Release Dec 7 2020 | Vol25 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of AfroFuture! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @NoriRaneMUA (by @BymshaBrownePhotography with @NYCNory). Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Jurnee Smollett Talks Lovecraft Country, Activism, and Breonna Taylor” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight on Nichelle Consulting; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: Are You A Performative Global Ally?” by dCarrie; “Micro Betrayals?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Building the Image Nation” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 25 contributed photo story, “AfroFuture;” Fitness Highlight: @itsdreamsworld; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Wontons; Think Tank, “Lack of Love” by Brianna Burnley; Earth’s Cabinet LLC, Aligning Your Body Holisticly; “The Garden Metaphor Of Finance” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Lovely Leo Skincare Awakens All of Your Body’s Senses; Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
If you haven’t been watching Lovecraft Country, you have been missing a great series! It’s filled with fear, adventure, history, monsters, and awesome storytelling. The recent episode, “Jig-a-bobo” has more scares and interesting plot twists out of all the episodes so far. Did I mention it has the scariest demons I’ve seen in my life! Episode 8 is worth watching for the following reasons.
Emmett Till Tie-In in Lovecraft Country
It’s hard to imagine Emmett Till was murdered in 1955… that was only 65 years ago! His murder was an interesting story to tie into the series. The murder did happen in Chicago where the series takes place and the act committed by Till’s murderers was horrifying. Misha Green did a really amazing job showcasing how each character is affected throughout the episode with Diana Freeman (Jada Harris) feeling it the most since Emmett was a close friend of hers. Jada’s performance during this episode definitely made me feel for the character – I was impressed with her character being the focal point. I really felt the opening scene with all of the Black people waiting in line to view Emmett’s body.
Topsy and Bopsy Are Scary As Sh*t!
In my 36 years on this earth, I can say there is not much that scares me but Topsy (Kaelyn Harris) and Bopsy (Bianca Brewton) scared the shit out of me! From their acrobatic, eerie movements to the remixed song “Stop Dat Knocking” by A.F. Winnemore (Ralphel Saadiq you ain’t right making the song that scary), the whole set up had me, glad I watched the episode during the day. I mean, I can honestly say Topsy and Bopsy scare me more than Freddy Krueger!
I just hope Diana Freeman does not die, I know the evil Captain Seamus Lancaster said she was “Dead anyway” but I still hope that Leti, Atticus, and crew find some way to keep her alive. SPOILER ALERT: Poor Diana Freeman has lost her father, friend Emmett, possibly her mother, and she’s been cursed with having two demons trying to kill her. Talk about when it rains it pours.
Christina and Rubi’s Relationship
If you been wondering what is going on with Rubi’s (Wunmi Mosaku) and Christina’s relationship in Lovecraft Country, you are not alone. I mean body changing in werewolf fashion and all, the level of connection and relationship can be confusing with these two. I would say Rubi has a closer bond with Christina than she does with her own sister after watching the last few episodes given that they have been sexing each other in their transformed counterparts and they are living together. I found Christina reenacting Emmett Till’s death very interesting. Christina trying “feel” the anger and pain Rubi is going through after Till’s death makes me wonder how much she does care for Rubi or how close she is willing to get?
Succubus in Love
Episode 8 also sees the arrival of the Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung), the love interest/ succubus of Atticus during his Korean war tour. How painful it had to have been for Leti to hear about Atticus’s Korean War fling with a nine-tailed fox demon and to also hear he may meet his demise? News like that would drive any person insane but given the recent events, Leti understands anything is possible. She also understands how much Ji-ah loves Atticus because of Leti herself being in love with Atticus. I just wonder if this is the last we will see of Ji-ah?
Leti and Tic
I haven’t seen a love take so many turns like this since Dwayne and Whitley from a Different World. They love each other no doubt but with all of the chaos going on, at moments it looks like their relationship will not last. With a baby in the picture, I think it’s safe to say these to will find a way. That, plus Atticus went through a portal to the future and was given a book written by his son. It’s crazy how they both know Leti is pregnant but hide it from one another. Which makes you wonder why they don’t tell each other and what will happen going forward in Lovecraft Country once they do?
The Beast and protection
I have to be honest with you, I was happy to see a Shoggoth appear just in time to save Atticus at the end of the episode. Not because it saved Atticus and Leti but because I wanted to see what bigger role if any the big ass scary monsters would play? The Shoggoths are what lured me more into the series!
It was also good to see Atticus can now cast spells or at least one spell. I really felt Christina was lying to Atticus about the spell. Knowing he has the ability to use spells, it will be interesting to see how it will play into the storyline. Leti has also seen the protection spell placed on her by Christina working via deflecting bullets. Now that the couple (and child) are protected what will happen in future episodes? Find out Sundays at 9 pm on HBO and streaming service HBO Max.
SYNOPSIS: HBO’s new drama series, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia “Leti” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.
If you love 80’s movie nostalgia and horror-themed shows like Tales From the Crypt and Underground, this is the series for you. Showrunner and creator of Underground, Misha Green, brings all of these elements together in the new HBO MAX series Lovecraft Country. As a horror buff and a supporter of the various creatives involved (i.e., Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Jonathan Major, Jordan Peele, etc.), I had to check it out and satisfy my palate for a Black horror series. Plus, the series showrunner is a Black woman, something not common in Hollywood.
