Culture

10 Black Literary Works Every Person Should Read | List

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Whether interested in learning, or just gaining more knowledge about African heritage and culture, nothing beats opening a good book. Still, with so many choices at one's disposal, deciding on a title can prove difficult.

With the help of several well read scholars and emerging millennial voices: Writer & activist  Melanie Coco Mccoy (@MelanieCoMcCoy), Hip Hop Artist & Professor, Timothy Welbeck (@TimothyWelbeck ) & Middle Tennessee State History Graduate student, Joshua Crutchfield (@Crutch4), we thought it was fitting to do so.

This list is a list ranging from fiction, non-fiction, and autobiography. From Ta-Nehisi Coates to James Baldwin, many of these authors have been the recipients of national awards in the United States. Furthermore, these ten titles have heavily contributed to contemporary narratives about the black experience across the globe.

Did you see your favorite? If not, feel free to share with us what you think should've made the list below in the comments.

1. "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

2. "Kindred" by Octavia Butler (2004)

3. "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison (1977)

4. "Coconut" by Kopano Matlwa (2008)

5. "Half Of A Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Adichie (2008)

6. "No Name in the Street" by James Baldwin (1972)

7. "Sister Outsider" by Audre Lorde  (2007)

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8. "Invisble Man" by Ralph Ellison (1952)

9. "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander (2012)

10. "The Fire Next Time" By James Baldwin (1963)

 Let's make reading cool again! 

Black Lives Matter x Mizizi Shop

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Still on a high from Jesse Williams' powerful speech at the BET Awards, I knew that it was time to share with you all my latest collaboration.

This month, I teamed up with Mizizi, a burgeoning African-inspired streetwear brand to showcase this one-of-kind, Black Lives Matter rugby Jersey. Modeled by M. Starks, the jersey fashionably encapsulates the significance of the moment we find ourselves in.

Check out the pics below to see how Mizizi keeps brothas like M.Starks fresh on a daily. Clearly, the revolution can and will be seen.

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#BlackLivesMatter

Why WGN’s Underground is an Emmy Contender

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For every generation, there is a television show that audaciously attempts to tackle history in a way that the American public hasn’t yet seen. In the 1970’s it was Alex Haley’s Roots, and for this generation, it’s Misha Green and Joe Pokaski’s WGN Drama, Underground.

As the show revels in its Season 2 renewal, the team behind it has launched a campaign to be considered in the upcoming round of Emmy considerations. But with a show that addresses such sensitive and intense subject matter, their efforts carry a special significance.

A few weeks ago, WGN America and Sony Pictures Television hosted a gospel brunch and exclusive pilot screening for Academy members. As audience members filed into the Beverly Hilton, the excitement was palpable.

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The brunch kicked off with a power-packed performance from Jason McGee and The Choir, who delivered moving renditions of “Ride On, King Jesus” and “Walk Over God’s Heaven.” With each song, they set the atmosphere for the resilient and triumphant tone of the show. Shortly afterward, we watched the pilot episode, which opened with none other than Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead.”

Set in the Antebellum South, we follow the Macon 7, a group of seven enslaved African Americans, who bravely escape from the plantation to make the 600-mile trek to freedom.

The protagonists of the show are Noah (Aldis Hodge) and Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett), who are marvelously supported by an amazing cast of characters, many of whom were in attendance. Christopher Meloni (August Pullman), Alano Miller, (Cato), Jessica De Gouw (Elizabeth Hawkes) and Amirah Vann, (Ernestine) graced the stage to talk about their experiences on the show. The event was also attended by the show’s creative team, including co-creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, Director and Executive Producer Anthony Hemingway, and was moderated by Michelle Turner from Entertainment Tonight.

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Jurnee Smollett, an actress who unapologetically combines her activism and acting, shared why Underground initially caught her attention: “It gives voice to the stories of those who did fight back-the revolutionaries who said ‘I’m taking agency over my life.’”

Her performance as Rosalee is nothing short of impressive. With every episode, we see an incremental transformation and realization of agency by Smollett’s character. Initially, we are introduced to a frail and timid woman, but throughout the first season we watch her blossom into a courageous woman who’s willing to put her life on the line for her companions.

Smollett explained that most of Rosalee’s struggles came byways of the effectiveness of slavery’s ability to separate slaves by skin tone. “The most tragic thing about slavery is that they succeeded at pitting us against each other,” she shared. “They made us believe that something like the house is a position we should settle for.”

