Tag Archives: taji mag

21May/20
Kenneth Walker Jr.

Protecting Black Women is a Crime – Free Kenneth Walker Jr.

Justice for Breonna Taylor means justice for Kenneth Walker Jr. 

My son’s favorite ancestor is Harriet Tubman. In his school report, he said “she helped get a lot of Black people away from where racist people controlled them to a different place where racist people were not allowed to control them as much. I would protect her if she was alive today because she is important.” I hope I’ve taught my son that Black women are important and worthy of protection. These schools and police departments and jobs don’t value us, but we have Black men who cherish us.

Do Black people get to claim self defense?

When Harriet Tubman had her rifle out ready to shoot any slave catcher that threatened the lives of enslaved Black folks, she would have been acting in self defense if she shot one of them. But apparently, self defense is only reserved for white folks. Remember when Marissa Alexander spent years in prison for protecting herself? As a Black woman who stood her ground, she was treated much more harshly than Trayvon’s Martin’s killer–a racist man who didn’t even get arrested the night he murdered an unarmed child. When white people shoot someone to protect themselves, it’s self defense. When Black folks do the same thing, it’s attempted murder.

We can argue all day about the problems between Black men and women, (as well as our gender nonconforming folks). In this instance, however, it is imperative that we celebrate Black men who stand up for Black women. Kenneth Walker protected a Black woman, but in a world where her killers’ comfort is more valuable than her Black life, Kenneth is seen as a criminal.

A few years ago when actor and philanthropist Kobi Siriboe celebrated his mother and the beauty on Black women on twitter, he was immediately criticized by white followers. Rather than backing down, Kofi doubled down on his love for us. 

Kenneth Walker Jr. went even further to protect a Black woman. 

I couldn’t save Breonna Taylor, but maybe we can save Kenneth Walker.

When I first wrote about Breonna Taylor, I went through it. Like a lot of other people here in Louisville, we are tired of gentrification and empty promises by government officials. We are sick of (and from) the environmental racism and pollution and food deserts. We are out here working one, two, sometimes three jobs to live despite the fact that, in the majority Black West End of this city, Black life expectancy is 12 years shorter than white folks in the more affluent parts of town.

The charges should be dropped immediately and he deserves reparations for all that he endured. #FreeKenny

Look, Kenneth Walker risked his life to defend himself AND Breonna Taylor. Despite the fact that three white men murdered an unarmed Black woman and have served ZERO time in jail, Kenneth Walker Jr. was arrested by the criminals who murdered his girlfriend.

If you haven’t read up on the situation, here is what happened.

  • Plainclothes officers burst into the home of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY with a battering ram
  • Since they did not announce themselves, Kenneth thought they were breaking in and tried to defend himself along with Breonna
  • #BrettMylesandJon responded by firing 20 rounds into the apartment, 8 of which hit and killed Breonna Taylor.
  • They found no drugs and no evidence of a crime
  • They were not wearing body cameras

Thankfully, one of Taji’s heroes Judge Olu Stevens advocated for home incarceration instead of jail time. Of course, the police are big mad.

Since Kenneth’s release home, the case has received national attention. Because of local Black activists like Chanelle Helm of Black Lives Matter Louisville and others, there have been protests and demands. The family and their supporters are asking that all charges get dropped.

After receiving hundreds of calls, emails, and inquiries Commonwealth attorney Thomas Wine recused himself. The case was handed over to Daniel Cameron, the first Black state’s attorney in Kentucky’s history.

Known racist police chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement (not resignation or termination unfortunately) following similar protests and demands. While I am happy that he will no longer be the police chief, I am left with questions. Does he get a severance package? If so, how much of my tax dollars will pay for that? Will Breonna’s murder be anywhere on his record? How much is his pension? Is it worth the effort to hold him accountable after he retires?

The central theme in all this is about our ability (and willingness) to protect Black folks. We have made strides in the original demands. Getting those charges dropped for Kenneth Walker is the next step.

How do we protect these Black men?

Judge Olu Stevens is almost always under attack by the FOP and other #BlueLivesMatter racists. Brother Kenneth’s next court date is June 25th. I pray that we can keep them both safe until then.

“The killing of Breonna Taylor, the filing of criminal charges against her partner Kenneth Walker, and the attacks by the Fraternal Order of Police on Judge Olu Stevens for calling out police misconduct, all reflect a criminal justice system that targets communities of color and the poor,” said Stephen Bartlett of Louisville SURJ. “We cannot sit by and allow this state of affairs to continue.” 

A Message From Black Lives Matter Louisville

#FreeKenny #DropAllCharges #FreeKenny #JusticeForKennethWalker #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName #BrettMylesandJon are murderers. #BrettMylesandJon killed an unarmed Black woman. #BrettMylesandJon should be in prison. #BreonnaShouldBeAlive. #DropTheCharges against Kennth Walker Jr.

Kenneth Walker Jr.

I Thought The Lovebirds would be Issa Rae’s Fall Off, I Was Wrong

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

I have to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for The Lovebirds I thought, “Oh no, will this be Issa Rae’s fall-off movie, her ‘Will Smith Bomb’ she mentioned in her 2018 GQ article?” That negativity was dissolved by a friend pointing out the hilarious bacon grease scene that did make me chuckle. After watching the film, I found out he was right – the combination gave me a night of favorite scenes and a few scenes that will be re-created on Tik-Tok. I recommend people watch this film and here are the reasons why. 

In order to eventually succeed, you have to bomb. That’s what every comedian says—that’s when the fear goes away. And I feel like I’m still fearful because I haven’t publicly bombed yet, in terms of my career. Yeah, Insecure is successful now, but where’s my bomb coming? Where are my Will Smith bombs coming? Where, where is that happening?”
Issa Rae (GQ  May, 22nd 2018)

Guilt Free Entertainment 

At no time did I feel uncomfortable while watching his film. (You know that feeling where you hear or see  racist jokes/stereotypes in a film so offensive you can’t ignore it?) The scenes in the film were so well written and performed I was able to enjoy myself and laugh freely. It was a good feeling and that’s the way it should be. A great example of this was a scene where Issa Rae’s character, Leilani, was explaining to Kumail Nanjiani’s character, Jibran, as they were looking at some f*ck boys (frat boys whom they were sneaking up on), and Kumail’s character had no clue what that was and was very curious to know. He wasn’t making fun of the word, he was making fun of how oblivious a person can be to terminology.

More Than Trailer Clips

Plenty comedies present hilarious trailers before the films are released just for the audience to discover that those were the only funny parts of the film. Then you think to yourself, they wasted all this money on a mess of a movie and wasted your time. Love Birds was hilarious! I found myself Steve Urkel snorting a few times, the level of funny was totally unexpected. 

I felt like Issa and Kumail fed off of each other’s performances like the Splash Brothers, Clay Thompson, and Steph Curry when they both get hot in a game. 

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

The Lovebirds Chemistry 

Yeah, I didn’t know if the chemistry between Issa and Kumail would be good in The Lovebirds. Don’t ask me why, I just didn’t. They were able to play off of each other very well during both the serious scenes and the funny scenes. They definitely showed that they both have range and adaptability. 

One of the funniest scenes is the interrogation. They interrogate one of the frat boys and it kind of reminds me of a buddy cop interrogation scene akin to Bad Boys (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith). When I tell you Kumail ain’t got no sense, y’all I mean it! 

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

Imitating life (Spoiler Alert)

From the beginning of the film, where the couple transitions from the honeymoon stage to the ‘here’s your part of the deposit ‘cause we not going to make it’ stage, I really felt. Unfortunately, my ex and I didn’t make it after being almost killed by a crooked cop, but those moments did spark some memories.

There was also a moment when Leilani was fooled by the happy couple photos another character posted on social media, making her evaluate her own struggling relationship. This is understandable because some of us have been through social media jealously, hell, some are going through it right now. 

The film releases this Friday, May 22nd, on Netflix. Make sure to add The Lovebirds to your list of films to stream. I commend Issa Rae for being on this project and making a quality rom-com about an interracial couple. I really hope that The Lovebirds has created an example (not a formula to be consistently repeated) of how diversity in film should look. 

A couple (Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme – and hilarious – circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.

15May/20

Steven St. Pierre is Blazing a Trail Set by the Likes of Duvernay

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?

Steven St. Pierre appears in an episode of High Maintenance season 4

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.