The Horror of Lovecraft Country
While watching the characters interact with the world around them, I wondered if racism in the 1950s was scarier than the ghosts and monsters? I saw the terrifying look the Black characters had when they were being questioned by white police officers, and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between those moments and the moments when they encountered a monster.
I asked actress Jurnee Smollet-Bell, which was scarier, racism in the 1950s or monsters, ghosts, and witches? She replied, “With the Monsters, what you see is what you get. You kind of know what to expect? It’s pure danger. You do whatever you can to escape. Otherwise, you’re screwed. With systemic racism, which is what this country has been built upon and has yet to dismantle, it’s more horrifying because it’s more nuanced. You have to fight it at every single step of your life. In the pursuit of your happiness, whether it’s purchasing a home and fight against the redlining and housing discrimination in the 1950s, not being able to get a loan from a bank if you wanted to purchase in a certain neighborhood, driving while Black, trying to apply for a job at a local store. It’s actually more oppressive and terrifying to me because you don’t know what to expect,you don’t know when it’s coming.”
I can definitely see the Jordan Peele influence – using racism as a horror element. Showrunner, Misha Green, mentions in her Warner Media interview how much influence Jordan Peele had stating, “When we were working on Lovecraft – he was doing the film Us at the time – we talked a lot about our shared belief regarding horror, which is: You need the metaphor. I’d played with that on ‘Underground’; that it was a heist movie but set in slavery times.”
Actor Jonathan Majors also noted Jordan Peele’s influence. “This series shows we as Black people contain multitudes. We have all these things inside of us. We know that horror is a part of our life, we know Afrofuturism is just our imagination. It gives us permission to move into any genre we want. I was surprised that Jordan Peele took Black bodies and put them into a horror genre and expanded the scope.”
Tic and Leti
The series lead protagonist, Atticus Aka Tic, is played by actor Jonathan Majors. The character has a love for books and a protector mentality – an extremely compelling character. Starting off as a nerdy kid with glasses who transformed into a courageous young man, I wanted to see more background of his transition into manhood. I discovered Majors had researched his role by reading various authors, some of whom are mentioned in the series. When Atticus is introduced, he’s seen reading a book and even mentions his love for books. I ask Majors if he had to survive in a mansion filled with ghosts and monsters what historical black figure would he choose to be with him? He responded, “Fredrick Douglas and Nat Turner because, in this type of scenario, we have to do a trio. Like Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. It would be me, Frederick Douglas, because he has the brains and Nat Turner because he’s a fighter! Go homeboy Nat!”
Leti is a very amiable character. Her confidence, charisma, and charm had my attention every time she was on screen. She embodies the strength of strong female Black lead actresses from that time period. Smollet-Bell explained the inspiration for the character came from her grandmother, whom she never got to meet. “My grandmother’s nickname was Showtime! I grew up hearing the stories about her being a single mother, raising four kids, and being so mistreated by white folks whom she cleaned the house for. Yet they could not rob her of her dignity!” Smollet-Bell also read prominent writers like James Baldwin and Gwendalyn Brooks to research for the role. She mentioned her search to find the fire inside Eartha Kitt to bring life to her character Letitia and it shows.
Misha and the Music
One of the elements that set the tone of each scene was the amazing soundtrack. I found myself lured in the various songs and speeches that really give the series life. In my head, I thought, “Yeah we needed to have a Black showrunner in charge of this show because this soundtrack is dope and engaging.” Being a music, tv, and film lover, I was definitely satisfied having all those boxes checked off in one project. Especially when artists like Moses Sumney, Leon Bridges, and Black opera singer, Marian Anderson, play throughout the course of the series.
When asked about the soundtrack selection, Misha Green explained, “Joe Pokaski and I used to talk about how do we pull the slavery portrait off the museum wall and evolve the story beyond, ‘Look at how bad slavery was’? One way was by using more vibrant camera movements; the other was through using modern music. I wanted to build on that in Lovecraft and also integrate ‘found audio’ into the score. For example, in the opening, we use voiceover from [the 1950 film] ‘The Jackie Robinson Story.’ Later we have [Ntozake Shange’s 1975 poem] For Colored Girls and [poet, Gil Scott-Heron’s] Whitey on the Moon. I love the idea of taking our show ‘out of time.’ It’s the past, present, and future. How do we wrap all of that into a unique soundscape? We want the show to be full-sensory, engaging, and have people learn from it without having to learn from it. My favorite learning experiences are immersive; those that make me re-think what I know as opposed to ‘here’s some bad history.’ How can we immerse the viewer even further? I love when I have revelations two weeks after the fact where I’m like, ‘Oh wow, ok.’”
The horror-themed time period piece, Lovecraft Country, it is in a league of its own – providing a world where fear is a theme defined in many ways and in some cases relatable. Is racism scarier than monsters, witches, and ghosts? Check out the series Lovecraft Country August 16th on HBO Max at 9pm and you can decide…
LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is executive produced by Misha Green, who also serves as showrunner, Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams.