment, and brutality while following an innocent Black woman and Black man just trying to survive. Along the way, the audience gets to follow the growth of the characters the and challenges (both mental and physical) they must face. 

Social Media Discussions and Disagreements

It’s as if the subject matter of police brutality was brought up at a family gathering during the holidays or posted on a social media thread – everyone has a different perspective that they are entitled to. Not all agree on the actions of the subjects but each has different thoughts because of their experience or career, especially those family and friends in law enforcement. Each person that Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) encounter are easily personified as those very same people. From the police officers who are in pursuit of them to their family members to a young man they meet at a body shop to a paranoid man in a trailer park who help them.  

Of course, as the protagonists of the film, they are heralded as heroes for fighting racism and murdering a cop but they didn’t do it to be heroes, they did it to survive. Their reactions to the police officer are on different spectrums – Slim being the more passive type while Queen, who is a lawyer, is more vocal.

The interesting thing is how many Black people support them and don’t blow their cover while they are on the run. Like most Black folk, they are tired of police killing innocent people such as Philando Castile. 

The film also shows the perspective of good police officers who know their job well and pose no harm to innocent people but still get categorized as a threat. This was an interesting perspective because at times people forget that there are police officers who do their job. In some cases, they become villainized and sometimes assaulted because of the negative connotation of the badge caused by bad cops. 

During the course of the film, there are characters who resemble some Black folk who don’t care about the fate of innocent Black people and only care about themselves. They are the very same people in the world who show indifference for selfish reasons or only care about making their money.  I have definitely encountered various types of people in my life and have been a little irritated at times when people cannot think objectively about the topic of police brutality, so the film did a great job of delivering the message that I try to relay when I talk to others about the subject matter. 

Waithe and Matsoukas Are A Dope Combo

Lena Waithe did a tremendous job with the characters to ensure that this wasn’t another Bonnie and Clyde or Set It Off film wild chase that the film may seem like from the trailers. It’s moreso storytelling about real people, with real problems, who face a world that is full of imperfections while dealing with their personal issues and growing together. 

The beauty of the film was the vulnerability and connection that the two characters develop during the course of the film. I really saw the two characters exchange energy as each started to take on personality traits (i.e  Slim becoming less uptight and Queen becoming more open to spirituality), from the beginning to end, its something I felt was well represented.

I was really impressed with the way the film was directed by Melina Matsoukas, the different hues and angles played to the emotions of the scenes. Especially when Queen and Slim had moments of reflection or action. I really felt apart of the scenes and felt the acting that made the characters compelling. Matsoukas directorial efforts proves that she knows how to really capture important moments. 

There were many scenes where I saw Queen and Slim as enslaved escapees back in the day, especially when they hid under floorboards when the police came looking for then in an all-white neighborhood. It also reminded me of the enslaved stacked together under a ship. 

Queen and Slim is a must-watch film that will be immortalized as a film that audiences will enjoy now and future generations will fully appreciate. My hopes are that it will reach a wide demographic who they can see the perspective of the Black people.

Queen and Slim 

Directed by: Melina Matsoukas 

Written by: Lena Waithe 

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith 

31May/19

Another Dream, a Tribeca VR Immersive, tells a Story that Needs to be Heard and Felt

Another Dream

Tamara Shogaolu and Dapper Dr. Feel aka Felipe Patterson. (Photo by William Baldon)

Love is hard to find in this world, so image finding a bond with someone so deeply that you can’t stand being away from them. Now imagine having to hide that relationship, restricted from fully exploring it in fear that you will be disowned, harmed physically, or killed. So you escape with your partner, leaving behind family friends and a life within a community, to have emotional and relationship freedom. That is the case for the two women in the virtual reality (VR) immersive, Another Dream, by Tamara Shogaolu.

Another Dream started out as a collection of interviews that were collected by Tamara and journalist Nada ElKouny over two years in Egypt. They interviewed many women, ethnic minorities, and people of the LGBTQ community about their experiences.