Steven St. Pierre’s award winning short Corey

13May/20
pleasantlywaisted

Get Waisted With PleasantlyWaisted

PleasantlyWaisted
CEO Tiffany Henry of PleasantyWaisted

Say hello to Tiffany Henry! “My goal for the rest of 2020 is to continue To help enhance self-love and confidence. My other main goal for the rest of 2020 is to build a community of women, both single or married. A group where we can work out together, Waist Train together, and have social meetups to just vent on daily activities that happen in our lives that we don’t feel comfortable speaking about with other people. A sisterhood!” She is 30 years old and has lived in NYC her whole life. She decided to relocate to ATL a year ago and is a proud mother to a handsome young boy. She had always been a plus-size woman but was also shapely. When she started her weight loss journey ten years ago, her goal was to have a small waist. After doing her research, she came across waist training. She started shopping for one and once she got it, she loved the outcome! The only inconvenience was that it never covered her lower bottom belly, also known as the FUPA. She then ordered another until she owned at least FIVE waist trainers and still wasn’t satisfied. All she could ever ask herself was “well, what happened to the bigger girls or what happened to the girls with longer torsos? That is when she said enough is enough and started creating her own trainer known as the PleasantlyWaisted Trainer!!

PleasantlyWaisted

The purpose of PleasantlyWaisted trainers is to teach women that no matter what size or shape, you are to always love yourself. Self-love is the best love. The trainer gives you that extra push to want to lose weight while helping you get to that small waist goal you’re looking to achieve and including healthier eating and daily activity habits. The trainers also give your back support and help you work on your posture. Henry works full time and, when she gets home, she is a full-time mom. She makes sure her son and home are situated. Once that is all taken care of, she is up all night preparing orders to be shipped out the next day. As it’s her passion, she has learned how to juggle it all.

In order to see results, you have to be dedicated. That means eating cleaner, drinking lots of water, and waist training for 6 to 8 hours every day. A lot of people have the misconception that they can just wear their waist trainer from time to time and eat whatever they want. It doesn’t work like that, the trainers are not plastic surgery and you still have to put in the work. If you follow these guidelines, she guarantees you in about two weeks to a month you will start seeing a difference.

PleasantlyWaisted

I asked Ms. Henry if she can change one thing in our society, what will it be and she answered by saying she wants to see more woman empowerment. She will definitely like to see more women push and encourage each other rather than being in competition with one another and I definitely agree with her.

Kynniah’s Final Thoughts: Henry was so nice to send me a trainer and when I tell you I love it… I LOVE IT! My first time putting it on, it was very tight but as I kept putting it on it became less tight. I have been working on following a low carb diet and have been doing core workouts. I have to admit I do see a slight change and will be uploading some pictures soon to show you my progress. I definitely recommend all of my ladies, all ages and sizes, invest in getting a PleasantlyWaisted trainer…you will not be disappointed! Go shop for your PleasantlyWaisted trainer on their Website. Follow their page on Instagram.

12May/20

Filmmaker Morgan Cooper Wins Two Tribeca X Awards

Morgan Cooper writer and director of U Shoot Videos?

Morgan Cooper made a huge impression with his trending Fresh Prince of Bel-Air inspired short, Bel-Air, and the filmmaker continues his success. The award-winning filmmaker snagged two awards in the 2020 Tribeca X category of the Tribeca Film Festival. Morgan Cooper won “Best Feature Film” for U Shoot Videos? and “Best Short” for Pay Day, winning in the two out of the three categories of the Tribeca X category. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the multi-award-winning filmmaker to see how his projects came to life. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What moment did you decide you want to make films? 

Morgan Cooper (MC): My career started on my 18th birthday. I bought a Cannon P2I DSLR camera at Best Buy and, with that camera, I made a career. I felt like I had something to say through the medium. From that moment on, I just showed up and did the work every day. I took small steps to improve my skillset. Over the years I was able to find my voice.  

U Shoot Videos?

Morgan CooperU Shoot Videos is a powerful narrative following a filmmaker trying to excel in his career field. Being young, Black, and gifted but denied the opportunity to make commercials due to his lack of experience and no film school, Moji must figure out how to keep his dream alive and hurdle the obstacles in his path.  

DDF: U Shoot Videos? provides a narrative some Black creatives can relate to. What has been the most interesting response to your film? 

MC: Some of the people that reached out felt it was their story. They felt seen and heard through the film. I can’t think of any better feedback than that. There were people that were thinking about giving up, feeling so alone during their journey in filmmaking, and, after seeing this film, it gives them an extra boost. I was overwhelmed with how positive and how beautiful the feedback was. 

DDF: There was a lot of support for the lead character Moji, from characters like Aaron and Moji’s brother. Was that intentional during the course of the film? 

MC: The show of support was very important to me. You don’t see Black men supporting each other enough on screen. Everything in the film is based on real reactions that I had during the course of my career. I felt it was my responsibility to show these really honest moments where Black men support each other without any alternative motives. Like Aaron telling Moji “I’m down to help you because I want to learn. I have an interest in what you do and you inspire me.” I am really proud of that moment and I hope to see more support among Black males like that on film in the future.  

PayDay

PayDay is a collaborative project with Color Creative, Synchrony, Gian Spoon agency, and written by actress/comedian Gabrielle Dennis. The short follows Nyssa, a young woman who desires to open her own business but spends money like there is no tomorrow. On her payday, she gets caught in a time loop “Groundhog Day” style and is unable to break it until figures out a way to make better decisions. 

DDF: How did you become apart of the PayDay Project and how was it working with Gabrielle Dennis? 

MC: Denise from Color Creative reached out to my agent about the PayDay project. It just looked like an interesting and fun piece. I pitched on it and got the job. I locked arms with Color Creative, Giant Spoon, and Synchrony to make the film happen. It was a long two-day shoot but it turned out really nice in the end.

Gabrielle was great to work with. She brought a lot of enthusiasm to the table. She has a brilliant comedic mind. It was very fun being on set and creating space for her, letting her talent really shine. She trusted my vision from the start and throughout the shoot. We gave ourselves space to express the ideas that we both wanted to bring to the project. We were both aligned with the why behind the project and it was just a tremendous project from start to finish. 

DDF: How did you become so good at providing the right light for people of color while you shoot? 

MC: Perfecting that craft started from who I am, understand my background and culture. As a Black man, I wanted to make sure people of color are captured on film with care. That’s really the root of it. From there it filters into lighting, lens selection, and crafting the scene. Understanding how Black people have been captured on film historically, which hasn’t been great. Over the years I have tested, researched, and studied different techniques to maximize the quality in which our skin is captured. I often think about the actors who are overlooked especially from the city where I am from – Kansas City. With the opportunity for the actors to be on set, they can’t be wondering how they look, they have to just trust your direction. As a director, it’s something I take seriously. I like to make sure I capture actors in an honest way. 

DDF: Have you had other filmmakers ask you about lighting while filming actors of color? 

MC: I have had other colleagues that have sought out advice on lighting, different fusion techniques, transitions, lenses, etc.

DDF: What director inspires you? 

MC: Ernst Dickerson has been one of the biggest inspirations of my career. He’s a former cinematographer who shot films like Do the Right Thing. He’s a brilliant cinematographer who goes into writing and directing. He penned some of my favorite films like Juice. I followed the same trajectory – working as a cinematographer then transitioning into writing and directing. I’m actually getting a chance to speak with him after this interview. 

 DDF: How does it feel to win Best Short and Best Feature in the Tribeca X? 

MC: It feels amazing! I feel very humbled and I am full of gratitude, to be recognized by such a prestigious institution. More than anything, I am so happy for all of my collaborators and I am so thankful to the team for putting together these projects. I can not say enough about the honor. 

DDF: What would be your dream project?

MC: I have several dream projects. I can’t really discuss them but I am very excited about the dream projects I will get to bring to life over the next several years. So stay tuned. 

DDF: What actor/actress would you like to work with? 

MC: I definitely want to work with Mahersla Ali and Janelle Monae. I think they are great actors. When you watch them, you are really transported into the moment they are expressing. I think we would be able to create something special together.

We hope to see more amazing films from the talented filmmaker. Hopefully, one of his dream projects will feature Mahersala Ali and Janelle Monae and will be one that is celebrated as a cult classic. Keep up with Morgan Cooper on Instagram at @cooperfilms.