Aldis Hodge discussed the importance of solidarity among runaway slaves. “Even if you make it, you still haven’t made it,” he said in reference to the dissonance many slaves felt after leaving their families behind. Hodge’s character expresses this sentiment weekly, as he struggles to encourage the group and keep everyone together.

In one of the breakthrough roles of the season, Amirah Vann (Ernestine), provides us with an introspective look into what it was like to be a house slave. Her character embodies the weight of what it means to be a mother who literally puts herself in harm’s way to ensure the safety of her children. Her gripping scenes and subtle gestures illustrate the dignity of enslaved women despite her incessant degradation.

With such a dynamic cast and creative force behind it, the announcement of a second season comes as no surprise. As Underground continues to engage key audiences, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of Hollywood takes notice.

Underground is worthy of Emmy consideration not only for the superb acting and complex storylines, but for the profound impact it is having on the way we talk about and remember America’s dark past. This classic tale with a modern twist brilliantly lures us in and encourages viewers to break free from the monotony of other, less nuanced portrayals of slavery. As the nation continues to engage in conversations surrounding race and social justice, Underground could not have come at a better time.

Xavier University of Louisiana Welcomes A Brand New President

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On February 26 2016, Xavier University of Louisiana celebrated the inauguration and investment of its new president, Dr. Reynold C. Verret - a man of great esteem, faith, and leadership.

Dr. C. Reynold Verret is an experienced higher education administrator and a widely respected scholar. He earned his undergraduate degree cum laude in Biochemistry from Columbia University and holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Unanimously elected by the Board of the Trustees last spring, Dr. Verret began his tenure on July 1, 2015 following the retirement of Dr. Norman C. Francis, who served as president for 47 years - the sixth president of Xavier University.

Founded in 1915 by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Xavier University is a premier track HBCU and is the only Catholic HBCU in North America. Xavier also serves as the top producer of African American undergraduates who go on to complete medical school; and one of the top three producers of African American Doctor of Pharmacy degree recipients. All areas Dr. Verret believes that he can assist with Xavier propelling forward.

“My vision for Xavier as the next president is to increase our reach not just locally, but nationally,” Dr. Verret stated. “Our sense of purpose is blessed and is a sacred mission to build people and to help people.” With such a forward-thinking and communal approach, Dr. Verret is carrying on in the tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities that pride themselves on serving students on the margins. “Xavier is very intentional in meeting students where they are. Understanding that every student comes with some different gaps, but we’re here to fill those gaps.” Dr. Verret also explained where his commitment to students stems from: “No matter who you are, there was someone who has spoken up for us when we weren’t in the room. And there is an expectation that I would support others in the same way.”

Many within the Xavier community echoed the same sentiments. Sierra Hodge, a Junior Political Science major and Business Administration minor, who also serves as junior class president shared her excitement to have Dr. Verret join the Xavier family. As a student leader, she could clearly see Dr. Verret’s vision for Xavier and welcomed its future growth. “He has a lot of good plans and has a great team around him and he wants to make us not just a great university known around New Orleans, but around the world.” She went on to state that, “Dr. Verret recognizes the importance of education and the importance of youth in the future...Dr. Verret has the entire student body behind him.”

Dr. Regina Benjamin, Chair of Xavier’s Public Health Department and the President Obama appointed 18th Surgeon General of the United States, thought that Xavier was very lucky to have Dr. Verret. “Dr. Verret comes with an understanding of the humanities and sciences and how to bridge the two together in order to prepare students to compete in the global market.” She also mentioned that Dr. Verret’s presidency couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time. “He understands the importance of being involved with the community and it fits in the with the ethos of the campus. Dr. Verret is going to be a wonderful continuation of that.”

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Xavier University is a shining example of Black scholarship and ingenuity. As a university, Xavier continues to set a new precedent for students of various backgrounds and pronounces that Black America’s future leaders are already in our midst. In fact, Xavier currently ranks first nationally in the number of African American students earning undergraduate degrees in biology and life sciences, chemistry, physics and pharmacy.

Bearing witness to the jubilant and sacred sentiments shared by both faculty and students at the inauguration that morning exemplified that.

Dr. Verret’s installation as Xavier University’s new president represents a new era of innovation, not only for the Xavier Community, but for New Orleans at large. His presidency comes at a time when HBCUs nationwide are reclaiming their rightful place within higher-ed by producing the nation’s largest concentration of Black college graduates. And with Dr. Verret at the helm of Xavier, we can expect to hear even more great things about this wonderful institution. With such an extensive track record and comprehensive vision for the future, there is no doubt that Dr. Verret will add to the rich and illustrious legacy of Xavier University of Louisiana.

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Go XULA!

Writing the Wrongs with Sofiya Ballin | The Woke Folk

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In February's installment of The Woke Folk, we hold a stirring conversation with rising journalist and feature reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com,Sofiya Ballin. Sofiya, originally from Mount Vernon, New York, is someone who is writing the wrongs in the world of journalism.

Named a 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellow, Ballin has interviewed mainstream artists, written about trends such as cuffing season and the emergence of Black Twitter, covered major news events such as local Ferguson and Baltimore protests, and has produced digital fashion features, and contributed opinion pieces that speak to the millennial soul. Ballin aims to humanize all walks of life through mentorship and her work.

In our interview, Sofiya discusses her experiences with the lack of diversity within journalism, her dope Black History Untold spread in the Inquirer, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and her ambitions to change the depictions thereof.

Check it out below:

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Can you give us some background on who you are?

I’m a features reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com. I cover arts/entertainment and lifestyle.  I was born and raised in Mt.Vernon, New York to two prideful Jamaican immigrants who taught me never to get it twisted.

Just like the OscarsSoWhite, there recently has been a hashtag called #JournalismSoWhite? Could you elaborate on that and the current climate of Journalism?

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I remember reporting a story at a black church and when they found out I was from the Inquirer, they were so shocked and proud. They loved on me so hard. I got to sit next to the pastor, my iced tea was  constantly refilled, I was introduced to all the teenagers who were going to college for communications. I loved it.  It happens often.

But as great as that treatment and response is, it’s also tragic. They don’t expect me to be working there. I’ve had interviewees walk right by me not thinking I was the reporter. I believe my age also plays a major role. Everyday I walk into the newsroom like I’m Serena Williams because she’s someone who always excels in predominately white arenas. All reporters can get protective of their stories, but as a black reporter I know how fragile black stories are. They’ve been mishandled for hundreds of years. I do my best to make sure messages aren’t misconstrued, that I’m saying what  I mean. If  I can,  I bounce stories off my managing editor who is black or other black reporters...sometimes friends.

Sometimes I feel as though I have to culture-splain my pieces...it gets exhausting. But the work is worth it. Every day I get an email from someone saying they’re happy I’m here.

What things play a role in preventing Journalism from becoming more diverse?

That’s something I’m still trying to figure out. But I know qualified journalists of color exist and many are not being hired.

Sometimes publications have unions with strong seniority clauses, so even if there’s a wave of hires who are of color, when cuts happen, which it does A LOT in this industry, those new hires are the first to go. It makes it very difficult to build on that diversity.

Oftentimes, there’s a certain culture, a very white and male culture,  that people want to maintain and they’re afraid it will be dismantled. But anyone not willing to invest in inclusive hiring practices, isn’t invested in their publication’s future.

What role does the Internet - particularly, social media - play in leveling the playing field for Black & Brown people to participate in journalism?

The barriers to entry are little to none. There are so many great black online publications (For Harriet, Blavity, Very Smart Brothas, etc) that are pushing the conversation and challenging “traditional” publications. It’s causing the  “trad” media audience to dwindle, because now they look negligent and out of touch, thus pushing these publications to be more inclusive.

Can you talk to us about your latest piece that is running on Philly.com? Black History: What I Wish I Knew.

Can you discuss the significance of such a project?

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I noticed that when Black History Month rolled around I was assigned stories that felt very obligatory and lacked depth. But that’s also how Black History is often treated in the classroom.   You learn about 4 or 5 historical figures and your history always begins in bondage. Growing up, I saw the kind of damage that kind of  diluted black history education can do to the black psyche.

For the black man who told me that black people don’t know how to be successful, I knew he didn’t hear about the rise and destruction of Black Wall Street. For every black person who uses black on black crime as some sort of justification for the police-related deaths circulating  timelines and news tickers, I know they haven’t fully comprehended America’s relationship with lynching.

For every black man who downplays the acknowledgement of exploitation and abuse of black women, I know they didn’t learn that gynecology was practiced on  enslaved black women without anesthesia. Once you know these things, it doesn’t become hard to understand how mentality can be passed down generation to generation.

It was always one thing when white people made comments like that, it was another when I heard black people doing it. I wanted to challenge and change that.

We’re also not taught how big we are, we often hear people say “Black history is American history.”  Black history is world history. There are so many different cultures, colors and complexities that make up us. When choosing participants I wanted to hear the perspectives of the  immigrant, the 1st generation American, the Afro-Latinx,  bi-racial, the LGBTQ community and different religious backgrounds.  I wanted to push the conversation and have that conversation in an unconventional way.