These stories needed to be heard because their relationships, in the eyes of some people in Egypt, are seen as immoral; having the livelihood and lives of people in the LGBTQ community threaten due to aggressive homophobia.

“After the Revolution, people became very open and started to reimagine what Egypt could be. What stood out to me about the experience was a lot of the queer voices and stories had optimism that things were going to change,” Tamara Shogaolu explained about her interviews.

Another Dream has more themes of discrimination within the project than that of the LGBTQ. When it came to explaining this Tamara stated, “For me, it’s not only about the LGBTQ community in Egypt, it’s also about when the characters come to Europe they face racism. You leave one form of discrimination to another form of discrimination. I think that is a global issue of how we create our own empathy and compassion so that we can all be better humans.” She then added, “With this project, the intersectionality of their identity goes that they are LGBTQ but they are also people of color, and even within the LGBTQ they face discrimination.”

Another DreamTamara mentions that the word refugee is misinterpreted, elaborating, “The word refugee has been highly politicized. If you really think about it, it’s someone that is forced from their home and I think people forget that. It means we don’t want you here and there are people that have whole lives, like the characters in our story. One is an engineer and the other is a medical professional. They have to leave that and start from scratch. They are doing well, back in school re-studying the occupation that they were doing, in another language, while only being there for two years. That’s amazing.”

FYI: There are some cases where authorities in Egypt have stepped in opposition to the LGBTQ community. In this case, eight men were jailed after their gay wedding video went viral showing two men kissing.

The Another Dream VR Experience

Another Dream

Dapper Dr. Feel experiencing the VR immersive Another Dream (Photo by: William Baldon)

Another Dream is a virtual reality immersive that pulls you into a world where two lesbian lovers have their relationship and love tested through many challenges. Two lovers are first introduced to you with their dog while sitting on a couch. As their story begins, the environment changes to match the narration of the two. The colors and visuals evoked emotions that allowed us to sympathize more with the couple telling the story.

The experience is very interactive, having intermissions where I had to use a laser pointer (almost a like a lightsaber from Star Wars, so I was geeked!) to trace positive Arabic words. Upon completion, I moved on to the next part of the story.

Another DreamThe most beautiful scene was that of the city; it’s a mix of colorful hues and sounds of the environment that are highlighted by the dark of night. I found myself floating as if I were on a magic carpet ride from Aladdin when exploring the area. It’s definitely amazing work by the VR and sound team.

During the journey, I got to a part of the story where the two lovers escape to Europe overnight because their love for each other is not accepted and one of them was set to wed in an arranged marriage. At this point, I felt the cold and dark of night, the fear of being captured by those in search of the two or just any random stranger that could harm the women on their search for refuge.

When the characters arrive in Europe, you feel the eyes of judgment and unfamiliarity of them being women of color as characters shop at the local grocery.

Eventually, they become comfortable in the fact that the only thing that matters is their love for one another. By the end of the experience, I felt happy for the two coming to the revelation that they were safe and although they are starting their lives together, they can do it happily together.

FYI: Another Dream is part of an animated transmedia series, Queer in a Time of Forced Migration. The first part of the series began with the first short Half A Life.

Who is Tamara Shogaolu?

Another Dream

Tamara Shogaolu and Dapper Dr. Feel aka Felipe Patterson. (Photo by William Baldon)

Tamara Shogaolu is a talented director/creator/artist from a multifaceted cultural background. While studying economics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, she was convinced by a professor to study film after creatively using it in her economics research projects.

From there she earned her MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and her previous work, Half-Life, is a short film that has garnered many awards. Not only has her work has been featured all over the world in galleries and festivals, but she also is the creative director for Ado Ato Pictures.

Seeing Through It All

I didn’t know what to expect when I first put on the VR gear but I am glad I went to the experience with an open mind and with no expectation. This experience is a learning tool that may help others understand that love shouldn’t only be celebrated and hindered.

With the work that Tamara and her crew have put into this project, I am happy to say they have achieved the goal of both creativeness, experience, and informing the audience. Hopefully, Another Dream will touch enough people that it will allow people to safely and openly love whomever they want without any hindrance.

08Apr/19
Black Owned Healthcare Practice

Self Love Series | Black Owned Healthcare Practice Targets Sexual Health and Education

Black Owned Healthcare Practice

Vontrese at her practice.

“Everyone is doing it (sex) but nobody is talking about it.” I hear Vontrese Warren, nurse practitioner and fellow Louisville Central High school alum, explain. As a writer covering self-love and seeing sex as a part of that, I felt it important that Vontrese shares her story and the importance of sexual/reproductive health. Besides being a credible resource on the topic, Vontrese also co-owns her own healthcare practice (with Cynthia Parker) in west Louisville, KY. Their Black-owned healthcare practice focuses on reproductive health and education. West Louisville is not known to have many Black-owned healthcare businesses, especially not considering its population demographics.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you become a nurse practitioner? 

Vontrese Warren (VW): I have always wanted to be in the health field since I was a child, I really wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I attended Moorhead State University as a pre-med/chemistry major but realized it wasn’t for me and changed my major. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an obstetrician and went to nursing school. Once I completed the nursing bachelor’s program, I got a job working at UK (University of Kentucky) hospital in the labor and delivery department. For the next ten years, I held jobs at UK hospital, Medical University of North Carolina, and Baptist Health Louisville.

“I early conceived a liking for and sought every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others.” – Rebecca Lee Crumpler (The first African American Woman to earn a medical degree)

FYI: Crumpler, like Like Vontrese Warren, was a nurse for 10 years before she furthered her education and practice.  

DDF: What made you go into reproductive education? 

VW: After being on call on holidays during the summer and spring break when most families are on vacation and realized I’m missing out on family events like some of my sons’ events, I decided that I didn’t like the current lifestyle/schedule. I decided to go in another direction. It was at this point I decided to get my master’s in nursing at the University of Cincinnati. While studying nursing, I also studied sex counseling.

Black Owned Healthcare Practice

When you put yourself in a specialty, you put yourself in a bubble, like, a family nurse practitioner can get a job anywhere. However, I knew what I wanted to do and I didn’t want a job just anywhere.

It was difficult finding a job that fit me. Job after job, I searched and they were either already taken or not a good fit for me. I finally found a job at a doctors office where we performed aesthetic care which included weight loss management and reproductive care. This was right up my alley but it still didn’t work out.

After two years looking to find a job, I thought, if I can’t find a job I am going to make a job. So that’s what I did.

“…somewhere in your life, there has to be a passion. There has to be some desire to go forward. If not, why live?” –Alexa Canady (The first African American Neurosurgeon) 

DDF: What is the importance of sexual health education, outside of just grade school? 

VW: As I mentioned, everybody is doing it but nobody wants to talk about it. When people are talking about it, they are not discussing correct information. Like my son is in second grade, you have kids in third grade and up talking about sex but what are they saying?  

Even when it comes to the parents or grandparents sharing old wives tales about sex, these aren’t backed with education or studies. So, I like to inform people to give them the direction to go. If you are doing it the right way and have a good knowledge base, then you are better off in any relationship with your own sexual health and whomever your partner is.

“Talk to her about sex, and start early. It will probably be a bit awkward, but it is necessary.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

DDF: Do you have male patients as well? 

Both women and men are patients, but I have more women patients because I provide more for women. It just depends on the type of venue.

DDF: How important is sexual health and sex education to self-love? 

If you are unhealthy in any aspect, you have to take some accountability on why you are like that. Why aren’t you as healthy as you can be? You know what can be done and/or can seek the resources to help yourself.

DDF: What are your goals, both short term and long term? 

VW: My goal both short and long term is to educate the community on reproductive health and let people know that there are resources out there. Here in West Louisville, there are not too many businesses, let alone healthcare, but that’s why I have my services here.