Taji Mag Vol 23 Golden Wisdom

Taji Vol23: Golden Wisdom

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!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 23 Golden Wisdom

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 23

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.

22Apr/20
BlackAF

#BlackAF is Barely a Black-ish Carbon Copy

I am always rooting for black creatives and try my best to support them, but in this case, I would be doing a disservice if I did not give my honest review of #BlackAF. Famous producer/writer Kenya Barris delivered a series that lacks the lure and realism of his other successful projects. Don’t get me wrong, I like Black-ish and a few other of Barris’s projects but this series fits into the category of “Nah, I’ll pass.” 

“The very definition of ‘blackness’ is as broad as that of ‘whiteness,’ yet we’re seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition.” – Issa Rae 

Acting Be Like…

I understand the series is loosely based on the life of Kenya Barris, but I find it hard to believe that Black wealthy people act like this… Maybe my opinion is influenced by the fact that I only personally know a handful of wealthy Black people. Out of those Black people, none of them act like the family in #BlackAF. If there is a family that exists as the one portrayed, I am pretty sure they would not be as extreme. 

I do like the moments where the family supports each other whenever an outsider tries to attack, like with the white couple in the first episode. Besides a few moments within the first few episodes, there are not many moments I find relatable or compelling to finish the first season.  

Because Dialogue 

As I have become introduced to the screenwriting world, the most daunting task as a screenwriter is writing dialogue. All the top screenwriters have agreed that mastering dialogue is very difficult, so I can imagine writing the dialogue of Black people can pose as an obstacle.

Still, I don’t know any Black people that talk the way the characters talk. I assume the approach is to be as authentic as possible but there needs to be a bit of adjustment. The way in which Kenya talks to his assistant is definitely not believable. If that is the case, that person is a terrible human being.  

“ Contemporarily, we struggle with people worried about representation sometimes. It’s a burden, as artists, that we take on that limits the work. It limits the characters people play. It limits the roles they want to do.” – Dee Rees

The Barris Act or Lack There Of…

From the very beginning of episode one, I became annoyed with Barris’s acting and just found his performance to be too whiny. I understand the character is frustrated with stereotypes and wants to be seen for who he is, but there is a better way to portray this. Take Al Bundy for example, Ed O’Neil portrays him as whiny at times but not to the point where he becomes annoying. 

I think Barris could’ve easily picked someone else to play the character better and with a more compelling delivery. Similar to the way he chose Anthony Anderson to play the father on Black-ish. In all honesty, I think that is what makes Black-ish a more watchable show. The actors that portray the characters in Black-ish, combined with the writing, make Black-ish great. 

In the end, #BlackAF is a rated R version of Barris’s hit show Black-ish, just not as engaging. I wish I could speak differently considering the amount of backlash #BlackAF got last year during one of its first showings. There’s wishful thinking that the series will improve and become the next big hit for the Black culture. I hope that the Black community continues to get opportunities to show diversity within the culture and share stories many people can relate to, vanishing the stereotypes place upon the Black community. Watch for yourself on Netflix.

01Apr/20

Panama Jackson on His Four Favorite Women Authors and Being Unapologetically Black

Panama Jackson

“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.”

Panama Jackson

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.

Panama Jackson

17Mar/20
coronavirus

Coronavirus: Providing Solutions, Not Panic, to Survive COVID-19

Let’s use social media to create solutions for the Coronavirus, not panic. [From Taji’s Editor]