Can you explain the ways in which your love for Black people and Journalism intersect?

A publicist called me once asking if I was on a race beat. Nah. Blackness doesn’t live in response. I write about black people living, loving and liberating. I see the beauty in us and I’m so caught up in the rapture. I just want everyone to be caught up as well. That being said, I do write about the issues we face.  The ugly things that prevent us from shining. That’s part of loving us as well.

As a Black female millennial, what are your feelings about the movement for Black Lives and its depictions in the press + media?

To me, Black Lives Matter is an affirmation that unfortunately has had to  be reiterated throughout history. As a young black woman, I love seeing black women really standing up, speaking up and being  counted. We’ve always been on the frontlines, but now we’re there and with demanding that we fight for ourselves and making sure our issues are addressed.

When it comes to the media, it’s important to be alert of certain language used “riot” vs. “protest.” I remember interviewing DeRay McKesson and he said that he’s noticed the media now says “according to police” or “police say” as opposed to reporting police statements as fact, I’ve noticed that as well.

How important is Black journalism in 2016 in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement?

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VERY. When I covered demonstrations, there are people who tell me things that they wouldn’t tell a non-black reporter. I was there when black protestors asked white protestors to circle around them as a protective shield. The idea was that cops wouldn’t arrest or hurt them.  That broke my heart. But I understood it. I was one of the people pushed to the center of that circle. I experience what they experienced. I’m treated how they are treated. I gain a totally different perspective.

There have been times when I’ve gotten the accusatory, “You gonna tell the whole truth, sis?” and I tell them I’m going to report what I see. But overall  there is a trust there.

What words do you have for other Black millennials who are living in this historic moment beside you?

Don’t let the fight or the struggle, make  you miss out or  forget all the beauty and freedom that is black.

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ASE! WE SALUTE YOU AND WISH YOU NOTHING BUT THE BEST!

To catch Sofiya's latest story, follow her on Twitter.

 

I'm Fusion's Rise Up: Be Heard Journalism Fellow!

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...The secret is out! I want to formally announce that I am officially a RISE UP: BE HEARD journalism fellow for Fusion - (@Disney/@ABC/@univision).

Over the course of the next 6 months, I will be writing + reporting on a range of topics and issues from environmental pollution to neighborhood violence, food insecurity to homelessness, health care access for the undocumented to mass incarceration in South Los Angeles (primarily Compton where I live)!

I'M SO GRATEFUL FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY.

#TrustTheProcess + #DreamsDoComeTrue ✨

Frame by Frame with Romel Rose | #TheWokeFolk

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In this month’s installment of The Woke Folk, we hold a stirring conversation with rising indie filmmaker, actor, and director,  Romel Rose. Romel, a native of Los Angeles, California, is being recognized for his films' subject matter and insight.

Romel was recently named winner of the 2015 Online Viewer's Choice Best Cultural Film Award at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and his next short is already creating buzz for festival season.

In our interview, Romel discusses his passion for filmmaking, the controversial themes his films confront, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and his ambitions to change the face of Hollywood. Check it out below:

So Romel, how did you get into filmmaking?

Initially, I started off as an actor. I became frustrated with the projects that I was doing, so I decided that if I'm going to do independent projects, I might as well create my own so that I would have full creative control.

That's very entrepreneurial of you!  With that, what are your films about and what inspires them the most? 

My films are about things I care about most. Things that I feel aren't addressed enough and things that I want to change in the world. The inspiration usually comes from something that bothers me. Something that I want to see change in. I try to create relatable stories out of my life experiences.

What films & filmmakers inspired you to become a filmmaker?

For me, I loved The Great Debaters by Denzel Washington. I'm also a really big fan of Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler. Actually, that film changed my life. For me, Fruitvale was the first time I ever deeply identified with a character  I saw on screen. It was also the film that inspired me to to tell stories about characters that look like me.

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After watching your content, I've noticed that they are much more than films -- they’re almost like conversational pieces. Is that an intentional choice as a director? 

It's very intentional. I want to make films that make people think. I knew that my last film would start conversations about certain issues and that's what I wanted. I feel like dialogue is the first step to progress, but it cannot stop there.

I think the issues I address, people aren't use to talking about them. A lot of times we just sweep them under the rug in our every day life. So when you see a film like High Yellow, it's kind of in your face and doesn't hold back any punches. I'm talking about topics that effect our everyday lives.

How have your friends and family responded to your films?

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback. At first I thought it was just because they love me. Lol, but a lot of the feedback seems genuine and I couldn't ask for anything better. Whenever someone tells me "I loved your message," that feels very rewarding.