If you are in the Kentucky area, visit Vontrese at her business:

Warren & Williams Health C.A.R.E., PLLC

2600 West Broadway, Suite 208, Louisville, Kentucky 40211, United States

Contact: warrenwilliamshealthcarepllc@gmail.com

Tel: (502) 653-9716 or (502) 309-4432

15Mar/19
Anthony Trucks

Former NFL Player Anthony Trucks Explains How Self-Love Affects Your Service

Anthony TrucksAnthony Trucks is currently one of the few football players to complete an American Ninja Warrior gauntlet. At 225lbs he really wasn’t expected to complete the gauntlet because the people that are normally able to complete these obstacles are around 160lbs. He approached the obstacles at the event like he approaches life, looking to only to do his best and nothing more. Taji Mag was able to talk to the competitor and former NFL athlete about the importance of self-love, life shifts, and overcoming obstacles as a current self-help coach, influencer, and inspirational speaker.

“Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to your life.” – Wilma Rudolph

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is an Identity Shift?

Anthony Trucks (AT): “We have a lot of things that vastly change in life, things like relationships, income, family, and self-image. Along with that is what we desire to change and that change comes from not only our mindset and habits but our identity as well. When our identity becomes dialed into where you want it to be, the mindset and habits will fall into place smoothly. I believe that when you have identity anchors in place, life becomes easier and smooth.

We as individuals want more. More love, more freedom, more time, etc. But we want these things without changing our routines or schedule. Life doesn’t work that way. I think the desire for change came through the desire to want.

I’m always looking back at my life to evaluate my desire for that certain period and time. At that point I was thinking about why I wanted to close my gym, why I didn’t do anymore consulting or guest speaking. Well, about two years ago I decided that the last thing I want to be on my deathbed is the person I could’ve been.

DDF:  What gave you the strength you needed during your childhood?

AT: Being a kid, you know no other option. For me, I started to grow into my conscious mind as a young fostered child. I knew no better nor examined the difference between my self and other kids until I was exposed to more things. It is then I began to question “Why don’t I have new clothes or why are there holes in my shoes?” I was lucky enough to have a caring foster family to get me through difficult times in my life. The other thing that helped was that I had people outside of my family who helped facilitate me into programs and spoke positivity into me.

“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” -Muhammad Ali

DDF: What allowed you to move into your calling and current position after your career ending injury?

AT: The change from my NFL life was one of the big identity teachers for me, I think it’s a good teacher for anybody. I think what we do is what we become, much like if a person at a young age swings a bat every day, often times they become a baseball player. This happens to athletes and some people in the military. When you are an athlete, you base your sense of self-worth and guidance on this thing you do, but when the thing you do (career or activity)  is no more, you don’t know who you are.

I was smart enough to know that there may be an asterisk on the future of my football career, so I took care of my academics and made sure I graduated. When I came home, I started to figure out who I was because my life went from everyone wanting to talk to me and have me sign stuff to not even knowing my name because I didn’t play anymore due to my injury. That is definitely a difficult transition.

Anthony Trucks

I had to find a way to re-direct my energy into finding that new thing that made me feel as if I mattered. It helps me more when I find things that will help other people.

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou

DDF: Where did this re-directing of energy take you?

AT: I decided that I wanted to use my kinesiology degree to open a gym. There was a drawback, however. I became hyper-focused on the gym. At the same time, I had a family – wife and kids – but I neglected them all with my focus being to maintain and build this gym. Thinking that if I had this thriving business then it would be best for my kids but all they wanted was quality time with me, money or not.

DDF: How do you use self-love to be the best version of yourself?

AD: The reason that I am able to serve at a high level is that I love me. When you love someone, you not only tell them that you love them but you love them with action. You don’t want to let that person that you love down, no matter who it is. Yet, we don’t take this same perspective and reflect it internally.