• Introvert? Cool, we got this, just make sure you’re stocked.
• Extrovert? Is there someone you can stay with or who can stay with you? A staycation with the squad maybe?
• Are there elders, disabled folks, struggling families, etc in your neighborhood who you can grab extra groceries for?
• Any homeschoolers with lesson plans/activities/advice for parents at home with their children?
   – Kibibi Oyo will be giving free 15 min consultations to parents who want advice and a plan for their children to learn at home. She has both paid and free options that she can share. Just need to hit me up and schedule the FREE consultation. Schedule appointments here: https://professoroyo.as.me
 – Tamykah Anthony homeschools her children and has activities, printables, cool science experiments, etc. to complete with the little ones. She has also posted how to safely make your own cleaning products and hand sanitizer:
coronavirus    –
 Keisha Ragfitness provided this activity sheet:
coronavirus• Any child sitters willing to take on multiple children while some parents are still required to work (or who just need a break to prepare)?
* In light of the Gabriel Fernandez series and a status Will read to me, please keep an eye out for abused children whose only escape was school but are now forced to be home with their abusive guardian(s) all day.
• via MLN8NG: “As we are all aware, Coronavirus has been causing quite an impact on us economically, especially people of color who rely on 9-5 jobs as well as entrepreneurs; however, this does not have to be the case. We can start alleviating some of the felt pressures of the pandemic by very small steps.
In our research, we have learned that most people are having issues with child care services, hospice, online learning, and finding various tasks and activities to do while indoors. A potential solution lies within us. If you or someone you know, can provide childcare services or any other online learning services, take the time to set up a free or paid ticket event on MLN8NG so that we may be able to spread the information out and have a central location for Black and Brown faces to find options and alternatives in this growing online space. 
You can be of great impact to how we as a community both transition and expand within this new structuring. Take some time, gather your skillset(s) that you can offer and share them with us and spread the word. We would like to begin assisting with building a central location for people to gather information that can facilitate start and end dates, customers, as well as, and most importantly, those offering services. 
No skill is too big or too small. Do you stream classes? Do you stream gaming? Can you setup house visits and information teaching safety measures or stream them online? Are you a daycare provider? Anything you can do, place your information on the site so we can promote it and provide to our community. Simply click on the register button below and create an account on the site and then submit your event/stream/availability. Your friends, family, and those whose lives you will impact are already thanking you for it.”
• via Cory Ant: Buy stuff that will help your immune system and stuff that will last in case our country gets crazy and makes people stay in, instead of stocking up on cookies and meat products. Buy FRUITS like apples and oranges, VEGETABLES, GINGER, things that will be beneficial to your health and fighting off the coronavirus.
• Holistic Wellness advice from The Laya Center can be read at https://www.thelayacenter.com/blog/2020/3/16/elder.
Namaskar is also providing great products to boost your immune system fend off coronavirus, cancer, lupus, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.
• via Krystal: Check on new moms who may need breastmilk/formula due to people stockpiling who may not be able to produce on their own.
• If you work/shop at a grocery/convenience store and notice necessities are restocked, make a post so people know where to go.
• via Jocelyn Sewell: While water is essential, people may want to purchase filters or filtered water bottles. Water can be found anywhere and with a filter, it’s drinkable.
Feel free to add solutions for the coronavirus in the comments. 🖤

12Mar/20
travel n shit

A Simple Exercise in Broadening Your Views on Travel

When you think of travel, what do you see? Beaches, mountains, hiking, sunbathing and all the things we tell ourselves we’re too busy to do regularly at home? We’ve entered a new year and a new decade folks! Consider that it may be time to welcome in a new mindset on what is considered travel.

Let me start by making the task easy on you; don’t consider what isn’t travel. Broaden your idea of what is travel and I guarantee you can go further. The amount of time it takes you to get from one place to the next is indeed called “travel time” is it not? For me, the difference in traveling to the city for work and traveling to a foreign country is my level of familiarity with the destination. I could happily do without riding the train or sitting on an airplane – in both instances the commute is simply the necessary evil. Consider someplace closer than a country 8+ hours away may provide you a similar or even greater level of unfamiliarity and excitement as a city across an ocean and a sea. Either way, you’re traveling! Give yourself the credit!  The only difference is the distance. Don’t let the distance of a location blind you to the benefits of experiencing every new destination as robustly as possible.

I offer you the opportunity to be mindful in and of the experiences you’re having away from home. On my podcast Travel N Sh!t, I, along with my guests, discuss what we experience while we’re abroad and how often mundane and routine experiences may be enriched or experienced differently when viewed through the lens of travel. Through these conversations, I’ve developed a distinct appreciation for what I gain from my time spent in new environments. I loooove wandering around cities I at one time never considered on my radar of places I’d be able to see before I got BIG RICH. Little did I know, I’d become “BIG RICH” from opening my mind to the incredible experiences I’m able to have in ANY destination, near or far. You don’t have to travel far to go far.

Be sure to check out the conversations my guests and I have on Travel N Sh!t every Thursday wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Visiting a new state, or even a new destination in a state you’ve already been to can be very similar to visiting a different city in a country that’s new to you.

travel n shit