All of your films focus on Black life and public perceptions of it. What importance does that hold to you and the craft of filmmaking?

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I feel like it's my job as a young Black man to show Black Life in a positive light. We see the stereotypes that are often portrayed of us in television and film and a lot of times we get upset about it, as I often do. But I had to decide -- am I going to continue just getting upset about it, or am I going to do something about it? I decided to tell my own stories instead of waiting on "Hollywood" to tell them for me.

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How important is that type of Black filmmaking in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Ferguson & across the country?

Black filmmaking is important because we have to control the narrative. We cannot rely on anyone else to tell our stories. We have to tell our stories and make sure it's done with integrity.  

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For me, Black Lives Matter  means not waiting on society  to give us  opportunities or open up doors for us. Instead, we create our own opportunities and burst through those doors. Not only going through the doors, but holding the doors open for those following behind us. That's what Black Lives Matter means to me.

Do you consider your filmmaking to be a form of activism?

I view my filmmaking as a platform to express myself. I try to have a message in my films that get people to think about themselves and the society that we live in. If that's a form of activism, I'll take it. However, I do think people are tired of the same ole stories and same ole portrayals of black life. In my humblest opinion, I think I shake it up a bit because I'm fighting against those stereotypes rather than playing into them, which is completely backwards in regards to how they say you're suppose to "make it" in Hollywood.

Where do you imagine yourself in 15 years? What type of impact do you want your films to have? 

Hopefully, I'm in a position where I can do this for a living. I think true success is when you're able to do what you love for a living. Hopefully, I will be able to reach a national audience and have people from all over the world connect with my films the way that Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole do with their music.

What words do you have for other Black millennials who are living inside this historic moment beside you?

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Let's come together and make things happen. We always say "let's come together," but what does that really mean? It means exactly what's happening now. You giving me this platform is an example. Let's continue to build and move forward. Millennials are the most powerful because we have a voice and a platform, social media, to connect and touch people all over the world. Let's make things happen and not wait around.

Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing but the best!

To watch  Romel's latest content, check out his YouTube  channel and  follow him on Twitter.

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#TheWokeFolk series is TyreeBP.com’s monthly highlight of Black millennials  who creatively use their talents to upset the status quo. They do so byways of political activism, advocacy in media, and performance arts to bring about social change across the country!

Disrupting Hollywood w/ Makiah Green | #TheWokeFolk

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In this month's installment of The Tikisa Series, we hold a powerful conversation with one of Hollywood's newest names, Makiah Green. Makiah, a recent graduate from USC's Master in Professional Writing program and one of the newest creatives at Charles King's Macro Ventures, is already making her mark in the entertainment industry.

In this interview, Makiah discusses the climate of Hollywood, its issues with diversity, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and its influence on her ambitions to change the face of Hollywood. Check it out below:

...What is the current climate in Hollywood?

We’re living in a very interesting and contradictory time. In the same year where we have more Black people on TV than we’ve seen in decades, major Hollywood publications are still publishing covers full of white women (and justifying it).

Due to the success of Empire, Straight Outta Compton, and a host of other minority-driven projects, diversity has become a buzzword in Hollywood. Not because it is reflective of the world we live in, but because executives have deemed it beneficial for business.

So while it may seem that this is the golden age for minorities in Hollywood, we are still operating in a system that is largely dominated by white men. Although we are being invited into the room more frequently, once we’re in the room, we still have to pitch to white executives and appeal to white audiences in order to sell our content.

Until we are able to obtain real power (i.e. senior executive positions at studios and networks) and financial resources to create our own studios, we are simply benefiting from a marketing scheme disguised as “diversity.” We saw a very similar push for Black content in the 1990s, but as soon as networks, namely FOX, managed to turn their ratings around, they ditched the folks who made it all possible—Black people. It’s never been about a genuine commitment to diversity. In Hollywood, it’s always about the bottom dollar.

...What factors play a role in preventing Hollywood from becoming more diverse?

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When you consider how Hollywood was formed, it’s no surprise that, in 2014, 73% of characters in the top 100 films were white. Hollywood is simply a microcosm of America, and so we must consult history in search of solutions.  

I am a firm believer in affirmative action and believe that the conditions in Hollywood will not permanently improve unless certain changes are mandated. In addition to diversity programs and initiatives, we need to cement clear pathways for people of color to secure positions of power. For example, I would love to see a program that replaced white male studio executives with women of color. Most people in the industry would probably deem that as too radical, but a radical shift is precisely what Hollywood needs right now. 