We eat a crappy meal during a diet, we miss a workout, we don’t make phone calls to people to help ourselves, or we don’t chase a dream. It is during these times that you are not doing actions of love to the person you need to do it for the most and therefore you don’t show up. That makes you feel like you are not deserving and when you feel that way, you don’t put things out into the world. Self-love affects your service for sure.

DDF: You have a wonderful family and of course you are full of good advice. What advice do you give your children?

AT: It’s a daily conversation with my kids. As children get into their teens, they seek freedom, they seek autonomy. Freedom is like value. It’s like giving a kid $20 million dollars, if you don’t have experience then you will burn through it.

In regards to adults, freedom is you get to make the choices you want to make but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about responsible decisions.

I teach my kids how to be responsible and, with that, explain how this approach will allow them to attain any goal.

Anthony Trucks

Check Anthony Trucks via social media and follow up on his TV appearances on American Ninja Warrior and more here!

03Feb/19
Self-Love

Self-Love Is Not a New Concept, Self-Care Just Happens to Be Trending

It’s weird that self-love is trending at a time when most of the Black women I know are struggling so acutely. On the flip side, some of the most toxic people on my timeline are boasting about their ability to cut out people who don’t “spark joy”. It feels like Black women aren’t allowed to be depressed or vulnerable. There’s so much filler out there, but how can we truly practice self-care and self-love with the weight of the world on our shoulders.

Here are 5 tips for self-care. These self-care tips are broken down into the physical projection, spiritual healing, intellectual release, mental deflating, and aromatherapy. These are small, actionable steps that can lead to a much healthier disposition.

1. Self-LoveHit something: There is so much going on. And for those of us in the corporate space, we have to code switch so many times a day, it can literally make us sick. Between juggling a career, a family, and a dream, there are so many instances where we want to slap someone but have to repress the urge. That energy doesn’t just disappear though. Instead of letting it fester, just hit something. Kickboxing is an excellent way to let that stress go. This sort of physical projection can be really fun too. You can even tape a phrase (or face) to a punching bag and hit it. Maybe it helps you to growl out your racist supervisor’s name with your tennis racket hits the ball. Regardless of what it actually represents, I encourage you to hit something. Hit it hard and hit it often.

2. Self-LoveSay “AH”: When I lived in DC, singer Tamika Love Jones taught a toddler class for Black children in Anacostia Park. One thing she said to me years ago when my son was in her class was this: “Just about every spiritual practice says “ah”. That ‘ah’ sound is in every God’s name I can think of. Allah, God, Buddha, Jah, Ra. Chanting the sound can bring you to a place of peace. Let it serve as an anchor.” Sometimes the world’s insanity is raining down and hitting you harder than a hail storm. It may take everything in you not to break. In those moments, sometimes you call on your God, your ancestors, the universe, and whatever centers you by just saying “AH”. Allow yourself the room to meditate on the sound. Whether you do it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, you owe it to yourself to say “ah.”

3. Write it out: You know on Insecure when Issa gets in that mirror and pumps herself up or has one-sided rap battles in the bathroom? Well, you too can stretch out those tired latent gangster muscles with a verse, prose, poem, song, or limerick—yes, I said limerick. I’m a nerd. It doesn’t stop there though. Journaling is an excellent way to practice self-care. Doing it before you sleep can help ease anxiety. Dr. Joy of the Black Girl Therapy podcast even has a breakup journal! If you write it out, you’re one step closer to working it out. Continue reading

31Jan/19
Ashley McDonough

Ashley McDonough, Howard Grad & Journalist Behind Articles of Self Love and Media | Self Love Series

Ashley McDonoughMartin 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? 

Ashley McDonough

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?

Ashley McDonoughAM: 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?

Ashley McDonough

Ashley in her Howard grad cap and gown.

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!

05Sep/18

Roses In Words to My Salvation, My Mom

My brother on the left, Aaron. My mother Amanda Smith, middle. Me on the RIght

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.

My mother, Amanda Smith