...What role does the Internet play in leveling the playing field for Black & Brown people to participate in cinema and media?

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The internet is everything! Without it, we wouldn’t have Awkward Black Girl, Black&Sexy TV, Broad City, or Orange Is the New Black. Not to mention the millions of shows and online channels that are being created as we speak. The internet truly is our ticket out. But it’s important that we don’t only view it as a gateway to mainstream media.We now have the power and the resources to create our own infrastructures and revenue streams. In a few years, we won’t have to rely on mainstream media outlets for breaking news and creative content. We’ll be relying solely on each other, which is scary, but powerful!

...Do you believe that your advocacy in Hollywood is a form of social justice?

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Absolutely. My Hollywood ambitions are 100% rooted in the movement for Black lives. I recognize the way that media shapes public thought and perception, and I have made it my mission to contribute to that narrative in the best ways that I can. If I ever reach a point where I feel like my time and energy is better spent within a different branch of the movement, I will make the necessary adjustments. But no matter what industry I find myself in, Black liberation is the ultimate goal.

...Can you explain the ways in which your passion for social justice and Hollywood intersect?

Similar to how I will not be at peace until my people aren’t being killed by the police every 21 hours, I will not rest until I’m able to turn on the television and see a range of fully developed characters of color on every channel and in every movie theater. Our children deserve that. We deserve that.

...How do you disrupt Hollywood?

I disrupt Hollywood by prioritizing Black lives over profit. In reviewing scripts and discussing potential projects, I am always considering whether the content is working for or against us. I always ask myself: Is this advancing our narrative or is it reinforcing destructive tropes and stereotypes? To me, a review isn’t complete unless it considers the social implications of a particular project.

...As a Black millennial, what are your feelings about the movement for Black Lives and its depictions on film and screen?

Young people are reclaiming what is rightfully theirs and I am absolutely here for it. Mainstream media has never treated us or our stories with the respect that we deserve. The difference now is that we have the tools to correct them. With social media on our side, literally anything is possible and it’s been beautiful to watch my generation mobilize so effectively. We are leading and sustaining national conversations on race in America. That is a huge deal.

...What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to you?

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Black Lives Matter is a declaration of our individual and collective humanity. From the inception of this country, Black people have been deemed as less than human, somehow deserving of our own demise. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” counters that deeply racist logic. And though dismantling centuries of white supremacy is a lofty goal, I believe that we will win. We’re already winning just by being here. 

Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing the best. #Tikisa

For more about Makiah and her activism follow her BlogTwitter.

&

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 The Tikisa series is TyreeBP.com's monthly highlight of Black millennials  who creatively use their talents to upset the status qou. They do so byways of political activism, advocacy in media, and performance arts to bring about social change across the country!

15 Black Businesses for Black Friday in L.A.!

Let's put the Black back in Black Friday! 

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Black Friday is here and we're all looking for great gifts for our loved ones. If you're looking to spend some of your hard-earned dollars with black-owned businesses this Friday, we've got you covered!

I've compiled a list of amazing businesses in Los Angeles, all run by Black entrepreneurs. You can buy everything from jewelry to natural beauty products to a captivating photo shoot session. Check them out below.

Gifts & Books

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Dual-purpose tea light/tea storage tins at Cultural Interiors West.

  1. Cultural Interiors West http://cultural-interiors.myshopify.com/
  2. Eso Won Bookstore http://www.esowonbookstore.com
  3. Shades of Africa http://www.shadesofafrika.com/

Restaurants

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Green Grotto Juice Bar has an assortment of the best juices in L.A!

  1. Green Grotto Juice Bar http://greengrottojuicebar.co
  2. Pips on Labrea Restaurant http://www.pipsonlabrea.com/
  3. Simply Wholesome http://www.simplywholesome.com/
  4. Stuff I Eat (Vegan Cuisine) http://www.stuffieat.com/

Desserts & Treats

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Southern Girl Desserts brings a taste of southern hospitality and a taste of home to the West Coast.

  1. Southern Girl Desserts http://southerngirldesserts.com/
  2. Cobblers, Cakes, and Kream http://www.cobblerscakesandkream.com/kream/
  3. Bonnie B Bakery https://www.facebook.com/Bonnie-B-Bakery-635776283207664/

Black Beauty

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Whether they are faux-locs or senegalese twists, get your hair "did" at Mahogany's Hair Revolution.

  1. Mahogany Hair Revolution http://mahoganyrevolution.com/
  2. Kyra’s Shea Medleys http://www.kyrasheamedleys.com/

Dry Cleaners

  1. Bowers & Sons Cleaners http://bowersandsonscleaners.com/

Wedding

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Seeking beautiful wedding photos? Enjoy Morgan Raquel's beautiful photos of Black love here.

  1. Morgan Raquel Photography http://www.morganraquel.com/mrpweddings
  2. Rhoda’s Best Spot (Custom Wedding Brooms)http://rhodasbestshot.com/

Did we miss something? If you know of any Black-owned businesses in Los Angeles, let us know in the comments.

This list was compiled by The Woke Folk. 

Between the World and Me: A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates at CAAM

On October 30, 2015, the California African American Museum hosted a book signing with Ta-Nehisi Coates, made possible by Eso Won Books. The atmosphere was electric, as attendees waited eagerly to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates share his insight and wisdom.

As a journalist and memoirist, Ta-Nehisi Coates brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues, such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. In a seamless balance, he intertwines the present with historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still affecting people today.

Ta-Nehisi’s work recently granted him the MacArthur Genius Award and his latest book, Between the World and Me, is a New York Times Bestseller. Needless to say, the Los Angeles community came out in in full force to see the man of the hour in action and to revel in the ambiance of CAAM's draping exhibits and positive vibes.

During his talk, Ta-Nehisi raised some very thought-provoking ideas, of which were his embellishments on the concepts of race in America. He also expressed a disdain for being labeled the “Voice of Black America,” and outlined the irony of feeling American for the first time in Paris, France.

In Between the World And Me, Coates repeatedly stressed the significance of Howard University––which he refers to as The Mecca. He beautifully describes it as the bedrock of the Black experience where he saw the breadth and depth of the Black experience. These sentiments were ever present in his talk at CAAM, as he discussed the influence of his father, Paul Coates, and the importance of Black institutions. Ta-Nehisi explained that had it not been for his father’s publishing house, his wouldn’t have had the foundation that eventually led to his historic career as a writer. “Black institutions are very important for us,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates. Those words reverberated as it parallels the very direction in which CAAM is headed.

The California African American Museum, a cultural landmark, is currently on the rise, as it seeks to reimagine ways to serve the Black community. Recently, CAAM and the State Board of Directors appointed a new Executive DIrector, George Davis. As the museum navigates this transition, events like these are great for engaging new audiences. Hours before the event started, people started lining up to gain entrance into the museum. I spoke to a few people as they waited outside.

Tyler and Shanel Perry, a young couple from Orange County, said that they had been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates for several years and made plans to attend as soon as they heard about it. When asked about the importance of CAAM to the community, Tyler stated that, “the location of CAAM is very important. I didn’t know this, but more than half of those who founded Los Angeles were of African descent. There’s this deep history that all people should be aware of.”

Caroline Vera, a graduate student at UCLA, first learned of Ta-Nehisi Coates via social media. After reading Between The World and Me,she believed that his voice was important to larger discussions of race. When asked about why CAAM is so important to the South Los Angeles community she asserted that, “We need our youth up in here!”

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With new leadership and a renewed commitment to the youth, CAAM is in prime position for growth and expansion. With events like the Ta-Nehisi Coates book signing and discussion, CAAM is sure to attract a range of people from across Los Angeles to experience all of the enriching exhibits that it has to offer.

For more photos of the event, see the gallery below..

All photos taken by Makiah Green and Tyree Boyd-Pates.

#TEDxCrenshaw 2015 | A Recap

On October 24, 2015, the Crenshaw Community hosted the inaugural TEDxCrenshaw,made possible by lead organizer Zaneta Smith. The atmosphere was lively and fun, as attendees came together over a love of their community and engaging new and innovative ideas.

TEDxCrenshaw was an independently organized TED-like event comprised of passionate volunteers who were dedicated to ideas worth spreading.

The theme behind TEDXCrenshaw was “Changes.” According to the organizers, they believe that change challenges us to question the old assumptions, stimulates us to explore new possibilities, and encourages us to make positive and impactful decisions that affect our lives and the future of our community. And TEDxCrenshaw was the was event to commemorate that.

The convening saw nearly 100 people from the Crenshaw community come out to learn and engage in conversation.Throughout the day, people showed up in droves to support local speakers and innovators. The attendees had much to say about the significance of the event.

Koree Yancy and Shinquell Green, two of the attendees, said that this event was very significant. They both heard of the event on Facebook and knew that they had to attend. Shinquell mentioned that she felt empowered by the event. Koree stated that it was very refreshing to be around like-minded people who want the same thing. They both agreed that unity is just what the South LA community needs and that TEDxCrenshaw was a step in the right direction.

Another great set of attendees came in the form of married couple Ronnie and Cree Craig, South LA natives who work in education. They both emphasized how grateful they were that education was a priority at TEDxCrenshaw. When asked what changes they felt need to be addressed in South LA, they both agreed that the solutions were, "in hope and unity” –– things they felt TedXCrenshaw exemplified, especially in the speakers.

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Jody Armour, a law professor at the USC Gould School of Law, delivered a speech entitled Black Hearts in White Minds: Race, Crime, and Redemption.” In his thought-provoking speech, he discussed the need for the abolishment of respectability politics in the Black community.

Another stand out speaker was art dealer and owner of Leimert Park’s Papillion, Michelle Papillion. Her talk on the “The Art of Doing Good” was a great discussion on following your passions and the power of believing in––a message that resonated with many in the audience. Another notable speaker was Los Angeles born and bred Hip-Hop artist and CEO, Dom Kennedy.

Kennedy’s talk was entitled the “The Time is Now.” In it, he described his experiences growing up in South Los Angeles and offered advice to the youth. He and the other speakers really set the bar high and left the audience clamoring for more. As I glanced across the auditorium, I could tell that everyone was becoming more and more inspired with each speech. By the time it came to an end, everyone looked content and eager to apply what they had learned.

At the close of the event TEDxCrenshaw organizer, Zaneta Smith, expressed her appreciation for everyone as she mentioned that the event was “meant to spark change.” Everyone felt the result of that spark and looked more inspired than they did upon arriving. As everyone waved goodbye, the organizers volunteers vowed to do everything in their power to bring back this marvelous event to the Crenshaw community.

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Enjoy more photos of the day below.

Uptown Latin Jazz & Blues Fest '15 | Recap

On August 23, 2015, North Long Beach hosted its 4th Annual Uptown Latin Jazz & Blues Festival, made possible by Long Beach City Councilmember Rex Richardson. The atmosphere was lively and fun, as attendees bonded over a love of music and enjoyed live entertainment.

The Uptown Latin Jazz & Blues Fest brought the entire community out in full force. Throughout the day, people showed up in droves to support local vendors and artists who had much to say about the significance of the event.

One of the most stand-out performers was The Brown Suede Experience  & Tiara Monet, a four year-old band based in Long Beach. When asked what kind of advice they would provide to young artists who hope to be in their position one day, they responded with, “Don’t limit yourself. You are a unique individual and you have something to bring to the table.” They also had encouraging words for Rex Richardson. “Without Rex, this would be an empty park. Thank you for giving us a platform to showcase our skills.”

The next thrilling performance came from Box Car 7, a seven-piece show band from Southern California. Scott Griffith, the lead singer, delivered an engaging set of riveting jams that brought the crowd to their feet. The dynamic group came together 5 years after noticing that there was a void in the Long Beach music scene. Wanting to provide “that big wall of sound” to the people, Box Car 7 has performed at the Uptown Jazz Fest for the last 4 years since its inaugural year. In appreciation for their continued involvement, Rex Richardson awarded them with the Long Beach City Commemoration.

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Soon after, the following act forced everyone to hit the dance floor: DW3. DW3, an R&B, funk and contemporary urban jazz powerhouse, came to give everyone in Houghton park a show. They delivered flawless mash-ups ranging from Frankie Beverly & Maze to Jidenna’s Classic Man and left the audience begging for more. Also a veteran Jazz Fest performer, DW3’s Eric Mondragon was grateful to Rex for putting this on and is looking forward to playing next year. For their contributions, they also received a certificate of recognition from Long Beach City and Rex Richardson!

The host for the day, Nautica De la Cruz, a radio personality from KJLH (102.3), came out to North Long Beach to show some love. She said that she loves the way that communities are being rebuilt throughout Long Beach and appreciates how events like the Uptown Jazz Fest uplift the spirits of the people. She mentioned that this year’s event was a huge success and predicted that the fifth annual is going to be even bigger.

Tito Puente Jr., the headliner of the event who flew all the way from Miami, is the son of legendary Mambo musician, Tito Puente. He carried on his father's legacy by presenting much of his father's repertoire through his performances and recordings. Tito Puente Jr. lured everyone to the dance floor to perform their best mambo.

The 4th Annual Uptown Latin Jazz & Blues Festival was a huge success. After a full day of dancing, music, and fun, Rex Richardson waved everyone goodbye and vowed to do everything in his power to bring back this marvelous event to the city of Long Beach.

Check out a FULL Storify of the whole day here of the day’s best tweets.

All photos were taken by Makiah Green.